See You in Samarra is a triumph of quality over quantity.
It shows that a good tale need be neither long nor complex to be compelling.
Half way through this brief story, we learn the identity of the narrator.
And this discovery catches us off balance, making the twist in the plot lethal.
There was a merchant in Baghdad who sent his servant to the market to buy provisions and in a little while the servant came back, white and trembling, and said, Master, just now when I was in the market-place I was jostled by a woman in the crowd and when I turned I saw it was death that jostled me. She looked at me and made a threatening gesture; now, lend me your horse and I will ride away from this city and avoid my fate. I will go to Samarra and there death will not find me. The merchant lent him his horse, and the servant mounted it, and he dug his spurs in its flanks and as fast as the horse could gallop he went.
Then the merchant went down to the market-place and he saw me standing in the crowd and he came to me and said, Why did you make a threatening gesture to my servant when you saw him this morning? That was not a threatening gesture, I said, it was only a start of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Baghdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.
*This story was translated from Arabic but the author remains anonymous. It appears however, in Jeffrey Archer’s short story collection To cut a long story short, Somerset Maugham’s play Sheppey and as a preface to John O’Hara’s Appointment in Samarra.