“Beauty, a Terrible Story,” by Caio Fernando Abreu, translated by Bruna Dantas Lobato
First appeared in 1989 in the collection The Dragons Haven’t Been to Paradise; appeared in English in Words without Borders: The Online Magazine of International Literature, July 2016
3,086 words, counting the epigraph but not counting the dedication
I admire the way this story avoids making any explicit (or even nearly explicit) statement about the main character’s situation. He keeps trying to tell her and failing. You can feel the weight of his silence.
Found via the Ploughshares blog.
“I remember translating the last scene of the story, when the protagonist “ran his fingertips along his neck, […] groping for a seed in the dark.’ Afterward, I realized that I’d placed my own hand on the right side of my neck like the protagonist. The experience wasn’t romantic or magical, but it served as a reminder that I was inhabiting someone else’s world, and that I could trust the reader to feel the story as intensely as I’d felt it, no further explanation needed.”
—the translator (x)