Media Frenzy

A number of Ragpicker collaborators have been hitting the headlines recently; Football Crónicas translator Jon Blitzer reports on the plight of Salvadoran deportees for the New Yorker:

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/01/23/the-deportees-taking-our-calls

And Football Crónicas writer Juan Pablo Meneses discussed the art of crónica writing with the LA Review of Books:

https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/cant-escape-road-interview-juan-pablo-meneses/

Read more...

When the Devil Calls Him on Stage

A belated Christmas present from Ragpicker, a crónica from Héctor Torres. Read more from Torres and 29 other Venezuelan writers in Crude Words, available now.

When the Devil Calls Him on Stage

by Héctor Torres

Translated by Tim Girven

 

(For Gustavo, who presented me with this anecdote)

Tyrants have always been ambitious and narcissistic. Those of the past built huge workers’ housing complexes fifty-blocks strong, each with over a hundred apartments, just to cite one well-known case. During the first years, or so they say, the neighbours could go down to the Workers’ Bank office and request plumbing services, for instance, which were free.

Don’t believe that paternalism was invented by Acción Democrática¹.

Amelia not only came late to these stories, she has also seen them grow ever more distant with each day she has lived in Block 40 of the labyrinth known as the 23de Enero.  Having either seen them or heard them, everyone knows these tales by heart. She was there when they began to stop the lifts at 10pm as a measure against the wave of rapes unleashed upon the residents. She has witnessed the various wars waged for control of the block. She knows that this city of almost fifty tenements (not counting the small ones) and who-knows-how-many neighbourhoods is an independent republic into which the police don’t venture. She’s been woken in the small hours by the cries of big men sobbing and pleading for their lives. And she’s heard the detonations that made a mockery of these supplications. She’s seen how the different ‘collectives’ that support the government have become better armed, and she knows that the great final battle between them is already on the horizon.

She has seen the consequences of this bullet-ridden carnival. She has also seen a man called Alberto whistle his way into her life and then leave the same way some years later. They say he now lives with some other woman, nearby, and although she says it doesn’t bother her, when Albertico, who’s now twenty, walks down the corridor, whistling, she can’t help but feel herself tense up.

Amelia isn’t worried by the assailants of the block or by the spectre of Alberto; nor by the police. She couldn’t care less if the same old layabouts now call it a ‘socialist community’. Like thousands of her neighbours, she only knows that her day starts at five in the morning, that she earns her crust at a company on Boleíta, and that when the metro throws her out—literally—there in Agua Salud at six in the afternoon, she still needs to have the energy to take the bus that will bring her to the block. She knows too that Albertico is a calm youth, that he has a job and a girlfriend, and that with a tremendous effort she has moved things forward. ‘Where to?’ She doesn’t even ask she’s so damn tired when she puts her head on the pillow at night.

Bemba also grew up in the block. She knows him from when he was Joseíto, some ten years younger than her. She saw him attend school until somewhere around the end of primary and then she watched him throw it all away, step by step. He’d always been big for his age. And as tyrants are always ambitious and narcissistic, he’d carved out his legend at the cost of tens of bodies. It’s been said already: el 23 is an independent republic. And now it’s a socialist one. The police arrive (in the mornings, obviously) to pick up the bodies, ask questions so as to maintain appearances and then leave in a hurry—until the next corpse.

The devil, in all his wisdom, when he ushers men to the fortress of Power, always leaves the door that leads to their downfall open. It’s such a small building that it can only house one resident at a time. Accordingly, sooner or later, they all open the door, dead certain that what confronts them isn’t the abyss (if they could see the large queue of aspirants behind them they would be wise rather than powerful).

If unused, the survival instinct atrophies. But the powerful become so arrogant that they get to the outrageous point of disdaining it. And like all those who really wield power, Bemba had long put it to the back of his mind. He trusted blindly in his companions, Beretta and Luger. They never failed him.

The legend says that when he lit up those enormous roll-ups that he smoked, the precise composition of which remained forever unknown, no one should look him in the eye. Those who ignored this piece of advice paid for their insolence with a chalk outline of their body on the pavement. Which is to say, any prudent man who found himself accompanying Bemba’s rites, the pair of pistols in the waistband of his trousers, prudently turned off his testosterone.

It doesn’t cost much to lower one’s eyes a few metres in the presence of death.

The following morning, they would all console one another when they met at the bus stop. “‘Did you see it - that huge reefer?’ ‘The whites of his eyes were yellow’. “‘They say the dirty bastard gives it to his mother’.” “‘They’re two big pistols…’ ‘When the fuck is someone going to have the balls going to put a bullet right between the bastard’s eyes?’

And to this prayer his own mother added her voice, albeit in her own manner: ‘Lord, when are you going to take him from us?’ she prayed, piously.

Only the devil could be as perverse as to whisper in the ears of the powerful, repeating each time: ‘What good is power if you don’t exercise it?’ (Which is his way of saying: see that door? Open it.) Anyway, it wasn’t too long before the day came when ‘the girl’ walked past. She was a young thing of sixteen or so, and was as pretty, fresh and appetising as only a sixteen-year-old girl can be. As with all genuine matters of destiny, it couldn’t even be said that it was something personal. This graceful form in motion was the latch that Bemba opened up. Don’t worry; worse things happen every day in the alleyways and lifts of these blocks. He simply didn’t repress the impulse to fondle those delectable teenage buttocks.

The legend says that the girl arrived home crying, and that without adding or dropping so much as a comma, she told her boyfriend Albertico what had just happened. While a frozen current ran through his body, Albertico went home with a taciturn expression and meditated silently and at length before an imaginary fork in the road.

They say it was around twelve when they heard shots—one, two, three shots from a revolver, and then the broadside of an automatic weapon, accompanied by a shout so heart-rending that it frightened the neighbours more than the gunfire. The legend tells that Albertico walked calmly up to Bemba, ignoring his famously fierce look and took out a .38 that someone –upon hearing the nature of the enterprise he had taken on– had generously lent him. They say that only with the first shot, which entered through his shoulder, did Bemba realise what was happening, and that he died with a stupid look of perplexity, seeing the kid advancing towards him as he fired. That Albertico, still trembling, took the pair of pistols from him and felt something so portentous in his body that if he hadn’t shouted at the top of his lungs, expelling everything, he would have died of fear in that very moment.

The happiness of the block’s residents was short-lived. They say that the devil never rests. Now he whispers in the ear of El Albertico, who left that little girlfriend behind some time ago: ‘What good is power if you don’t exercise it?’

Some kid, one of those whose mother picks him up early, will in turn obediently take up his role when the devil calls him on stage.

¹Accíon Demócratica - Founded in 1941, 'AD' - also known as Partido Blanco or Partido del Pueblo - is broadly considered a social democratic party; between 1958 and 1998 it alternated in power with COPEI, the Social Christian party or Partido Verde.

Read more...

Slavko Zupcic

Slavko Zupcic (Venezuela, 1970), psychiatrist, occupational health doctor and writer. He is the author of the novels Barbie, Círculo croata, and Pésame mucho, all of which are included in the book Tres novelas (2006); he is also the author of the short story collections Dragi Sol (1989); Vinko Spolovtiva, ¿quién te mató? (1990); 583104: pizzas pizzas pizzas (1995), and Médicos taxistas, escritores (2011, 2014). He has published the book of literary crónicas Máquinas que cantan (2005) and the children’s book Giuliana Labolita: el caso de Tepe Toledo. In 2007 he was included in the group Bogotá 39, selected by Hay Festival. His short stories have appeared in a number of anthologies in Venezuela and Latin America, and have been translated to English, German, Hungarian, French and Portuguese language. In 2015 he and Alejandra Costamagna published Bogotana(mente) with the publishing house Brutas Editoras. He presently resides in Valencia (Spain) and practices medicine in Castellón.

Literary Solutions to the Death of My Mother-in-Law’ (‘Soluciones literarias a la muerte de mi suegra’) is part of a new collection of short stories.

Read more...

Federico Vegas

Federico Vegas (Caracas,1950) completed his degree in architecture from the Central University of Venezuela (UCV) in 1976. He has taught architectural design in the UCV, design at Princeton University (1983) and was a visiting scholar at Harvard University (1995). He has published the following books on architecture: El continente de papel (1984); Pueblos. Venezuela 1979-1984 (1986); Venezuelan Vernacular (1985);and La Vega, una casa colonial (1988). In the 1990s he began publishing collections of short stories: El borrador (1996); Amores y castigos (1998); Los traumatólogos de Kosovo (2002); La carpa y otros cuentos (2009); Los peores de la clase (2011); La nostalgia esférica (2014). He has also published six novels: Prima lejana (1999); Falke (2005); Historia de una segunda vez (2006); Miedo, pudor y deleite (2008); Sumario (2010); Los Incurables (2012); El buen esposo (2013). His newspaper pieces and essays are collected in the books La ciudad sin lengua (2001); La ciudad y el deseo (2007); and Ciudad vagabunda (2014).

The Tent’ was originally published as ‘La carpa’ in the collection of short stories La Carpa y otros cuentos (Caracas: Alfaguara, 2009). 

Read more...

Gustavo Valle

Gustavo Valle (Caracas, 1967) is the author of the books Materia de otro mundo (2003); La paradoja de Itaca (2005); Ciudad imaginaria (2006); Bajo tierra (2009); El país del escritor (2013); and Happening (2014), which earned him the III Novel Biennial Adriano González León and Venezuela’s Critics’ Prize, as well as the XIII edition of the Cross-Genre Prize of the Friends of Urban Culture Society. He has written two feature film scripts, El libro que no ganó el concuro and Peones, both of which have merited him awards by the National Centre of Cinematography (CNAC). He is a regular contributor to a number of print and digital media in Argentina, Venezuela and Spain.

Corny or Porny first appeared as Lo cursi y lo porno in the magazine Letras Libres in January 2004 and was later included in the La paradoja de Ítaca (Caracas: Ministerio de Cultura, 2005).

Read more...

Héctor Torres

Héctor Torres (Caracas, 1968)is a narrator and literary promoter. He is the author of the short-story books El amor en tres platos (2007) and El regalo de Pandora (2011), as well as of the novel La huella del bisonte (2008), which featured among the finalists of the 2006 Adriano González León Biennial, and of the crónica collections Caracas muerde (2012) and Objetos no declarados (2014). Formerly the editor of the website www.ficcionbreve.org he was also the creator of the Critics’ Award to Best Novel of the Year, awarded by said portal. His texts have been included in a number of anthologies, and he has been a contributor to various print and online publications. He has taken part in workshops with the writers Santiago Gamboa, Leila Guerriero and Alberto Salcedo Ramos. Presently he is a regular contributor in the magazine Clímax and the portal El Cambur. He delivers literary workshops and since 2006 is the coordinator of the Short Story Prize for Young Authors of the Policlínica Metropolitana.

What do They Call Those Born in Chivacoa’ first appeared as ‘Como se les llama los que nacen en Chivacoa’ in Caracas muerde (Caracas: Punto Cero, 2012).

Read more...

Francisco Suniaga

Francisco Suniaga (Margarita Island, Venezuela, 1954) is a lawyer specialised in international law. For years he worked as an academic and wrote columns in Venezuela’s most respected newspapers. Between 2004 and 2009 he was the director of Exxito magazine, which focused on politics and economy. He has published the novels La otra isla (2005), which has been translated to German and French; El pasajero de Truman (2008); and Esta gente (2012). In 2010 Random House Mondadori also published the collection of autobiographical fiction Margarita infanta, a mural derived from his childhood in the Caribbean island of Margarita. Presently he is fully engaged in fiction writing and is planning to publish his next novel in 2016. He splits his time between MargaritaIsland and Caracas.

The Other Island’ is an extract from chapter XXII of the novel La otra isla (Caracas: Oscar Todtmann Editores, 2005).

Read more...

Jesús Miguel Soto

Jesús Miguel Soto (Caracas, 1981) read media and communication as well as letters (Letras) at the Central University of Venezuela. He has experience working as a lecturer, copy editor and editor. He has published the collection of short stories Perdidos en Frog and the novel La máscara de cuero. He has been the recipient of a number of awards, including the 64th edition of the yearly short story competition by El Nacional, the VII National Short Story Award organised by the Association of Venezuelan Authors and Composers (SACVEN) and the XXIII edition of the Literary Competition Juana Santacruz (Mexico). His stories have appeared in anthologies, such as Joven narrativa venezolana II and De qué va el cuento. Antología del relato venezolano 2000-2012.

Jesús has just been named one of the Bogotá39 for 2017: the 39 best Latin American writers under 39.

One of Many Potential Short Cuts’ was originally published as ‘Uno de muchos posibles atajos’ in the collection of short stories Perdidos en Frog (Caracas: Lugar Común, 2012).

Read more...

Carlos Sandoval

Carlos Sandoval (Caracas, 1964), literary critic, writer, editor. He is research fellow at the Institute of Literary Research of the Central University of Venezuela (UCV) and lecturer at the UCV and the Catholic University Andrés Bello. His latest publications include De qué va el cuento. Antología de relatos venezolanos 2000-2012 (2013); Servicio crítico. Despachos tentativos sobre literatura venezolana (2013); Propuesta para un canon del cuento venezolano del siglo XX (2014; as coordinator, together with Carlos Pacheco and Luis Barrera Linares); El rastro de Lovecraft. Cuentos misteriosos y fantásticos (2015). He has been recognised with the Municipal Prize for Literary Research (2001), the I Crónicas Competition by the magazine Clímax (2006) and the Short Novel Prize of the I Literary Biennial ‘Julián Padrón’ (2010).

Any Old S’ was first published as ‘S cualquiera’ by the Venezuelan portal Prodavinci.com.

Read more...
Subscribe to this RSS feed

Sign up fornewsletter

Contact us

If you want more information fill in this form. You will be contacted as soon as possible.
Please fill in all required fields.
By submitting this form, you accept our privacy policy.
captcha
Reload