Fools for Christ are men and women who live outside the social norms, whose behavior is considered shocking or unusual. But in a time of dictatorship, when these stories were first published, “foolish” behavior can be a form of protest. So, a child who is unable to access the forbidden fruits of a pastry shop, out of protest, refuses to eat the chickpeas that are offered to him; another child, who cannot pay for a ride on the merry-go-round, slips under the tarpaulin when the ride is not working and creates his own ride out of his own fantasy. A fat child, who is bullied and made fun of by the town’s more respectable children, makes friends with a paschal lamb, which then, to his shock and horror, is served up for dinner. Another boy takes to setting the corner of a whitewashed house on fire with his coloring pencils. It is the children who throw away their toys or who torture animals that are somehow considered normal. The Foolish Children contains twenty-one micro-fiction stories by Ana María Matute in Spanish and in English translation. The original was first published in Spain during Franco’s dictatorship. It was rated by the Nobel laureate Camilo José Cela as “the most important work written in Spanish by a woman since the Countess Emilia Pardo Bazán.” Ana María Matute, along with Camilo José Cela and Miguel Delibes, is widely considered one of Spain’s most distinguished writers of fiction in the twentieth century. She was awarded the National Prize for Literature twice and, in 2010, received the Spanish-speaking world’s most prestigious literary award, the Cervantes.


The girl’s face was dark and she had eyes like sloes. The girl wore her hair parted in two locks, braided on either side of her face. Every day she would go to school, with her notebook filled with writing and a shiny apple for a snack. But the schoolgirls would say to her: “Ugly girl;” and they would not hold out their hands to her or stand next to her, either when playing in a circle or jumping rope: “Go away from here, ugly girl.” The ugly girl would eat her apple, watching them from far away, from the acacias, beside the wild rose bushes, the golden honeybees, the malignant ants and the sun-warmed earth. There nobody said to her: “Go away.” One day, the earth whispered to her: “You have my same color.” They placed hawthorn flowers on the girl’s head, rag and curly paper flowers in her mouth, blue and purple ribbons on her wrists. It was very late, and everybody said: “How pretty she is.” But she went to her warm color, to the hidden perfumes, to the sweet hiding place where she could play with the long shadows of the trees, with the blossoms yet to be born and the sunflower seeds.



The child grabbed the orange pencil, the long yellow pencil, and the one that was blue-tipped on one end and red on the other. He took them out to the corner and lay down on the ground. The corner was white, sometimes half black, half green. It was the corner of the house, and every Saturday they whitewashed it. The child’s eyes were irritated by all that whiteness, all that sun that cut into his look like the blade of a knife. The child’s pencils were orange, red, yellow, and blue. The child set the corner on fire with all his colors. His pencils – especially that yellow one, so long – caught fire from the green shutters and window coverings, and everything crackled, flared, and curled. It all crumbled and splintered on his head, a spectacular shower of ash, that swallowed him up in flames.


Translated from Spanish by María del Carmen Luengo Santaló and Aileen Dever

Additional Info

  • purchase text:

    THE FOOLISH CHILDREN by Ana María Matute, the ninth title in the series Small Stations Fiction devoted to the best of contemporary fiction in English, is forthcoming

    Barnes & Noble

    Book Depository


    Throughout this angular, alternative book, lies an undercurrent of childlike, yet political darkness. The sort of which really is a prime preponderance to be reckoned with; reason being, it comes at you when you least expect it. That said, by the time one has reached the end of Los Niños Tontos/The Foolish Children, authoress Ana María Matute’s literary moves remain just as equally foreboding and fraught with daring as at the outset.

    David Marx Book Reviews


    As mentioned before, it’s a reading experience more akin to poetry than traditional fiction, and if you take your time with it, you’ll see that it can be a powerful work, cleverly constructed and a silent protest against a dictatorship. Which is, perhaps, one of the main functions of the arts.

    Tony’s Reading List


    ISBN: 978-954-384-060-1

    Publication Date: 06 December 2016

    Language: Spanish original and English translation

    Paperback: 112 pages

    Dimensions: 216 x 140 mm