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Mario Benedetti (in full: Mario Orlando Hamlet Hardy Brenno Benedetti Farrugia) (September 14, 1920 – May 17, 2009)[  was an Uruguayan journalist, novelist, and poet. He was not well known in the English-speaking world, but in the Spanish-speaking world he was considered one of Latin America’s most important 20th-century writers.

Quoted from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mario_Benedetti where much more information is available.

Mario Benedetti was influenced by life in the urban world and his short stories reflect this.  His story”La noche de los feos” is a moving “cuento” about two people, both scarred and far from being attractive, who meets and end up making love after realizing that life, regardless of the odds, has possibilities; that what seems impossible or improbable can be achieved.

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THE NIGHT OF THE UGLY

BY

Mario Benedetti

 Both were ugly, even commonly ugly. She has had a sunken cheekbone since the age of eight, when she had the operation. The disgusting mark next to my mouth comes from a ferocious burn, which occurred at the beginning of my adolescence. Nor can we say we have soft eyes,- that sort of justifiable luck that freaks sometimes get when they come close to beauty. No, in no way.  Both her eyes and mine are eyes filled with resentment, which reflect little or no acceptance of the misfortune we face. Maybe that’s what has united us. Maybe united is not the most appropriate word, considering the Implacable hatred that each of us have for our own face.

We met at the entrance of the cinema, queuing up to watch to two beautiful ‘whatever.’ That’s where we first looked at each other, without sympathy, but with dark solidarity and noticed, at first glance, our respective solitudes. In the queue everyone were in pairs, but there were also genuine couples: husbands, boyfriends, lovers, grandparents, God knows. Everyone was holding hands or arms or had someone. Only she and I had our hands by our sides, loose and clenched.

We looked at our respective ugliness carefully, with audacity, but without curiosity. I looked at the cut in her cheek with smug self-confidence that made my cheek pucker.  She didn’t blush.

I appreciated it was difficult, her returning my inspection with a meticulous glimpse at the smooth, shining beardless area of my old burn.

Finally we went inside. We sat in different, but contiguous rows. She could not look at me, but I, even in the darkness, could make out the blond hair down her neck, her shapely young ear. It was the ear on her normal side.

For an hour and forty minutes we admired the rugged beauty of the hero and smooth softness of the  heroine . At least I’ve always been able to admire beauty.  I reserve my animosity for my face and sometimes for God and also for other ugly faces of other scarecrows. Maybe I should feel pity, but I can’t. The truth is they are like mirrors. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened to the Narcissus (1) myth if he had had a sunken cheekbone, or if acid had burned his cheek, or he was missing half of his nose, or had stitches on his forehead.

I waited for her at the exit, and then walked a short distance over to her and I spoke. When she stopped and looked at me, I felt she hesitated. I invited her to chat together for a while in a café or a confectionery. She accepted immediately.

The confectionery was full, but right then a table was vacated. As we passed among the people, behind us were the signs and gestures of astonishment. My antennas are particularly tuned to capture such perverse curiosity, the unconscious sadism of those with miraculously symmetrical faces. But this time it was not even necessary to use my trained perception, since I could clearly hear the murmurs, the snickering and pretentious clearing of the throat. A horrible single face, by itself,  is obviously a curiosity; but two ugly faces together constitute in themselves a greater spectacle, a little less so than if organized; but something that should be viewed together with him (or her) and those who are handsome and worth sharing with the world

We sat down and ordered two ice creams. She had the courage (I admired that) to take out a small mirror from her purse and fixed her hair. Her pretty hair.

“What are you thinking about?” I asked.

She hung on to the mirror and smiled. The hollow in her cheeks changed shape.

“A common place, such as it is,” she said

We talked at length. An hour and a half went by and we had to order two coffees to justify the long stay. Suddenly I realized that she and I were talking with frankness so upsetting that it threatened to change the sincerity and almost turn into the equivalent of hypocrisy. I decided to get to the bottom of it.

“You feel excluded from the world, isn’t that so?”

“Yes”, she said, still looking at me.

“You admire the beautiful, those that are normal. You want to have a face as pretty as the girl sitting over to your right, even though you are smart, and she, judging by her laughter, is hopelessly stupid.”

“Yes.”

For the first time I couldn’t hold my gaze.

“I also like that. But there is a possibility, you know, you and I can get something.”

“Something like what?”

“Like lovers, dammit. Or just getting along. Call it whatever, but there is a possibility.”

She frowned. “I did not want to get any hopes.”

“Promise me you will not take me for a crackpot.”

“The possibility is wandering into the night. Through the whole night- in total darkness. Do you understand?”

“No.”

She blushed, and the cleft in her cheek suddenly turned scarlet.

“I live alone in an apartment, close to here.”

He raised his head and looked at her; wondering about her yes, trying desperately to reach a conclusion.

“Come,” he said.

Not only did I shut off the light but I also pulled the double curtain. She was breathing next to me;  but not an excited sort of breathing. She did not want him to help her undress.

I saw nothing, nothing. But I realized then that she was motionless, waiting. I moved my hand cautiously, until i found herbreasts. My touch gave me an exhilarating, powerful erection. Then I saw her belly, her sex. Her hands also touched me.

In this moment I understood that I had to retract or begin to retract the lie that I had made, or tried to make. It was like a Flash of lightning. . We were not that. We were not that.

I had to use all my reserves of courage, but I did. My hand rose slowly to her face, found the disfiguring scar, and began slowly caressing it, persuasive and believable. Actually my fingers (a little shaky at first, then gradually calming down) passed over her tears many times.

Then, when I least expected it, her hand also touched my face, and went and felt the scar and smooth skin, this island without any beard.

We cried until dawn; both unhappy and, happy. Then I got up and drew back the double curtain.

1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narcissus_(mythology)

Translated by Kenny Beechmount, Oct, 2012

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Ricardo Jaimes Freyre was born in Tanca, Peru, in1868 and died in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1933) Poet, essayist and Bolivian playwright he was the primary representative of modernism in the literature of his country. His constant political and cultural activity is by and large reflected in the variety of approaches that can be seen in all his work. The son of a diplomat from Potosi, Bolivia, he also served as ambassador and diplomat, in the United States and Brazil and later as his country’s representative to the League of Nations in Geneva , in addition to being foreign minister.  He is well known for his poetry and has written a number of short stories, of which the following is a good example.  The story reflects, to some extent, the exploitation that the Altoplano indians were exposed to, and perhaps one shouldn’t say “were”, but that’s outside the aim of this discussion.  Ricardo’s description of the two “tourists” who attempted to steal land from the Indians is a blend of romanticism with respect to describing the atmosphere and natural surroundings, perhaps a reflection of the poet within him, and  a chilling rendition of the events leading to the murder of the two travelers.  His use of the Spanish language is  colourful, poetic and a joy to experience.

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IN THE MOUNTAINS

by

Ricardo Jaimes Freyre

 

The two travelers drank the last glass of wine, standing next to the bonfire. The cold breeze of the morning was quivering the brims of their wide felt hats lightly. The fire was already fading under the wavering and pallid light of dawn; vaguely illuminating the ends of the wide courtyard, and painted over the shadows at the base of the heavy clay columns that supported the straw thatched roof.

Tied to an iron ring, fixed to one of the columns, two fully harnessed horses were waiting with their heads down and, with difficulty, chewing on some long blades of grass.   Beside the wall, a young Indian was squatting with a bag full of corn in one hand and with the other flicking the yellow kernels into his mouth.

When the travelers were preparing to leave, another two Indians arrived at the large, rustic door. They raised one of the thick beams attached to the walls that was blocking the way and walked into the vast courtyard. Their appearance were humble and miserable, and even more miserable and humble because of their open jackets, their coarse shirts opened to their chest, the leather strings, full of knots, on their sandals, and by the shapeless caps, covering their ears, the ends joining under the chin these weird caps of gray wool. They slowly approached the travelers who already were mounted on their horses, while the Indian guide attached a bag of corn to his waist and firmly tied his sandal laces to his legs.

The travelers were young, the tall one, very white, cold and hard looking; the other, small, dark, with a cheerful appearance. – Sir muttered one of the Indians. The white traveler turned to him. – “Hello; How are you Thomas”  “Sir, can I have my horse?” “Say again, imbecile! Do you want me to travel on foot”? I have given you mine instead, that’s enough. But your horse is dead.

“Without a doubt, it is dead; but that’s because I’ve ridden it 15 hours at a time. It was a great horse! Yours is worthless;” look at it moving the ribs and its legs. Do you believe it will support you very many hours?”

“I sold my lamas to buy this horse for the holiday of Saint John… Also, gentleman, you have burned my hut.”

“True, because you came to bother me with your sniveling. I threw an ember at your head to make you leave, but you turned you face away and the ember fell into a heap of straw. I don’t feel guilty. You should have accepted my ember with respect. And you, what do you want, Pedro? He asked speaking to another Indian.”

“I am begging you, Sir, do not take my land. It is mine. I’ve planted it.”

“This is your business, Cordova, said the gentleman, speaking to his companion.

No, certainly; this is not my business. I have done what they entrusted me with. You, Pedro Quispe, are not the owner of these lands.

“Where are your titles, that is, where are your papers?”

“I have no papers Sir. My father also did not have papers, and the father of my father we didn’t know. And no one wanted to take away our land. You want to give it to someone else. I haven’t done you any harm.

“Do you have hidden somewhere a bagful of coins? Give me the money and you can keep the land.”

“I don’t have any coins, nor could I raise so much money”

“Well then we don’t have any more to talk about”

“Leave me in peace!”

“Then give me what you owe me!”

“But we are never going to bring this to a close: You believe I’m stupid enough to pay to you for a sheep and some hens that you have given me?” Did you imagine we were going to die of hunger?

The white traveler who was beginning to become impatient exclaimed:”If we keep listening to these two morons we’ll stay here forever”

The top of the mountain, on the flank of which the broad and rustic hostel was located, was affronted by the first rays of the sun. The narrow hollow was illuminated slowly and the desolate dryness of the scenery, limited by the nearby dark mountains, was standing out under the blue sky, cut into ribbons by the fleeing, leaden clouds.

Cordoba made a sign to the guide that headed toward the gate. Behind him came the two gentlemen.

Pedro Quispe rushed towards them and grabbed the reins of one of the horses.  A lash in the face made him step back.

Then the Indians came out of the yard, and quickly ran toward the nearest hill, climbing it with the speed and agility of the vicunas and, arriving at the Summit, they scanned the area surrounding them.

In the ravines and Gorges the freshly cut grass was yellowing; on the banks of the streams, grasses and the cuts limited the channels with a capricious and undulating wall; ; some herds of goats and llamas ran for the hills or disappeared in the crevices of the mountains, and here and there a cloud of smoke announced the proximity of a hut or a camp of Indian travelers.

Peter Quispe put his lips to the horn, which was hanging on his back, and blew some powerful and prolonged notes. He waited a moment and then continued with strident and quick notes. .The travelers began to climb up the flank of the mountain; the guide with firm steps was indifferent, devouring the corn kernels. When the sound of the horn reverberated, the Indian stopped, looked alarmed at two gentlemen, and then made a fast exit down an open path in the hills.  Moments later he disappeared in the distance. Cordoba, speaking to his partner, exclaimed: “the Guide… why do we need him?” He became tenser. Alvarez stopped his horse and looked around, with concern, in all directions.

The Horn was still resonating and at the top of the Hill the figure of Pedro Quispe was silhouetted against the blue background, on the reddish nakedness of the peaks. By the edges and the crossroads, a spell was taking place.  Behind the large overcrowded fields of grass, between the gleanings, wild grasses and bitter weeds, under the wide awnings of the nomadic camps, at the doors of the huts and at the summits of the distant mountains, could be seen the rapid coming and going of human beings.  They stopped for a moment and looked toward the hill on which Pedro Quispe was blowing incessantly on his horn and later began hiking up the hills, climbing cautiously.

Alvarez and Córdoba continued climbing up the mountain; their horses panting on the rocky roughness of the razor-thin path, and the two gentlemen, deeply concerned, carried on silently. Suddenly, a huge rock broke away from the top of the mountains, passed near them, with a mighty roar; then another… another– Alvarez galloped his horse to escape, forcing it to outflank the mountain. Cordoba imitated it immediately, but the boulders were chasing him.  It seemed that the mountain was crumbling.  The horses, startled by the disturbance, jumped on the rocks, miraculously supported by their hoofs on the projecting ledges, and dithered in the space provided by the enormous height.

Briefly the mountains towered over the Indians. The gentlemen then rushed towards the narrow path that was twisting along their feet, along which a sweet, thin and crystal clear stream trickled.

They filled the valleys with strange harmonies; the rough and disagreeable sound of the horns was flowing from all parts and including the end of the ravine; in the radiant clarity that was opening two mountains, a group of men suddenly stood up.

At that moment, a huge stone crashed into Alvarez’s horse; he was seen hesitating a moment and then fell and rolled down the slopes of the mountain.  Cordova jumped to ground and began crawling towards the point where he could see the dusty form of the horse and the gentleman.

The Indians began to descend from the heights and left the cracks and the bends, one by one, advancing carefully, stopping all the time, with an sharp-eyed look to the bottom of the gorge. When they came to the edge of the creek, they spotted the two travelers.  Álvarez lay motionless, stretched out on the ground. Next to him his partner, standing with his crossed arms,  desperate and feeling powerless, following intently the slow descent of the frightened Indians.

In a small undulating plain formed by the depressions of the mountains, bounded on its four corners by four wide ridges, waited together the old ones and the women for the result of the manhunt.

The Indian women with their short round skirts of coarse fabrics, their cloaks on their chest, their cloth caps shining, coarse tresses falling on their shoulders, their feet bare, their sordid looks, clustered at one end, quiet, and looking between their fingers at the whirling dance of their spindles and the winders.

When the pursuers arrived, they brought the travelers. tied on the horses

They moved to the center of the square, and threw them on the ground, like two bundles. The women approached and looked at them curiously, still spinning, talking quietly.

The Indians deliberated for a moment, then a group of them rushed to the foot of the mountain and returned with two huge jugs and two thick beams. While some were digging the earth to set the beams, the other filled little clay jugs with liquor.They drank until the sun began to set on the horizon, and the only sound heard was muffled conversations of women and the noise of the sloshing liquid inside the jugs ,when they lifted them. Peter and Thomas took the bodies of the gentlemen and tied them to the poles. Alvarez, who had broken his spine, let out a big groan. The two Indians stripped them of all their clothes and threw them away, piece by piece..  The women looked admiringly at the white bodies.

Then the ordeal began. Pedro Quispe  cut out his tongue and Cordoba burned his eyes.

Thomas punctured Alvarez’s body with small knife wounds. Then came the other Indians who tore off his hair, and banged stones and chips into the wounds.
A young Indian laughingly poured a big mug of beer over the head of Alvarez.

They died that afternoon. The two travelers had long ago given their soul to the Great Righteous, and the Indians tired, jaded and indifferent, were chopping and lacerating the bodies.

It then became necessary to take the oath of silence. Pedro Quispe drew a cross on the ground and the men and women came and kissed the cross. After that, he took his rosary off his neck, something he normally never did and made  the Indians swear on it, spit on the ground,  and walk on the moist earth.
When the bloody evidence  was removed and they had deleted the last traces of the scene that had developed in  the roughness of the Altiplano plateau, an immense silence fell over the solitude of the mountains.

Translated by Kenny Beechmount

October, 2012

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Ciro Alegria was born in Peru in Sartimbamba in 1909 and died in 1967.  One of the best-known Spanish-American novelists of the 1940s and 1950s.  While Manuel Rojas wrote about the common man on the street and the poor, Alegria wrote about the lives of the Peruvian Indians and exposed the problems of the Peruvian Indians while learning about their way of life. For more information about his life, there are a number biographies published on the internet, of which the following is only one.

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/13703/Ciro-Alegria

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The Siren of the Forrest

 

(La sirena del bosque)

by

Ciro Alegría

 

 

The tree called lupuna (1), one of the most originally beautiful in the Amazon jungle, “it has a mother.” The Indians in the Jungle say they believe this tree is possessed by a spirit or inhabited by a living being.   These beautiful and rare trees enjoy some privileges. . The lupuna is one of the tallest trees in the Amazon forest; it has graceful branches and its trunk, of leaden gray color, has triangular fins at its base. . The lupuna is attractive at first sight and generally, after looking at it for a while, produces a sensation of strange beauty. Since “it has mother”, the Indians do not cut the lupuna. Their axes and machetes are used for chopping, knocking down parts of the forest to build villages, or to clear fields for planting yucca and bananas, or to open paths. . The lupuna will stay dominating. Anyway, since they are not cut, they stand out in the forest because of their height and particular shape. They are very visible.

For the Cocamas Indians, the “mother” in the lupuna, is a white, blonde and singularly beautiful woman. On moonlit nights, she rises through the heart of the tree to the crown and comes out to be illuminated by the glowing light and then sings. In this Vegetable ocean, forming the tops of the trees, the beautiful woman resonates her clear, high, and singularly melodious voice, filling the solemn grandeur of the jungle. The people and the animals, who listen to it, become bewitched. The forest may calm down its branches to hear it.

The old Cocamas prevents the young men from falling under the spell of the voice. Whoever listens should not approach the singing woman, because they will never return.  Some say that they died waiting to reach the beautiful and others that she turns them into tree. Anyone who thought her out, any young Cocamas that followed the fascinating voice, dreaming of winning the beautiful, never returned. This is the woman, who comes out of the lupuna, the siren of the forest. The best thing you can do, on some moonlit night, is to listen to, and remember her beautiful singing, nearby and far away.

1)      The following links provides some background on this tree, including legends and superstitions

http://www.flickr.com/photos/hgcharing/4138391176/

http://www.singingtotheplants.com/2007/12/pucalupuna/ 

http://meta-religion.com/World_Religions/Ancient_religions/South_america/myths_peru_amazon.htm

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 Manuel Rojas was born on January 8, 1896, in Buenos Aires, Argentina and died on March 11,       1973, in his adopted homeland, Chile. He probably  settled permanently in Chile in 1924.

 In 1927, he published his first collection of short stories, Hombres del Sur, which included the story “El vaso de leche” (“The Glass of Milk”). This story is both moving and realistic, especially given the poverty that existed in many parts of South America at the time.  Rojas wrote primarily about the common man, the poor and the downtrodden.  He became a member of a an anarchist political movement and wrote articles for the newspapers, La Batalla in Chile and La Protesta, Argentina. For those interested in more detailed information about the author , go to:

 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manuel_Rojas_(author)#Tales

The Glass of Milk

 (El vaso de leche)
By Manuel Rojas

Fact: in the starboard railing, a sailor seemed to be waiting for someone. In his left hand he had  a white paper wrapping, with grease spots on it here and there. In the other hand, he held his pipe.

 From between a couple of wagons, a thin young man appeared: he stopped a moment, looked out over the sea and then advanced, walking along the edge of the dock with his hands in the pockets, distracted or thinking.

He was hungry. He had gone three days, three long days without eating.  It was more out of shyness and embarrassment than pride that he refused to stop in front of the steamer at meal times, waiting for the generosity of the sailors to give them a package containing remains of stews and pieces of meat. He couldn’t do that, -he could never do that; and when, as in a recent case, one offered him some leftovers, he heroically rejected them, feeling that refusing it, increased his hunger.

A young man who moments before passed by, stopped a short distance away, and looked over the area. When he passed in front of the ship, the sailor shouted in English:

 -“I say; look here” (¡Oiga, mire!)

– The young man raised his head, and, without stopping, and spotting the package that the sailor had in his hands, hastily replied in the same language:

 -“Yes, sir, I am very much hungry!” (¡Si, señor, tengo harta hambre!)

The sailor smiled. The package flew through the air and fell between the avaricious hands of the hungry fellow. Without even thanking, he opened the still warm package, and sat down on the ground, happily rubbing his hands together, contemplating its content. A drifter from a port may not speak English, but it is unforgivable not knowing enough to ask for food from one that speaks this language.

It was six days ago that he began roaming the streets and docks in the port.

He had been left there by an English steamer that came from the port of Punta Arenas where he had deserted from a steamer in which he had served as a captain’s boy. He was there for one month, helping as a hand on an Austrian spider-crab fishing boat, but on the first ship that headed towards the north he secretly boarded as stowaway

They discovered him the next day and send him to work in the boiler room. In the first large port the steamer arrived at, they put him ashore, and there he was, like bundle without return address or recipient, without knowing anyone, without a penny in his pockets and not having an occupation he could work in.

While the steamer was there, he was able to eat, but after … The huge city, which stood beyond the narrow streets full of sleazy taverns and inns, to which he was not attracted; they looked like places of slavery, without air, dark, lacking the great, wide expanse of the sea, and between the high walls and straight streets, people lived and died, stunned by the stressful traffic.

He was possessed by the obsession he had of the sea, which makes lives more even and defined as a strong arm, a thin rod. Although he was very young, he had made several voyages along the coasts of South America, on various vessels, performing different jobs and stations, tasks and jobs that had almost no application on Earth.

. After the steamer left, he walked and walked, waiting for chance to do something that would allow him to make a living in some way while in familiar surroundings; but it found nothing.;

There was little traffic in the port and in the scarce steamers that arrived, he was not accepted to hire on.

An infinite number of beggars by profession were ambulating around the area; sailors without contract, like him, defectors from ships or escaped criminals;

Good for nothing left on their own, supported by unknown means, begging or stealing, passing days like the beads on a greasy rosary, waiting for who knows what strange events, or not waiting for anything, individuals of races and peoples more exotic and strange, even among those whose way of life they don’t believe ever having seen a living example of.

The next day he was convinced that he couldn’t endure much more, and decided to resort to any means to obtain food.

Walking, he went in front of a steamer that had arrived the previous night and that loading wheat. . A column of men walked with heavy sacks on their back and shoulders, going back and forth from the wagons, crossing a landing stage, up to the hatch in the hold, where the stevedores were receiving the load.

He stood looking on for a bit, until he dared to speak to the Captain, offering himself for work. He was accepted and exited joined the long line of porters.

During the first part of the day, he worked well; but later he began feeling weary and dizzy spells came over him.  Hesitating in the landing stage when he was going with a load on his shoulder, he saw at his feet, the opening formed between the steamer and the wall of the dock, at the bottom of which the sea was stained with oil, and full of discarded debris and garbage.

At lunch time, there was a short break and while some of them went to eat in the nearby cheap eating-houses and others ate what they had brought along, while he preference was to rest on the ground, hiding his hunger.

     He finished the day completely exhausted, covered in sweat, reduced to the limit. While the workers retired, he sat on a sack, keeping an eye on the foreman, and when the last one was gone, he approached him, confused and hesitant, but without telling him what was going on, asked if he could pay him immediately or whether it was possible to get an advance on what he had earned.

     The foreman replied that it was customary to pay when the job was completed and that it would still be necessary to work the next day to complete loading steamer. One more day! There was no way they would give him an advance – not a dime.

But, he said, I can lend you forty cents, – that’s all I have.

He thanked him for the offer with a distressed smile (but didn’t take the money) and an acute desperation overtook him then.

He was hungry,-hungry,-hungry.

A hunger that gave him a shooting pain; he saw everything through a blue haze and walking, he stumbled as a drunken man. However, he couldn’t really complain or cry, because his suffering was gloomy and arduous; It was not pain, but dull disquieting end; it felt like he was being crushed by a large weight.

 He suddenly felt a burning sensation in his bowels, and stopped,

He doubled over, leaning, bending forcibly as an iron bar, and thought that he was going to fall.

At that moment, as if a window had opened before him, saw his house, the landscape that could be seen from it, the face of his mother and his sisters, everything he wanted and loved appeared and disappeared before his eyes closed by fatigue. Then, little by little, the dizziness faded and he began straightening up, while the burning sensation slowly cooled. Finally he stood up, breathing deeply. One more hour and he would have fallen to the ground…. It hastened the passage- fleeing from a new dizziness, and while walking, he resolved to eat anywhere, without paying, willing to become embarrassed, be beaten or sent to jail; of all this, the most important was to eat, eat, eat; a hundred times he repeated the word mentally, eat-eat-eat, until it lost its meaning, leaving an impression of an empty, hot feeling in the head.

Not thinking of escaping; he would say to the owner:”Mister, I’m hungry, hungry hungry and I have no money to pay with.—do as you wish”

He reached the first streets in the town and in one of those, he found a dairy. It was a little business very clean and bright, filled with small marble tables. Behind a counter stood a blond lady wearing a very white apron. He chose that business.  There was little traffic in the street. He might have eaten in one of the cheap eating-houses that found along the wharf, but they were full of the people who were playing and drinking.

In the dairy, there was only one customer It was an old geezer wearing glasses, that, with his nose stuck between the leaves of a newspaper, reading, remained motionless, as if glued to the chair. On the table, there was a glass of milk. Half consumed.

He was waiting for him to leave, walking down the sidewalk, feeling little by little the fire relighting in the stomach that had burning earlier and waited five, ten, even fifteen minutes.

He became tired and stood to one side of the door, from where he threw the old man a few stony looks.

Why the heck was he reading with such concentration!? He began to imagine that he was an enemy, who, knowing his intentions could hinder them. He felt like going back and saying something strong that would force him to leave, rudeness or an expression that will tell him he didn’t have the right to remain an hour sitting and reading, with such a small expenditure.

Finally the customer finished, or at least interrupted his reading. He took a sip of the milk that was left in the glass, stood up calmly, paid and headed to the door. He left; he was an old geezer, hunched over, and smelling faintly like a Carpenter or painter.

As soon as he was in the street, he set his glasses, and again put his nose between the pages of the newspaper and went away, walking slowly and stopping every ten steps to read with more meticulousness.

He waited for him to leave and then entered. For a while he stood at the entrance, indecisive, not knowing where to sit; He finally chose a table and headed toward it; but halfway to it, regretted, fell and stumbled into a Chair, then settled in a corner.

The lady approached the table, wiped the tabletop with a rag and in a soft voice that hinted slightly of a Spanish accent, she asked.

What would you like?

Without looking, he answered:

“A glass of milk”

“Large?”

“Yes, large”

“Just that?”

“Do you have biscuits?”

“No, vanilla cookies”

“OK, vanilla cookies then”

When the lady turned around, he rubbed the hands on the knees, delighted, as one who is cold is about to drink something warm.

The lady returned and put in front of him a large glass of milk and a plate filled with vanilla cookies, after which she returned to her place behind the counter.

His first impulse was to drink the milk all at once and then eat the vanilla cookies, but he immediately regretted; sensing that the woman looked at him with curiosity. He dared not look at her; it seemed to him that, in doing so, she would figure out his state of mind and shameful purpose and he would have to get up and leave, without tasting what he had ordered.

Intermittently he took a vanilla cookie, dipped it in the milk and took a bite; drank a sip of milk and felt that the fire, which still burned in his stomach, was being put out and extinguished. But immediately, the reality of his desperate situation appeared before him and something hard and hot rose up his throat to his heart; and he realized he was going to sob, to sob and cry and even though he knew that the lady was watching him, He could not end or undo the burning knot that tightened more and more. He resisted, and while still resisting, ate hurriedly, frightened, and fearing that crying would prevent him from eating. After he finished with the milk and the cookies, his eyes clouded over and something warm run down his nose, falling into the glass. A terrible sob shook him to his shoes.

He put his head in his hands and for a long time cried, cried with shame and anger, wanting to cry like he had never cried before.

He was leaning forward and crying, when he sensed a hand caressing his tired head and a woman’s voice with a sweet Spanish accent said:

“Cry son, Cry!”

A new wave of tears swept over his eyes and he cried as hard as the first time, although this time not so agonizingly, but with happiness, sensing that a new serenity penetrating him, extinguishing the fiery heat that had choked his throat. While he cried, he felt that his life and sentiments being cleaned like a glass under a stream of water, recovering the lucidity and steadfastness of other days

When the worst of his crying had passed, he wiped his eyes and face with his handkerchief, again calmed down.  He lifted his head and looked at the lady, but she was not looking at him, she was looking toward the street, at a distant point and her face was sad.

On the little table in front of him, there was another glass filled with milk and another plateful of vanilla cookies. He ate slowly, without thinking about anything, ate as if nothing had happened, as if he was in his house and his mother was this woman behind the counter.

When he finished, darkness had arrived and the store was illuminated with a light bulb.

He remained seated a short while, thinking about what he would say to the lady, when leaving, without anything coming to mind.

Finally he stood up and simply said:

“Thank you very much lady: goodbye”

“Goodbye, son, she answered”

He left.  The wind coming from the ocean cooled his head, still hot from crying.  He walked for a while in no particular direction, and then took a street that headed down toward the docks.  The night was extremely beautiful and huge stars appeared in the summer sky.

He thought about the blond lady and how generous she had been, and intended to pay her, to compensate her in a dignified manner, when he had some money; but these thought of gratitude waned along with the burning sensation in his face, until they had disappeared and the recent event slowly went away and became lost in his past, twisted life.

Suddenly he surprised himself by singing something softly. He straightened up and walked cheerfully, treading firmly and decisively.

He arrived at the shore and walked from one side to another, bouncing, feeling like recreating his previous strengths, before they disappeared,- to have them come together and merge firmly.

Tired from work, a slow tingling sensation crept up through his legs and he sat down on a pile of sacks.

 He looked at the sea. Lights from the pier and ships were reflected by the water in a reddish and golden, gently shimmering trail. He laid down on his back and looked at the sky for a long time. He didn’t feel like thinking, nor singing or talking.  He felt as if he didn’t want to live anymore.

Until he fell asleep with his face turned towards the sea.

Translated by K. Beechmount

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El Leve Pedro

by
Enrique Anderson Imbert

Translated to English by Kenny Beechmount

FOREWORD:

Enrique Anderson Imbert (1910–2000) was born in Cordoba, Argentina in 1910 and studied at Universiy in Buenos Aires, where he graduated and received his doctorate in philosophy and arts and where he later taught at several universities. He was a brilliant contemporary critic of Hispanic-American literature and became known for his short-stories, essays, novels and collections of parables, many of which were published under the title The Other Side of the Mirror. He became Professor of Hispanic-American Literature at Harvard University.

The story about Peter, who through a mysterious illness lost most of his body weight and eventually became so light tha he was unable to stay on the ground , is a classic Imbert short story, dealing with the mysterious and surreal. His story “El Fantasmo” (available on this blog) is similarly surreal in it scope.

—————————————————————————————-                Weightless Peter

By
Enrique Anderson Imbert

For two month, he appeared near death.  The doctor grumbled that the disease was new and there was no way to treat it and he didn’t know what to do… fortunately the patient, was recovering on his own.  He had not lost his good humor, his complete and easy calmness. Too thin, and that was all, but when he got up after several weeks of convalescence, he felt very light.

“Listen”, he said to his wife, “I feel fine but-I don’t know- my body seems absent, as if my flesh was stripped off, leaving my soul naked”

“Wilting”, his wife responded.

“Perhaps”

He continued recovering. Already he walked around the House, feeding the hens and pigs, put a coat of green paint on the bustling Aviary and even dared to chop firewood and haul it to the shed on a wheelbarrow.

As the days passed, Peter lost more weight. Something very rare was removing, reducing -emptying his body. He felt as if he was weightless. It was the weightlessness of a spark, a bubble or a balloon.  It was effortless for him to jump over the gate, or climb the stairs five steps at a time, or jump to catch an apple high up in the tree.

You’ve improved so much observed his wife – you’re like a child acrobat.

One morning Pedro got scared. Until then his agility had preoccupied him, but everything happened as God intended.

It was extraordinary that, inadvertently, he became the leader of a triumphant human career in the air above the country house. It was extraordinary but not miraculous. The miraculous appeared that morning.

Early that morning, he went to the pasture. He walked with hesitant steps because he already knew that as soon as stamped his feet, he would bounce by the corral. He rolled up his shirt sleeves, put up a log, grabbed the axe and struck the first blow. 

Then, still Impacted by the blow of the axe, he was briefly suspended, levitating at the height of the roofs; and then slowly fell, like a soft, feathery seed of a thistle.

His wife came when Peter had already fallen, and with a deathly pallor, shivering and holding on to a stout log.

“Hebe (Evelyn?) I nearly fell into heaven.”

“Nonsense! You can’t fall into heaven. Nobody falls to heaven. What has happened to you?”

Peter explained the situation to his wife and she, without astonishment, declared:

This happens to you when you want to act like an acrobat. I have already warned you. One the day, when you least expect it, you are going to break your neck.

 “No, No” insisted Peter. This time is different. I stumbled.  The sky is an abyss.

 Peter let go of the log which held him down, but took a strong hold of his wife. Thus embraced, they returned to the house.

-“Man!” -said Hebe, who felt the body of her husband stuck to hers like a strange, wild young animal, longing to escape. “Man, stop straining yourself, you are dragging me!  You are taking such great strides as if you wanted to fly.”

“-Did you see, did you see? Something horrible is threatening me, Hebe. A twist and I will begin to  ascend.”

That afternoon Peter was sitting on the patio, lazy, reading small stories in the newspaper. He laughed convulsively and with that cheerful motion, rose as a devil, , as a diver without his flippers. The laughter turned into terror and Hebe again, on hearing her husband’s voice, reached up and managed to grasp his pants and brought him back down again. Now there was no doubt. Hebe filled his pockets with large nuts, pieces of lead pipe and stones.

The most difficult was to take his clothes off. When Hebe removed the lead and iron, Peter began hovering over the sheets, but interlaced with the bars of the headboard of the bed, thus avoiding it.

“Careful Hebe, let’s do this slowly, because I don’t want to sleep in the ceiling.”

“Tomorrow, let’s call the doctor.”

As long as I remained still, nothing happened. Only when I moved, did I become airborne.

With a thousand precautions, he could go to bed and he felt secure.

“Do you want to get up?”

“No, I’m fine.”

He bade her goodnight, and Hebe shut off the light.

One day, when Hebe opened her eyes, she saw Pedro sleeping like a blessed saint with his head stuck in the ceiling.

He looked like a balloon that had escaped from the hands of a child.

“Peter, Peter!” she yelled terrorized.

Finally Peter awoke, sore after having been squeezed up in the ceiling for several hours.

How horrible. He tried to jump in the opposite direction, to fall down from above, and to rise from below. But the ceiling pulled at him, as the floor pulled at Hebe.

-You will have to tie my leg and rope me to the closet until you call the doctor and we’ll see what happens.

Hebe got a rope and ladder, tied it to her husband’s foot and began to pull with all her might. The body stuck to the roof, came down slowly, like dirigible.

He landed.

A gust of air came through the door and the air current lifted the slight corporeity of Peter and, like a feather, he drifted through the open window. It happened in a second.

Hebe cried out and the rope disappeared. He rose up on the early morning air, like a swaying, colorful balloon, lost on a day of celebration, lost forever, in a journey to the infinite. At first, he was a small point in the sky, and then nothing.

 

 

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Foreword:

Vicente Riva Palacio was born in Mexico City in 1832, studied law and became a lawyer in 1854. He became interested in politics, but joined the army, from which he retired as a general in 1865, two years after the Mexican victory over the French at Puebla in 1862.  He dedicated most of the rest of his life to writing and published several novels about the colonial era in Mexico, including the influence that the Spanish inquisition had.

He also wrote a number of short stories and anecdotes, and these are perhaps his greatest contribution to the literature of the time. He died in 1896 at the age of 64.

The Donation (La limosna)

By 

Vicente Riva Palacio

 

Perhaps there are many who are not interested in what I’m going to say; but it touched me deeply, and nothing in this world will make me shorten the story and I have to publish it, whatever happens to it in the long run and at the peril of experiencing the intricacy that some call excessive sensitivity to sentimentality.

But the facts are like musical chords: some of us listen to them without emotions and there are others, who have unexplained resonance in the most delicate cells in the heart or the brain, and of whom we say, or think without saying: these notes belong to me.

Julian lived in in one of the towns in the northern part of the Republic of Mexico. I don’t know his surname, because Julian didn’t know, but he was a happy man. .A blacksmith, honest and hard working; a big strapping, healthy fellow, who in his work earned more that he needed to support his family. Of course he was not rich, or as one would say- wealthy. He had a little house in the suburbs of the town.  There, like in a pidgin’s nest, lived his mother, his wife and his son, Julian. There everyone got up before sunrise; there they worked, sang and ate their daily bread of  joy and honesty.

Julian returned each Saturday bringing the earnings from his weekly work; he gave it all to his wife, and she knew how to allocate it successfully and with such good economy, that the money seemed to multiply in her hands. It was the unvarying miracle of the five loaves repeated without interruption, and she never forgot cigars for Julian or a glass of brandy for her mother-in-law before the meal.

The boy was called Juanito: fresh, clean, happy and with his two years acting as if he was eighty, excitedly running after the hens in the pen or pulling up the flowers in the little garden by the House. But he was so loving and so adorable, that each one of these mischief’s were rewarded with a Rosary of kisses from the father, the mother or the grandmother, whom he was laughing out loud at, showing his uneven and still growing baby teeth.

One afternoon, Julian was waiting at the workshop for his weekly pay check. Suddenly he heard the parish fire alarm, and felt his heart jump. There was no cause for alarm. The parish was a large rural community, and, however, he felt that it was not his house that was burning. He ran hastily, but it was true: the flames were devouring his house that just a few hours before had been his blessed home.

All efforts had been futile: nobody was able to escape the fire. Julian did not ask for details; in one hour he had lost everything he owned. It was pointless. A loving family took him in, and for more than six months he was not heard from.

Four years passed by and Julian, always sad, went to work at the shop with his usual punctuality. He took from his salary only what he strictly needed for his own upkeep, and distributed the rest to the poor of his parish.  Saturdays, however, he had a strange habit. . He went out in the streets with a guitar; entered houses and sang, with a very sweet voice, quite unknown songs, so melancholy, that the men shivered and the women cried; and afterwards, when one of them, filled with emotions, solicited around to give him some money him, he said with a deeply sad accent;” No, Madam, I don’t want money; you have already paid me, because I only came to beg for alms of tears. “

Translated by Kenny Beechmount

October 2012

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               Alfonso Reyes, 1889–1959

Mexican writer, diplomat, and educator. Reyes is  generally recognized as one of the greatest Spanish  writers of his time. After spending several years in Europe, Argentina, and Brazil as a diplomat, he became president of the Colegio de Mexico. Reyes gained international fame for his poetry, narratives, literary criticism, and essays. Quoted from

http://www.infoplease.com/ce6/people/A0841657.html

His short story about commander Aranda, who lost a hand in the war, is filled with what Reyes had so much of-imagination and fantasy. The story is surreal but gives a splendid picture of just how much man’s hand has figured in literature and art.

Translating anything that Reyes wrote is at best difficult. He uses colloquial expressions and vague references to subjects that have relevance to something in the story, but frequently only by reading further ahead does the rationality of it become apparent. Some trasnslated expressions don’t seem to make any sense, but they actually do.

Alfonso Reyes received much accolade during his life, including from Jorge Luis Borges, who considered him one of the finest Latin American writers of the twentieth century.

La Mano Del Comandante Aranda

Alfonso Reyes

Commandant Benjamin Aranda lost a hand in combat during the war and to make things worse, it was the right hand. Others collect hands of bronze, marble, crystal or wood that sometimes come from statues and religious images or that were old doorknockers; and the surgeons keep worse things in jugs of alcohol? Why not preserve this dissected hand, testimony of a glorious exploit? Are we not certain the hand is worth less than the brain or the heart?

Let’s think about it.

Aranda didn’t ponder, but a secret instinct impelled him. The man of God was formed in clay, like a doll, by the hand of God. Biological man evolved, served by his hand, which provided the world with a new natural kingdom, the kingdom of the industries and the arts. If the walls of Thebes (1) were rising to the echo of the lyre of Anfión, it was his brother Zeto, the bricklayer, who was laying the stones by hand. The people who work with their hands, the blacksmiths and metalworkers, appear in the archaic mythologies, wrapped in magic- like vapours: they are the stewards of wonder. They are the hands delivering the fire that Orozco (2) has painted.

El Hombre de Fuego (“Man of Fire”), Fresco by Orozco

Cabañas Cultural Institute in Guadalajara, painted between 1936 and 1939

In the mural by Diego Rivera (fine arts), the hand wields the cosmic balloon that encloses the powers of creation and destruction: and on the Chapingo(3), proletarian hands are ready to claim the heritage of Earth.

In Alfaro Siqueiros’s (4) painting, man is reduced to a pair of huge hands seeking the gift of reality, no doubt to remake it his own way.

Nuestra Imagen Actual

By Alfaro Siqueiros, painted in 1947

In the newly discovered shrine of Tlaloc (Tetitla) (5), divine hands are shown to hold and release the water of life.

Moses, holding his hands high, remains victorious in the war against the Amalekites(6). To Agamemnon ‘that sent far away’, corresponds our Hueman(7) ‘the one with the long hands’. The hand, a living metaphor, multiplies and thus extends the scope of man.

Other senses abide by the passivity; the physical touch experience and add to it, and with the spoils of the Earth, builds a human order, son of man. The same oral style, the great invention of speech, does still not manage to get rid of the style that created the hand— the oratorical action of the ancient rhetorical-their first explorations toward the ambient chaos, toward the unpublished and toward the future of poetry. The same hand can speak, quite regardless of the sign language for the deaf and dumb. What doesn’t the hand say? Rembrandt–remember Focillon(8)- he demonstrates in all his capacities and conditions, examples and ages: astonished hand, alert, shaded hand emphasized in the light that bathes the Lazarus’s resurrection, working hand, academic hand of the teacher Tulp(9), who is separating a bunch of arteries, the hand of the painter who draws the same

Dr Nicolaes Tulp’s anatomy lesson

painting by Rembrandt-1632

The inspired hand of Matthew who writes the Gospel under the dictation of the Angel, working hands that counts the florins. During burial of the Greeks, hands create waves to contribute to the ascension of the soul of the knight; and with only the gesture of having his gentleman hands on his chest he declares his Just nobility.

This minor God is divided into five people– God in the House, God within our reach, God ‘within reach of your hand’ has finished making the man and he has allowed him to build the human world. The same shapes the jar and the planet, moves the potter’s wheel and opens the Suez Canal. This delicate and powerful instrument poses the most fortunate resources discovered by physical life: hinges, tweezers, tongs, hooks, and touch needles, chains of bones, sails, oars, nerves, ligaments, pipes, cushions, valleys, mountains, and starry rivers. It has softness and hardness, powers of aggression and caress and in another way, already intangible, threatens and persuades, directs and disorients, scares away and encourages. The healers love and cure with their hands. What more? It discovered the pos and cons in trade, gave its weapon to the liberality and to the greed. We entered into the field of mathematics and taught it to the Ishmaelites (1o), and to Joseph (Roman fresco in Saint-Savin), to count the Pharos’s coins with his fingers. It gave us the feeling of depth and weight, the feeling of the gravity and rootedness in the cosmic gravitation; it created the space for us, and we owe to it the concept that the universe is not an equal plane that we just simply cast our eyes on.

Indispensable and sensual pledge for jansenistas! (11). A wonderful flower with five petals that open and close at the slightest touch, like the mimosa. Is the number five essential in the universal cosmos? Does the hand belong to the order of the zarzarrosa, (wild rose) of the forget-me-not, from the order of The Scarlet Pimpernel?

The diviners are perhaps right on substance, though not in their puerile interpretations. . If the physiognomist of the past – like Lavater(12), whose pages gained the attention of Goethe – they had passed from the mouth to the hand, thus completing their vague suspicions, no doubt they are right. The face is both mirror and expression, but the hand is intervention. Moreno Villa(13) tries to lunge into the writers, based on the configuration of their hands. Urbina(14) has sung to his beautiful hands, the only material hint of his soul.

There is no doubt, the hand is worth singular respect, and could well occupy a site favorite among the abodes of commander Aranda. The hand was placed carefully in a padded case. The plain white wrinkles -supporting the small bones, – bridge to the lap for the pommel – looked like a tiny Alpine landscape. From time to time, he was granted the intimate privilege of contemplating it a few moments. It was a nice hand, robust, intelligent, and somewhat tensed by the hilt of the sword. Its preservation was perfect.

Little by little, the taboo, the mysterious object, the hidden talisman, became familiar. Then it was moved from the open chest to the display cabinet in the living room and a place was made for it between the campaign medals and military crosses.

Its fingernails started to grow, which revealed a slow, dull surreptitious life. For the moment it looked like something lazy, inactive, but later he saw it as a desirable property. With some repugnance at first, the family manicurist agreed to take care of the fingernails every eight days. The hand was always very well taken care of.

Without knowing how- this is the way that man is, he changed the statue of the God to an ornament-, the hand was reduced in its statute, suffered a reduction in rank, ceased to be a relic, and decidedly entered into domestic circulation. Already within six months, it was being used as a paperweight or served to hold the leaves of manuscripts- the commander was now writing his memoirs with his left hand; the severed hand was flexible, plastic, and the fingers gently kept the position that he put them in.

Despite its ugly coldness, the kids in the House ended up losing respect for it. Within a year, they were already scratching with it, or amusing themselves by folding its fingers in the form of a Brazilian figa (15), or a Mexican cart, and other international folkloric gestures.

The hand thus remembered many things that had been completely forgotten. Its personality was noticeably accentuated. It took on its own conscience and character. It began to elongate its tentacles. Then it moved like a tarantula. Everything seemed like a game.  One day, they realized that it was wearing a single glove and had fitted a bracelet on the severed wrist, yet no-one paid any attention to it.

It walked freely from one side to the other, like a monstrous crab-shaped little dog. Later, it learned to run with a gait very similar to rabbits, and jiggling up and down with the fingers, it began to believe that it was a prodigy. One day it was seen deployed in the wind: it had acquired the ability to fly.

But, considering all this, how did it navigate, how did it see? Ah! certain wise men say there is a dark light, not sensed by the retina but perhaps sensed by other organs, and more so, if they become specialized through education and exercise. And Louis Farigoule-Jules Romains (16), in letters  notes that certain nerve elements, whose real functions are ignored, terminates in the epidermis; the development of vision can come only from a local development in any part of the skin, which later develops into an eye: and insure that it is made possible for the blind to perceive the light, after some experiments in certain regions of the back, and did it not also have to see the hand? Later, it completes its vision with a touch, and almost has eyes on its fingers and the Palm can be oriented to the flow of the air as the membranes of the bat. Nanuk, the Eskimo, in his misty polar expanse, raised and waved the flat of his hands-perhaps also to perceive heat – perhaps also thermal receptors, to orient him in an apparently uniform environment. The hand catches a thousand fugitive things, and penetrates the translucent flows that escapes to the eye and to the muscle, those that neither can be seen nor hardly oppose resistance.

It happened that the hand, as soon as it was left alone, became ungovernable and temperamental. We can say that it is at this point that it “showed its true colours.” It came and went as it pleased, disappeared when it felt like it and returned when it fancied. It built castles of dubious stability with bottles and glasses. They say it would stay up all night until it got drunk,

It didn’t obey anyone. It was mocking and naughty. It pinched the visitors’ noses and slammed the door on the collectors. It remained motionless, ‘pretending to be dead’, to let itself be viewed by those who still didn’t know it, and then suddenly would  give them an obscene gesture. It was singularly pleased in softly padding its former owner, and also used to scare away the flies. And it was pleased with itself, eyes bathed in tears, as a son who had turned out bad.

It upset everyone. Now it took the notion to tidy up and sweep the house and then to mix up the family’s shoes with true arithmetic genius of permutations, combinations and exchanges; or it broke the windows with stones, or hid the balls belonging to the boys playing in the street.

The commander observed and suffered silently. His wife had an irrepressible hatred for it, and was – clearly – its preferred victim. The hand, in turn began some other exercises, and humiliated him by giving him lessons on working in the kitchen.

Much to the dismay of the Commander, the epileptic contrariety of his wife and the concealed delight of the little people, the hand had taken possession of the dining room for its gymnastic exercises, and locked itself inside with the key, receiving those who wanted to expel it by throwing plates at their heads. There was nothing more to do than to give up the place and surrender completely, said Aranda.

The old servants, even “the nanny, who had raised the child” they all left. The new servants didn’t stay even one day in the bewitched house. Friends and relatives deserted. The police began to be concerned about repeated complaints from the neighbors. The last gate of silver that was still in the National Palace, disappeared as by magic. An epidemic of thefts was declared, blaming it on the mysterious hand that, many times was innocent.

And the worst part of the case was that the people did not lay the blame on the hand; they did not believe that such an animated hand had a life of its own, but everything was attributed to the trickery of the poor, one-handed man, whose severed dispossession was already threatening to cost us one day what the leg of Santa-Anna cost us. Certainly Aranda was a witch who had a pact with Satan. People were crossing themselves.

Meanwhile the hand, indifferent to the damage to others, was acquiring an athletic musculature, strengthening, perfecting continuously and all the time it learned to do more and more things. It did not want to continue relating its own memoirs to the commander. The night he decided to go out, to get some fresh air in the car, the Aranda family, incapable of holding on, believed that the world was coming to an end. But nothing happened, neither fines nor “bribes”. At least – said the Commander-this way we will keep the machine in good condition, since it was already beginning to rust and mold after the chauffeur had left.

Abandoned to its own nature, the hand was slowly embodying the Platonic idea that that let it be, the idea of grabbing, the yearning for possession, daughter of the prehensile thumb: this invaluable conquest of man the maker (Homo Faber) that are jealous of prey, although not the birds of prey. To see, above all, how the hens, with their twisted neck, turned up, or how foreign art objects came to the house– that Aranda then spent endless hours to return to their owners, between stutters and incomprehensible apologies–it was quite clear that the hand was an animal of prey and a thieving entity.

The mental health of Aranda was now questioned. There was also talk of collective hallucinations, the sound of knocking or noises of spirits that, by 1847, appeared in the house of the Fox family, and other things like that. The twenty or thirty person who had actually seen the hand didn’t seem credible since they were of the servile class that easily falls prey to superstitions; and the middle class people answered deceptively for fear of being ridiculed. A roundtable at the College of Arts and Letters was convened to discuss a certain anthropological thesis about the origin of the myths.

But there is something tender and terrible in this story. . Between dreadful shrieks, Aranda woke up at midnight one day: in a strange union, the cut hand, the right, had been connected to its left hand, its former partner, as if longing for its support. It was not possible to detach it. There it spent the rest of the night, and decided to spend the next night there also. Habit makes everyday things out of monsters. The commander finished by feigning ignorance. Then it seemed to him that the strange contact eased the mutilation and, in some way, it comforted his only hand.

The poor sinister hand, the female, needed the kiss and the company of the masculine hand, the right hand… Let’s not insult it. In its clumsiness, it conserves tenaciously, as a precious burden, the prehistoric virtues, the slowness, the delay of the centuries in which our species was being developed.  Correct the exorbitant audacities, the ambitions of the right hand. It is lucky – it has been said we do not have two right hands: if so, we would have become lost between the pure subtleties and tangles of the virtuosity; wouldn’t  be true men, no: we would be illusionist. Gauguin (17) knows well what he does when, as a brake to his ethereal sensitivity, once again teaches his right hand to paint with the candor of the left-hand. But, one night, the hand opened the door to the library and began reading. It found a Maupassant (18) short story about a severed hand that ends up strangling the enemy; and he found a beautiful fantasy of Nerval (19), where an enchanted hand travelling the world, making “marvels” and bad spells. He came upon a few notes about the philosopher Gaos (20) on the phenomenology of the hand. Oh heavens! What will be the result of this fearful incursion in the alphabet?

The result is both serene and sad. The proud, Independent hand, who wanted to be a person, a sovereign entity, determining his own conduct, became convinced that it was nothing more than a literary theme, a matter of fantasy, by now quite thoroughly elaborated on by the pen of the writers.  With grief and difficulty – and admittedly shedding many tears–it went to the display cabinet in the room, accommodated itself in its case, previously so carefully placed between the campaign medals and crosses of the military record. Disenchanted and sorrowful, it committed suicide in its own way; allowed itself to die.

The sun was shining when the commandant, who had passed the night tossing and turning, distressed by the prolonged absence of his hand, discovered it stiff in the case, somewhat blackened and as with signs of asphyxia. He couldn’t believe his eyes. When he finally understood what was going on, he nervously crumbled the paper that requested its discharge from active duty, stretched himself to his full height, resumed his military attitude, rushed violently out of the house and shouted at the top of his voice

-Attention, Stand firm! Everyone at their post! Bugler, sound the victory call!

Bibliography:

1) http://www.artoftheprint.com/artistpages/picart_bernard_amphion_builds.htm    Quote “The myth of Amphion and his twin brother, Zethus, belongs to the earliest times of the royalty of Thebes. They were the sons of Zeus and Antiope. Persecuted by her father, Antiope sought refuge at Sicyon. Soon after, Lycus conquered Sicyon and made Antiope his prisoner. She shortly thereafter gave birth to Amphion and Zethus. They were left to die on Mount Cithaeron but were found and raised by shepherds. After many years Antiope escaped from Lycus, who now reigned over Thebes, and rejoined her twin sons. The sons then attacked Thebes, killing Lycus. Amphion and Zethus then proceeded to fortify the city: Zethus carried the stones while Amphion, with the magical music produced from his lyre, caused the stones to move of their own volition and gently slide into place atop the walls.”

2) The painting by Orosco is titled “Hombre del Fuego”, painted in 1939 in the dome of the Instituto Cultural Cabańas in the Mexican city of Guadalajara.

3) Chapingo refers to a mural titled “La Tierra Fecundada, painted in 1927, located in Escuela National de Agricultura in Chapingo

4) David Alfaro Siqueiros (born José de Jesús Alfaro Siqueiros, December 29, 1896. The painting may possibly be “Nuestra Imagin Actual” For a detailed story of his life and art, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Alfaro_Siqueiros#Selected_other_works

5) Tlaloc (Tetitla) Aztec rain God. For more detailed information, see http://archaeology.about.com/od/tterms/a/Tlaloc.htm

6) The Amalekites. This nomadic nation was, in ancient times, Israel’s eternal foe

7) Hueman: A Toltec chief and priest. For additional reading, see  http://books.google.ca/books?id=P24LAQAAIAAJ&pg=PA248&lpg=PA248&dq=The+Toltec+chief+Hueman&source=bl&ots=GNeBodanex&sig=qg0qIU5jVJ9rloZirxW9TJ8y9tE&hl=en&sa=X&ei=g3prUKOVNdKr0AGO54HwDQ&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=The%20Toltec%20chief%20Hueman&f=false

8) Henri Focillon (1881 – March 3, 1943) was a French art historian. Director of the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Lyon. Professor of Art History at the University of Lyon. For more information, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henri_Focillon

9) Tulp: This refers to:The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp, which is a 1632 oil painting by Rembrandt housed in the Mauritshuis museum in The Hague, the Netherlands.

10) According to the Book of Genesis, Ishmaelites are the descendants of Ishmael, the elder son of Abraham

11) Jansenism was a Christian theological movement, primarily in France, that emphasized original sin, human depravity, the necessity of divine grace, and predestination.

12) Johann Kaspar (or Caspar) Lavater (15 November 1741 – 2 January 1801) was a Swiss poet and physiognomist. Lavater was born at Zürich.

13) José Moreno Villa (16 February 1887, Málaga – 25 April 1955, México) was a Spanish poet and member of the Generation of ’27

14) Urbina, Luis Gonzaga (1864-1934). Mexican writer and poet Born in Mexico City and died in Madrid, Spain

15) Brasiliab figa” a rude gesture

16) Romains, Jules, 1885–1972, French writer, whose original name was Louis Farigoule. A brilliant student of philosophy, he became known as the chief exponent of unanimous, a literary theory positing the collective spirit or personality, e.g., the spirit of a city. For more information read: http://encyclopedia2.thefreedictionary.com/Romains%2c+Jules

17) Eugène Henri Paul Gauguin (French: 7 June 1848 – 8 May 1903) was a leading French Post-Impressionist. For additional information, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Gauguin  and other web sites.

18) Henri René Albert Guy de Maupassant: Born 5 August 1850 –died 6 July 1893) was a popular 19th-century French writer, considered one of the fathers of the modern short story and one of the form’s finest exponents. The story referred to is called “The Hand” which can be read at

http://www.online-literature.com/maupassant/224/

19) Gérard de Nerval (May 22, 1808 – January 26, 1855) was the nom-de-plume of the French poet, essayist and translator Gérard Labrunie, one of the most essentially Romantic French poets. For details of his life, see  http://www.answers.com/topic/g-rard-de-nerval

20) José Gaos Born 1900 in Gijón, Spain –died 1969 in Mexico) This Spanish-born philosopher obtained political asylum in Mexico during the Spanish Civil War.

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