Relatos de abismos / Rubén Machaen

Abyss Stories

Raymond Nedeljkovic, Los impresentables (Caracas: Monte Ávila Editores Latinoamericana, 2011)

Caracas is the backdrop to all the neuroses, deliriums, obsessions and disagreements of a fiction writer who wanders through the nihilist reaches of his consciousness and amidst the multiple human miseries of the inhabitants of a convulsed city. From the first story, “El centro de una pelota de béisbol,” the character’s skills —literary and literal— emerge when he is sure of success right at the moment of struggling against “each one of his manias,” with the exception of the “undesired thoughts” that are the aspects he hates most about his illness. “The Chinita, the Virgin of Chiquinquirá, was bare, that is, naked, on the kitchen table (...) I started to imagine, Jesus Christ, I don’t know why!, that I was penetrating the ground over Roberto Bolaño’s tomb with my penis.”

While the narrators of his short stories are not the same character, they do have the same voice. The story “Coleccionista de ventanas” has for an epigraph a phrase from Ricardo Piglia’s novel Nombre falso, that reads: “As though the stories had been there, on the other side of the glass.” And under that premise, the character narrates how, before posting an impersonal goodbye on Facebook, he joins the group of a man named Durantes Fuentes, who claims to be a collector of windows, a task that consists of nothing more than photographing key moments of his life through window frames. The narrator desists from his original intention and proceeds to reflect, through the click of a camera, transcendental moments in his life: the first one, taken from the bathroom of the Presidential Press Office, from where he has been fired; the second one, a dog that has been run over, where the driver ends up killing the animal with two shots, and the third one, “incomplete, although in a certain way it isn’t,” that leads him to the beginning of the story, in this way making an allusion to that last phrase of Bolaño’s in The Savage Detectives: “What’s outside the window?”

All the nervous exhaustion and boredom of these characters merges with the capital city. A metropolis girded by violence and apathy from which its characters are not exempt. “Final de duelo,” the ninth story, begins with “the burst of a machine gun” in the middle of Panteón Avenue that awakens an apparently happy married couple —or are they resigned?— and the screams of a mother crying over her daughter’s death. A news report that denounces robberies against women at the corner of El Chorro; the fear and desperation of the married woman, the husband Sebastian’s insomniac worrying, and his wife’s final answer —resigned?— the next morning at the corner of the robberies when faced with the man’s unease: Should I drink a juice before going up to the office, Seba, what’s it seem like I should do?

The last story, titled “Otra muerte,” narrates the dissipation of Tamara Silvestri, a public sector employee in the Ministry of Labor, for whom one fine day the world collapsed when her husband, also an employee of the Ministry, leaves her for a much younger woman and her employees begin to ignore her orders. Disaffection, fleeting power and bureaucracy make it so that “each tile of the floor that sustained Tamara Silvestri is replaced by a piece of the abyss.”

This is the composition of Nedeljkovic’s short stories: abysses. Such quotidian lives of such simple characters that, wanting to or not, find themselves at the edge of many precipices despite the fact that, in the words of the author, “there always exists a final second in which you can begin a serene escape without any surprises.” Although this route doesn’t turn out to be feasible in Los impresentables.

{ Rubén Machaen, Papel Literario, El Nacional, 10 February 2013 }

No comments: