CM Archive
CM Archive Book Review line

Manguel, Alberto.

Markham (Ont.), Penguin, c1985. 219pp, paper, $7.95, ISBN 0-14-007712-X. CIP

Reviewed by L. Maingon

Volume 13 Number 6
1985 November

In Dark Arrows Alberto Manguel brings together a highly recommendable selection of modern short story classics with the common theme of revenge. This brief anthology by the co-author of The Dictionary of Imagination is in many respects a continuation of his previous anthology of fantastic literature, Black Water.* The choice of authors is similar, although one finds new additions, such as the Canadian, Ken Mitchell, who provides a good-humoured chinook of earthly prairie fantasy in "The Great Electrical Revolution" of Moose Jaw.

Fantastic literature is the common denominator of Manguel's anthologies. The theme of revenge, as it is presented in these stories, is subordinated to the fantastic. We are reminded of Picasso's statement that "each painting is a horde of destructions." In Dark Arrows, each tale narrates destructions of accepted order. They are reminders that we live in the age of quantum theory where the empirical separation of the I and the nature observed is no longer tenable. Revenge operates in a closed world of well-ordered society in order to alter our habitual acceptance of the established web of reality.

Whether it be W. Trevor's "Torridge," a destruction of proper middle-class English values, or Lord Dunsany's "The Pirate of Round Pond," the equivocal defeat of the romantic pirate myth, E.L. Doctorow's "Willi" expresses the nucleus of revenge in fantastic literature perfectly: "We posit an empirical world, yet how can I be here at this desk-and not be here," and proceeds to explode the myth of empirical order. F. Forsyth's "There Are no Snakes in Ireland" and W. Faulkner's "A Bear Hunt," bring home our realization of the destruction of empiricism with simple metaphors of the demise of bigotry conceived as the ordained social order, by the irrationality of primitive religions. There is also the revenge of order itself against the revolt of individualism, in Blaisten's "Uncle Facundo," as well as the revolt of orderly revenge in Kipling's "Dayspring Mishandled." Each of these stories, as we find in E. Valadés's "Permission for Death is Granted," question our acceptance of social and temporal order as the basis for reality.

Of the thirteen tales found in Dark Arrows, there is only one instance in which we might question Manguel's choice. H. von Kleist's "The Foundling" is the story of a subtle but shameless usurpation of the conventions of social order, but revenge is not its theme. Its similarity with the other stories lies in its ironic description of the orderly subversion of order. Revenge comes in this tale as an incidental epilogue, and it defeats its own purpose because it serves merely as a moralist's last ditch effort to re-introduce order in a typically Kantian fashion.

This collection makes excellent light reading for a very wide audience both lay and specialist. As is the case with most Penguin books, it is well-printed on good quality paper. Here as elsewhere, we are all greatly indebted to Manguel's exceptional skill as a translator and his enthusiasm for his chosen field.

L. Maingon, Dept. of Hispanic Studies, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, B.C.

*Reviewed vol. XIII/5 September 1985 p.208.

line indexes


1971-1979 | 1980-1985 | 1986-1990 | 1991-1995


The materials in this archive are copyright © The Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission Copyright information for reviewers

Young Canada Works