- “The Green Bird” and Other Tales/“El pájaro verde” y otros cuentos by Juan Valera
It seems fitting that Professor Fedorchek’s edition and translation of Juan Valera’s “The Green Bird” and Other Tales is available not only in paperback but also through Barnes & Noble as an e-book, a first for publisher Juan de la Cuesta. As Professor Fedorchek reminds readers, Valera led a life filled with international travel, and had he lived in the age of the Internet, he would certainly have delved into cyber territory just as he trotted the terrestrial globe.
This first volume in Juan de la Cuesta’s serie de traducciones críticas is furthermore an excellent work to launch into cyberspace, given the book’s purpose and wide appeal. Fedorchek states in the introduction that modern editions of Valera’s work generally consist of his most famous novels, with little attention paid to his short fiction. He names Carmen Bravo-Villasante’s edition of “El caballero del azor” y otros cuentos as one of few recent collections, and a quick WorldCat search confirms the dearth of editions of Valera’s short stories, not to mention the near inexistence of English translations. We must applaud Professor Fedorchek’s project of putting forth a collection of nine of Valera’s tales in English translation and in their original castellano, thereby filling a notable void not only for readers interested in the Andalusian author, but also any who might profess an interest in nineteenth-century Spanish literature or fairy tales, folklore, and historical fiction at large.
Professor Fedorchek prefaces his work with a brief introduction (9-17), in which he provides a concise biography of the author, emphasizing Valera’s worldliness and erudition, and then launches into a short commentary on each of the nine stories included in the volume (“The Green Bird,” “The Wizard,” “The Elf-Kiss,” “Matsuyama’s Mirror,” “The Queen Mother,” “The Little Doll,” “The Knight of the Goshawk,” “Doña Mencía’s Captive,” and “The Double Sacrifice”) which “identify Juan Valera as an authentic fairy-tale writer, a fictional chronicler of two legendary Spanish historical personages, and a tongue-in-cheek humorist” (10). Fedorchek’s commentaries range from the consideration of potential source material (in the case of “The Green Bird,” “The Wizard,” and “Matsuyama’s Mirror”) to critical appraisals (“The Little Doll” and “Doña Mencía’s Captive”) and discussions of the common themes of love and magic that run through the nine tales. Professor Fedorchek closes the introduction addressing the unique challenge of recreating Valera’s lively dialogue and polished prose in English, and provides a select bibliography for readers interested in Valera and his short fiction.
While the introduction does an excellent job of piquing reader interest in the tales that follow, it nevertheless leaves readers unfamiliar with Valera’s literary production with a number of unanswered questions. Fedorchek states that “although Valera did not produce [stories] in the hundreds like Emilia Pardo Bazán, he wrote a number of tales that are of considerably more than passing interest” (10), but does not specify the exact quantity of [End Page 144] short stories written by the author, nor does he address their distribution throughout Valera’s literary career. Were the short stories written during a particular period of the author’s life, or did they appear at regular intervals? How do they relate to the novels for which Valera is most celebrated? Are there thematic commonalities or notable differences between the short stories and the longer works? Most importantly, are these nine tales representative of Valera’s entire short story corpus, or were they selected specifically for their thematic elements? These are some of the queries that Professor Fedorchek might address in future editions.
Where Fedorchek truly shines is in his translations of Valera’s writing, and this comes as no surprise, given his extensive experience. Having translated seventeen volumes of Spanish literature...