Experimental Short Stories

These stories are experimental—they deviate from the usual literary conventions in some way.

The difference could be in style, form, or subject.

Experimental Short Fiction

Life-Story | John Barth

A writer thinks about what to do with his current work, questioning the nature of the prose he writes. Perhaps he is a character in one of his stories and his life is fiction.

Blow-Up | Julio Cortazar

Roberto Michel ruminates over how and why he should tell his story. When he takes a walk along the river he sees a woman interacting with a teenage boy.

Read “Blow-Up”

The Seventh Trunk | Heinrich Boll

The narrator has been trying to finish a story for thirty-two years. Part one appeared in a small periodical which ceased publication before part two. It was a perfect story that has been on his mind ever since. He relates his search for the story and author.

How I Contemplated the World from the Detroit House of Correction and Began My Life Over Again | Joyce Carol Oates

A sixteen-year-old girl relates the events that lead her to a house of correction. Looking for love and attention at home, she engages in petty crimes, which escalates to her running away.

Read “How I Contemplated…”

The Coal Shoveller | Keith Fort

A man tries to write a story while looking out his window, watching someone shovel coal. He writes in different styles and creates various characters, but nothing is working.

Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote | Jorge Luis Borges

The narrator, a French academic, outlines the works of Pierre Menard, an author. According to the narrator, these are merely Menard’s visible works. He is going to focus on what he believes to be the authors’ unparalleled achievement—some chapters of the novel Don Quixote.

Read “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote”

In the Heart of the Heart of the Country | William H. Gass

The narrator is a poet who goes to a small town to get away from everything and find himself. His lover has left him and he’s out of work. The narrative is unconventional – a series of vignettes, diary-style with many lists.

Gogol’s Wife | Tomasso Landolfi

The narrator, a biographer, knows everything about Gogol and knew him personally. He is reluctant to reveal something about Gogol—something that could offend or confuse many people. As a biographer he feels obligated to say what he knows about Gogol’s wife.

Read “Gogol’s Wife”

A World Ends | Wolfgang Hildesheimer

The narrator is invited to a party at the home of the Marchesa Montetristo on her island. He describes the other guests, all of whom have some artistic talent.