-Dante: Goodbye, dear master.
-Virgil: How come! What about Purgatory? And Paradise?
-Dante: For what! He who knew Hell does not have any interest in Purgatory. And regarding Paradise, he already knows it is the absence of hell.
-Dante: Adiós, dulce maestro.
-Virgilio: ¡Cómo! ¿Y el Purgatorio? ¿Y el Paraíso?
-Dante: ¡Para qué! Quien conoció el Infierno ya no tiene ningún interés en el Purgatorio. Y respecto al Paraíso, sabe que es la ausencia de infierno.
~ Marco Denevi, “A la salida del Infierno” (“At the gates of Hell”)
Last weekend, I’ve been reading (shocking!), ferociously, completely oblivious to time and eventually to the sudden hot weather; sudden and alarming, since the sun looked rather ominous, making me think about those summer days that will soon come, whose intense heat annually deprives me of the possibility of functioning on a basic human level. In any case, after pushing those abominable climatic thoughts away, I continued to read short stories written by Argentine authors. (Naturally, I read at a faster pace in Spanish; I found a couple of terms I wasn’t familiar with, but they didn’t slow down the process.) I revisited the multitudinous universe of one unique Jorge Luis Borges, I fondly remembered my journey with Julio Cortázar, I listened to Silvina Ocampo‘s disturbingly cryptic accounts, I took a nap by dint of Esteban Echeverría‘s poetry and dreamed about the world of gauchos through Ricardo Güiraldes‘ eyes, I woke up and became acquainted with Leopoldo Lugones‘ fantastic narratives and with Roberto Arlt‘s exceptional creativity, I found another gem by Uruguayan writer Horacio Quiroga, I ended up massively confused by Haroldo Conti‘s simplicity, I grew accustomed to Marco Denevi‘s playful approaches to extremely formal affairs, I saw a plethora of thoughts passing through Liliana Heker‘s mind, I joined Manuel Mujica Láinez on his search for the true nature of people, and I had the opportunity to savor again the ambrosial prose of Adolfo Bioy Casares.
This particular short story called “In memory of Paulina” symbolizes the tension between love and jealousy, as magic rationally steps into the characters’ world.
Paulina me dijo: Me gusta el azul, me gustan las uvas, me gusta el hielo, me gustan las rosas, me gustan los caballos blancos. Yo comprendí que mi felicidad había empezado, porque en esas preferencias podía identificarme con Paulina…
Pensé también: En lo que me parezca a Paulina estoy a salvo. Veía (y aún hoy veo) la identificación con Paulina como la mejor posibilidad de mi ser, como el refugio en donde me libraría de mis defectos naturales, de la torpeza, de la negligencia, de la vanidad.
Paulina said to me: “I like blue, I like grapes, I like ice, I like roses, I like white horses.” And I knew that my happiness had begun because these preferences of Paulina’s were also mine…
I also thought: “I am safe as long as I resemble Paulina.” I saw (and see even now) identification with Paulina as the best possibility for my own being, as the refuge in which I would be freed of my natural defects, of my obtuseness, my negligence, my vanity.
I often get lost in the world of foreign literature, unintentionally neglecting the treasures I have in my own land.
* Photo credit: Book cover via Goodreads.