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The Word of the Speechless

The Word of the Speechless

Selected Stories

by Julio Ramón Ribeyro, edited and translated from the Spanish by Katherine Silver, with an introduction by Alejandro Zambra

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The Peruvian writer Julio Ramón Ribeyro is one of the masters of the short story and a major contributor to the great flourishing of Latin American literature that followed the Second World War. In a letter to an editor, Ribeyro said about his stories, “in most of [them] those who are deprived of words in life find expression— the marginalized, the forgotten, those condemned to an existence without harmony and without voice. I have restored to them the breath they’ve been denied, and I’ve allowed them to modulate their own longings, outbursts, and distress.” This is work of deep humanity, imbued with a disorienting lyricism that is Ribeyro’s alone. The Word of the Speechless, edited and translated by Katherine Silver, introduces readers to an indispensable and unforgettable voice of Latin American fiction.

Additional Book Information

Series: NYRB Classics
ISBN: 9781681373232
Pages: 272
Publication Date:


The late Peruvian writer’s knack for the uncanny is on display in these gripping stories culled from a body of work spanning 40 years … [T]hese pieces dig into the human psyche with sharpness and wit.
Publishers Weekly

Sometimes bleak, sometimes warily humorous … Ribeyro's stories often offer unexpected twists, their characters mysteriously disappearing in a flurry of snow or puffs of smoke … A welcome selection of prose that introduces a Latin American master to English-language audiences.

A magnificent storyteller, one of the best of Latin America and probably of the Spanish language, unjustly not recognized as such.
—Mario Vargas Llosa

Elegance in the formal design skillfully contains the chaotic lives of Ribeyro's characters. As author, he strikes the required distance enabling him to situate best these refined tales in which shame, humiliation, unbridled lust, infatuation, or plain derangement throb just beneath the skin of his creations.
—Paddy Kehoe, RTÉ

Ribeyro writes a painting, or linguistically paints a scene in which quiet gestures...communicate as much if not more than the textually explicit or the explicitly textual.
Letras Hispanas

Despite the downbeat nature of some of the stories, there is also a dry humour, particularly in stories which skewer societal norms and relationships . . . There are usually no happy endings for Ribeyro’s characters, but nevertheless the stories are absorbing, wonderful and unforgettable.
—Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings

The lives of these minor characters (victims of modernity), and their circumstances, give Ribeyro’s stories a unique perspective that will make you think twice about the untold stories of the cashier you always run into at the store. . . . Ribeyro portrays his characters with such affection, sympathy, and humor that you will not feel that their bad luck and misery is a tragedy.
—Christina Soto van der Plas, Public Books

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