La tarea del testigo / Carolina Lozada

La tarea del testigo

To write about familiar characters that are misunderstood in their time implies an arduous task of searching and reconstruction. An act that involves entering other times, other contexts, other bodies and glances. Rubi Guerra understands it thus and assumes it in this manner in La tarea del testigo (Caracas: Fundación Editorial El perro y la rana, 2007). A novel that narrates the journey towards Geneva, the illness, the transit through European sanatoriums and the final days of a suggested José Antonio Ramos Sucre, whom the author has the reserve of naming only with two initials: J.A. In his narrative, Guerra appeals to a wide repertoire of styles: what we read of the struggles of that voyage, made difficult by insomnia and ailments, is told in letters, in oneiric tales and in descriptions taken from film stories (especially from M, by Fritz Lang, and The Cabinet of Dr. Calgiari, by Robert Wiene).

Winner of the Concurso de Novela Corta Rufino Blanco Fombona (2006), Guerra
’s book conjugates the brevity of its 92 pages with the depth of German expressionism, whose worlds distorted by nightmare serve as a context for the story. The oneiric disequilibrium is very useful in the description of this sick and tormented man’s sojourn in foreign lands. In this manner, we can justify the almost supernatural nature of the adventures of the Consul J.A., sometimes alone, at others accompanied by a Czechoslovakian character, Konrad Reisz, one of the patients who share with J.A. his stay in the clinic at Merano. Together they encounter events with a filmic tone, such as acts if espionage and persecutions. The presence of Reisz allows us to glimpse a possible reinvention through another Czech: Kafka.

All these elements let us to appreciate how the author wagers for a technique in which the varied allusions to literature and film enrich the signifying of the text. For this reason, Rubi Guerra’s novel is at once fiction and metafiction. The skilled handling of these resources makes La tarea del testigo [The Task of the Witness] a complex, and at the same time subtle, work written with equal amounts of care, sobriety, precision and looseness. Its highest point is found at the end, when death definitively wins the battle against J.A. There the pages refer to the decisive encounter between narrator (the witness of the title) and narrated man, convalescing in a bed, within the darkness of his June days: “I’m surprised by how his body has shrunk: he disappears into the sheets in a gesture of infinite discretion. I search for something to say –a definitive word that will summon the sense of beauty, of life or anything else– and nothing occurs to me. You open your eyes once more and look at me with serenity, with strangeness, maybe with affection, as though on the other end of a very distant bridge.” (p. 86)

The conversation takes place like a confrontation created in a retrospective manner, from the narrator
’s present, when one already knows the destiny of J.A.’s work and what his role was in the political history of his country. That moment represents the vital confession of the bond that exists between the author and what he imagines. These final pages of La tarea del testigo manage to anchor the reader in the middle of that bridge between two times and two distances, between those two voices: the character who is agonizing and the future witness of a distant convalescence.

{ Carolina Lozada, ReLectura, December 2008 }

No comments: