Books We’re Reading: 12 Random Words

ELYSIAN Inspiring Woman Fabiana Martinez crafts a series of bilingual tales that delight & excite.

Fabiana Martinez’s 12 Random Words is just that: a bilingual collection of short stories, each built off the springboard of a single, random word. What began as a literary exercise has since become a multi-award-winning collection, including the Feathered Quill Book Award for Best Short Story/Anthology.

The 2016 book is the first work of fiction from the Argentina native, a glowing debut for the translator-turned-author. Martinez’s love for words—especially those translated into other languages—was evident even in childhood. In her interview with ELYSIAN last summer, she said, “I’m not that different from when I was 3. I was mesmerized by languages when I was 3. There are recordings of me asking my dad how do you say this in English or that or that word.”

Growing up in a bilingual household, she perfected English in kindergarten and continued to pursue language studies in college. Her total reserve of languages? Five: Spanish, Portuguese, English, French and Italian (not to mention her degrees in Ancient Greek and Latin).

Fabiana Martinez poses with her book during our Inspiring Woman interview with her.

The format of 12 Random Words reflects a portion of the multi-lingual experience Martinez has had in her life. In the interview with Engel Jones on his popular podcast, “12 Minute Convos,” she recounts expert research which finds that multilingualism acts as “a great exercise for your brain,” akin to “running different operating systems at the same time.” The book, she says, “is a consequence of having studied all these languages.”

Each of the short stories in the book, offshoots of the given word, is an anecdote: an easy-reading dive into the scene, whether it takes place in in New York or Lima. The character shares a short encounter: “a tale of yearning, a fragment of discovery, a treasure.”

Quitting/ Renunciamiento · Opportunity/Oportunidad · Signs/Carteles · Colors/Colores ·
Door/Puerta · Puzzles/Rompecabezas · Envy/Enviada · Darkness/Oscuridad · Challegnes/Retos · Stories/Historias/Pisos · Smoking/Humo · Ghosts/Fantasmas · Highs/Alturas 

These are the chapter titles in the English/Spanish translation (the alternate Spanish title being 12 Palabras al Azar). The characters and their stories are new each chapter. Though the narratives do not intertwine, the fables work together to weave universal messages of “remembrance, disappointment and hope.”

The crux and charm of the compilation of these short stories lies in their combination of literary and linguistic value: they serve both purposes. Not only is the collection a delight to lose yourself in, it holds immense value as a tool to sharpen your ability to speak second language.

Two other translations, an English/French and an English/Portuguese version, have since been published. You can buy any of the three translations of Martinez’s book here.

Read ELYSIAN’s interview with Fabiana Martinez here.