This formal diversity is, naturally, directly related to the intellectual wealth, cultural richness, and historical conflict contained in a geographical space that is, by North American standards, fantastically, ridiculously small. European history is at the same time a history of fragmentation, caused by wars and political reconstitutions, and a history of transcending - by necessity - differences, borders and distances. No country in Europe can be understood outside its historical relations with other European countries, no culture in Europe can be comprehended outside its interactions with other cultures. Europe is a fragmented space that always strives toward some form of integration. This has, I believe, always been the case, but the simultaneous processes of fragmentation, interaction and integration have certainly been intensified with the formation of the European Union. In this context, European literatures have found themselves stretched between the reductive demands of national culture (the culture that is for us, by us, whoever we may be) and the transformative possibilities of transnational culture that can exist only in the situation of constant flow of identity and exchange of meaning - in the situation of ceaseless translation.
Hence the stories you will find in this volume (which have not been selected for any kind of thematic continuity) inescapably question and probe and sabotage various national myths, often featuring migrants and vagrants, unabashedly questioning the propriety of the old forms in the new set of historical and political circumstances. These stories not only cross and trespass all kinds of borders, they are, quite literally, generating translation in doing so.
At the heart of this project, which we hope to undertake annually, is a profound, non-negotiable need for communication with the world, wherever it may be. The same need is at the heart of the project of literature. That project is most obviously impossible without translation and if the communication is to be immediate and uninterrupted - which seems to be a self-evident need in todays world - the process of translation must be immediate and uninterrupted. We simply have to keep in continuous touch, translation has to be a ceaseless process. Not only do we have to provide a continuous flow of literary texts from other languages into English, we also have to be able to monitor in real time, as it were, the rapid developments in European literatures.
And there is no better gateway than the short story, which has retained, from the days when every decent newspaper or magazine printed short stories, the immediacy that comes with the daily engagement of the press with the world; the immediacy, I might add, that is currently flourishing on the Web. The short story still has the flavor of a report from the front lines of history and existence.
This anthology is, then, not putting up a fight in the battles that to many seem lost, it is indeed declaring a victory. As far as we are concerned, translation and the short story - essential means of communicating with and understanding this world of ours - have been restored to their rightful place. Now, start reading.
Excerpted from Best European Fiction 2010 by Aleksandar Hemon. Copyright © 2009 by Aleksandar Hemon. Excerpted by permission of Dalkey Archive Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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