Short stories are not usually my favorite format. In my experience, either they lack depth, or they’re so abstract that they leave me saying Whaaaaat? Either way, I tend to find them unsatisfying. On the other hand, I’ve loved many of Paul Theroux’s novels, even though they are really short stories addressing specific themes. That’s what Liliana Blum has done in her collection No Me Pases de Largo… and I was very satisfied.
I was curious that the stories are named after Beatles songs, and the cover art features the Fab Four, even though I didn’t see an obvious connection. Later, I was embarrassed to learn that the collection is very appropriately named after the song from Sergeant Pepper “Don’t Pass Me By.” Meanwhile, I found myself singing “All you need is love…” and that made a light bulb turn on in my head. The stories are about love – finding love, losing love, looking for love, running away from love – but these are most definitely not love stories.
The common characters in each of the stories are friends Noelia and Moira. Taking turns at front and center or in the background, we see a complex relationship developed over many years between two very complex 30-something women. This is what really connects the stories, and we see the various ways they support each other and protect themselves through a confrontation with a lover’s wife, the realization that an early love affair was a sham, the loss of “Mister Right” due to a foolish indiscretion, and dealing with the long-term effects of an earlier love affair.
I haven’t read all of Liliana Blum’s work, but this is by far my favorite of her story collections. The good news is that it is in both Spanish and English. I read a couple of the English versions, and found Michael Parker-Stainback’s translation to be fluid and accurate.