“Father's Return from War. Topics,” by Horia Gârbea
This string of eight vignettes, “Father's Return from War,” translated from the Romanian by Mihaela Mudure, does not follow the conventions of flash fiction, which makes it interesting to look at alongside the other stories in this month's International Flash Fiction issue. Gârbea moves slowly, layering scenes in an atemporal manner. Each section begins with the refrain “Father went to war,” and the content becomes increasingly surreal. At one point, the father returns home to show the narrator the bullet that had killed him in a prison camp. Later, it is suggested that the father is able to predict wars' outcomes. Meanwhile, uncertainties abound:
“I have never been sure that Father fought in the right war.”
“I was surprised because our country was not at war with anybody.”
The narrator's deadpan tone suggests ambivalence towards the father, which develops interesting tension by the end, and opens up the story to historical context, a boy who has inherited a legacy of war.