From one of Guatemala's finest young writers, these twenty-six stories—at once brutal and intensely lyrical—are peopled with sorcerers, ghosts, and assassins.
Springing from myth and beliefs indigenous to Central America and North America, where their action occurs, Rey Rosa's tales give the sense of being dreamed. At the same time, they can be read as metaphors for the terror and oppression of years of warfare.
Praise for The Beggar's Knife:
"The Beggar's Knife was originally subtitled '24 strange tales' in the English translation by Paul Bowles, published by City Lights Books in 1985. This collection of short stories was originally written in Spanish and was published a year later in their original language in a Guatemala that was returning to democracy.
"In its Spanish version, The Beggar's Knife was composed of 25 intense and enigmatic short stories. It included 'The Path Doubles Back' which, at seven pages, was the longest. Rarely in Guatemala’s literary history (probably since Asturias’ Legends of Guatemala) has a writer’s debut entailed such a promise. Rey Rosa’s first book was evidence of a mature and new style of writing.
"The fantastic tendency and the precise and macabre style in The Beggar’s Knife immediately distanced Rey Rosa from the rest of Guatemalan writers, who persevered with a literal realism to address the armed conflict and social disparities. Rey Rosa’s tales seemed eager to capture 'the possible activity of the unconscious,' in the author’s own words, uncanny events that occurred on the boundary between dreams and reality. However, given Guatemala’s sociopolitical reality at the time, the tales were plagued by acts of vengeance, threats of parricide, nightmares and violent deaths. The narratives, 'like the tricks of a magician,' were a mixture of the magical and the perverse."—Ronald Flores, The Latin American Review of Books