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Against Valentine’s Day: 7 International Love Stories for the Antiromantic in You

By Susan Harris

Do you look at bouquets of red roses and calculate when they’ll go limp? Do you think chocolates should come in boxes shaped like aortas and ventricles? Do you want to tell conversation hearts to shut up? If the relentless sentimentality of February brings out the antiromantic in you, we invite you to the more realistic side of our archives. For every moving portrait of a long and happy union (see  Bùi Ngọc Tấn’s “Endless Universe”), there are half a dozen of love gone wrong. Here are just a few examples of tainted love from around the world to get you in (or out of) the mood this month:

“I only know how you felt. Because what you felt when he turned you down was how I felt whenever I looked at you.”

Jeon Sam-hye’s futuristic “Genesis,” translated from Korean by Anton Hur, tracks a banished astronaut-in-training’s yearning for the unwitting object of her affection.


“Soon I saw they were engaged in an intense conversation from which I was excluded.”

Horacio Castellanos Moya’s scheming drunk gins up a threesome, then finds himself odd man out in “Snatch,” translated from Spanish by Samantha Schnee.


“It was such a wonderful game at the beginning: your laughter, when I heard it for the very first time, stifled behind a horrendous spray of pepperwort.”

Giancarlo Pastore’s disenchanted lover uses the language of flowers to tell his boyfriend arrivederci in “Pansies,” translated from Italian by Wendell Ricketts.


“Of course not everything can be regulated in advance. Because how can you maintain harmony in a four-parent family when, say, one couple separates?”

Journalist Karolina Domagalska observes a separated couple struggling to coparent with the lesbians whose children they fathered, in “Rainbow Families: Four Parents and Two Children,” translated from Polish by Marta Dziurosz.


“She continues staring at me. It is as if she wants to be sure I got the message. But what message? What is she trying to tell me?”

Félix J. Palma’s dumped man seeks consolation with his new neighbor and finds himself in an unlikely triangle in “Meow,” translated from Spanish by Nick Caistor and Amanda Hopkinson.


“You are ill. You are so thin, I'm frightened of losing you, can't you see that, can't you see that I'm sitting here, by your side?”

Johan Harstad’s “Chlorine” follows a teen juggling a daunting lifesaving test with trying to save the life of his anorectic crush, translated from Norwegian by Deborah Dawkin and Erik Skuggevik.


“It was almost Christmas, I had a cavity, and I was in the process of getting dumped.”

And Nao-Cola Yamayaki discovers getting a taciturn lover to commit is like pulling teeth in “Cavities and Kindness,” translated from Japanese by Kalau Almony.

Published Feb 14, 2019   Copyright 2019 Susan Harris

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