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Sunday, February 7th, 2010

Dos cuentos argentinos

At 3% today, I read about the forthcoming Op Oloop, which will be the first of Juan Filloy's 27 novels to appear in English. Nice! It was also the first I had heard of Filloy, who appears to have had a long and important career. In honor of the occasion, I will try my hand at translating his short story "La vaca y el auto."

The cow and the car

by Juan Filloy
The rain has firmed up the unpaved road's surface. The recently rinsed atmosphere is fresh and clean. The sun's glory shines down at the end of March.

A car comes along at a high velocity. Beneath the pampa's skies -- diaphanous tourmaline cavern -- the swift car is a rampaging wildcat.

The moist fields give off a masculine odor, exciting to the lovely young woman who's driving. And accelerating, accelerating, until the current of air pierces her, sensuous. But...

All of a sudden, a cow. A cow, stock-still in the middle of the roadway. Screeching of brakes, shouting. The horn's stridency shatters the air. But the cow does not move. Hardly even a glance, watery and oblique, she chews her cud. And then, she bursts out:

-- But señorita!... Why all this noise? Why do you make such a hurry, when I'm not interested in your haste? My life has an idyllic rhythm, incorruptible. I am an old matron who never gives way to frivolity. Please: don't make that racket! Your clangor is scaring the countryside. You do not understand why; you don't even see it. The countryside flies past, by your side; your velocity turns it into a rough, variegated visual pulp. But I live in it. It is where I hone my senses, they are not blunt like yours... Where did you find this morbid thirst which absorbs distance? Why do you dose yourself with vertigo? You subjugate life with urgency, instead of appreciating its intensity. Come on! lay off the horn. Time and space will not let themselves be ruled by muscles of steel and brass. Speed is an illusion: it brings you sooner to the realization of your own impotence. The signifier of all culture is the intrinsic slowness of the unconscious, which unconsciously chooses its destiny. But you already know yours, girl: to crash into matter before you crash into materialism. So, good. Don't get mad! I'm moving. Let your nerves once again become one with the ignition. Reanimate, with explosions of gas, your motor and your brain. The roadway is clear. Adiós! Take care of yourself...

The car tears away, muttering insults in malevolence and naphtha.

Parsimonious, chewing and chewing, the cow casts a long, watery gaze. And then a lengthy, ironic moo, which accompanies the car towards the curve of the horizon...

And while I'm doing this: I get a lot of misdirected Google hits by people looking for "a translation of El dios de las moscas" or similar phrases -- I had never heard of this story until people started coming to my site looking for it; but I like it. (But do your own homework, people!) It is by Marco Denevi. Dare I say, a little bit in the manner of Borges.

The god of the flies

by Marco Denevi
The flies imagined their god. It was another fly. The god of the flies was a fly, sometimes green, sometimes black and golden, sometimes pink, sometimes white, sometimes purple, an unrealistic fly, a beautiful fly, a monstrous fly, a fearsome fly, a benevolent fly, a vengeful fly, a righteous fly, a young fly, an aged fly, but always a fly. Some of them augmented his size until he was enormous, like an ox, others pictured him so tiny he could not be seen. In some religions he had no wings («He flies, he sustains himself, but he has no need of wings»), in others he had an infinite number of wings. Here his antennæ were arranged like horns, there his eyes consumed all of his head. For some he buzzed constantly, for others he was mute, but it meant the same thing. And for everyone, when flies died, they would pass in rapid flight into paradise. Paradise was a piece of carrion, stinking, rotted, which the souls of dead flies would devour for all eternity and which was never consumed; for this celestial offal would continually be replenished and grow beneath the swarm of flies. --of the good ones. For also there were evil flies; for them there was a hell. The hell of the condemned flies was a place without shit, without waste, without garbage, without stink, with nothing at all, a place clean and sparkling and to top it off, illuminated by a dazzling light; that is to say, an abhorrent place.

posted evening of February 7th, 2010: 1 response
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Thursday, April 29th, 2010

To have been a fly on that wall!

Monterroso writes, "There are three topics: love, death, and flies" -- and right away I'm thinking of Robyn Hitchcock... This is the introduction to part II of Monterroso's collection Complete Works (and Other Stories).*

There are three topics: love, death, and flies. Since humanity has existed, this sentiment, this fear, these presences have accompanied him everywhere. Let others deal with the first two; I will occupy myself with flies, which are greater than men (if not than women). For years I've had in mind the idea of putting together a universal anthology of the fly. I still mean to do it -- but, I soon came to realize the task was practically infinite. The fly pervades literature; anywhere you cast your eye, you are sure to find the fly. There is no true author who has not taken the opportunity to dedicate a poem, a page, a paragraph, a line to him; if you are an author and have not done this, I advise you to follow my example, to hurry up and do it. Flies are the Eumenides, the Erinyes; they are chastisers. They are avengers, for what we don't know -- but you know that they have persecuted you; as far as you know, they will go on persecuting you forever. They are vigilant. They are the avatars of something unnameable, something benevolent or malign. They pursue you. They follow you. They watch you. When at last you die, it's likely (and it's too bad) that one fly will suffice to carry your poor, distracted soul who knows where. Flies convey -- and they come over the course of the ages to own their cargo -- the souls of our dead, of our forebears, who thus remain close to us, accompanying us, determined to protect us. They are a means for our small souls' transmigrations; they accumulate wisdom -- they come to know everything that we do not dare to know. Perhaps the ultimate propagator of our tired western culture will be the body of this fly, who has come down through the course of the centuries, furthering his line without enriching himself....
You can read the original at valdeperrillos.com, where they have the beginnings of the anthology Monterroso dreams of -- I am surprised not to see Denevi's God of the flies in there as well.

* It appears this piece is actually from a different collection, Perpetual Motion; the two collections were published together in translation under the title of the first.

posted evening of April 29th, 2010: Respond
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