Saturday, January 16, 2016

The Boy Who Was a Friend of the Devil (Ana María Matute)

Everyone, at school, at home, in the street, told him cruel and ugly things about the Devil, and in his catechism book he saw him in Hell, enveloped in flames, his horns and tail burning, with a sad, solitary face, sitting in a cauldron. "Poor Devil," he thought; "he's like the Jews, whom everyone drove from their land." And from then on every night he called the Devil "handsome one, beautiful one, my friend." His mother, who heard him, crossed herself and turned on the light. "Oh, stupid boy, don't you know who the Devil is?" "Yes," he replied; the Devil tempts the bad people, the cruel ones. But since I'm his friend I will be good forever, and he'll let me go into Heaven in peace."

My "slow reading" project for the next few weeks or months will be this enormous brick of a book, which contains all (or nearly all) of the short fiction and miscellaneous writings of the late Spanish writer Ana María Matute. The story above is from her earliest collection, Los niños tontos (1956), which contains twenty-one brief fable-like pieces, most barely longer than this one. Most of the children come to a bad end.

Earlier posts on Ana María Matute:

Last words (on Demonios familiares)
Bonfires (on Primera memoria)
Childhood (on Paraíso inhabitado)
Faithful Objects

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