Fragmento de Una tarde con campanas traducido al inglés por Guillermo Parra / Venepoetics

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Traducción realizada por Guillermo Parra para Venepoetics, febrero 2007.

An Afternoon with Bells (excerpt)

There we were, all three of us: Augusto, Pilar and me.

We sat on the stairs and I knew that at any moment they’d go rest and I would have to guard the hallway entrance. But Pilar asked my brother why we’d left our country. Augusto let out a very big sigh. I held in my laugh. He thinks he looks like an adult when he sighs.

“Because of a Thursday,” my brother said. “Because I woke up one Thursday,” Augusto said, “I woke up to go pee and there was a soldier in the toilet; I went to the kitchen and there was a soldier in the oven; I got into the elevator and I found a soldier; I went out into the street and there was a soldier at every bus stop; I got on a bus and there was a soldier among the seats; and I walked all day and since I couldn’t find a job I went to the movies later and a soldier appeared on the screen and on the seats and selling popcorn and ushering people inside; and when I got home tired that night a soldier was talking on the television; and when I lay down, a soldier had hidden among the blankets.”

My brother said all this. Because he always tells lies.

The girl looked at him with a strange look. Maybe she realized Augusto was exaggerating allot. I knew it. I don’t remember any soldiers in my house. I only remember flies. Of course, I hate flies so much. But there were allot of soldiers in the city, that’s true, but not in all the places my brother said. Besides, at first, my dad and Augusto would take me to the parades. And I would salute, cheer. We all saluted and cheered. Until after a while, my brother started to say he was bored with so much flag waving, with so much crap. But I didn’t understand, and my mother made me promise to never repeat any of that, much less what Augusto started to say, that these ones were just as corrupt as the ones before, that these ones were even more annoying. So no one at home ever took me to parades any more. I went anyways, because now at school they would load us on a bus and take attendance to see if anyone was absent, and on Fridays at my school they would make us salute the flag, they made us march, and the older students were being taught how to handle guns.

That’s why the girl looked at my brother so strangely that afternoon. A strange afternoon. He didn’t go with her to rest. He stayed very still, with his head on the girl’s knees. And we all remained very quiet, very still, and all that considering I would have preferred to watch Pilar show the whites of her eyes.

It seemed to me that Augusto had ended up feeling sad.

And now I never ask him why we had to come here.

Translator’s note: This is translated from the novel Una tarde con campanas by the Venezuelan writer Juan Carlos Méndez Guédez (Barquisimeto, 1967). The book is narrated by a boy whose family migrates to Madrid after a military government comes to power in Venezuela. Una tarde con campanas was a finalist for the Premio de Novela Fernando Quiñones in Spain, where Méndez Guédez now lives.

{ Juan Carlos Méndez Guédez, Una tarde con campanas, Madrid: Alianza Editorial, 2004 }

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