Yesterday I walked into school heavy-laden with dreads of an enormous presentation only to be met with the best possible of surprises in the main hallway of the university: a used book fair. Obviously I dropped everything to browse through the tables and quickly identified the most promising vender as his table was filled with the oldest and most attractive books- not to mention that it was the only one not predominantly occupied with text books. He was a personable younger man who appeared genuinely interested in everyone who came close enough to ask questions and quickly had me talking about my studies here. I explained to him that I’ve been trying to read as much as possible to practice my Spanish and how much I’ve loved learning it here and he immediately began searching through some boxes under the table for authors he would recommend because so many of the books I’d been thumbing through- while well bound and titled- had been written by Americans or Europeans and translated into Spanish. The first book he fished out for me was a collection of short stories by Augusto Monterroso who he assured me “es el maestro de los cuentos cortos y centroamericano tambien” (the master of short stories and a native central American as well). The book (which I bought on the spot for 1500 colones) is called “Animales y Hombres” and I can’t even believe how much I’m enjoying it so far. Most of them are extremely short. As a matter of fact, the first one I read I chose because it looked to be only one paragraph which interested me but it turned out to be only one very long sentence and here’s how it goes:
(but it isn't supposed to be all spaced out like this... don't know how that happenned...)
El Apóstata Arrepentido
Se dice que había una vez un católico, según unos, o
un protestante, según otros, que en tiempos muy lejanos y asultado por las dudas
comenzó a pensar seriamente en volverse cristiano; pero el temor de que sus
vecinos imaginaran que lo hacía para pasar por gracioso, o por llamar attención,
lo hizo renunciar a su extravagante debilidad y propósito.
This is my personal translation:
The Repentant Apostate
They say that once upon a time there was a catholic,
according to some, or a protestant, according to others, who in times distant
and assaulted with doubts began to think seriously about becoming Christian; but
the fear that his neighbors would imagine that he’d done it to pass for amusing,
or to call attention (to himself), caused him to resign (himself) to his
extravagant weakness and purpose.
Do you love him?
Because I do.
This isn’t the perfect example of his style. I chose it because it’s easy to fit- though I’m as much enthralled with this as any of them. Perhaps it’s only because reading in romance languages for the first time is so romancing, but if there’s anything I’d rather be taking home I haven’t heard of it.
Having the doors to a whole new sphere of literature so suddenly be opened to me is superbly overwhelming. Last semester in my World Cultural Literature class I realized for the first time in my life that I’ve only ever been exposed to North American and European literature. What we call “the western world” is such an unbelievably small fraction of what exists and it has been a recent ambition of mine to start expanding my knowledge of the written world to other countries. I had intended to start with some of my favorite authors from that class who both happened to be from South Africa, but I’ve had to do some rescheduling as this, to me, is clearly preferable for obvious reasons.
The other book I bought by my new friend’s suggestion is also by a Central American named Julio Cortazar. It’s called “Todos los Fuegos el Fuego” and I’m unsure whether it’s a novel or another book of short stories as I haven’t looked at it much yet. I sincerely hope that it’s equally as brilliant, though I’ve every confidence that the table-side-book-vendor steered me the right direction. He had very good glasses. He’s reliable.