Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Tertz achieves his “phantasmagoric” view of reality by using an alien creature from another planet as his narrator. He thus compels the reader to view the world through the eyes of the alien and presents the reader with an unconventional perspective on human habits and customs. Even the most common elements of daily human life are made to seem strange. Sausage and scrambled eggs are perceived as “a gut that’s swallowed itself garnished with stillborn chickens.” The normal human body is viewed as grotesque, and the alien is puzzled by society’s puritanical attitudes toward sex, which is shrouded in secrecy. He finds human clothing distasteful and longs to shed his disguise and reveal the full splendor of his appearance. When he disrobes, his body opens up like a palm, extending his four limbs or hands like branches and revealing eyes in his hands and feet, the crown of his head, and the nape of his neck. He regards himself as “the only example of that lost harmony and beauty” that characterized his homeland.

The only human beings with which the alien can identify are hunchbacks; and the plants he most admires, collects, and cares for are cacti, which he refers to as his “little hump-backed children.” When the alien attempts to make contact with the hunchback Leopold, he expresses his delight in “this skillful caricature of humanity, this art which was all the more like the real thing because it was so absurd.” For Tertz, only...

(The entire section is 510 words.)