titulo

Palabras Errantes Latin American Literature in Translation

Palabras Errantes
Interrupted Plans

By Aurora Venturini. Translated by Lucy Christmas.

español

“All it would take to hit new depths of solitude was to start playing with the thingamajigs of death”. A tale of loss. Included in Nosotros, los Caserta (Penguin Random House, 2011)

I adopted Bertha and wore her on a silver chain around my neck like a locket. I rented an apartment next to the Humanities building and I moved in with Bertha.

At twenty I finished my university studies. I didn’t plan on returning to the country house. I didn’t want to teach at the Normal school, nor at the prestigious local college; they offered me some hours at the Lyceum but I turned them down. I would try, wherever possible, to acquire neither commitments nor affections. I would avoid forging friendships. I translated from French for a publishing house and tutored deferring students. The war having thwarted my dreams of going to Europe, I would go to Chile. Easter Island was my goal.

And then the devil stuck his nose in.

Mama got sick and called me. Shivering beneath my leather coat, I arrived at the country house. Winter had frozen the house in a sheet of frost, the devastated trees looked like begging skeletons; from somewhere on the roof a pigeon cooed. My mother was a scrap of the landscape dashed to the roof by a hurricane.

My horrid grandma, Arnaldo and Camelia surrounded her; Lula had not yet been summoned. Ariel prayed. She died and I felt nothing. The stove purred.

Someone removed a bunch of withered flowers from a vase. Something only visible to me took my mother, but before that, we spoke.

“My little girl.”

How much we both would have gained if she’d called me that long before.

“My little girl, Chela, I’m going,” she said.
“Yes… Yes… Che… la,” I said. “I don’t know why.”
“I want to ask you something in private.”
The others left and my mother made her request.
“They must cremate my remains because I am afraid of worms, I have always felt disgusted and terrified of worms. I have renewed my application for internment at La Chacarita cemetery every two years, everything is in order and signed for. Ensure my wish is fulfilled.”

While they were keeping vigil over my mother, Lula arrived. She made a face when I told her our mother’s final wish. I realised it would not be so simple. Although my grandma and Arnaldo supported me, Lula and her group of accompanying nuns crossed themselves and threatened to go to the Curia and the Vatican, if necessary. My mother hadn’t counted on the fact that only one opposing member of the family was enough to stop her cremation. I would take legal action.

I would honour my mother’s last wish and hurt Lula.

And the days went by.

For the time being, my mother’s coffin was still in the chapel, not the family mausoleum like Lula wanted. There were other coffins in the chapel. When they located my mother, in her coffin, in the chapel, I wasn’t present. One afternoon when I went, I didn’t know which was hers, they were all so lustrous and well looked after. Which was it? Was I playing a macabre game of chess, which one should I move?

Ugh… I was fed up. I would lose the case.

But when I least expected it, Lula called me on the telephone.

Over a short exchange, she proposed sharing the wealth and dividing the land; she chose the flower meadows for herself- so there would be no lawsuit- leaving me the dry land to harvest succubi, incubi and green spirits. Ariel would help me with the paperwork.

Once again in the chapel, I asked Ariel.

“Which one is my mother’s coffin?”
“Chela… I’m confused…”

Six coffins seemed to be congregated around a saint.

“This one?”
“Could be.”

All it would take to hit new depths of solitude was to start playing with the thingamajigs of death.

“Do we have to open it?”
“We have to open it.”

Two weeks after she passed away, I saw her again. Those responsible for taking her to La Chacarita were there. I thought of the medieval figures in The Triumph of Death and an unknown tenderness towards my mother skirted around me, grazing my skin. I didn’t cry. I left her to the purifying flames. It was a gloomy afternoon in August in 1941.

And all of a sudden I was once again that four-year-old girl dressed in organza in a photographer’s dark room. Down the cemetery’s cinder path, I dunked my shoes in the puddles made by the rain in the sand. I heard “cataplasm” and I realised that for me my mother had died a long time ago, a distant day in 1925.

Planes interrumpidos-b

Artwork by Rocío Muy Bien


PLANES INTERRUMPIDOS

“Sólo me faltaba para colmo de soledad jugar con los chirimbolos de la muerte”. El relato de una pérdida. Incluido en Nosotros, los Caserta (Penguin Random House, 2011)

Adopté a Bertha y la llevaba colgada de la cadenita de plata como un medallón. Alquilé un departamento próximo a la Facultad de Humanidades y me mudé con Bertha.

A los veinte años finalicé mis estudios universitarios. Pensé no volver a la quinta. No quería dictar clase en las Escuelas Normales, ni en el Colegio Nacional; me ofrecieron unas horas en el Liceo pero no acepté. Trataría, en lo posible, de no contraer compromisos ni afectos, evitaría trabar amistades. Hacía traducciones del francés para una editorial y preparaba alumnos libres y aplazados. Frustrada mi ilusión de viajar a Europa a causa de la guerra, iría a Chile, la isla de Pascual era mi meta.

Y el diablo metió la cola.

Mamá enfermó y me llamaba. Tiritando bajo mi tapado de piel de porto llegué a la quinta. El invierno helaba la casa con sábana escarchada, los devastados árboles parecían esqueletos suplicantes; desde algún lugar del tejado piaba un pichón. Mi mamá era un cacho del paisaje traído al techo por el huracán.

La rodeaban mi abominable abuela, Arnaldo y Camelia; Lula aún no había sido convocada. Ariel rezaba. Ella moría y yo no sentía nada. La estufa ronroneaba.

Alguien quitó un ramo de flores mustias de un vaso. Una presencia sólo visible para mí se llevó a mi madre, pero antes hablamos.

–Hijita.

Cuánto hubiéramos ganado ambas de llamarme así, mucho antes.

–Hijita, Chela, me voy –dijo.
–Sí… Sí… Che… la –dije, no sé por qué.
–Quiero pedirle algo en privado.
Salieron los otros y mi madre pidió.
–Debe hacer que cremen mis restos porque les temo a los gusanos, siempre sentí asco y horror por los gusanos. Cada dos años he renovado mi tarjeta reglamentaria en el cementerio de la Chacarita, todo está en regla y atestiguado. Vigile que se cumpla mi voluntad.

Cuando velaban a mi mamá, llegó Lula. Puso mala cara cuando le informé de la última voluntad de nuestra madre. Comprendí que el asunto no sería nada fácil. Aunque mi abuela y Arnaldo me apoyaban, Lula y el grupo de monjas que la acompañaban, luego de hacerse cruces, amenazaron con ir a la Curia y al Vaticano, si fuera preciso. Mi mamá ignoró que basta que un miembro de la familia se oponga para que la cremación no se realice. Yo pondría un pleito.

Cumpliría con la muerta y molestaría a Lula.

Y los días pasaban.

Por el momento, el ataúd de mi madre quedaría en la capilla, no en el panteón familiar como quería Lula. En la capilla había otros ataúdes. Cuando ubicaron a mi madre en su caja, en la capilla, yo no estuve ahí. Y una tarde que fui, no supe cuál era el ataúd de ella, tan cuidados y lustrados estaban todos. ¿Cuál era? ¿Me estaría jugando una macabra partida de ajedrez, a cuál mover?

Bah… Estaba harta. Perdería el caso.

Y cuando menos lo esperaba, Lula me llamó por teléfono.

Durante una corta entrevista, propuso la participación de bienes y el diligenciamiento de venta de sus tierras; eligió para ella las tierras flor –así no pleitearía–, dejándome las tierras secas para cosechar súcubos, íncubos y duendes verdes. Ariel me ayudó en las tramitaciones.

De nuevo en la capilla, pregunté a Ariel:

–¿Cuál es el ataúd de mi mamá?
–Chela… Estoy confundido…

Alrededor de un santo, seis cajones parecían arracimados.

–¿Será éste?
–Puede ser.

Sólo me faltaba para colmo de soledad jugar con los chirimbolos de la muerte.

–¿Hay que abrir?
–Hay que abrir.

Quince días después del fallecimiento, la volví a ver. Esteban allí los encargados de transportarla a la Chacarita. Recordé las estampas medievales del Triunfo de la Muerte y una ternura desconocida hacia mi madre esquivamente pasó rasando mi piel. No lloré. La abandoné a las llamas purificadoras. Era una fea tarde de agosto de 1941.

Y de repente entré en mi infancia de los cuatro años, en la niñita vestida de organdí y en la sala oscura del fotógrafo. Por el sendero de granza del cementerio, metí mis zapatos en los charcos que formó la lluvia que hacía pozos en la arena. Oí «Cataplasma» y comprendí que mi mamá había muerto para mí mucho antes, un día lejano de 1925.

Copyright © 2011 Aurora Venturini
English Translation © 2018 Lucy Christmas

Aurora Venturini (La Plata, Buenos Aires 1922 – 2015) was a writer, translator and professor of philosophy. She published numerous poetry and prose works between the 1940s and 2000s, although only gaining greater prominence in her native Argentina towards the end of her life. In 2007 she won the Página/12 New Novel award for *Las primas* and many of her earlier works, such as *Nosotros, los Caserta (2011)*, *El marido de mi madrastra* (2012), *Los rieles* (2013) and *Eva. Alfa y Omega* (2014) have been republished in recent years.

Lucy Christmas is a freelance translator working from Spanish into English. She holds an MA in Translation Studies where she specialised in literary translation. Previous work includes screenplays for Mago Production, Apapacho Films and Godo Studios. She is especially interested in feminist literature and work written or translated by women. She currently lives in Barcelona, where she is learning Catalan. 

Share Button

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *