Fiction: “Liberation Day” by George Saunders

In his 2021 critical study “A Swim in a Pond in the Rain”, analyzing short stories by Tolstoy, Chekhov, Turgenev and Gogol, George Saunders observed that the great Russian authors “seemed to regard fiction not as something decorative but as a vital morality”. – ethical tool. The idea was one of many taken from Mr. Saunders’ fictional seminars at Syracuse University, where he has taught since 1997, during which time he not only became the most influential short story writer in the country, but also his most appreciated writing teacher. These twin roles – artist and pedagogue – have become increasingly intertwined in recent collections, and in Mr Saunders’ latest book of stories, ‘Liberation Day’, he wields the ‘moral and ethical tool’ of fiction with more frankness and effectiveness than ever before. .

Each story has been skillfully crafted into a moral parable touching on issues of loyalty, obedience, justice, sacrifice and kindness. In “The Bold Action Mom”, a mother is tormented by the question of how to respond – with just retribution or self-sacrificing forgiveness – after a tramp assaults her son. “A Thing at Work” ably illustrates Darwinist office survivalism, which only entails punishment for the least powerful employee in the company: the secretary accused of pocketing coffee pods. Sometimes the ethical dilemma is stated at the start, as in “Ghoul,” set in a hellish, tightly regulated theme park: “Rules are rules, friends are friends. But now rules and friends don’t bother me. impose different courses of action, and which should I choose?”

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