The Stickpin

The Stickpin
(El alfiler)
by José María Barreto

It was ten at night. With the raised collars of the elegant capes that hid our broad and immaculate shoulders, and irreproachable tailcoats with large silk lapels, we waited impatiently in the newsroom for the typesetters to bring us the final proofs of the articles that were to go out the next day in the newspaper columns, so that we might leave immediately for the dance being given that night in the aristocratic salon of a notable public figure.

With us was Bonardi, a valiant soldier who from time to time contributed to the paper scientific studies on the organization of the military, and whom we loved dearly, for his wit was matched by few people, and his exceptional memory by none, and he always had something new and entertaining to relate to us.

That night, he had a tale to tell.

Continue reading

Lines

Lines
(Las rayas)
by Horacio Quiroga

“I will tell you the story,” he began, “because it is the best way to make my point.”

With his promise to tell us the story, we quickly drank down our coffee and settled ourselves comfortably in our chairs to listen for a while, our eyes fixed on Cordoba’s.

* * *

You all know that I have been in Laboulaye for some time. My partner travels through the colonies on behalf of the firm all year; while I, being quite useless at that, attend to the warehouse. As you might imagine, for at least eight months of the year my duties are nothing but paperwork, and two employees–one working with me on the books and the other at the counter—are more than enough for us. Given the scale of our business, neither the daily transaction records nor the accounts are onerous. We still maintain, however, a morbid vigilance over the books, as if this dismal thing could repeat itself. The books!… Anyway, it’s been four years since this adventure, and our two employees were the protagonists.

Continue reading

Dotty

Dotty
An English adaptation/loose translation of Las rayas
by Horacio Quiroga

“To sum it up, I believe that words are worth as much in themselves as the concepts to which they refer, and are even capable of creating those concepts through the simple mechanism of euphony. This requires special conditions; yet it is possible. But something that I’ve experienced made me reflect on the danger of two different things having the same name.”

You know, one doesn’t often hear such marvellous theories as that. Curiously, the one expounding it was no old and subtle philosopher, steeped in scholasticism, but a man hooked by commerce since his youth; he worked in Laboulaye, dealing in wheat. With his promise to tell us the story, we quickly drank down our coffee and settled ourselves comfortably in our chairs to listen for a while, our eyes fixed on Cordoba’s.

“I will tell you the story,” he began, “because it is the best way to make my point….”

Continue reading

Bellamore’s Triple Theft

Bellamore’s Triple Theft
(El triple robo de Bellamore)
by Horacio Quiroga

Some days ago the courts sentenced Juan Carlos Bellamore to five years in prison, for robbing several banks. I have some relationship with Bellamore: he is a thin and serious young man, carefully dressed in black. I believe him quite incapable of these deeds, of any deed whatsoever that requires keen nerves. He knew that he was an eternal bank employee; I heard him say so many times, and he even added sadly that his future was a dead end; there would never be anything else. I also know that if there is an employee who is punctual and discreet, it would certainly be Bellamore. Without being his friend, I held him in esteem, regretting his misfortune. Yesterday afternoon I discussed the case with a group of acquaintances.

“Yes,” one of them told me, “they have given him five years. I knew him a little; he was quite reserved. How did it not occur to me that it should be him? The accusation was prompt.”

“What?” I asked, surprised.

“The accusation; he was denounced.”

“Lately,” someone else added, “he had lost a great deal of weight.” And he concluded gravely: “Me, I no longer trust anyone.”

I quickly changed the subject. I asked if the accuser was known.

“It was made known yesterday. It’s Zaninski”

I very much wanted to hear the story from Zaninski’s lips. First, the peculiarity of the denunciation, with absolutely no personal interest; second, the means that he used for the discovery. How had he known it was Bellamore?

Continue reading

The Other’s Crime

The Other’s Crime
(El crimen del otro)
by Horacio Quiroga

The adventures that I am going to relate date from five years ago. Back then, I was just leaving my adolescence. Though not what they call high-strung, I had the highest degree of talent for gesticulation, at times carrying myself to extremes so absurd that I came to inspire real shock while I spoke. This imbalance between my ideas—the most natural possible—and my gestures—the wildest possible—amused my friends, but only those who were in on the secret of this unequalled eccentricity. My tics only went so far, and even then, not always. My friend Fortunato came later onto the scene: he who is the subject of all I am about to tell.

Poe was at that time the only author that I read. That damned madman had come to dominate me completely; there was not a single book on my table that wasn’t one of his. My head was full of Poe, as if it had been emptied into the mold of “Ligeia”. “Ligeia!” How I adored that tale! Adored all of them, and intensely: Valdemar, who died seven months afterwards; Dupin, in search of the purloined letter; the L’Espanaye women, desperate on the fourth floor; Berenice, dead and betrayed; all, all were familiar to me. But above all, “The Cask of Amontillado” had seduced me like my own intimate affair: Montresor, “The Carnival”, “Fortunato”, were for me so familiar that I read this tale without naming the characters; and at the same time I envied Poe so much that I would have cut off his right hand with pleasure for writing that marvellous intrigue. Sitting at home, in the corner, I spent over four hours reading this story with a delight of which certainly a large part was an aversion to Fortunato. He dominated the entire tale, all of it, everything. Not a smile, not any impatience of Fortunato escaped my scrutiny. What did I not know about Fortunato and his deplorable disposition?

Continue reading

For a Sleepless Night

For a Sleepness Night
(Para noche de insomnio)
by Horacio Quiroga

No man, I repeat, has told, with greater magic the exceptions of human life and nature, the ardours of the curiosities of convalescence, the close of seasons charged with enervating splendours, sultry weather, humid and misty, where the south wind softens and distends the nerves, like the chords of an instrument; where the eyes are filled with tears that come not from the heart; hallucination at first giving place to doubt, soon convinced and full of reasons as a book; absurdity installing itself in the intellect, and governing it with a crushing logic; hysteria usurping the place of will, a contradiction established between the nerves and the mind, and men out of all accord expressing grief by laughter.

— Baudelaire (Edgar Allan Poe: His Life and Works)

We were all surprised by the fatal news; and we were left terrified when a servant brought us–flying– details of his death. Although for quite some time we had noticed signs of instability in our friend, we didn’t think that it could ever come to this extreme. He had carried out the most dreadful suicide without leaving a memento for his friends. And, when we had him in our midst, we turned our faces away, prisoners of a horrified compassion.

Continue reading

Juan Darién

Juan Darién
by Horacio Quiroga

Here is the story of a jaguar who was raised and educated among humans, named Juan Darién. He attended four years of school dressed in trousers and shirt, reciting his lessons correctly, though he was a jaguar from the jungle; but this is because his figure was that of a man, as narrated in the following lines.

Once, at the beginning of autumn, smallpox visited a village from a distant country and killed many people. Brothers lost their little sisters, and children just beginning to walk were left without father or mother. Mothers in turn lost their children, and one poor young widowed mother took herself to bury her baby son, the only thing she had in this world. When she returned home, she sat thinking about her little child. And she murmured:

“God should have more compassion for me, and he has taken my son. In heaven there may be angels, but my son doesn’t know them. It’s me that he recognizes, my poor son!”

And she gazed out in the distance, as she was sitting at the back of her house, facing a small gate through which the jungle was visible.

Continue reading