Relatos adhesivos / Enrique Vila-Matas

Adhesive Tales

It was a big storm and there were no taxis to be found and I ended up sharing one with a stranger –a young man with the air of a poet– whom I left at a bar and then continued on my way. He never stopped talking the entire drive. Without even introducing himself, he started telling me that everything in the world was going very badly and would get even worse in the following weeks, months and years. Everything’s terrible, he added. And then he didn’t stop asking my opinions. What did I think about this, about that, about the recent reconstruction of the original big bang in Geneva, about Spain’s cultural backwardness, about the aftergoogle movement, about the infinite lineage of the foolish and, finally, what I thought about a brilliant and fun book that’s just been published, Elogio del pesimismo. He toned down the intensity of his questions for a few seconds, but only so he could return with more force and tell me art had something to do with achieving stillness amid chaos.

“The stillness intrinsic to prayer and to the eye of the storm,” he concluded emphatically.

Then he remained utterly quiet. It was a poetic moment almost worthy of applause because it managed to make me concentrate and think within the very eye of that storm that was devastating Barcelona. But it’s also true I only knew real stillness when he finally got out of the taxi.

I had already recovered some calm when the taxi driver said to me suddenly: “That young man spoke very well, did you notice? Very well. And he knew how to ask questions.” It seemed to me like a scene that had already been lived, but I didn’t know when or where. “I like asking questions too” said the taxi driver. And he wanted to know if I didn’t think it rare to come across reasonable people and he asked about I don’t know how many other things and it started to become palpable that the stranger’s tone had stuck to him.

A new sense is being born, I thought, and who knows, maybe the first sense also emerged like this: someone, in the night of time, caught another person’s narrative tone and amid the chaos a sense was born, just as I’ve seen one born today in this taxi... Not long afterward, I remembered why that scene of contagion had seemed like something that had already been lived before. One day many years ago, Monterroso had told friends in Barcelona about a trip through Mexico City in a taxi one night with Juan Rulfo. As everyone knows, the shortest trajectory in that city can last more than an hour, and on that day, accompanying Rulfo to his house, the trip was becoming interminable for Monterroso while his friend, lit by the tequilas, was trying to tell him about the novel he was working on and by which he would break his silence of so many years following Pedro Páramo. As he told it, the novel became more and more strange and chaotic. After an hour and a half of driving and a tangled novel, Monterroso finally left Rulfo at his house. He got out of the car and walked him to his door and said goodbye and, when he got back into the taxi he thought he’d have some peace for a while.

“That man told a lot of stories...” he heard with some alarm the taxi driver say to him. And the tone used by the latter started to sound like Rulfo’s, as though he had caught the same old story of chaos and had been touched by the enchantment of an adhesive tale. “I also have a very sad life to recount, mister...” For the entire hour the trajectory would last and which took them across the entire city, that driver punished Monterroso with his personal tragedy of being a lost soul. “A very dry and disconsolate life, mister...” A life emerging from chaos itself and from which a tone and a sense were being born. Told in one of the many taxis where each day the scene of the original big bang is reconstructed.

{ Enrique Vila-Matas, El País, 6 April 2010 }

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