Translated from the Spanish by Alfred MacAdam

 

As part of a series on the twenty authors from The Best of Young Brazilian Novelists issue – which was first published in Portuguese by Objectiva – Javier Arancibia Contreras is introduced by previous Best of Young Spanish-Language Novelist, Andrés Barba.

 

Javier Arancibia Contreras introduces himself in this anthology of the Best of Young Brazilian Novelists with one of those texts you ‘slide’ towards, as if you’d been pushed down some slippery slope. First, there’s the darkness, a darkness like Strindberg’s Hell; then comes the intellectual speech of the Slavic translator and finally the dreamlike figuration of the junkie.

Arancibia manages to reconcile the irreconcilable: dense discourse emerges from a character who never stops being alone, not even for an instant, who converses with ghosts, like Dino Buzzati’s isolated characters. In a way, the narrator lives in the eye of a hurricane, in the heart of a world that collapses and can only be put together again within an onanistic profession, that of a translator of Slavic languages.

After all, the translator’s pleasure is a closed, solitary pleasure, as is his communication from then on with the rest of the world. In this story, the troubled translator’s only interlocutor is, of course, a rat with human vices and traits. The narrator’s mother (a mother who ‘didn’t even like flowers’) has died and he’s broken a leg: he’s physically and emotionally paralysed. He is aware of this and doesn’t hide from it. There is nothing much to do except wait and narrate from the disturbing darkness at the heart of that family house empty of family. This literature not suitable for the thin-skinned – a hit injected directly into the wound.

Adam Thirlwell on Michel Laub
Brazil: A User’s Guide