Monday, January 07, 2013

Aaron's Story Recommendation of the Week :: The Woman Who Fooled Death Five Times by Eleanor Arnason

My Story Recommendation of the Week is for "The Woman Who Fooled Death Five Times" by Eleanor Arnason, from the July/August 2012 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. This is one of Arnason's Hwarhath stories, an oustanding science fiction series with an anthropological approach, very much in the style of Ursula K. LeGuin's Hainish series.

"The Woman Who Fooled Death Five Times" translates into English the Hwarhath legend of Ala, a woman repeatedly visited by the incarnation of Death, who each time manages to fool him into leaving without her. Of course, in a human version of this story, we would cheer for the clever hero who finds a way to outwit Death. But in the Hwarhath tale, Death comes across as not such a bad guy, while the lengths Ala goes to in order to stay alive seem rather questionable.

As always, Arnason writes in simple, understated prose that somehow manages to come together as both beautiful and wise. What makes "The Woman Who Fooled Death Five Times" especially memorable is the ending. Amazingly, Arnason manages to write an elegant, thought-provoking conclusion in the form of a "translator's note," by a translator who is a bit defensive that the tale has not played out the way a huuman story would have.

Elearnor Arnason doesn't write a lot——in a career spanning 40 years she has published six novels and just over two dozen pieces of short fiction——but she always writes well. "The Woman Who Fooled Death Five Times" is a wonderful piece, meriting serious award consideration.

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