Ráfagas: Sobre Los impresentables, de Raymond Nedeljkovic / Carlos Ávila

Bursts: On Los impresentables, by Raymond Nedeljkovic

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

Twenty years later, a woman in a wheelchair remembers what she lived through during the disturbances of 1989 in Caracas: she sees a neighbor carrying two bags of ice —“Ice, what for?”—, she sees a woman with a refrigerator on her back and she watches her own husband trying to calm down a group that’s trying to loot a neighbor’s business. In the background of her story we can hear gunshots, desperate steps and the murmuring of a crowd of people crossing the avenue. The woman holds in her tears and evokes the bullet that wounded her and the one that killed her companion: both of them shot by the neighbor they were trying to protect. That’s the story told in “Disfraz de zombie,” a text that makes use of two central marks of this book: the very subtle insinuation regarding an era’s “mood” and a particularly careful treatment that’s given to the topic of violence.

There are eighteen very short stories: each one a burst that doesn’t reach two pages. And while several of them respond to a linear and perhaps more conventional form of the story, many of them are built out of fragments and leaps in time. The author also turns to resources such as italicized letters or the trio of asterisks in between paragraphs to highlight a change in tone or a transition; or to more technical dexterities like the flashback, the ellipsis and the deliriums that are unique to oneiric fiction. The language is diaphanous and simple and with the bare minimum it manages to register intimate experiences, though the prose doesn’t ever close itself off to poetic gleams. At the same time, there’s a reflexive handling of the narrative as a practice, that is, several of the voices possess a clear awareness of what they’re telling and how they’re doing it: some question themselves about the nature and form of the story and others about the impossibility of writing. In general, the stories follow the path of realist tradition, but each eventual denouement brings us back to the knot where they would seem to resolve themselves, as if the story’s “exit” were hidden between two or three lines that have been left behind. The effect is a degree of uncertainty: each clarification is barely suggested and found mid-way between the fantastic tale and a type of metaphysical determination. One of the narrators, for instance, tells her story from her own death and another one announces in the opening sentence that he himself is a ghost. The most significant aspect of these stories might just be that: the possibility always exists that the words will surprise us with a final explosion or they’ll force us to surprisingly reinterpret the tale on unexpected grounds.

First thing: the atmosphere in which the majority of these stories occur tends to be that of a newsroom; almost all the narrators and characters are tied to the world of journalism (correspondents, reporters, photographers). Second thing: the book can be read as a collection of snapshots, not just because of their brevity but also because each story seems to be trying to outline a static image. It’s as if the exercise of photography constituted a restlessness that the prose tries to liquidate: as though among the author’s purposes was the notion of telling the story of a photo. Third thing: most of the stories revolve around a certain trembling of solitude and the form that love takes in the middle of a crisis. Nearly all of them are told by meditative and solitary men; many of them find themselves facing an abyss, sustained by an identical paradox: a woman’s love as the cause of their ruin and at the same time their possible salvation. Fourth thing: among the plots and storyline of each text moves the frequent presence of the social theme that has gained so much importance in the current Venezuelan discussion. A clear demonstration of this is found in “Coleccionista de ventanas,” where beginning with a phrase enunciated by an important leader at the end of the nineteen nineties —an apparently imperceptible detail—, we’re able to configure a certain apathy that’s characteristic of the era faced with political dissertation and reasoning. Fifth thing: the urban theme is recurrent, along with a violence figured in a repeated rumor of gunshots. Despite the fact that the image of Caracas is displayed throughout various time periods —the late sixties, late eighties and “the present day”—, it becomes a matter of representations that share an identical violent assault in common. That’s it. The final effect is of an unmistakeable but curious sensation: of producing amid the book’s pages the precision of a single echo of bursts and detonations.

{ Carlos Ávila, Facebook, 7 February 2014 }

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