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The Stolen Party

The Stolen Party

For some time now I have been attempting to delve into modern literature outside the English tradition. This of course poses several problems. First is the question of translation, as no text can ever be fully appreciated except in its original language. Moreover, it is impossible to fully understand another culture while having lived wholly removed from its tradition.

However, there are a certain number of authors (and translators) who manage to write in such a way as to allow the mono-linguist to transcend such limitations. Alberto Manguel's translation of Liliana Heker's short stories is such a book. The book consists of six short stories collected from various publications of Heker spanning ten years from 1972 to 1982, and is collectively titled The Stolen Party, after the short story of the same name.

Heker's perspective is universal because she writes from the eyes of a child. Children create worlds of their own out of their familiar surroundings, and despite the fact that Argentina may likely be unfamiliar to the average Canadian reader, one can nonetheless associate with the young protagonists because Heker's style is so personal. Heker relates the injustices of a child's life to us, injustices we are all familiar with--a bully of an older sibling, a snooty friend from school, social anxiety at a party. However, all these conflicts allude to yet another social and political level that is at the same time inherently Argentinean--suffering from intermittent military dictatorships throughout the sixties until the early eighties. Indeed, Heker's stories are not political histories, but rather examinations of simpler injustices seen through the eyes of a child, where "the slightest change might shatter an infinitely delicate balance," and this we can all relate to.

What is more fascinating about Heker's writing is how she manages to portray the childrens' imagination. The imagination can at times be as simple as a six year old's assumption that she is "the most extraordinary child in the world", as in The Chosen One. Heker's time moves so swiftly, in this story, the reader must pay close attention. Years will suddenly pass, though it seems as though a given scene or conversation has yet to end. On the other extreme of Heker's imagination is the Magic Realism of Early Beginnings in which a child philosophizes over why lions never leave Africa, "because lions don't have a particular destination in mind." Indeed, these...

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