Calvert Casey

The Collected Stories

Calvert Casey

Latin America in Translation/En Traducción/Em Tradução

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Book Pages: 224 Illustrations: Published: April 1998

Author: Calvert Casey

Editor: Ilan Stavans

Translator: John Polt

Contributor: Ilan Stavans

Literature and Literary Studies > Fiction

Hailed as a literary relative of Kafka and Poe by his Italian and Cuban contemporaries, Calvert Casey and his enthralling work have until now remained eclipsed in the United States. This collection brings all of Casey’s powerful short stories and a fragment of an unfinished novel to an English-speaking audience for the first time. Exploring the human condition through poetically unique yet torturous views of the mind, Casey was a renegade artist whose work perceives reality as a smoke screen behind which Truth is hidden. He intended his fiction to disturb and subvert standard, plot-driven views of life.
Born in the United States, Casey was raised in Cuba and spent most of his life there and in Europe. He chose Spanish as his primary artistic tongue. A member of the intelligentsia surrounding Castro in the early years of the revolution, he was eventually exiled—and in 1969 committed suicide in Rome at the age of forty-five. Although most of his luminous stories are set in Havana, his is not a touristy, picturesque landscape but an often strange and nightmarish theater of human passions, inhabited by figures—silhouettes, really—that live on the edge of normality. This volume, which showcases Casey’s mastery of the skill of indirect and gradual revelation, is the most complete to appear in any language and includes a biographical and critical introduction written by Ilan Stavans, the noted novelist and scholar of Hispanic culture.
Readers interested in the art of fiction and in the complexities of the human psyche will find Casey’s work irresistible.


“[Calvert] Casey has been ignored by the Cuban literary establishment, by Cuban scholars outside Cuba, and by critics of U.S. literature. John H. R. Polt’s excellent translation and Ilán Stavans’s perceptive introduction now make this writer available in English, and one hopes that The Collected Stories will contribute to a new edition of his work in Spanish and to appropriate critical interest.” — , World Literature Today

“As a renegade artist, Calvert Casey explores the human condition through poetically unique views of the mind, creating fiction in which reality serves as a smoke screen to hide Truth. His fiction is intended to disturb and subvert standard plot-driven narratives. This collection brings all of his short stories to an English-speaking audience for the first time, with the exception of ‘The Walk’ (1954) and a fragment of the aborted novel Gianni, Gianni, both of which were written by Casey in English. Also included are a biographical and critical introduction and a Translator’s Note.” — , Translation Review

“Calvert Casey, a man of almost pitiful gracelessness and alienation who found a home neither in any country or city where he resided nor within himself, managed to produce from his anguish a handful of brilliant stories. . . . These stories are richly detailed, fascinating, claustrophobic, and faintly repellent. The volume benefits from translations of vivid clarity and fluency by John H. R. Polt.” — , Commercial Appeal

“Casey is one of those peculiar figures on the margins of literature. As related in the introduction, although he was born in the U.S., he spent most of his life in Europe and Cuba, where he was a Castro supporter. He committed suicide in exile in 1969, leaving behind only a handful of stories, written mostly in Spanish. . . . Casey’s portrayal of pre-Castro Havana where most of the stories are set, is luxuriously detailed.” — , Booklist

“Despite his name, Calvert Casey was, in the words of Guillermo Cabrera Infante, ‘a profoundly Cuban writer’. . . . In this collection, translated by John H. R. Polt, Casey roams labyrinthine pathways at a hectic and unsettling pace that contributes to the stories’ sense of profound dislocation. . . . Condemned to the fringes of life by a debilitating stutter and persecuted for his homosexuality, Casey writes from the shadows with the certainty and fluent assurance of one who knows them well.” — , New York Times Book Review

“Hitherto an unknown figure to the English-speaking world, Calvert Casey is surely destined to become a cult figure to the literary avant-garde as the Kafka of Latin American literature. . . . Of Casey’s gifts as a writer there can be no doubt.” — , The Spectator

“Like his subject-matter, Casey’s language resorts to one of two extremes: a close focus, plain writing that roams, with skilled discontinuities, over gestures, perceptions and objects; or (more rarely) a heightened baroque. . . . Time, in a mind-boggling geological, rather than historical, sense, often interrupts the characters’ absorption in ephemera.” — , London Review of Books

“The collection contains all of Casey’s known fiction (sixteen stories and one novella). However, this brief sample encompasses a vast world; it gives us a glimpse into the mind of a visionary stylist. . . . [This book includes] powerful works of the imagination that should be read, reread, and included in prominent anthologies. Let’s not lose Calvert Casey again.” — , Review of Contemporary Fiction

“This volume is a fine, overdue introduction to one of Communist Cuba’s most sophisticated writers.” — , Publishers Weekly

“With Kafka and Poe as his literary godfathers, the fall of the Batista regime as the reason for his relocation to Havana, and ultimately, his fear of Fidel Castro as the cause of his wanderlust—he traveled through Europe and eventually settled in Rome—Casey wrote about alienation and loners on the fringes of society, about hopelessness and social disenchantment, about guilt, and about sexual ambivalence. . . . After reading [these stories] one readily understands why fellow writers like Guillermo Cabrera Infante and Italo Calvino have campaigned to keep Casey’s work in print and available. Polt’s translations are masterful, the English vibrant and alive, and Stavans’s introduction places Casey and his work in the context of modern literature while providing thoughtful, lucid commentary on the stories.” — , Choice

“Out of Havana arrives one of the most significant Hispanic American writers . . . Calvert Casey, nourished by the Western literary tradition, yet, obstinately, almost obsessively, ‘local.’ . . . With memories of Havana as a colony and of slavery, of the brothels and black witchcraft and uninterrupted sensuality in an uninterrupted dialogue with the dead, Casey . . . began to write far from Cuba out of nostalgia. It led him to return to Cuba and to submerge himself anew in the old city known rock by rock, ghost by ghost, ensuring never to be separated from her again.” — Italo Calvino, written in 1966, reprinted in Quimera no. 26 (Dec. 1982)


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Calvert Casey (1924–1969) had published both essays and short stories in Spanish during his lifetime. John H. R. Polt is Professor Emeritus of Spanish at the University of California at Berkeley. Ilan Stavans is Professor of Spanish and Creative Writing at Amherst College.

Ilan Stavans is Professor of Spanish and Creative Writing at Amherst College.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Introduction / Ilan Stavans vii

A Note on the Text xxi

Translator's Note / John H. R. Polt xxiii

The Walk 1

In San Isidro 13

Homecoming 17

Potosí 33

My Aunt Leocadia, Love, and the Lower Paleolithic 39

The Sun 51

A Little Romance 62

The Visitors 73

Love: The River Almendares, Now Full-Grown, Is Twelve Million Years Old 90

Happiness 95

The Execution 104

The Master of Life and Death 118

Polonaise Brillante 163

Goodbye . . . and Thanks for Everything 167

In Partenza 177

On the Avenue 180

Piazza Margana 187
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2165-1 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2153-8
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