A Thousand Morons, by Quim Monzó


It feels long ago. Another lifetime. The time in which one could wander into a bookshop and browse books. Touch them, sniff them and read them surrounded by thousands of books and several readers doing just that. And then go and pick the favourites and take them to the register where a cashier may or may not smile, may or may not comment on the books you were buying, but when there certainly was human contact. It’s almost fiction. But it isn’t. Barely two months ago I was walking around San Francisco and went into City Lights. I have this habit, well, book-wise I have many habits, but this one in particular involves searching for English translations of Catalan literature when in a big, important, bookstore. So that’s what I did. I was curious to see what had made it to the shelves of this San Francisco landmark. Translations are powerful. Not just because we get to glimpse into another culture’s lifestyle and way of thinking but because misconceptions are broken and stereotypes given a new light.

And it was there, at City Lights, that I found Quim Monzó’s A Thousand Morons.

It was a sign: I’d had that book, in its original Catalan, for several years and still had not read it, so that same evening back home, that’s the book I took with me to bed. A thousand morons, that’s a lot of morons to take to bed at once, and to be honest with you, I’m still not clear which morons I went to bed with that night. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining or criticizing or saying it was a mistake. It wasn't. I'm just trying to figure out who they were. Monzó mentions a thousand. Was that a specific number or just an expression? Are the 1000 morons divided equally into the 19 short stories? Roughly 52,6 morons per story? Are they concentrated all in one? The expression does come from one of the short stories, an adult son visiting his elderly parents at a geriatric centre in which his mother tells him about the thousand morons living in care there. The setting of a retirement home appears a couple (more?) times in these stories, as does old age and misery and the sadness surrounding a semi-corpse. But not all stories are so demoralizing. There’s the surreal one in which a young man sticks posters on trees and a lady follows a few feet behind tearing them off. Or the one about lost (and found) love; another one about a new author getting a review from an accomplished one and as time goes by the latter’s role changes and almost takes over his predecessor’s. Several everyday-life aspects are covered in this collection, a volume divided in two parts: the first comprising 7 short stories and the second one, 12 micro stories, some barely making it a page long.

The one that resonated with me the most was Looking Out The Window, where a man is purposely looking out the window. As Covid-19 and the Shelter-in-Place order took effect, I kept thinking of this character living his life inside observing the outside. Not too dissimilar to what many must have seen their lives reduced to these last few weeks. Monzó is the master of short stories in Catalan literature. He’s our Alice Munro. There are others, of course, but if one must be introduced into this genre, I suggest starting with him. A Thousand Morons can be bought from City Lights and other local Bay Area bookstores. When reading it, like with any short story collection, one must not read the stories one after the other compulsively, like they were binge drinking tequila shots. No. Instead, pick your Thousand Morons and savour each story like you were at a wine tasting session in an old winery in Sonoma where they serve you bits of fancy breads or cheese in between the wines. We need, after all, time to process the morons who enter our lives, if nothing else.


Book Information:


Why, Why, Why; Gasoline; & A Thousand Morons, by Quim Monzó, at City Lights in San Francisco

Title: A Thousand Morons

Author: Quim Monzó

Original title (Catalan): Mil cretins

Translator: Peter Bush

Publisher: Open Letter

ISBN: 978-1934824412

Date: December 11 2012




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