Preface to the Peace Press edition of "Departure and Other Stories"
THIS COLLECTION of short stories was first published thirty-one years ago. The paper of the edition I look at now as I write this is already yellowed with age; and just as the book itself exists from another era, so do the stories represent another time, a time which today has become what a younger generation refers to as "history."
Many of the stories contained in the book were written as much as a decade before the collection itself was published.
This perhaps underlines my own longetivity as a writer. It is almost half a century since my first novel was published and a full half century since I wrote my first short story. Since that time, the world has changed again and again, sometimes violently, sometimes subtley. At the time this collection was first published, the Spanish Civil War was still very much part of our lives. It had led directly into World War II. And the veterans of the Spanish Civil War for the most part were still young men. Today most of them are on the edge of becoming old men, and the agonies of the Spanish Republic appear to belong to a very distant past.
The Thirties were still very much with us when this book was published, and indeed a number of the stories in it were written in the Thirties. Yet strangely enough, people who read these stories today feel that they retain vitality and validity and that they had meaning for us. In this I find very high praise indeed, and the fact that the Press <sic: Peace> Press is willing to bring out this edition confirms a belief I have long held that a good story will strike a response in almost any epic <sic: epoch> and in any situation.
The stories about India were written during World War II, about an India that was still a part of the British Empire. Some of these stories were originally published in national mass circulation magazines. They were written in a time when newsstands were loaded with magazines that published short stories. Today such magazines are very few indeed. Other stories in this collection were published originally in left-wing magazines that have ceased to exist and have themselves become a part of history.
The short story is a form I have always loved a form that seized the imagination of American writers almost at the moment America came into being, and which in our literature has been brought to a high point of perfection. Today, for a professional writer, the practice of short story writing is a luxury or a labor of love. The markets are few and readers are limited. I sincerely hope that this situation will change. We have in American literature a marvelous, perhaps unequalled, heritage of the short story. It should be added to by each generation. The short story, unlike the novel, is so often a true impression, a flash of insight, a way of seeing the work that no other literary form can provide. I myself have never stopped writing stories and hope to coninue with the form as long as I function as a writer.