Primer plato, segundo plato y postre / Luisa Pescoso P.

First Course, Second Course and Dessert

Héctor Torres (1968) is a Venezuelan writer whose short stories have appeared in the newspapers El Clarín of La Victoria, La Antena of San Juan de Los Morros and in the literary magazine Letralia. He has published Trazos de asombro y olvido (1996), Episodios suprimidos del manuscrito G (1998), Del espejo ciego and El pintor de bisontes (still in the process of publication). His most recent creation, El amor en tres platos (2007) combines humor, the everyday and the absurd.

“And in her heart, depression, the sensation of emptiness, the feeling of solitude, a fear of night and the water’s roaring, all of those, had been annihilated by that new torrent arriving from the future, dragging her softly and with her complicity.” (110)

An opulent use of language and metalanguage, a diversity of everyday themes, humor and enchantment are some of the adjectives that arise from reading each of the narratives that comprise El amor en tres platos [Love in Three Courses] by Héctor Torres. A book rich in quotidian situations, impregnated by the urban in which Torres presents recurring themes from the day’s journey.

Each story seems to be a projection of the absurd, of those events we sometimes venture to consider real, typically extravagant and absurd but that, undoubtedly, happen all the time and become part of our astonishment. An astonishment that circulates in the life of Héctor Torres who claims that: “Nowadays, my astonishments are produced by the most invisible aspects of everyday life, searching with as completely a new glance as possible over things that are there but which we sometimes ignore, like desire, the passing of time, the madness of a loved one and the anguishes that exhaust and alienate most people, in their day to day.” This statement, made during an interview with the newspaper El Mundo, contributes to understanding this book’s structure, the way in which Torres conceived and elaborated his narratives, and above all the manner in which the 14 stories combine in perfect coherence with each other to become El amor en tres platos.

One of the most pleasing elements about reading this book is that it induces you to that state of being “surprised,” not just after the stories unfold, but also during their opening and throughout the journey. He denies you the chance to predict the ending and quickens a mix between admiration and astonishment of being able to estrange you with each of the things he narrates. Moreover, he leaves you with that grimace on your face when something truly impresses you, something you don’t expect, something you didn’t guess.

The book establishes a very close relationship with the reader because of the reiterated direct address to him in several stories. “Yo tampoco escogería mayo para comenzar” [I Wouldn’t Choose May to Begin Either] is a good example. It builds a triple relationship between author-character-reader that sometimes seems conscious; let us say that a game is established between an omniscient, a testimonial and a protagonist narrator. The obsession between author and character, dialogue, searches, introspections are made explicit until we reach the ideal character. Dreaming is also one of the author’s recurrences, awakening from a dream, dreaming, the exercise of dream and life through the unchangeable exercise of sleep. This element is persistent and repeated throughout the narratives.

The title that gives the book its name is used in the final story which is an allegory of love during three stages in life: youth, adulthood and old age, perhaps the last one is less explicit, but it is enunciated. El amor en tres platos, then, is the same as saying youth, adulthood and old age, the semblance of first course, second course and dessert. It is the story of the wound that never healed, the sleeplessness of Mrs. Bastidas, a dog’s misadventures, of how Mr. Garminoff became a character in his own script, Sinclair’s confusion at the train station, the story of a bird with a long beak and of La Negra, a few of the characters who come to life in this text. Salsa music, the ghetto, the street, the train station, the house of Mrs. Bastidas and of Ubiedo are some of the locations. This is how this text – which belongs to the publishing imprint of Editorial Equinoccio, as part of its Papiros Collection, fiction series – unfolds, as a pleasant and well cared for edition that gathers the tone of this voice, of Hector Torrés’s, that assumes an optimistic stance regarding Venezuelan literature as we await the future of our letters.

{ Luisa Pescoso P., Papel Literario, El Nacional, 26 January 2008 }

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