53 - Three Authors
In this episode we present a "Creation" narrative, two author tales and a poem.
This episode of Tres Cuentos Podcast was produced with support from PRX and the Google Podcasts creator program.
The woman and the man dreamed that God was dreaming about them.
God was singing and clacking his maracas as he dreamed his dream in a cloud of tobacco smoke, feeling happy but shaken by doubt and mystery.
The Makiritare Indians know that if God dreams, about eating, he gives fertility and food. If God dreams about life, he is born and gives birth.
In their dream about God’s dream, the woman and the man were inside a great shining egg, singing and dancing and kicking up a fuss because they were crazy to be born. In God’s dream happiness was stronger than doubt and mystery. So, dreaming, God created them with a song:
“I break this egg and the woman is born and the man is born. And together they will live and die. But they will be born again. They will be born and die again and be born again. They will never stop being born, because death is a lie.”
(From the book Genesis by Eduardo Galeano, translated by Cedric Belfrage (1985), published by Pantheon Books.)
Hello! Dear listeners of Tres Cuentos, the bilingual podcast dedicated to the literary, historical, and traditional narratives of Latin America. I'm Carolina Quiroga-Stultz, and today we will have a special program. We will review three authors we have presented in the program, Gabriela Mistral, Santiago Dabove and Emilia Pardo Bazán.
Although we continue transitioning the podcast, last episode I promised to present a special program during the summer. My goal is to remember the past four years. That's why we began the episode with a traditional narrative collected by the Uruguayan Eduardo Galeano in his book Genesis. With this text we remember the first 18 episodes that were dedicated to traditional narratives, sacred mythologies, children’s stories as well as some good Latino spooky tales.
With the poem that I will read by Gabriela Mistral, we will remember the turn that the program gave in 2019 towards author literature, and towards indigenous, Afro-descendant, and Mexican American historical narratives that were covered from episode 19 to 34.
With the story of Santiago Dabove, we will remember the year 2021, where we featured Afro-descendant authors, traveled towards possibilities that science fiction brings us and explored Latin American fantasy.
Finally, with Bazán’s story we will continue this year’s feminine perspective, and we extend our welcome to the poetry that will arrive in September.
Today unlike other times I will not present a comment after each narrative, I will only remind you where you can find more about the author and translators. I want to thank Francisca González Arias who graciously granted us permission to reproduced Bazan’s translation.
We will begin with Dabove’s short story, continue with Bazán’s tale, and finalize with a poem from Gabriela Mistral.
This first story comes in the voice of my good friend Don Hymel.
A mother gives her son an errand to run, but he will end up using this time to imagine how his life could turn out.
A Story by Santiago Dabove, translated by Alex Pirouz.
Reviewed by Carolina Quiroga and Don Hymel
Read by Don Hymel.
The train was the same one that came every afternoon, but it was moving slowly, as if sensitive to the landscape.
I was on an errand to buy something for my mother. It was a pleasant moment, the train wheels rolling with affection on the slick rails. I climbed aboard and set myself to capturing my most ancient memory, the first of my life. The train was so delayed that I recovered the memory of a maternal aroma: warm milk, burning alcohol. This continued until the first stop: Haedo. Then, after I had recalled my childhood games and had begun slowly drifting towards my adolescence, when the Ramos Mejía town offered me a romantic and shadowy street, with a little maiden, prepared for betrothal. After visiting and getting to know her parents, and the Andalusian-style patio of her house, I married her right there. We had barely left the village church when I heard the bell ring. The train continued its journey. I said goodbye and, as I am very agile, caught the train. I ended up in Cuidadela town, where my efforts were devoted to digging into a past that was perhaps impossible to reconstruct in my memory.
The station manager, a friend of mine, came to tell me to wait for some good news. My wife had sent a telegram announcing them. I struggled to find a memory of a childish terror (for I had them) that came before those of warm milk and alcohol.
Meanwhile, we arrived at Liniers. There, at that train-stop so abundant in present time - offered by the western railroad-, I was reached by my wife who brought the twins dressed in homespun attire. We got off the train and, in one of Liniers dazzling stores, we bought them some plain yet rather elegant clothes as well as school bags and books.
We immediately caught the same train that had been delayed because there was another train unloading milk. My wife stayed in Liniers. But I boarded the train and enjoyed watching my children all vibrant and healthy talking about soccer and making jokes that the young believe they have invented. And then, at the Flores station, the inconceivable awaited me; a delay due to a collision of wagons and an accident at a level grade crossing. The Liniers’ station manager, who knew me, communicated by telegraph with his counterpart in Flores. They were bearing bad news. My wife had died, and the funeral procession would try to catch the train that was stopped at the last station. Grieving, I got off the train. Because I had sent my children ahead instructing them to leave the train at Caballito station, I was unable to tell my children anything about the disaster.
In the company of relatives and friends, we buried my wife in the cemetery at Flores. There a simple iron cross indicates the place of her ultimate rest. When we returned, we boarded the train that had accompanied us in both joyous and unfortunate endeavors. At “El Once”, I said goodbye to my in-laws and, thinking of my poor orphaned children and my deceased wife, I went like a sleepwalker towards the “Insurance Company,” where I worked. But I couldn’t find it.
After asking some elders in the community, I was informed that the old “Insurance Company” building had been demolished a while ago. In its place stood a new 25-story building. I was told that it was a government ministry wherein everything was insecure, uncertain, from employment history to education degrees. I took an elevator and, when I arrived at the twenty-fifth story, I searched for a window, found it and threw myself into the street. I landed in the foliage of a tree, with branches and leaves like a cotton-stuffed fig tree. My flesh, which was about to burst, began to disperse its memories. The flock of memories, together with my body, reached my mother.
She said, “Don’t you remember what I asked you to do?” She raised her fist in a comical threat and shouted, “You have the memory of a goldfish.”
Which of us has not let our mind wonder off on more than one occasion imagining what life holds?
For those who want to know more about the elusive Santiago Dabove, please check episode 39 "Finis." There the Argentine writer how the earth might end and the visceral reactions of those of those who seek to survive.
Our nest story “Torn Lace,” by the Spanish Emilia Pardo Bazán was translated by Francisca González Arias and can be found at the Observatorio de la lengua española y las culturas hispanicas en los Estados Unidos, at Harvard University. I will leave the link in the transcript.
Before we jump into the story allow me to tell you more about the translator. Francisca González Arias completed her doctorate at Harvard University with a dissertation on the nineteenth-century novelist and short story writer Emilia Pardo Bazán. González Arias has taught in various universities in the New England area. Her research interests are focused on women writers of the Spanish-speaking world. She has numerous translation projects underway of Soledad Puértolas and the Mexican author Cristina Rivera Garza. González Arias translation of Soledad Puértolas’s second novel Bordeaux appeared in the European Women Writers Series of the University of Nebraska Press (1998).
Finally, did you know that Francisca González Arias did a translation into Spanish of Emily Dickinson, and this translation was published by the University of Valencia Press: Fascicles 7 & 8 (2016) and Fascicles 9 & 10 (2018).
Well, with no further ado, here’s a story dedicated to a question that more than one would ask if a woman at the altar says no!
Written by Emilia Pardo Bazán
Translated by Francisca González Arias
I had been invited to the wedding of Micaelita Aránguiz and Bernardo de Meneses but I was unable to attend, so I was astonished to find out the next day —the ceremony was to have taken place at 10 p.m. at the bride’s home— that at the very foot of the altar, when the bishop of San Juan de Acre asked her if she took Bernardo for her husband, Micaelita let out a clear and energetic “No.” And when the clergyman repeated the question in a puzzled tone, the denial was pronounced once more. Meanwhile the bridegroom, after enduring for a quarter of an hour the most ridiculous situation in the world, had no choice but to leave, dissolving the celebration and the ceremony simultaneously.
Such cases are not unheard of, and we often read about them in the newspapers, but they tend to happen among people of humble origins, of more modest means, in circles where social conventions do not hinder the frank and spontaneous expression of feeling and choice.
The singularity of the scene instigated by Micaelita was the environment in which it occurred.
I conjured up the tableau, inconsolable at not having been able to see it with my own eyes. I imagined the packed reception room, the select assembly, the women dressed in silk and velvet, bedecked with jewels, their white mantillas over their arms, ready to cover their heads as soon as the ceremony began.
The men with gleaming dress shirts and medals of various military orders pinned to their tuxedo jackets. The bride’s mother, richly attired, busy, solicitous, going from group to group, accepting congratulations. The bride’s pretty little sisters overcome with emotion: the older one dressed in pink, the younger in blue, showing off turquoise bracelets, gifts from their future brother-in-law. The bishop who was to bless the ceremony, alternately serious or affable and smiling, exchanging witty banter or bestowing discreet compliments as he saw fit.
Meanwhile, one could glimpse the aura of mystery of the chapel sheathed in flowers, a flood of white roses rising from the floor to the little cupola crowned by wreaths of roses and snow-white lilies artistically crafted on green branches. And on the altar the statue of the Virgin, guardian of the aristocratic mansion, was half hidden by a curtain of orange blossoms, a train-carload of which was sent from Valencia by the wealthy landowner Aránguiz, the bride’s uncle and godfather, who had not come because of old age and bad health. These details spread from mouth to mouth while calculating the magnificent inheritance that was to be Micaelita’s, another sign of good fortune for the couple, who were to travel to Valencia on their honeymoon. Imagined the bridegroom in a small group of men, somewhat nervous, slightly pale, inadvertently biting on his mustache, bowing his head to respond to the amiable jokes and the flattering words addressed to him…
And finally, I see emerge in the doorway a kind of apparition —the bride, whose features can barely be seen under the cloud of tulle, the silk of her dress rustling as she passes, while in her hair, as if sown with dew, sparkle the gemstones of the nuptial heirloom… And now the ceremony comes to life. The best man and the matron of honor lead the couple forward, and the innocent figure kneels next to the bridegroom’s slim and graceful shape… The family crams into the front, while the curious and friends search for a good spot, and amid the silence and respectful attention of the guests…, the bishop formulates a question, to which the bride responds with a “No” as sharp as the click of a trigger, as fatal as a bullet.
And —once again in my imagination— I note the bridegroom’s gesture, as he turns, wounded. The mother’s energy as she springs forward to protect and shield her daughter. The bishop’s insistence, and the look of his astonishment. The tremor of the crowd; the anxious questions relayed in an instant: “What happened? What’s going on? Is the bride indisposed? She said ‘No’? That’s impossible… But is it true? What a scene!”
In society, all of this constitutes a terrible drama. And in Micaelita’s case, a riddle as well. The reason for the unexpected “no” was never known for sure.
Micaelita would only say that she had changed her mind, and that she was completely free and had the right to turn back, even at the foot of the altar, as long as a “yes” had not been issued from her lips. The family’s closest friends wracked their brains, offering unlikely suppositions. What was beyond a doubt was that, until that fateful moment, everyone had seen two people who were very much in love and happy with each other. The bride’s girlfriends reported that, when they entered to see her in all her finery minutes before the scandal, she was mad with joy, and so hopeful and content that she would not have traded places with anybody. These were facts that clouded even more the strange enigma that for a long time would give rise to gossip, irritated by the mystery and determined to decipher it unfavorably.
Three years later, when almost nobody remembered what had happened at her wedding, I came across Micaelita at a fashionable spa where her mother was taking the waters. There’s nothing like the routine of a spa to encourage friendships, and the young woman and I became so close that one afternoon as we strolled toward the church, she revealed her secret to me, declaring that she gave me permission to divulge it, secure in the knowledge that such a simple explanation would not be believed.
“It was the silliest thing, so silly in fact that I didn’t want to say it. People always attribute events to profound and transcendental reasons, unaware that sometimes our fate is determined by trivial matters, the littlest things… But they’re little things that have meaning, and for some people, they mean too much. I will tell you what happened; and I can’t believe that nobody noticed, because it occurred right there, in front of everybody. If they didn’t notice, it’s because it was over in a flash.”
“As you know, my marriage to Bernardo de Meneses seemed to meet all the conditions and the guarantees of happiness. In addition, I admit that I was considerably attracted to my fiancé, more than to any other man that I ever knew or know. I believe that I was in love with him. The only thing that I lamented was not being able to study his character: some people judged him to be violent, but I always saw him to be courteous, deferential, and soft as a glove. Yet I was suspicious that he was adopting appearances aimed to deceive me and to hide a fierce and disagreeable personality. A thousand times I cursed the subjection of single women, for whom it is impossible to follow their fiancé closely, to delve into his reality, and obtain reports that are true and brutally sincere —the only ones that would have satisfied me. I tried to submit Bernardo to several tests, which he passed with success. His behavior was so correct that I came to believe that I could entrust my future and my happiness to him without any fear whatsoever.”
“The day of the wedding arrived. Despite my understandable emotion, when I put on my white dress, I noticed once more the superb flounce of lace that adorned it, a gift from my fiancé. That ancient piece of authentic Alençon had belonged to his family; it was a foot wide —a marvel—, and of an exquisite design, perfectly preserved, worthy of a museum showcase. Bernardo had praised its value to the skies, which had begun to annoy me because, however much the lace was worth, my future husband should have realized that I was worth even more.”
“At that solemn moment, as I observed the lace highlighted by the dress’s dense satin, it seemed to me that the very delicate piece of handiwork symbolized the promise of good fortune, and that its texture, so fragile and yet so resistant, subtly meshed two hearts together. I was entranced by this daydream while I walked toward the chapel at the entrance of which my fiancé awaited me. As I hurried to greet him, full of joy for the last time before I became his in body and soul, the lace snagged onto an iron nail of the door, with such bad luck that, as I tried to free myself, I heard an unmistakable ripping sound and noticed a strip of the magnificent lace hanging on the dress. But I saw something else: Bernardo’s face, contorted and disfigured by the most vivid rage; his eyes ablaze, his mouth half-open ready to berate or insult me… He didn’t, however, because there were people all around him; yet in that fleeting moment a curtain rose and a naked soul appeared behind it.”
“I must have turned pale, but fortunately the tulle of the veil covered my face. Something shattered and broke into pieces inside me —the joy with which I had entered the room turned into profound revulsion. I could not let go of the image of Bernardo with that angry, hard, and contemptuous expression I had just glimpsed on his face. This certainty took hold of me, and with it the realization that I could not, that I would not give myself to such a man, not then, not ever… And yet I continued to go toward the altar; I knelt down, I listened to the bishop’s admonitions… But when I heard the question, the terrible and impetuous truth sprang to my lips… That ‘no’ burst forth, unplanned. I was saying it to myself… so that everyone could hear!”
“But why didn’t you reveal the true motive, when so many different commentaries were made afterwards?”
“I repeat, because of its very simplicity… No one would ever have believed it. What is natural and ordinary is never acknowledged. I preferred to let people think that there were reasons of the so-called serious kind.”
It is true that sometimes it is not wrong to let others theorize about the reasons why we decide to do things, because not everything has to be explained.
Finally, we will close the program with a poem by the Chilean Gabriela Mistral. The poem can be found in the book Twentieth-Century Latin American Poetry, A bilingual anthology, edited by Stephen Tapscott and published by the University of Texas Press, Austin. These verses are dedicated to those words that want to come out at times but often are repressed.
By Gabriela Mistral
Translated by Doris Dana
I have in my throat one word that I cannot speak, will not free thought its thrust of blood pounds me.
If I voiced it, it would scorch the living grass, bleed the lam, fell the bird.
I have to cut it from my tongue, find a beaver’s hole, or bury it beneath lime and more quicklime lest, soul-like, it breaks free.
I wish to give no sign of what I live as this word courses through my blood, ebbs and flows, rises, falls with each mad breath.
Though Job, my father, burning, spoke it, I will not give it utterance lest it roll vagrant and be found by river-women, twist itself in their braids, or mangle and blaze the poor thicket.
I wish to throw seeds so violent they burst and smother it in one night leaving not even a syllable’s trace. Or rip it from myself with the serpent’s severing tooth.
And return to my house, enter and sleep, torn from it, sliced from it; wake after two thousand days newly born out of sleep and oblivion.
Never again to remember the word between my lips, that word of iodine and alum stone, or ever again that one night, the ambush in a foreign land, the lightning bolt at the door and my flesh abroad with no soul.
Well, who hasn't had a word that gets stuck in the throat? A word that is better to be reserved for another time. For those who would like to know a little more about the Chilean Gabriela Mistral please listen to our episode 28 "The Forbidden Word," where we explored Mistral’s thinking about the good and the old.
And that's it for today, we will return in September to celebrate Hispanic heritage month with the poetry of different women that had lived and breathed the complex histories of the American continent. Until the next cuento or story, adios, adios.
Tres Cuentos Podcast is produced with support from PRX and the Google Podcasts creator program.
Tres Cuentos is an exercise of creative writing, researching, and retelling.
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The list of credits per song can be found in the transcript.
Thanks for listening, adios, adios.
Genesis by Eduardo Galeano, translated by Cedirc Belfrage (1985), published by Pantheon Books
Torn Lace by Emilia Pardo Bazán, translated by Francisca Gonzalez Arias. URL: https://cervantesobservatorio.fas.harvard.edu/sites/default/files/018_rincon_traductores_pardobazan-gonzalezarias.pdf
Relax Chill Jazz
24495 old train arrival - outside train-full
Satie Orchestral Gymnopedie No. 1
Prince of Darkness
Relax Chill Jazz
Satie Orchestral Gymnopedie No. 1
Mountain Audio - Church Bell
Delicate Orchestral Strings
Ripping Cloth 01
Inspiring Classical Cello Solo
Soaring Above the Clouds