by Carson McCullers
When she was only twenty-three her first novel, The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter, created a literary sensation. She is very special, one of America's superlative writers who conjures up a vision of existence as terrible as it is real, who takes us on shattering voyages into the depths of the spiritual isolation that underlies the human condition.
A grotesque human triangle in a primitive Southern town. . . A young boy learning the difficult lessons of manhood. . . A fateful encounter with his native land and former love. . . These are parts of the world of Carson McCullers -- a world of the lost, the injured, the eternal strangers at life's feast. Here are brilliant revelations of love and longing, bitter heartbreak and occasional happiness -- tales that probe the very heart of our lives.
CARSON McCULLERS (1917-1967)
When she was only twenty-three, Carson McCullers' first novel, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, became a literary sensation. Since that time, her reputation has grown with every successive work.
Such novels as Reflections In a Golden Eye, The Member of the Wedding and Clock Without Hands have won her comparison with such diverse masters as Melville, Flaubert and Faulkner -- which is to say: no critic has succeeded in easily capsulizing the full dimensions of her talent.
Perhaps none of her works more brilliantly represents the variety and richness of her art than The Ballad of the Sad Café. In the already classic novella of the title, and in the tales which accompany it, the genius of Carson McCullers shines forth vividly -- and unforgettably.
The Ballad of the Sad Café
Madame Zilensky and the King of Finland
A Domestic Dilemma
A Tree, a Rock, a Cloud
The Ballad of the Sad Café
The town itself is dreary; not much is there except the cotton mill, the two-room houses where the workers live, a few peach trees, a church with two colored windows, and a miserable main street only a hundred yards long. On Saturdays the tenants from the near-by farms come in for a day of talk and trade. Otherwise the town is lonesome, sad, and like a place that is far off and estranged from all other places in the world. The nearest train stop is Society City, and the Greyhound and White Bus Lines use the Forks Falls Road which is three miles away. The winters here are short and raw, the summers white with glare and fiery hot.
If you walk along the main street on an August afternoon there is nothing whatsoever to do. The largest building, in the very center of the town, is boarded up completely and leans so far to the right that it seems bound to collapse at any minute. The house is very old. There is about it a curious, cracked look that is very puzzling until you suddenly realize that at one time, and long ago, the right side of the front porch had been painted, and part of the wall -- but the painting was left unfinished and one portion of the house is darker and dingier than the other. The building looks completely deserted. Nevertheless, on the second floor there is one window which is not boarded; sometimes in the late afternoon when the heat is at its worst a hand will slowly open the shutter and a face will look down on the town. It is a face like the terrible dim faces known in dreams -- sexless and white, with two gray crossed eyes which are turned inward so sharply that they seem to be exchanging with each other one long and secret gaze of grief. The face lingers at the window for an hour or so, then the shutters are dosed once more, and as likely as not there will not be another soul to be seen along the main street. These August afternoons -- when your shift is finished there is absolutely nothing to do; you might as well walk down to the Forks Falls Road and listen to the chain gang.
However, here in this very town there was once a café. And...