16 February 2010

Realismo desquiciado

From David Toscana's beautiful black comedy The Last Reader (El último lector), translated by Asa Zatz:
In Icamole Lucio trusts his brain to the point that he has rejected everything taught him in Monterrey. Lending control? I don't lend anything. Conservation? My books have to last only a short time; when I die they can shrivel up and expire, too. And, more than anything else, he had scorn for cataloguing systems. A specialist explained how to classify books according to subject, date of publication, nationality of author, and other variables, by assigning numbers and letters. He never spoke of separating good and bad books, but, rather, insisted that the main classification be based on the concept of fiction and nonfiction. Lucio was utterly disillusioned on hearing the pronouncements of that specialist. He was unable to accept that book people, people of letters, could have made that classification; it was impossible that they would be so lacking in words as to call something by a name that it is not. Furthermore, where is the borderline between one and the other? Into which do memoirs of a president fall? A historical novel? Lives of the saints? On which side would A Soldier's Testimony go? If there are contradictions between two history books or two holy books, who decides which gets to be called fiction? Lucio closed his notebook and no longer listened to that faker. His ideas were clear. A history book talks of things that happened while a novel talks of things that happen, and so historical time contrasts with that of the novel, which Lucio calls the permanent present, an immediate time, tangible and real. Babette exists in that time, is more real than a national hero buried in the rotunda of eminent persons; Babette could never be in a section marked fiction; in that permanent present, a mysterious hand seizes Babette again and again each time the book is opened to the last page, and the girl irrevocably throws her umbrella into the Seine in Chapter 12; Babette is not nor will be turned into dust.
Long live Pancho Villa, you sonsofbitches, and the Virgin of Guadalupe. They worship both, create their own novels. They believe in them the way you and I believe in Babette. They also believe in the yarns about Evangelina's letter, in the Guadalupe Hymnal even though they haven't seen anything but the cover, believe in the novels of the Bible, the resurrection, angels, ships with animals of all the earth, in hell and paradise, the sun that stood still, snakes that talk and pigs that leap into a ravine, angels, demons, the crucified, and so many things that nobody has ever seen and never will except in the form of words. And so I cannot understand the resistance to using my library, why they think there is a gap between life and paper.