Short Story Review – Călin Torsan – Spare no Rod (Trans. Mihai-Andrei Fulgescu)

It’s a simple story – a child runs into traffic and narrowly avoids being hit by a car.  The mother, who was not paying sufficient attention, takes her surprise out on the child by smacking him.  A few bystanders see a bratty boy being punished, and gossip about it.  And life goes on.

We turn our fear into other types of emotions because they are easier to process.  A child disappears in a supermarket, and when their parent finds them, relief quickly turns into anger, then punishment.  You made me feel this way, the parent thinks, and the child is forced to atone for the fear.

The reason why we do this is obvious, but that doesn’t make it right.  It’s hard to properly come to terms with fear, and it’s particularly hard when the fear we experience concerns the death or injury of someone we love.  And then when they are fine, we turn these emotions on to them, and usually not as an outpouring of affection.  It becomes ugly, negative, painful, sharp.

Călin Torsan includes a sting, though.  This story is not just about the hypocrisy of a parent who is afraid their child is hurt, and then hurts them when they realise they are not.  No, instead, he takes it a step further, to somewhere darker.

A child can die from being hit.  Their necks are so fragile.  Their brains can become rattled.  Here in Australia there are often articles about a single punch being thrown, and then a person has died.  It’s not the same, but the similarities which exist are clear – the human body is not resilient, a misplaced injury can permanently debilitate, no reasoning after the fact will justify ‘a few slightly hard slaps’.

Spare no Rod is a very short story – two pages – but it contains a lot.  I am reminded somewhat of Andrej Blatnik’s You Do Understand, which is a collection of extremely short stories which reflect the often unpleasant truth of ordinary activities and interactions.  Imagine, you wake up, you take your child shopping, he almost kills himself because children are suicide-machines without awareness or understanding, and in your overwhelming love you react too strongly, too intensely, you grab him, you yell, you clip him about the ears to make him understand what he has done and how he could have been killed, and – that’s it.  Permanent damage.

And it’s your fault.

Călin Torsan send me this short story, which comes from his collection, Ulcele pe uluci, which as of publication date of this review has not been translated into English.

Author Călin Torsan
Title Spare no Rod
Translator Mihai-Andrei Fulgescu
Nationality Romanian
Publisher Casa de Pariuri literare

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