The Litocrat

Short Stories for Spring

The Litocrat will launch soon – in the meantime, enjoy these previews:

1.  Short Stories for Spring (below)

2.  February Poems (click here)

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Photographs of Guy de Maupassant, Jhumpa Lahiri, Irène Némirovsky, Elif Batuman and Zora Neale Hurston; a portrait of Arthur Conan Doyle (by H.L. Gates, in the National Portrait Gallery, London); photographs of Clarice Lispector and Lucille Clifton. Photographs by Nadar, Alberto Cristofari, Irène Némirovsky Fund, Beowulf Sheehan, Rocco, Mark Lennihan.
Photographs of Guy de Maupassant, Jhumpa Lahiri, Irène Némirovsky, Elif Batuman and Zora Neale Hurston; a portrait of Arthur Conan Doyle (by H.L. Gates, in the National Portrait Gallery, London); photographs of Clarice Lispector and Lucille Clifton. Photographs by Nadar, Alberto Cristofari, Irène Némirovsky Fund, Beowulf Sheehan, Rocco, Mark Lennihan.

To celebrate springtime, we recommend nine compelling short stories – each one set during or themed around spring – by nine excellent authors:

Elif Batuman, Lucille Clifton, Arthur Conan Doyle, O. Henry, Zora Neale Hurston, Jhumpa Lahiri, Clarice Lispector, Guy de Maupassant and Irène Némirovsky.

You can read each of these stories online, at the links below, thanks to Short Story Project, The Paris Review, American, and Common Lit.

Here are the nine spring stories we recommend:

Summer in Samarkand, by Elif Batuman;

The Luckiest Time of All, by Lucille Clifton;

The Adventure of the Speckled Band, by Arthur Conan Doyle;

Sweat, by Zora Neale Hurston;

A Temporary Matter, by Jhumpa Lahiri;

Bravado, by Clarice Lispector;

In The Spring, by Guy de Maupassant;

Springtime a la Carte, by O. Henry;

Dimanche by Irène Némirovsky.

Here are details about each author

Elif Batuman (“Summer in Samarkand“) is a Turkish-American author and academic. Her first novel, “The Idiot”, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and for the Women’s Prize. She is also the author of “The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them”. She has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 2010; has published in Harper’s Magazine, n+1, and other publications; and holds a Ph.D. in comparative literature from Stanford University. Her second novel, “Either/Or”, was published in 2022.

Lucille Clifton (“The Luckiest Time of All“) was an acclaimed American poet, writer and educator. Born in New York, she spent most of her life in Baltimore. Clifton’s writing often focused on Black experience and history, racism and feminism. Some of her most famous poetry collections include “Good Times,” “An Ordinary Woman,” and “Blessing the Boats.” Clifton was the first Black woman to receive the prestigious Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize; she also received the National Book Award, the Robert Frost Medal, and was a finalist twice for the Pulitzer Prize for poetry.  She served as Poet Laureate of Maryland, Distinguished Professor of Humanities at St. Mary’s College of Maryland and a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

Arthur Conan Doyle (“The Adventure of the Speckled Band”) was a Scottish writer and physician, best known for creating the iconic detective Sherlock Holmes. His 60 Holmes stories – including “The Hound of the Baskervilles” and “A Study in Scarlet” – were groundbreaking mysteries that popularized the genre. Doyle was a prolific writer whose other works of fiction and non-fiction address topics of science, fantasy, romance, spiritualism and war (including popular stories about about the scientist Professor Challenger). He was knighted by King Edward VII in 1902. His writing has been adapted for stage, screen and radio thousands of times; it has been estimated that Sherlock Holmes is the most prolific screen character in the history of cinema.

Zora Neale Hurston (“Sweat“) was an influential Black American novelist, anthropologist, folklorist and filmmaker who became a central figure of the Harlem Renaissance. Born in Alabama, she drew literary inspiration from her upbringing in the Black community of Eatonville, Florida, as well as from her extensive studies of African-American folklore and voodoo. Her most popular books include the seminal novel “Their Eyes Were Watching God” and the influential folklore collection “Mules and Men”. Hurston’s expansive body of work includes four novels and over 50 short stories, plays, and essays. Her writing went largely unrecognized in the mainstream literary world until a revival of interest led to posthumous recognition of her accomplishments. Hurston is now regarded as a pioneering figure of 20th century American literature.

Jhumpa Lahiri (“A Temporary Matter“)  is a Pulitzer Prize-winning bilingual writer, translator, and literary critic. Her novels and short stories explore the experiences of Bengali immigrants in the United States. Lahiri’s acclaimed debut short story collection “Interpreter of Maladies” won the Pulitzer in 2000, as well as the PEN/Hemingway Award and The New Yorker Debut of the Year. Her novels “The Namesake” and “The Lowland” have received widespread praise. Lahiri has also written several books of non-fiction and poetry in Italian, translated Italian novels, and edited The Penguin Book of Italian Short Stories. She has been a contributor for over twenty-five years to The New Yorker magazine, and has taught creative writing and English at Barnard College, Boston University and the Rhode Island School of Design.

Clarice Lispector (“Bravado“) was a pioneering Brazilian novelist and short story writer. She was born in Ukraine to a Jewish family, who fled anti-Semitic violence and settled in Brazil when she was an infant. Lispector wrote introspective, experimental fiction that explored existential themes of life, identity and the female experience. Her first novel, “Near to the Wild Heart”, published when she was 24 years old, won critical acclaim for its sensitive interpretation of adolescence. She published many articles in the Jornal do Brasil, and later wrote novels that achieved international acclaim, including “The Passion According to G.H.” and “The Hour of the Star.” English translations of her popular short stories were published in a 2015 anthology. Lispector’s innovative narrative style has influenced generations of Latin American writers.

Guy de Maupassant (“In the Spring“) is widely considered to be the greatest French author of short stories, and one of the most influential practitioners of the form in world literature. He was also a key proponent of the naturalist and realist schools of writing. Born in Normandy, Maupassant came from an upper-class family but experienced financial difficulties as a young man. His short stories and novels depicted French bourgeois society with an unsentimental eye; many of his works were set during the Franco-Prussian war of the 1870s. Maupassant wrote 300 short stories, six novels, three travel books, and one volume of verse; among his best-known works are “The Necklace”, “The Dumpling”, “Bel Ami” and “Fear”. His economical, understated style inspired later authors like Chekhov, Tolstoy and Nietzsche.

O. Henry (“Springtime a la Carte“) was the pen name of William Sydney Porter, one of the most popular American short story writers.  His humorous, ironic tales were mostly set in New York, and often featured working-class characters, such as policemen and waitresses, as well as criminals and social outcasts. His stories were also characterized by clever wordplay, and he pioneered the art of the surprise ending. Some of his most famous stories include “The Gift of the Magi,” “The Ransom of Red Chief” and “The Cop and the Anthem.” His most famous character, the Cisco Kid, inspired numerous film, radio, television and comic book series. His other works have been adapted for stage, film, television and radio. The O. Henry award, named in his honor, is awarded each year to authors of outstanding short stories.

Irène Némirovsky (“Dimanche“) was a renowned French novelist of Ukrainian-Jewish descent. Her family moved to France when Némirovsky was a child. She embraced French culture while also exploring themes of identity and antisemitism. Némirovsky gained fame and critical praise for her novels, which included ”David Golder” and “The Wine of Solitude.” However, her most well-known work is the posthumously published “Suite Française” – an uncompleted masterpiece that depicts life in German-occupied France. She was writing this work when she was arrested, transported to Auschwitz and executed. Némirovsky’s  literary works were rediscovered decades later, and her manuscript “Fire in the Blood” was published in 2007.  For “Suite Française”, she became the first posthumous recipient of the Prix Renaudot.