The story is about postcards mailed by the narrator’s father from all over the world (“See the other side!). She visits one of these places, where her father is buried. She complains about the American tourists, and the fact that she will probably have to contend with them in heaven. But she is also complaining that the town is not the paradise her father saw. Only when a visitor pays the tiny amount to activate spotlights in this church or that does the beauty come through. And then one visitor keeps feeding in the coins, yet it seems he is blind and in a wheelchair. “He throws coins into the darkness, and from the darkness sounds a voice that tells him, as much as it is possible, about the great comfort of beauty.” The narrator wonders if this isn’t her glimpse of “the other side.” And ultimately that’s what this story is about: there is more beauty than we can see.
March 12, 2007: “See the Other Side” by Tatyana Tolstaya