That Glimpse of truth: 100 of the finest short stories ever written

International Fiction

There was a man who married for love, but lived to repent at leisure. He was a toymaker by trade, and his passion for precision work was known across the Nine Worlds. It was said that he’d made a mechanical bird that sang as sweetly as a lark, and great battalions of clockwork Hussars with sabres at the ready. His dolls looked as if they might draw breath; his engines blew real steam from their stacks, and were fed with tiny coals by mechanical stokers wielding tiny mechanical shovels. His dolls’ houses were marvels in miniature; with tiny gilt mirrors on bedroom walls reflecting tiny four-poster beds and tiny children playing with baby dolls no bigger than a grain of rice. Everything was perfect in the toymaker’s world; down to the smallest detail. Well –
Everything but one thing. His wife.

Of course, they’d been in love, once. But now, some years later, the craftsman began to see that his wife was no credit to him. She was no beauty; her judge­ment was weak; her housekeeping was slovenly. She loved her husband, to be sure, and he loved her too – in his way. But was it enough, he asked himself? Didn’t he owe himself more than this?

One day the toymaker noticed that his wife’s hair was going grey. It dis­pleased him to see it; and so he made her a new head of hair, spun from skeins of gleaming gold, and stitched it into place on her scalp, as he had done so often when he was making dolls. The wife said nothing, but looked at herself in her dressing-room mirror, and touched the bright, stiff strands of her hair, and remembered a time when he had thought she was perfect in every way.

For a while, the toymaker was pleased. But then he started to notice that his wife often spoke rashly or out of turn, or said things that he found unnecessary, or even downright stupid. And so, as she slept, he cut out her tongue and re­placed it with a mechanical one, sleek as a silverfish, crisp as a clock. After that, the toymaker’s wife was always perfectly precise in her speech, and never said anything stupid, or dull, or bored him with her chatter.

All was well for a time after that, until the toymaker noticed that his wife often looked at him with reproach, and sometimes wept for no reason. It made him uneasy to look at her, and so he made her a new pair of blown-glass eyes that were bright and approving, and never shed tears, or seemed to express anything but contentment. He was very proud of his handiwork, and for a time, he was content.

But soon he noticed his wife’s hands; hands that were often clumsy and slow, and so he made mechanical hands for her, and fixed them into place. His wife’s new hands were as white as milk, and as clever as any automaton’s, and so he made a pair of feet, and then a pair of perfect breasts, so that little by little, over time, he had replaced every flawed and worn-out part with clockwork and gleaming porcelain.

“At last, she is perfect,” he told himself, looking at his beautiful wife. But still, there was something missing. Still, she wasn’t quite as he’d hoped. And so the toymaker opened her up to see what part of her inner workings he might have neglected to tune or correct. He found everything in place – except for one thing he had overlooked. One small, insignificant thing, so deeply embedded in the intricacies of clockwork and circuitry that he hadn’t noticed it. It was her heart
—it was broken.

“I wonder how that could have happened?” he said, reaching for his watch­maker’s tools, fully intending to make his wife a new heart to replace the broken one.
But then he looked at her, lying so still and beautiful and pale upon the work-­bench; quiet and lovely in every way; every part shiny and gleaming.

“Why, you don’t need a heart at all, do you, my darling?” he told her.

And so he took the broken heart and threw it onto the rubbish heap. And then he turned back to his wife and kissed her lovely silverfish mouth, looked into her shining blown-glass eyes and said:

“At last. You’re perfect.”

Click here to buy a copy of the book

International Fiction

Agencies Tiger Print

Speaking Tiger News

‘Salma doesn’t mince words, there is no modulation or playing down. She’s very even-toned but she doesn’t hold back,’ says the English translator of Salma’s The Curse, N Kalyan Raman in an interview to Firstpost

Speaking to Natasha Badhwar for Article 14, Mander opens up for the first time about his own near-death experience of being a Covid patient in a public hospital and the implications of being in the midst of a humanitarian catastrophe.

In an interview given to Cinestaan, Ratnottama Sengupta speaks about her father, famed screenwriter Nabendu Ghosh, and why he wrote about courtesans and prostituted women in the collection of short stories titled Mistress of Melodies.

Reviews

In The Brass Notebook, the feminist economist and academician has sportingly put down a no-holds-barred, intimate and political memoir that chronicles her colourful life and journey.
Money Control

Review of Gulgul in Sea-Saw Gara: For the first time, what may look like a fun-filled adventure read, may actually give some insights on topics like food chain, breaking gender stereotypes and a curiosity for coining or understanding words over re-reads.
Kids Book Café

Bride of the Forest perfectly stays true to its name. Philosophically precise, factually glorified and beautifully put to words, Madhavi Mahadevan’s new book is a literary work worth remembering.
Deepan’s Bookshelf

Coming soon   /   View all

Connect with us

Join the Speaking Tiger Books mailing list: