My Father was a Man on Land and a Whale in the Water

by Michelle Steinbeck

This short, coming-of-age story is a disturbing, bizarre fairy tale that disorientates you with surprises and shocks in its hallucinatory, toxic-coloured world. Rules of plot and narrative don’t apply as the absurdist prose fluctuates between nightmares and a comical quest for the meaning of life. A modernist mash-up, audacious and psychologically profound.


A pregnant woman stands in the doorway. She looks as if she’s about to burst.
I’m Loribeth, I say, I’m looking for my father – your husband?
He’s not here, the woman says and presses her hands into her lower back.
Where is he?, I ask, I have to give him his suitcase back.
He wants to swim in the sea, the woman says, not in the swimming pool.
I nod. She yawns and runs a hand over her taut belly.
It’s kicking, she says, it’s turning – she runs two fingers under her breasts back and forth – it’s dragging its foot here.
My father doesn’t want any children, I say. He never wanted children, he didn’t even want me.
Translated by Jen Calleja


Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami
Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

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