Note: What is written here should not be taken as absolute truth, as it is simply the author's personal opinion. I apologize in advance if anyone is offended by the content, my intention is to express my thoughts as respectfully as possible.
There are flexible stripes that speak of things as heavy as misfortune, or as light as love, and surprise us like a tiger. Is there a more accurate way to say what a tale is? Maybe not, but let's try.
What is a tale? Well, it is not a concept, so resorting to the Aristotelian formula of proper genus and specific difference is not a good approach. In such a case it is only a short novel; novella would be the next literary genre and the specific difference would be that it is short. With that you get by but you have left out the best of the tale. Nor is a tale a living being that changes over time and to which the laws of causality apply. Let us rather say that it is something that is in life, something to which some artists have given such a name, something that we readers/writers cultivate and love, and perhaps it is therefore up to us to say what it is. Therefore, today I want to touch on this topic because I find it interesting, and I thought it would be a good idea to share my thoughts with HIVE.
Let us then resort to the observation of its characteristics. Let's take a tale, for example There was once a tiger (Spanish version), by Francisco Massiani. This text relates something. In a remote England appears a little book in which Hamilton reads: ''Once upon a time there was a tiger. He had seven stripes. He was as heavy as a misfortune and as light and pliant as love''. The next time the book is read by Elizabeth, Hamilton's bored wife, the inscription has changed and then reads: ''There was once a light love, It had six stripes. He was as heavy as a disgrace and as supple as a tiger''. The inscription now fits Elizabeth's life. The book changes hands, and each time someone reads it, the inscription has changed, adapting to the circumstances of its occasional reader.
Campbell, an opium smuggler, a dour friend of Hamilton's, reads very frightened, fearing he had been discovered: ''There was a heavy as a disgrace. He had five tigers. He was as light as a stripe and as flexible as love''. Jane, Elizabeth's little granddaughter, even more frightened when one night she sees something she can't understand, something strange that her father and mother, or her brother and a girl, are doing, reads: ''Once upon a time there was a love as supple. As heavy as a misfortune. As light as a stripe. It had four tigers''. Doc, the generous boyfriend of Lilian, Jane's beautiful daughter, only manages to read: ''Tiger once one. There were stripes. Three had misfortune one as heavy. It was light so and love as flexible''. When Lilian is murdered by a lover, the police inspector reads: ''It was like a disgrace such a tiger love. It had two stripes. As light and flexible as it was heavy''.
Doris, the sweet little girl friend of old Jane, reads to her beloved uncle: ''Once upon a time there was a tiger. He had a stripe and was as light as love''. But the next day the inscription has changed. Did the stripe disappear? Yes, and something else. The girl reads: ''Once upon a time there was love''. Bewildered because the tiger is gone, she drifts off to sleep.
If There Once Was a Tiger is a tale, this one alone would be enough to establish that a short tale is not a short novel. And while it's not a poem either, it's close, isn't it? Uslar Pietri said in an interview that the short tale is a literary genre close to poetry. In a novel, something happens to the characters that is narrated to a reader. In a poem, a poet leaves a record of a revelation, of something strange that he has glimpsed and that he leaves written down, not for a reader, but for himself. A tale is a genre between novel and poetry. Although it does not narrate an event, it is a relate -and in that it resembles a novel-, but not for a reader but for the writer himself, of what he has seen -and in that it is related to poetry-. There are some things that are very well told in the form of tales.
When I say that the poet and the taleteller write for themselves, I am referring to their attitude during their creative activity: they think only of being faithful to what they see, perceive, intuit, or even more, they know. In fact, many keep their works for years or forever. It's not just a matter of shame, which is a lot, it's that they don't feel the need to make them public. The novelist relates events to a reader whose attention he is at pains to maintain; except for political or religious reasons, he rarely scruples about making his work known. None of these three artists tries to convince us, they only expose, they expose themselves. To convince us there are the essayists, whom we demand to argue their ideas. To transform us there are the playwrights, whom we allow to thrill us, to kill us with laughter or pain, as long as they change us, calm us down.
The forms of tale, which are very varied, as are innumerable forms of poems, novels, essays, dramas -and taletellers-, depend on the nature of what has been told and the character of the authors themselves. They will be good to the extent that they transmit the revelation. But what is this 'something' that Massiani's tale tells us? That the reader will change the story, that he will adapt it to his circumstance, that no matter how much care the storyteller has taken to say exactly what he saw, the reader can rewrite the story. In fact, he is going to rewrite it.
And then, why write a tale? Because yes, because that's the way things are, because what he saw does not belong to him. It was given to him, like the gift of telling. And let the reader -and the critics- do with that what they have to do. The artist, by leaving himself on the pages, by trying to express himself in the most precise and beautiful way possible and allowing love to follow its path, has already fulfilled his modest work.
Thank you very much for reading me, if you have any questions or want to give your opinion, you are free to do so in the comments. Happy day/afternoon/evening wherever you are reading this. Blessings!
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