Title: The Size of Things
Author: Samanta Schweblin
Translated By: Megan McDowell
Issue: May 29, 2017
Being a translator myself, I love that The New Yorker has been spotlighting pieces in translation lately. Very pleased! Anyways…
Another short, punchy piece. “The Size of Things” is a look into infantilisation, abuse, mental illness, coping, and the burden of being an observer.
The story is told through the eyes of the owner of a mediocre toy store. His business is simply surviving when a wealthy, repeat customer, Enrique, needs a place to stay for the night after his mother kicks him out of the house. When the owner returns in the morning, the entire store is in disarray. To his surprise, Enrique’s changes bring in more customers than ever before. Enrique continues to stay in the store and changing the decor a few times a week at night. Business is booming. Unfortunately, Enrique’s mental state deteriorates and so does his productivity.
The language is beautifully authentic for an observer. The reader can sense the narrator’s impending sense of doom yet excitement at his current luck. Schweblin easily navigates the contradicting emotions while maintaining a sentiment of concern for Enrique without ever becoming involved.
“I still remember that sight as the beginning of disaster.”