Before I head out, here's the first part of another translation that I've been working on...Jorge Eduardo Benavides' story, "Distinguishing Marks: None" + some pictures of the reading we did at the Reader's Loft (Green Bay, October 2011).
"Distinguishing Marks: None"
Perhaps the first time there was something altogether amusing in the matter. Even Zapata, el gordo, always so serious, always so gloomy, cracked himself up when García Urquijo, who was gazing out of the window during the first five minutes of the blackout, asked, why two candles, man, we have no idea how long this will last. He said it with his back turned, without addressing anyone in particular. Clutching his whiskey, Ramiro blew out the candle next to him in the same exact moment you extinguished the other one which rested on the bookshelf on the opposite side of the room. Even if it was only coincidental, this perfect synchronicity left you all momentarily in the dark, and in the midst of so many unexpressed fears—the muffled murmur of tanks, intermittent siren blasts at the end of the street, gunshots of an unknown origin stirring up confusion—after the initial surprise, the four of you exploded in laughter.
Perhaps that wasn’t the first time, but rather the first confirmation, the setting-in-motion of an absurd and boundless sequence of events which linked the two of you together in the simplest ways for God knows how long. You had known Ramiro from the years of the First Dictatorship, those long-ago days of pick-up soccer games and fruit popsicles—running through the rubble of the city to arrive on time for the discussions on neo-negativist doctrine at the sector’s communal council in the Plaza Italia. Already at that time there was a bond between you. The shared tastes and preferences of a special friendship, a communion of obsessions and passions which could be explained by the simple reason that you wandered the streets together day and night. You two had been selected for the first positions of the Party’s youth section, unquestionable and efficient profiles, elite leadership, first generation of the rational and idealist.
Nevertheless, now that you are driving through the deserted streets, smoking cigarette after cigarette, tense and smothered by a tide of confusion—in a type of tobacco-induced fear and urgency—you ask yourself how to set boundaries on what is reasonable, what is yours and what is his. Whose was that peculiar custom of knotting a tie (the Windsor knot nobody wears anymore), the predilection for lemon in Campari, the handwriting full of sharp, pointy l’s and m’s? It had gone on for so long and yet it took a foolish candle incident for you to realize; so many years with suspicion on the tip of your tongue, the faint discomfort of observing him and not knowing exactly what bothered you about his gestures. All of a sudden that get-together with friends put you face to face with the mirrored fear which could not be explained in a rational and logical world. In the beginning, the incredulity at the absurd situation of not being able to remark upon that illegible scrawl you saw him scribble on the check fifteen minutes ago, that was your signature. Then the insanity, the horror, obliged you to do what you did, and in this fear which dampens little by little your grease-smeared shirt, there is no regret whatsoever. Dawn will surprise you with a phone call from Zapata el gordo or García Urquijo, come quickly, it was horrible, and then you will take a breath of relief, finding your own image again. In the morning, you will wake with a dry throat and coated tongue: a blessed hangover which you will begin to wash off with a cold shower and a clean shirt, convinced that everything has passed, a nightmare which will end up dissolving itself with the sugar of the morning coffee.
Introducing Jorge and reading my English translation of “Cosas de niños” (“Kid’s Stuff”).
Jorge wowing the crowd...the best line of the night: "Pero me gustan los niños……….con arroz!” …Read the story and you’ll get the reference!
GSR, Hernán, Michael Wesley (recent UW-Green Bay grad, now a Quito-based human rights activist) and Jorge.
Hernán, Mari, Alejandra & Jorge.