Short Story Month: The Midwife of Torment & Other Stories

May 17, 2017

paulo da costa's latest short story collection  The Midwife of Torment & Other Stories (Guernica Editions) is exclusively made up of "sudden fiction" – that is, stories under 1,000 words apiece. With stories like "Roses, Lilacs, and Chrysanthemums" (excerpted below) that manage to be succinct yet utterly evocative of their settings and characters, paulo likens Midwife to a "literary tapas," and shares some of his own influences, below.

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This Short Story Month, we're interviewing short story writers every Wednesday, here on the All Lit Up blog.

 

paulo da costa's latest short story collection  The Midwife of Torment & Other Stories (Guernica Editions) is exclusively made up of "sudden fiction" – that is, stories under 1,000 words apiece. With stories like "Roses, Lilacs, and Chrysanthemums" (excerpted below) that manage to be succinct yet utterly evocative of their settings and characters, paulo likens Midwife to a "literary tapas" and shares some of his own influences, below.

 

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paulodacosta_excerpt

 

ALU: If you had to describe your collection in 12-15 nouns only, what would they be?

pdc: Eccentrics, angels, vineyards, kiss, tribulation, witch, nun, misfit, crossroads, rebels, cobwebs, grace, migrations, fishhook, skin.

 

ALU: Who are your favourite short story writers and why?

pdc: I admire George Saunders for his dazzling, imaginative leaps and the unexpected turns in his narrative. He is the daring story architect pushing the boundaries of the form. Mia Couto (Mozambique) for the inventiveness of language in his Portuguese language short-fiction. A delight to read. I never tire of reading these two geniuses of the form.

 

ALU: What do you like most about the short story as a form?

pdc: The compressed narrative of the short-story lends itself to more audacious feats of storytelling. In the Midwife of Torment & Other Stories I compress the narrative a step further and no story in the book is longer than a thousand words. I imagine the reader experiencing the book as a type of literary tapas. Intense. Flavourful. Diverse. A potluck for the mind.  At the turn of every story another surprise awaits the reader. 

 

ALU: Have you ever written a story you would develop into a novel? If so, tell us about it.

pdc: My stories generally arrive with a short, self-contained DNA, and therefore, I have not had the desire to expand them. However, my first book of collected stories, The Scent of a Lie, rooted in a grape-growing Portuguese village, reads as a novel in fragments. Several of the characters in that story collection step in and out of the different stories, offering the feeling of continuity expected from novels. 

 

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paulo da costa, born in Angola and raised in Portugal, is a writer, editor, and translator living in Victoria, British Columbia. paulo's first book of short fiction, The Scent of a Lie, received the 2003 Commonwealth First Book Prize (Canada and Caribbean region) and the W.O. Mitchell City of Calgary Book Prize. His fiction and poetry have been published in literary magazines around the world and have been translated to Italian, Chinese, Spanish, Serbian, Slovenian, and Portuguese.

 

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Thanks so much to paulo for answering our questions, and to Alex and Guernica for making the connection. For more Short Story Month reads, click here.


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