Short Stories
by various authors

This page:

Jorge Luis Borges: The Secret Miracle

Miguel de Unamuno: Saint Manuel Bueno, Martyr


Harriet de Onís


my favorites

index pages:

Many of the short stories I read fit an identified category (e.g., science fiction, fantasy, mysteries). This page is for “mainstream” short fiction that doesn’t fit any of those genres.

The Secret Miracle
by Jorge Luis Borges

translated by Harriet de Onís

Original Spanish version published 1951.
Translation copyright © 1954 by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.

Then he reflected that reality is not in the habit of coinciding with our anticipation of it; with a logic of his own he inferred that to foresee a circumstantial detail is to prevent its happening. Trusting in this weak magic, he invented, so that they would not happen, the most gruesome details. Finally, as was natural, he came to fear that they were prophetic.
Like all writers, he measured the achievements of others by what they had accomplished, asking of them that they measure him by what he envisaged or planned.




text checked (see note) Feb 2005

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Unamuno was professor of Greek at the university of Salamanca. A (fictional) former student reminisces about him in Graham Greene’s Monsignor Quixote.

Saint Manuel Bueno, Martyr
by Miguel de Unamuno

translated by Harriet de Onís

Original Spanish version published 1931.
Translation copyright © 1954 by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.

The entire village attended Mass, if only to hear and see him and the altar, where he seemed to become transfigured, his face all alight. He had introduced a practice in the rite, which was to have us all gather in the church, men and women, old folk and children, several thousand of us, to recite together, in a single voice, the Apostles’ Creed: “I believe in God the Father, Maker of heaven and earth,” and the rest of it. It was not a chorus, but a single voice, a simple, united voice, all blended in one, and forming a mountain whose peak, lost at times in the clouds, was Don Manuel. And when we came to “I believe in the resurrection of the flesh and the life everlasting,” Don Manuel’s voice became lost, as in a lake, in that of the entire village, and what happened was that he fell silent. And I could hear the pealing of the bells of the town that was said to be buried at the bottom of the lake—bells that it was said could be heard on Midsummer’s Night, too—and they were the bells of the town buried in the spiritual lake of our village; I could hear the voice of our dead who were resurrected in us in the communion of the saints. Later, when I came to understand the secret of our saint, I understood that it was as if the leader of a caravan crossing the desert should have died within sight of his goal, and his people should lift him on their shoulders to bring his lifeless body into the promised land.


the Resurrection

He refused to believe in the evil intention of any.

“Envy,” he never tired of repeating, “is kept alive by those who are bent on believing themselves envied, and most persecutions are due more to the persecutory mania than to persecution.”

“But, Don Manuel, just see what she meant to say to me. . . .”

“We should care less about what people mean to say than about what they say without meaning to.”

And once, when a man had taken his own life, and the father of the suicide, who was not of our village, asked him if he could be buried in consecrated ground, he replied: “Certainly, for at the last moment, in the instant of his death, he repented, beyond the shadow of a doubt.”




[...] I asked him, looking him straight in the eyes: “Is there a hell, Don Manuel?”

With complete calm, he answered: “For you, my child? No.”

“And for the others?”

“What do you care, if you are not going there?”



“ ‘What is needed here is for them to live in health, to live in unity of feeling, and with the truth; with my truth they would not live. Let them live. And that is what the Church does, make them live. True religion? All religions are true in so far as they make the people who profess them live spiritually, in so far as they console them for having had to be born to die, and the truest religion for every people is its own, the one that has made it. And mine? Mine is consoling myself by consoling others, even if the consolation I give them is not mine.’ ”
“ ‘Listen, Lázaro, I have been at the deathbed of poor ignorant peasants who had hardly ever been away from their village, and I have heard from their own lips, or could guess it, the real cause of their sickness unto death, and I have seen there, at the head of their deathbed, the unmitigated blackness of the chasm of weariness of living. It is a thousand times worse than hunger. So let us go on, Lázaro, suiciding ourselves in our work and in our village, and let it dream this its life as the lake dreams the sky.’ ”

“Let them be. It is so hard to make them understand where orthodox belief ends and superstition begins. Most of all, for us. Let them be, as long as they find comfort. It is better for them to believe everything, even things that contradict one another, than to believe nothing. This idea that the one who believes too much ends by believing nothing, is a Protestant concept. Let us not protest. The protest kills happiness.”




text checked (see note) Feb 2005

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Background graphic copyright © 2004 by Hal Keen