Skip to main content
The Word of the Speechless: Selected Stories

The Word of the Speechless: Selected Stories

Current price: $16.95
Publication Date: October 22nd, 2019
NYRB Classics
Chop Suey Books
1 on hand, as of Nov 29 4:44pm
On Our Shelves Now


Available in English for the first time, a collection of deeply humane stories depicting marginalized populations by one of the greatest South American writers of the 20th century.

The Peruvian writer Julio Ramón Ribeyro is one of the masters of the short story and a major contributor to the great flourishing of Latin American literature that followed the Second World War. In a letter to an editor, Ribeyro said about his stories, “in most of [them] those who are deprived of words in life find expression—the marginalized, the forgotten, those condemned to an existence without harmony and without voice. I have restored to them the breath they’ve been denied, and I’ve allowed them to modulate their own longings, outbursts, and distress.” This is work of deep humanity, imbued with a disorienting lyricism that is Ribeyro’s alone. The Word of the Speechless, edited and translated by Katherine Silver, introduces readers to an indispensable and unforgettable voice of Latin American fiction.

About the Author

Julio Ramón Ribeyro (1929–1994) was a Peruvian writer of short stories, novels, essays, and plays. He was considered to be a master of the short story, and his works are known for mixing social criticism and fantasy. Riberyo was the author of eight volumes of short stories, including Los gallinazos sin plumas (“Featherless Buzzards,” 1955). He lived most of his life in France, and made brief returns to Peru. 
Katherine Silver is an award-winning literary translator and the co-director of the Banff International Literary Translation Centre (BILTC). She has translated works by Daniel Sada, César Aira, Horacio Castellanos Moya, Ernesto Mallo, and Carla Guelfenbein, among others. She lives in Berkeley, California. 

Alejandro Zambra is a Chilean poet and the author of four novels and a collection of short stories.

Praise for The Word of the Speechless: Selected Stories

“The late Peruvian writer’s knack for the uncanny is on display in these gripping stories culled from a body of work spanning 40 years . . . [T]hese pieces dig into the human psyche with sharpness and wit.” —Publishers Weekly

“Sometimes bleak, sometimes warily humorous . . . Ribeyro's stories often offer unexpected twists, their characters mysteriously disappearing in a flurry of snow or puffs of smoke . . . A welcome selection of prose that introduces a Latin American master to English-language audiences.” —Kirkus

“A magnificent storyteller, one of the best of Latin America and probably of the Spanish language, unjustly not recognized as such.” —Mario Vargas Llosa

"Elegance in the formal design skillfully contains the chaotic lives of Ribeyro's characters. As author, he strikes the required distance enabling him to situate best these refined tales in which shame, humiliation, unbridled lust, infatuation, or plain derangement throb just beneath the skin of his creations.” —Paddy Kehoe, RTÉ

“Ribeyro writes a painting, or linguistically paints a scene in which quiet gestures . . . communicate as much if not more than the textually explicit or the explicitly textual.” —Letras Hispanas

"Despite the downbeat nature of some of the stories, there is also a dry humour, particularly in stories which skewer societal norms and relationships . . . There are usually no happy endings for Ribeyro’s characters, but nevertheless the stories are absorbing, wonderful and unforgettable.” —Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings

“The lives of these minor characters (victims of modernity), and their circumstances, give Ribeyro’s stories a unique perspective that will make you think twice about the untold stories of the cashier you always run into at the store. . . . Ribeyro portrays his characters with such affection, sympathy, and humor that you will not feel that their bad luck and misery is a tragedy.” —Christina Soto van der Plas, Public Books