Quim Monzó selected by The New York Times in the Provocative Foreign Fiction shorlist

The human, all too human, neuroses laid bare in Monzó’s pithy stories can be discomfiting to read for the nerves they strike — the lies we tell to get by, the rationalizations and hypocrisies, the forbidden thoughts, the randomness of events. In this Catalan writer’s hands, everything can be turned on its head and nothing is sacred, not even fairy tales. What happens after the prince kisses the toad and is rewarded with the woman of his dreams? He looks at his watch, wonders what to say. “What should they talk about? Should he suggest they go straight to his place or will she take it the wrong way?” What happens after Cinderella moves into the palace and becomes queen — and discovers the king is having an affair? If only the shoe hadn’t fit, if only she hadn’t followed him that night and found, at the foot of a bed somewhere deep in the palace, “her husband’s shoes and two pair of extremely high-heeled women’s shoes, one black, size 40, and the other red, size 41” — just the sizes worn by her stepsisters.

Monzó weaves new adages from the well-worn, like the caution to be careful what you wish for. In the story “Love,” “the soccer player” yearns for his lover, “the archivist” — Monzó employs unusual naming conventions — to stop being so mean, so prickly, and to treat him with “the tenderness she is now afraid to show.” And yet, when she finally does. …

The New York Times, by Alison McCulloch (November 2019)