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Redux: The Stone-Revising Sea

Every week, the editors of The Paris Review lift the paywall on a selection of interviews, stories, poems, and more from the magazine’s archive. You can have these unlocked pieces delivered straight to your inbox every Sunday by signing up for the Redux newsletter.

Frank O’Connor. Sketch by B. Whistler Dabney, 1957.

This week, we’re celebrating the writers of Ireland and the Irish diaspora, from Frank O’Connor’s 1957 Art of Fiction interview to Edna O’Brien’s short story “Dramas” to Daniel Tobin’s poem “Yeats at Balscadden.”

If you enjoy these free interviews, stories, and poems, why not subscribe to read the entire archive? You’ll also get four new issues of the quarterly delivered straight to your door.


Frank O’Connor, The Art of Fiction No. 19
Issue no. 17 (Autumn–Winter 1957)


Why do you prefer the short story for your medium?


Because it’s the nearest thing I know to lyric poetry—I wrote lyric poetry for a long time, then discovered that God had not intended me to be a lyric poet, and the nearest thing to that is the short story. A novel actually requires far more logic and far more knowledge of circumstances, whereas a short story can have the sort of detachment from circumstances that lyric poetry has.



By Edna O’Brien
Issue no. 110 (Spring 1989)

When the new shopkeeper arrived in the village he aroused great curiosity along with some scorn. He was deemed refined because his fingernails looked as if they had been varnished a tinted ivory. He had a horse, or as my father was quick to point out, a glorified pony, which he had brought from the Midlands, where he had previously worked. The pony was called Daisy, a name unheard of in our circles, for an animal. The shopkeeper wore a long black coat, a black hat, talked in a low voice, made his own jams and marmalades and could even darn and sew. All that we came to know of, in due course, but at first we only knew him as Barry.



Yeats at Balscadden
By Daniel Tobin
Issue no. 168 (Winter 2003)

He labored above the impassable coast
where gulls hovered to their nests on rock,
shy youth worrying his dream-drenched songs.
He wandered below the Ben of Howth,
his self-conscious cloak flapping in a wind
that lifted the bracken’s leathery fronds
in twilight descending on Ireland’s Eye
and the gaslit city he would come to hate …


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How to Look at a Desert Sunset

Photo: Jessie Eastland (CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons.

Too much has been made of desert sunsets, particularly in the captions of oversaturated magazine photos. Because desert skies tend to be clear, they can’t match the Midwest for cloud effects or smog-inflamed cities for sheer longevity. But they are inferior only to novices who look, naively, in the direction of the setting sun, for the real desert sunset occurs in that unlikely direction, the east. It is opposite the sun that the last rays, deflected through clear skies, fall on the long, minutely eroded mountain ranges and bathe our eyes with light of decreasing wavelengths and cooling colors—vermilion to salmon to plum—transporting the eastern horizon to islands of pure yearning. 

The desert rat, so in love with distance that he commonly carries binoculars to bring it up close, instinctively focuses on the dreamlike mountains to heighten the effect. Here an odd reversal takes place, for what is plum to the naked eye, when confined and enlarged, turns drab as cement, while the heaped knobs and extravagant spires turn out to be exfoliated granite. The observer knows how this stone weathers into rounded piles, how it crumbles underfoot, how it is colonized by black lichen. Fascinating as geology, it has been mastered by experience, turned to stone.

That is the revelation of desert sunsets: that the distance is so unmoored, so delicious, that you want to be there, to become that distance. And the closer you come—quickly, through binoculars, because it darkens even as you watch—the faster it burns into the ash of reality. Then you find out that where you want to be is precisely where you began, stripped to your bare eyes, watching as best you can, yearning.


Bruce Berger grew up in suburban Chicago. A poet and nonfiction writer, he is best known for a series of books exploring the intersections of nature and culture in desert settings. The first of these, The Telling Distance, won the 1990 Western States Book Award and the 1991 Colorado Book Award. His articles and essays have appeared in the New York Times, Sierra, Orion magazine, Gramophone, and numerous literary quarterlies; his poems have appeared in Poetry, Barron’s, Orion magazine, and various literary reviews in the United States, Scotland, and India, and have been collected in Facing the Music. His latest book is A Desert Harvest: New and Selected Essays (Farrar, Straus and Giroux).

Excerpted from A Desert Harvest: New and Selected Essays, by Bruce Berger. Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux on March 12, 2019. Copyright © 1990, 1994, 2004, 2019 by Bruce Berger. Introduction copyright © 2019 by Colum McCann. All rights reserved.

This story originally appeared on The Paris Review

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Frederic Tuten: On My Youthful Dreams of the Parisian Writer’s Life


Manhattan and the Bronx, circa 1946

When I was ten my grandmother and I went to the city—that’s what we called Manhattan—to pick up a cake from De Robertis Pasticceria, between Tenth and Eleventh on First Avenue. My mother had ordered the cake for my aunt Sadie’s birthday. There were many Italian pastry shops on Arthur Avenue, a swift 20-minute bus ride from where we lived, but none, in my family’s judgment, was as good as DeRobertis, where they would stop for baba au rhum or a cannoli when they lived on East Twelfth.

We got off at Union Square, as usual, but instead of walking across Fourteenth Street as always, we took a turn and found ourselves on Fourth Avenue, where we had never been. It took us along Book Row, the area between Eighth and Fourteenth Streets, packed with used-book stores with their outdoor stalls. I knew right away that I would go back when I was old enough to travel alone.

I seldom left my neighborhood or traveled to Manhattan, but after I turned thirteen I started taking the subway down to Book Row. The ride from Pelham Parkway to Union Square Fourteenth Street was direct, no changes or transfers, so I was not too afraid of getting lost. On early Saturday afternoons it was easy to find an empty seat and be left quietly to read a book during the hour-long ride. The subway cost a dime each way, and for another dollar or even less I could find wonderful books to haul back to the Bronx. My mother complained, “Where are we going to keep all these books?” My one bookcase made of boards held up on bricks was already overpacked and verging on collapse.

“Under my cot, Mom.” Where I had stashed the books my shelves could not hold.

One afternoon, drawn by the title, I bought George Moore’s Confessions of a Young Man from a bookstall for a dime. It had a worn, leathery green cover and distinguished gold title impressed on the spine. I read the opening pages out there in the street, and in moments I knew the book was addressed to me. It was about a young man (like me) who wanted to be an artist (like me) and yearned (like me) to find his way to become one.

I promised myself that one day I would follow him to Paris, where art and beauty counted for everything.

On the subway back to the Bronx, I continued reading, and as we ascended from the underground to the elevated tracks after 149th Street, passing the littered streets below and the brown rows of sullen apartment buildings, I felt I had met myself in a past life. Not only because young Moore had wanted to be an artist, but because he wanted to live the life of one. His Confessions teemed with names of famous Impressionist painters, of mysterious narrow streets and smoke-filled cafés, under a Paris sky thick with artistic aspiration.

I promised myself that one day I would follow him to Paris, where art and beauty counted for everything, and where extraordinary women—as I found in a book of artists photographed in their studios and on their picnics and in sexy cafés—also came with the freedom of bohemian life.

My friend Arthur, the expert who had explained to me the mysteries of sex, came over to me in the school cafeteria and said, “This is the book for you.” Arthur was the one who had passed around his copy of Mickey Spillane’s I, the Jury, dog-eared to the famous scene of a woman walking into the hero’s room and slowly unbuttoning her blouse—the scene that had inflamed a generation of Bronx youth. Arthur’s parents drove around in a Cadillac and parked it in a garage at night and they never seemed to have to go to work. They had recently returned from Paris and had sneaked through customs Henry Miller’s banned book Tropic of Cancer. Arthur filched it from their bedroom bureau and turned it over to me. “This will make you cream all night,” he said. “But you got to give it back before they find it missing.” I was thrilled to have this mysterious, forbidden book.

The edges of the pages were folded at the supposedly hot passages. The rest of the book seemed untouched. I read the whole book from first sentence to last, and a day after I finished I started over again. It was a key to the cell I lived in and offered a view of the exciting world outside the prison of ordinary life. The book sang the joy of living unshackled by social norms, conventions, the everyday lies; it was a manifesto for my liberty. Nowhere did I find the supposed sexy filth for which it was banned. There was plenty of sex, but none of it pornographic, and even if it had been, so what? What was all the fuss about? Wasn’t sex the stuff of life we lived in and lived for?

I thought it was wonderful to be spiritually lost, especially in Bowles’s world, so far away.

Tropic of Cancer tells the story of Henry, the author himself, who, at 35 and with just a few dollars to his name, sailed from New York to Paris, knowing no one there, speaking not a phrase of French. In Paris he scrounged money from fellow Americans, went hungry, and yet none of that mattered, because he walked the city like a man crazy in love. A single day wandering in Paris was a day richer, deeper, than his whole previous life in New York working at shitty jobs and starved for a woman’s caress that did not require a marriage license. Could I not one day soon do the same as Henry—and young George Moore—and live in Paris a free man?

But first I had to escape from prison. I was bored with my high school classes, with the well-meaning teachers, the students with passion for nothing—except for sex, the only passion we shared. There was nothing in school that opened me to greater poetry or fiction than I had already been reading. I was then in the world of Paul Bowles’s The Sheltering Sky, with its spiritually lost expatriates wandering through Morocco and its desert outposts.

I thought it was wonderful to be spiritually lost, especially in Bowles’s world, so far away from school, from the butcher shop and even Louie’s Luncheonette, from my crumbling apartment and my sad mother. But better than Bowles’s soulless desert was the glamorous writer’s life in Paris that I had discovered in Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. Like its protagonist, Jake Barnes, I, too, would sit with other artists and writer friends—and worldly women—in a café where I could linger for hours drawing and reading at a table sur la terrasse, which sounded more heroic than just a table on the sidewalk.

I reread Moore’s Confessions, searching this time for practical information on how young George was able to pay his way to the city of art and light. I soon discovered the answer. He wrote: “Then my father died, and I suddenly found myself heir to considerable property . . . I was free to enjoy life as I pleased. Eighteen, with life and France before me.”

Expecting no estates to be left to me, I was bitter at my bad luck and chastised myself for being such a dreamy fool. I would have to discover my own way to Paris.


From My Young LifeUsed with permission of Simon & Schuster. Copyright © 2019 by Frederic Tuten.

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When Mario Vargas Llosa Punched Gabriel García Márquez

In 1976, Mario Vargas Llosa hit Gabriel García Márquez with a right hook and promptly ended their friendship. Below, Gabo’s friends recall the incident and its aftermath.

Gabriel García Márquez and Mario Vargas Llosa. Vargas Llosa photo: Arild Vågen.


It was about eleven or twelve in the morning and I was in my house in Colonia Nápoles, where I had an office, a big house with an editorial office in one part, and in the other part I lived with my girlfriend and my two children. There’s a knock at the door and it’s Gabo and Mercedes. I was very happy and very surprised to see him. Gabo was already a friend of mine, but there are hierarchies in friendships. It was a friendship of guarded proportions. I was a newspaper photographer and he was what he is. Back then I didn’t presume to call him Gabo. Calling him Gabito was for me like calling Cervantes “Miguelito.” For me, he’s Gabriel García Márquez. They came for the photographs. He told me, “I want you to take some pictures of my black eye.” They came to my house because they trust me.

He wore a jacket. It wasn’t the plaid one. It was another one. And she was in black with large sunglasses. And I said to him, “What happened?” He made a joke, like, “I was boxing and I lost.” The one who spoke up was Mercedes. She said that Vargas Llosa had sucker punched him. “And why was that?” “I don’t know. I went up to him with my arms wide open to greet him. We hadn’t seen each other for some time.” I already knew they had been very good friends in Barcelona and everything, and the two couples got along because he had talked about that with our mutual friend Guillermo Angulo. I mean, it was something everybody knew; when I found out it was Mario Vargas Llosa who had hit him, I was very surprised. They sat down in the living room and began to talk to me. 


I know the truth about that fight. I’ll tell you. Look, Mario has been a great womanizer and he’s a very good-looking man. Women die for Mario. So Mario, on a trip he made by ship from Barcelona to El Callao, met a very beautiful woman. They fell in love. He left his wife and went off with her. And the marriage was over and all that. His wife went back to pack up the house and, of course, she began to see friends. Then they got back together and his wife told Vargas Llosa, “Don’t think I’m not attractive. Friends of yours like Gabo were after me … ” One day they met in a theater in Mexico City, and Gabo went toward him with open arms. Vargas Llosa made a fist and said, “For what you tried to do to my wife,” and knocked him to the ground. Then Ms. Gaba said, “What you’re saying can’t be true because my husband likes women, but only very good-looking women.”


It had happened two days earlier. The day before he was sick. The punch happened at night. You know the story, don’t you? It was at a film preview, the one about the survivors in the Andes. So Gabo arrived and said “Mario” and Mario turned and wham!, he hit him with a right and knocked him to the floor. He was bleeding when he fell because the lens in his glasses broke right on the bridge of his nose and the bruise was pretty bad. First aid helped alleviate that, which is what they talk about, I don’t know whether it was China Mendoza or Elena Poniatowska who went to buy meat to put on his eye. And that’s really true. I boxed a little since I was a kid, and you put steak on a black eye. I don’t know how, but it takes away the bruise. Now they use arnica.


Well, my secret is this: Gabo told me what had happened before the fight. I mean, if he had told me afterward it would be worthless. He said, “No, look, she’s coming on to me but I’m so fond of Mario that, even though they’re separated … ” So imagine, I couldn’t tell Mario that, I’m a friend of his, too, but I’d destroy the marriage. That was one of her tricks to tell him, “I have my own public,” right? And she knows he lied. Besides, afterward I was finding out how things had been between the two friends. If they saw each other it was with all their friends, they were always together. There were always two or three friends with them. See? They were never alone when they saw each other.


What I do remember very well is that Mercedes interrupted twice and said, “The fact is that Mario is a jealous fool. He’s a jealous fool.”


The story I heard is that Mario was seeing someone else and Patricia went to Gabo, a good friend, and he told her, “Leave him.” And Mario found out and hit Gabo.


Everybody sees a sexual or erotic issue, and that may or may not have been true. But the three of them are the only ones who know that. More than a political dispute they had a separation. Vargas Llosa had already moved surprisingly to the right. I think the clash must have been because there was that separation, and certainly there must have been other things as well that made Vargas Llosa explode. The punch was certainly violent. I know about punches. It was a right. He was in the row in front of him. It seems he came from the side and Vargas Llosa stood up and hit him. I don’t know from what angle, but it was a hard punch.


Patricia was on the ship with Mario when he falls in love. When they get to Chile, Patricia has to go back to Barcelona and pack up the house. Gabo and Mercedes were with her the whole time. They were very close. I know this because Gabo told me about it. When Patricia has to go back to Santiago, Gabo takes her to the airport, but they were running late, and Gabo told her in an offhand way, “If the plane takes off without you, great, we’ll have a party.” Gabo’s Caribbean and it was in that spirit that he said it, and she misunderstood.


But what worried me was that he was pretending to be in good humor, but the photos tell you that he was depressed. I took half a roll. When he arrived, I didn’t have any film in my house. I was doing a piece for an international magazine on fishing. So I ran to the office that I had in my house. It was quick. There was a small garden. I ran out and said to the technician, “Chino, don’t you have any film?” And he said, “No, I don’t have any, but there’s a little tail end in the camera.” So I said to him, “Make me a roll right away.”

I was concerned about his melodramatic face, and I thought about it very quickly. It would satisfy Vargas Llosa to see his victim wounded, destroyed. What I wanted was to make him laugh, and he wouldn’t give me a damn laugh, even at a joke. He wasn’t laughing at all, and I played the fool and said to him, “Listen, that was some kick he gave you. How does it feel?” And he answered, but very dry. Then suddenly something happened, I said something and he laughed and I took two photographs. One is the one I circulate because, since I really love him, I didn’t want to pass that photo off as tragic. Now, whenever they ask me for that photograph, I send the one where he’s laughing so that the reaction is, He hit me but it’s nothing. I don’t give a damn, as we say in Mexico, right?


“History of a Deicide” [Vargas Llosa’s doctoral thesis on One Hundred Years of Solitude] is not available because Mario doesn’t want it printed. My copy of the book was signed by Mario, and with thanks, besides, because I helped him with the research. Then, yes, the idea of the book is that the writer is a god because he gives life to the characters, kills them, and everything. That’s “History of a Deicide.” The writer ends up killing God and taking his place. That’s the real story.


I have it in Spanish. Mario didn’t allow it to be translated. Cass Canfield had already talked to the two of them. Harper was publishing both of them but he said no.


That photo wasn’t circulated because he said to me … and I’ve been very loyal about that. He said to me, “Send me a set and keep the negatives.” So I made him a set and sent it to him and in a few days, I don’t know whether with Angulo or somebody else, he returned it to me with his notes. Not this one. This one. Two copies of this. And then I sent him the printed photos, all of them eight-by-ten. A select set, fifteen or sixteen photos, whatever was on the roll. He must have sent me some money, I don’t remember. I sent him the photographs and the curious thing is that I kept them in the file and no one saw them. He told me it was for documentation and Mercedes agreed and told me, “Gabo has his file of everything important that happens to him.” And at bottom there’s a touch of vanity in liking the photo. I have it, I have something fairly complicated that’s called the “ego-brary.”

I always had a small photo from that shoot tacked up in my lab because he really revolutionized my concept of literature and of America when One Hundred Years came out, and I’ve read it four times. And I lived with that tiny photo that I had. Every time I sat at my desk to work I saw it. Then a friend of mine saw it about the time Gabo was going to turn eighty, and he said to me, “Listen, I want that photograph. I’ll buy it from you.” I said, “No, I can’t sell that photo or anything.” And I told him the story of how that photo came about. Gabo said to send him a set and to keep them. That was in ’76, but when Gabo turned eighty my friend who knew the story told a reporter, “Listen, Rodrigo Moya has an incredible photograph of Gabo with a black eye.” And so the magazines wanted to talk to me. So I thought, They’re publishing photos of Gabo, who’s going to turn eighty. I can break the promise that really wasn’t a promise. It was an assignment to keep them. I kept them and now I’m going to bring them out. I’ve never made so much money from a photograph.


He’s always been very loyal, but at the same time implacable when he breaks with you. There are people he’s broken with and never spoken to again. Obviously, that was the case with Vargas Llosa.

—Translated from the Spanish by Edith Grossman


Prize-winning journalist Silvana Paternostro grew up in Barranquilla, Colombia, home to García Márquez’s fabled literary group, La Cueva. In 1999, she was selected by Time/CNN as one of “Fifty Latin American Leaders for the Millennium,” and is the author of In the Land of God and Man, nominated for the PEN/Martha Albrand Award, and My Colombian War. A frequent contributor to English and Spanish publications including the New York Times, The Paris Review, The New York Review of Books, Vogue, El Malpensante, and Gatopardo, she lives between New York City and Colombia.

Edith Grossman, the winner of a number of translating awards, most notably the 2006 PEN/Ralph Manheim Medal, is the distinguished translator of works by major Spanish-language authors, including Gabriel García Márquez, Mario Vargas Llosa, Mayra Montero, and Alvaro Mutis, as well as Carlos Fuentes. Her translation of Miguel de Cervantes’s Don Quixote was published to great acclaim in 2003.

This essay appears as “Knockout” in Solitude and Company: The Life of Gabriel García Márquez Told with Help from His Friends, Family, Fans, Arguers, Fellow Pranksters, Drunks, and a Few Respectable Souls, by Silvana Paternostro, just published by Seven Stories Press.

This story originally appeared on The Paris Review

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Redux: Lovers Surprised by Love

Every week, the editors of The Paris Review lift the paywall on a selection of interviews, stories, poems, and more from the magazine’s archive. You can have these unlocked pieces delivered straight to your inbox every Sunday by signing up for the Redux newsletter.

Gabriel García Márquez.

This week, we’re reading Gabriel García Márquez’s 1981 Art of Fiction interview, Junichiro Tanizaki’s short story “The Victim,” and Laurel Blossom’s poem “Plea to a Potential Lover.”

If you enjoy these free interviews, stories, and poems, why not subscribe to read the entire archive? You’ll also get four new issues of the quarterly delivered straight to your door.


Gabriel García Márquez, The Art of Fiction No. 69
Issue no. 82 (Winter 1981)

If I had to give a young writer some advice I would say to write about something that has happened to him; it’s always easy to tell whether a writer is writing about something that has happened to him or something he has read or been told. Pablo Neruda has a line in a poem that says “God help me from inventing when I sing.” It always amuses me that the biggest praise for my work comes for the imagination, while the truth is that there’s not a single line in all my work that does not have a basis in reality. The problem is that Caribbean reality resembles the wildest imagination.



The Victim
By Junichiro Tanizaki
Issue no. 16 (Spring–Summer 1957)

These things happened at a time when that noble virtue, frivolity, still flourished, when today’s relentless struggle for existence was yet unknown. The faces of the young aristocrats and squires were not darkened by any cloud; at court the maids of honour and the great courtesans always wore a smile on their lips; the occupations of clown and professional teahouse wit were held in high esteem; life was peaceful and full of joy. In the theater and in the writings of the time, beauty and power were portrayed as inseparable.

Physical beauty, indeed, was the chief aim of life and in its pursuit people went so far as to have themselves tattooed.



Plea to a Potential Lover
By Laurel Blossom
Issue no. 65 (Spring 1976)

Don’t take me home, at least not yet;
Let’s have another drink, and sit
and talk—I want to be your woman,
but there isn’t any rush.
Let’s take our time,
and think it out.

Lovers surprised by love, like us,
make one mistake: they make too much
of it, want the world
to love them, and believe.
The world believes
in nothing it can’t touch …


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This story originally appeared on The Paris Review