“The Soccer Balls of Mr. Kurz”
by Michele Mari
translated from the Italian by Robert Moore
from the May 29, 2023 issue of The New Yorker

While Michele Mari has been publishing books since 1989, we have never gotten any of them translated into English . . . until later in the summer! And Other Stories will be publishing a collection of his short stories entitled You, Bleeding Childhood, translated by Robert Moore. I’m assuming “The Soccer Balls of Mr. Kurz” will be included in that collection.

Reading the blurb at And Other Stories makes me very excited. They claim Mari is “an encyclopedic fantasist on a par with Kafka, Poe, and Borges.” I’m in!

While I don’t see Kafka, Poe, or Borges in the first paragraph, I nevertheless love it, particularly the closing sentence.

For Bragonzi, the only beautiful thing in the sad life of the boarding school in Quarto dei Mille was the soccer matches. And yet even that beauty was anguished. He realized it as early as the first match, when he saw that, once the moment came to shoot, even the best, even the oldest players suffered a kind of muscular contraction, as if forcing themselves to hold back; and, in fact, what emerged was a weak, uncertain shot, which the goalie blocked with ease. And to think that a second earlier that same forward had seemed full of confident vigor, impetuously swooping down onto the ball, defending it, rushing with long strides toward the goal area—but then . . . but then that feeble shot.

So I’m hoping to get to this one ASAP, maybe using a long weekend. In the meantime, please feel free to leave your thoughts on the story below.

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