Ana Teresa Torres
In her 1992 novel Doña Inés contra el olvido, Ana Teresa Torres (Caracas, 1945) traces the story of a single lawsuit within a divided family. The bitter dispute between two branches of a Venezuelan family is narrated over three centuries by the ghost of Doña Inés. As the novel Jonestown by Wilson Harris (discussed recently by Jean Vengua and Leny Mendoza Strobel) philosophizes Guyana, Torres’s narrative can be read as an allegorical commentary on contemporary Venezuela. In recent months, Torres has published several essays in Tal Cual. These essays on the Venezuelan crisis have been lucid and insightful.
Gregory Rabassa’s translation of this novel (Doña Inés vs Oblivion) was published by Louisiana State University Press in 1999 (paperback: Grove Press, 2000). [Translation note: Rabassa’s use of “corn cakes” instead of “arepas” is awkward.]
“Waiting for the offices to open, he walked up and down the narrow sidewalks for a while; from time to time among the very tall buildings of the banks, brokerages, and financial institutions would appear an Arab’s hardware store, an Italian’s shoe-repair cubbyhole, a Spaniard’s bar with its smell of fried food; surges of people were coming out of the Capitolio subway station, dodging holes in the sidewalk, the stands of street vendors, and braking buses. José Tomás went into a lunchroom, managed to jostle his way to the counter, and shouted so the Portugese behind it could hear his order. The place was packed, and arms holding cups of coffee, glasses of juice, corn cakes, and the daily special reached over his head. Somebody bumped against him without noticing and spilled coffee on his pants. José Tomás cleaned himself off slowly and quietly, ate rapidly in order to get to the Congress. It wasn’t easy to get past the guard post; they’d asked a lot of questions, he’d shown them his party membership card and his credentials as councilman several times, and the same number of times he’d heard, Please wait; you can’t pass right now. People with briefcases were going in and out, along with newspapermen and television crews; automobiles were constantly stopping in front and disgorging important people and their bodyguards.”
“Besides, at this point promises have grown so muddled that there’s no way to put them in order, and I no longer know whether Columbus invented democracy or Rómulo Betancourt the earthly paradise or whether liberalism pledged agrarian reform or the Adecos independence. No matter what you were waiting for, you were very much mistaken in your patience. This is a matter more for ingenuity than for perseverance, and let me get back to the proof of that.”