El viaje en trineo / José Antonio Ramos Sucre

Journey by Sled

     The copper and silver lay buried in a sterile zone, where vegetables reached a scant arborescence. The tiny birch tree and the lichen could not manage to liven the vista.

     A continental river remained paralyzed by the ice for more than half the year. A few unformed boats, of rudimentary art, were falling apart amidst the strict climate. The authors of their fabrication gathered the pieces by means of hemp ropes, without the aid of iron. Those ships traveled heavily balancing their three masts in the livid air.

     Apathetic men, dressed in reindeer skins, they were waiting at the mouth of the river. Some birds of sordid beaks were tearing apart in their presence the corpse of a polar whale.

     Those unkempt men were dying from filth and scurvy. They were not accustomed to using salt and they would eat fish without gutting them.

     I had arrived to that place while carrying out an order from the British government. I had to spy the activities of the Muscovite agents, who were insistent in our destruction. I had laboriously adopted the customs and languages of those uncultured nations and nobody would have distinguished me from among the Mongolians with saffron-colored faces.

     I immediately noticed the ineptitude of our enemies. They had not yet discovered the method for applying to the industry of armor the metals treasured in the ground.

     A few riders from the Caucus had penetrated the territory of an innocent tribe caught off-guard, subject to the uncertain authority of the emperor of China and careless in paying him the tribute of forty jackets made of white fox fur. He was said to be a devotee of the infernal spirits that take refuge in a mountain made of sand.

     I persuaded the tribe to resist the invaders by lavishing money and firewater. I gathered a crowd together armed with pikes and walking sticks and I led it towards an assault against a small redoubt of wood where the enemy was hiding. The czar neglected the inferred amends to his servers and he incorporated them to his guard of honor.

     I procured to increase my knowledge in the natural sciences when I convinced myself of the incapacity of our rivals in the dominion of Asia. I headed towards a place made famous by the discovery of Antediluvian animals. On that occasion I started a friendship with a Russian naturalist, born on the Baltic coast and educated at Riga.

     Along with his university preparation he displayed the credulity and superstition of a pope. He would become copiously drunk to celebrate Sunday and he’d roll on the ground letting out an exhausting hiccup. He would habitually ingest a black bread, sour, aromatized with anise and cumin and sprinkled with a caustic sauce.

     He realized, notwithstanding, the reason for my visit through that desert and he could frustrate my forced labor.

     He had awakened my jealousies by telling me about the discovery of a new breed of cedars from Siberia.

     I managed to poison him during the course of his drunkenness, giving him as a meal the meat of a mammoth fossil.

Las formas del fuego (1929)

{ José Antonio Ramos Sucre, Obra completa, Caracas: Biblioteca Ayacucho, 1989 }

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