Un hielo en mi boca

un hielo en mi boca coverAl compás de la música, sentía proyectarse como una pelicula aburrida y lenta las cosas que he visto y vivido, la sensación del hastio, el morbo por estar, la indiferencia al terror, la rutina, el doble sentido del todo, la miseria de las noches, la represión de los días, la muerte como algo natural. Esos golpes secos de batería que no me tocan el alma.

To the rhythm of the music, I felt the things I’ve seen and lived project themselves like a slow and boring film, the feeling of weariness, the desire to be, the indifference towards terror, the routine, the double meaning of everything, the misery of nights, the repression of days, death as something natural. Those dull drumbeats that do not touch my soul.

Very shortly, I will be bringing you a translation of Tibisay Rodriguez Torres’ short story ‘Blood’, winner of this year’s Premio de Cuento Policlínica. In the meantime, I am very excited that Tibisay has kindly allowed me to share a free PDF version of her first collection of short stories with you, Un hielo en mi boca (first published by El perro y la rana in 2006; republished by the Universidad Bolivariana de Venezuela in 2013).

Click here for your free PDF of Un hielo en mi boca.

The narratives weaved in Un hielo en mi boca, switching between the viewpoints of often unnamed protagonists caught in an undefined present, are as mind-altering as the sex, drugs, rave music and other substances which fill its pages. In some ways small, confessional tales, each has a wealth of meaning and emotion lurking beneath the surface. Tibisay Rodriguez Torres significantly juxtaposes the awkwardness of everyday social situations with moments of genuine horror. When connections are formed between people they are fleeting and fragile. In this short but powerful first collection of stories, Rodriguez Torres develops an increasingly poignant picture of the loneliness, self-doubt and disconnection that plagues the postmodern subject.


Winners Announced for 8th Premio de Cuento de la Policlínica Metropolitana

policlinicaCongratulations to Tibisay Rodríguez, who won first place in the VIII Premio de Cuentos Policlinica Metropolitana para Jovenes Autores. Judges Ángel Gustavo Infante, José Pulido and Violeta Rojo chose her short story Blood out of 125 entries. Rodríguez was praised for skilfully putting together a very current story in which youth language blends with literary discourse and leads the audience to an ending which allows them to piece together the scenes and reinterpret their conclusions.

Second place was awarded to Rodolfo A. Rico for Para siempre, while Juan Manuel Romero‘s Palmadas en el hombro took third place. The following all received honourable mentions:

Día de gracia by Pedro Varguillas; Flor by Isabella Saturno; La mesa by Víctor Mosqueda Allegri; La muerte elocuente by Yorman Alirio Vera; La vida sexual y triste by Diego Alejandro Martínez; Una escena al estilo de Steven Seagal by Roberto Enrique Araque and Ya no seré otra habitante by Rosanna Álvarez Barroeta.

The judges also highlighted the wide participation by authors from regions across the country and those living abroad.The three winners will receive a cash prize of Bs. 12,000 (about £1100), Bs. 6,000 and Bs.3,000 respectively.

You can read the full verdict in the original Spanish at Ficción Breve.

Los Jardines de Salomón

jardines de salomon

Ser admirador es adorar, crear fetiches de cada objeto, leer con la meticulosidad del amante que relee una carta de su pareja.

To be a fan is to worship, to turn each object into a fetish, to read as meticulously as a lover rereading a letter from a partner.

Obsession is the theme running through Liliana Lara’s first collection of short stories, Los Jardines de Salomón (Universidad de Oriente, 2008). From Ernest Hemingway and the French language to spanking or Nina Hagen performing almost naked on Miss Venezuela, the obsessions of children, teenagers, teachers and bored business men are brought to life through Liliana’s intimate and confessional writing style, creating an intense and utterly engrossing collection. 

For foreign readers, Los Jardines de Salomón is also a wonderful geography lesson, portraying parts of Venezuela rarely seen in contemporary literature, like Cumaná, Catia and Maturín. These lesser-known cities chime with the every day dramas depicted in the stories, providing a refreshing change to the tales of Caracas violence that so often reach international readers.


Premio Bienal Literaria José Antonio Ramos Sucre, 2008. The judges said:

‘Las interesantes anécdotas, los bien delimitados personajes y las excelentes ambientaciones están acompañadas de unos recursos estilísticos impecables’.

‘The interesting anecdotes, well-defined characters and excellent settings are accompanied by some impeccable stylistic devices’.

Watch Liliana’s reaction to winning the prize below.


‘Liliana Lara: Una escritora marginal en el mundo’ – discussing Los Jardines de Salomón with Jacqueline Goldberg.

International versions

Sudaquía recently acquired the rights to Los Jardines de Salomón and will be publishing the book in the United States in 2014.


Nina Hagen’s Dog (El Perro de Nina Hagen)

Trini by Omar Requena Medina

Born in Caracas in 1972, as a teenager Omar Requena Medina moved to Ocumare del Tuy, Estado Miranda, whose river and red-light district form the setting for this short story. Now resident in Chile, his first novel Los Días Iguales, was published by the Sistema Nacional de Imprentas del Estado Miranda in 2010. You can read an interview with Requena Medina here.



For Elena Méndez

Because every angel is terrible[1]. Not her. Half naked in the semi-darkness of the scruffy little room. The smell of recently blown-out candles coming from the small altar, covered with miniatures as fragile as her. Her allergic cough. Her curses at not being able to find the box of cigarettes. Fucking hell. The drowsiness that always overcame me when I stayed there. Lethargy, neglect. One thing was for sure, it was anxiety that brought me back to that corner of Aragüita.  A warped sense of refuge. With a little luck there would be a fight or a brief shoot-out courtesy of the local dealers. And to think that just a few kilometres away another world bustled, indifferent and complicit at the same time. If not, that’s what Carlitos said, and skinny Ribas, even Silvia. They were in love with the area and with Trini. She smoked elegantly, spiritedly, they would claim. She was sublime at the climax of that street play. That strange nature etc. “Trini, you made the guys in my group fall in love with you”, I reproached her. She laughed. Two amber points lit up in her eyes, which always seemed to look past me. At midday, her younger sister would arrive with chicken soup and arepas. She would also bring us the news of the latest settling of scores: who was dead, who were the killers; how many shots had been fired and where the bodies were found. Then, without either of them noticing, I would drink a shot of rum, neat, in honour of so much wasted, squandered life.

Every month she would prepare a spell for me with special herbs. We would go up to the river quite early. At the Cola de Caballo waterfall, I would tell her that I was Niño Mauricio, genius guardian of the harp’s true nature.  She would order me not to mess around with that stuff. Later, submerged in the cool water of the well, I would lick her breasts while she asked me for the nth time whether I would be able to take her out of the country with me. “If you leave Venezuela with me, you’ll have to forget about drug dealing and petty crime, my dear”, I replied jokingly. “I can read fortunes. I can see what’s hidden with my tobacco leaves. They’ll pay me for that. All over the world there are people who live in fear about their destiny. You said it yourself. Even you sometimes worry too much about what will come”.

But it wasn’t that easy, Trini. It never had been. It wasn’t a question of pounding the streets, far away, in that sad role of emigrant. Remember Miguelito: committed to that hospital in Madrid for nothing more than getting scared and hallucinating about a pool of blood that he found in entrance hall he cleaned each day. His burnt skin, his poet’s dark star, sunk him. Then he would recount the episode to me over and over again, high on weed. “Dirty bastards”, he would remember furiously. And he’d start on the story about how Africa would be reborn as the mother of the world. According to him, Europe and North America would be punished for their infinite selfishness; his Zulu, Fulfulde and Ashanti blood told him so.

When I brought Trini to him, he opened his eyes wide like a pervert and even dedicated a few verses to her. While he made her listen to Tom Jobim, he warned me: “Look, poet, that girl has the mark of Olofi. If I were you, I’d keep my eyes peeled, protect myself from the hunger of her body. From all of her hunger”. But what interest could I have in protecting myself from anything. What for. Instead, I treasured that closeness, which deep down was like always being on the edge of the unknown. There was something in Trini that joined her with other regions or orders. It was this something that spread drowsiness through my body. And so I would ask her, as she continued to look for her bloody cigarettes in the drawers: “Show me them, Trini… just for today”. She would take out one, two, three, five, seven jars with the tiny wrinkled bodies, minuscule  many with translucent skin. I remember one, bigger than the rest and, I swear, her tiny angel wings were starting to sprout.



A  Elena Méndez.

Porque todo ángel es terrible[1]. Ella no. A medio vestir en la penumbra del cuartucho desordenado. El olor a velas recién fenecidas llegando desde el pequeño altar, repleto de figuritas tan desleídas como ella. Su tos alérgica. Sus maldiciones por no poder encontrar la cajetilla de cigarros. Puta mierda. La modorra que me invadía siempre al quedarme allí. Sopor, dejadez. Lo cierto era que el agobio me hacía regresar a ese rincón de Aragüita. Una retorcida sensación de refugio. Con algo de suerte habría una pelea o una balacera breve, cortesía de los narcos del sector. Y pensar que a pocos kilómetros bullía otro mundo, indiferente y cómplice al mismo tiempo. Si no, que lo dijeran Carlitos, el flaco Ribas, incluso Silvia. Encantados con el barrio y con Trini. Fumaba con garbo, con duende, aseveraban. Sublime en el momento cumbre de la pieza de calle. Esa rara condición etérea. “Trini, me enamoraste a los muchachos del grupo”, le reprochaba.  Ella reía. Dos puntos de ámbar se le encendían en los ojos, que parecían mirar siempre más allá.  A mediodía, llegaba su hermana menor con caldo de gallina y arepas. Nos traía también la noticia de los últimos ajustes de cuentas: quiénes eran los muertos, quiénes los asesinos; cuántos tiros habían sido y dónde hallaron los cuerpos. Luego, sin que ninguna de las dos se diera cuenta, me daba un trago de ron seco en honor a tanta vida inútil, desperdiciada.

Cada mes me preparaba un ensalme con hierbas especiales. Subíamos al río bien temprano. En La Cola de Caballo, le decía que era yo Niño Mauricio, genio guardián de la naturaleza tuyera. Ella me ordenaba no jugar con eso. Después, sumergidos en el agua fría del pozo, lamía sus pechos mientras me preguntaba por enésima vez si sería capaz de llevarla conmigo fuera del país. “Si te vas de Venezuela conmigo, tendrías que olvidarte del jibareo y de otras vagabunderías, mijita”, le contestaba en broma. “Yo puedo leer la suerte. Con mis tabacos veo lo que está oculto. Me pagarán por eso. En todas partes del mundo, vive gente atormentada por lo que pueda ser su destino. Tú mismo lo has dicho. A ti mismo a veces te importa demasiado saber lo que vendrá”.

Pero no era tan fácil, Trini. No lo había sido nunca. No era el caso andar azotando calles, lejos, en ése triste papel de emigrante.  Acuérdate de Miguelito: internado en aquél hospital de Madrid, nada más por asustarse y alucinar con un charco de sangre que encontró en el portal que limpiaba a diario. Su piel quemada, su estrella negra de poeta, lo hundieron. Luego, me contaría el episodio una y otra vez, hinchado de ganja. “Sucios gilipollas”, recordaba furioso. Y empezaba con el cuento de que África renacería como la madre del mundo. Para él, Europa y Norteamérica serían castigados por su infinito egoísmo; se lo insinuaba su sangre Zulú, Fulfulde y Ashanti. Cuando le llevé a Trini, abrió tamaños ojos de pervertido, y hasta unos versos le dedicó. Mientras la hacía escuchar a Tom Jobim, me previno: “mire, poeta, esa niña tiene la marca de Olofi. Yo que usted, andaría ojo pelao cuidándome del hambre de su cuerpo. De su hambre toda”. Pero qué interés podía tener yo en cuidarme de nada. Para qué. Más bien atesoraba esa cercanía, que en el fondo era como estar siempre al borde de lo incierto. Había algo en Trini que la vinculaba a otras regiones u órdenes. Ese algo era lo que me untaba la modorra al cuerpo. Y se lo pedía entonces, ya que continuaba en busca de sus malditos cigarros en el ropero: “Muéstramelos, Trini… por hoy solamente.” Sacaba uno, dos, tres, cinco, siete frascos con los cuerpecitos arrugados, pequeñitos, varios de piel traslúcida. Recuerdo uno, de mayor tamaño que el resto y, lo puedo jurar, se le insinuaban ya las diminutas alas de ángel.

[1] Eleonora Filkenstein, “El Ángel”.

Winners of the VII Premio de Cuentos Policlinica Metropolitana para Jovenes Autores announced

Congratulations to Delia Mariana Arismendi, who won first place in the VII Premio de Cuentos Policlinica Metropolitana para Jovenes Autores for her short story ‘Barricadas’. Judges Rubi Guerra, Gisela Kozak Rovero and Fedosy Santaella unanimously chose Arismendi’s story out of 118 entries from all over Venezuela. Second place was awarded to ‘Para Elisa’ by Gabriel Payares while Maikel Ramírez Álvarez took third place with ‘Apocalipsis a la carté’. The following all received honourable mentions:

‘Esta Propatria’ by Nora Edén Mora; ‘Decembrina noche caraqueña’ by Andrea Carolina López; ‘No somos modernos’ by Ricardo Ramírez Requena; ‘También sobre el alma nieva’ by Carlos De Santis and ‘Friend’ signed with the pseudonym Caín.

The judges praised ‘Barricadas’, whose author had won second prize in last year’s contest, for constructing a deep, raw and moving story of one of those characters on the edges of society who are usually treated with a lack of understanding or as a joke, in a truthful way, without clichés. They called the story ‘richly human and full of nuances’.

You can read the full verdict on Prodavinci. The three winners will receive a cash prize of Bs 10,000 (about £1000), 5,000 and 2,500 respectively, and a compilation of all the finalists’ stories will be published.

The City (La Ciudad) by Aladar Temeshy

Of Hungarian origin, writer, poet and architect Aladar Temeshy lived and worked in Venezuela for over sixty years, until moving to the United States in 2006. He wrote La Ciudad (The City) just after that move, following a meeting at the consulate in Chicago, looking back on the hypocrisy of a small society in the Andes. La Ciudad appeared in a collection of over 60 stories called El abrigo de astracán.


The City

It was during one those bland and impersonal conversations, after having commented on the weather, the rain this year and last year, avoiding at all cost any mention of politics, forever in crisis, when somebody mentioned the little Andean city and the conversation came to life. It was strange, a town left behind in the mountains of the other continent, where, apparently, various people present probably spent some time, or had a family connection, or friends. Its mere mention changed the atmosphere, the conversation, and a timeless space opened the memory of the cobbled streets, of the tiled roofs worn by the sun and the years.

It was a poor city, with the Trans-Andean crossing as its main street, whose town was conceived according to the recommendations of the Laws of the Indies, the main square with the church, the town hall, a large house full of all the local administration, from the police to taxes, arrests, and birth and death registration. The grid of streets with the Plazoleta to the south and the cemetery with its distinctive gate bearing the wise Latin inscription: Hodie mihi, cras tibi.

The Plazoleta was a large rectangle that projected itself with a particular importance because of the three-windowed houses of the well-to-do, the plantation owners or those of political note. On its corner with the short street that led to the cemetery, there was the tavern with a pool table and black Ascanio always ready for a quick game. The short street, down which all the funerals passed,  was not short enough for the deceased not to receive boisterous last respects from some drunks, clients of the street’s whorehouses. The mourners maintained their discreet hypocrisy keeping their eyes on the cobble, avoiding the equally discreet looks of the whores from their only window trying to check whether the deceased, may he rest in peace, was a client or not.

The Plazoleta was home to the ferias organised by its politically distinguished inhabitants, enjoying those opportunities when equally distinguished members of capital city life made their distinguished visit to the feria, greeting each of the authorities in turn, the distinguished families and the neighbouring whores, distinguished in their profession.

The town intellectuals gathered in don José’s shop on the main street, the only one that had tinned goods and quality whisky. After five o’clock, the doctor, the pharmacist, the two engineers and the manager of the agrarian bank were all there, sitting around the only table discussing the happenings in a world where nothing ever happened. Black-tie social gatherings were held in the Friends Club one street further up. Select occasions, attendance by printed invitation, with wives and daughters present, dolled up in long dresses handmade following a pattern from some fashion magazine. A chance to capture the attention of the bachelors, possible candidates, like the manager of the agrarian bank and the engineers. The pharmacist was married and the doctor, while single and rich, was totally discounted as each week he examined those short street women and authorized the practice of their profession. During the social gatherings at the Friends Club, the light never dimmed, as don Desiderio paid special attention to his power plant which supplied the current for the city. América, his daughter of marrying age, was at the party.

On Sundays after the market mass was celebrated at 10am, well attended by the citizens and the villagers wearing their Sunday best Valencian espadrilles. The main street people were there, the wives from the Friends Club, don Desiderio and América, don José with his wife, the nuns from the school and the whores covering their heads with a veil, following the requirements of the holy church. It was a Christian community, on Easter Friday the houses on the short street were closed.


La Ciudad

Fue durante una de estas conversaciones incoloras e impersonales, después de haber comentado el tiempo, las lluvias de este año y del año pasado, evitando a toda costa cualquier mención sobre la política, eternamente en crisis, cuando alguien mencionó la pequeña ciudad andina entonces se avivó la conversación. Curioso, un pueblo rezagado en las montañas en el otro continente, donde aparentemente varios de los presentes probablemente pasaron un tiempo, o tenían una conexión familiar o amistades, su mera mención cambió el ambiente, la conversación y, se abrió un espacio sin límite de tiempo, perfilando el recuerdo de las calles empedradas, los techos con sus tejas comidas por el sol y por los años.

Era una ciudad pobre, con el transito transandino por su calle principal, de formación urbana concebida según las recomendaciones de las Leyes de las Indias, la plaza principal con la iglesia, el palacio municipal bien, una casa grande llena con toda la administración del lugar desde la policía, impuestos, detenciones y anotaciones de nacimientos y muertes. La cuadricula de calles con la Plazoleta por el sur y el cementerio con su distintivo portal cargando el culto memento en latín: Hodie mihi, cras tibi.

La Plazoleta, un rectángulo grande que se proyectaba con una importancia particular por las casas de tres ventanas de gente acomodada, dueños de fincas o de anotación política. En su esquina con la corta calle que iba hacia el cementerio estaba el botiquín con una mesa de billar y el negro Ascanio siempre dispuesto para una partidita. La calle corta por donde pasaron todos los entierros no era suficientemente corta para que el difunto no recibiera los últimos saludos sonoros de unos borrachos, clientes de las casas de putas de la calle. Los cortejos mantuvieron su discreta hipocresía manteniendo la vista sobre el empedrado, evitando la también discreta mirada de las putas desde su única ventana tratando de averiguar si el difunto, que en paz descanse, era cliente o no.

La Plazoleta era el lugar de las ferias organizadas por los políticamente ilustres habitantes de la misma, disfrutando de estas oportunidades cuando unos también ilustres de la vida capitalina hicieron su ilustre visita a la feria, saludando las autoridades de turno, las ilustres familias y las vecinas putas bien ilustradas en su oficio.

Los intelectuales del pueblo se reunían en el abasto en la calle principal de don José, el único que tenía enlatados y whisky de marca. Allá estaban después de las cinco de la tarde el doctor, el farmaceuta, los dos ingenieros y el gerente del banco agrario, sentados alrededor de la única mesa redonda comentando los sucesos del mundo donde no sucedió nada. Las reuniones sociales de gala se celebraban en el Club de los Amigos una calle más arriba. Ocasiones selectas, asistencia mediante invitación impresa, con la presencia de las damas e hijas emperifolladas en vestidos largos hechos a mano por algún patrón de una revista de moda. Ocasión de captar la atención de los solteros, candidatos posibles, como el gerente del banco agrario y los ingenieros. El farmaceuta estaba casado y el médico soltero próspero pero totalmente descontado por examinar semanalmente aquellas de la calle corta y autorizar el ejercicio del oficio. Durante las reuniones sociales en el Club de los Amigos nunca palideció la luz, ya que don Desiderio puso una atención especial a su planta eléctrica que suministraba la corriente para la ciudad. América, su hija casadera estaba en la fiesta.

Los domingos después del mercado se celebraba la misa a las diez de la mañana con la presencia masiva de la ciudadanía y de los aldeanos calzando su alpargata dominguera valenciana. Allá estaban los de la calle principal, las damas del Club de los Amigos, don Desiderio con América, don José con su mujer, las monjas del colegio y las putas cubriendo sus cabezas con un manto, según exigencias de la santa iglesia. Era una comunidad cristiana, el viernes santo las casas de la calle corta estaban cerradas.

Víctor Alarcón Wins 2012 Oswaldo Trejo Short Story Prize

You can read the full verdict here.

Many Moons (Tantas Lunas) by Arnoldo Rosas

It’s a great pleasure to share with you Tantas Lunas, a short story by Arnoldo Rosas (Porlamar, 1960), originally published in 1992 in a collection called Olvídate del tango (Forget the Tango), which will be republished this year. Arnoldo kindly sent me the story to translate and share on this site. Please find the original Spanish version below the English.

Many Moons

The living room is also the dining room and the kitchen. Only a cabinet separates it from the bedroom. The bathroom, though, is separate and roomy.

“It’s only five months” I tell Carmen. “We can do this!”

“Let’s hope it’s only five months”.

“They have to hand over the apartment then, have faith”.

Carmen is cooking. By her side, in the armchair, I listen to music and smoke.

“You shouldn’t smoke. The doctor said that it hurts the baby”.

“That’s true”.

I throw the butt through the garden door, it lands amongst the rosebushes.

“Marta will get annoyed. You know how she looks after her roses”.

“What a pain!”

“Well, my love, be patient. It’s her house, you have to respect it”.

We sleep. Carmen with her legs raised up. I dream that I’m sailing along a river to a cave. Stalactites and stalagmites flower all around. A dim light illuminates the grotto from high above. My boat stops despite the speed of the current. A terrifying roar rises from the riverbank. My hairs stand on end and I don’t know what to do. I want to get out of the boat and there are piranhas in the water.

I wake up.

Carmen, in the semi-darkness, is standing by the cabinet that separates us from the kitchen-living-dining room, alert, with a hand on her heart.

“What’s wrong?!” I ask as I go up to her.

“Ssh! The man upstairs just came in drunk. He’s fighting with his wife. Listen to the little girl crying”.

“Come on, let’s go to sleep”.

Back in bed, Carmen asks me to hug her.

“Let’s never fight in front of the children” she begs, stroking my hand.

Marta, the landlady, has come for the rent. While I write her a cheque, she glances around at things and chats to Carmen about how the pregnancy is going, telling her stories about her own pregnancies and suggesting herbal remedies for morning sickness.

She gives me a receipt and goes to look at her roses in the garden.

About the apartment, they’ve told me that they’re looking for somewhere to move to, not to worry, that they’ll give it back to me in the allotted time, and, hopefully, before, if they find anything suitable. Have faith. Scout’s honour, they swore.

Carmen bought a little onesie for the baby: it’s white and yellow.

“It’s lovely, isn’t it?”

I smile, taking it to feel it. It’s soft.

“Yes, it’s nice” I say without more enthusiasm.

She seems sad.

“Aren’t you excited?” she asks me, pouting.

She washes it with lukewarm water and blue soap, then leaves it drying in the bath. When it’s dry, she puts it into a hermetically sealed plastic bag.

“Done”, she tells me. “Ready for the baby to wear it”.

We assign a space in the cabinet for the things we buy for the child.

“Arnoldo, look!”

Carmen is pointing to the shelf in the cabinet… Small mountains of dry, greeny-brown grains:

“Fuck, there are rats!”

We’ve put emerald green crystals all over the cabinet, the kitchen and the bathroom: rat poison.

Every day, when we get home, we check and they seem to be intact.

We’ve seen more little rat turds.

“I can’t live like this” Carmen moans. “And what about the baby? We can’t have it in this dump”.

“Calm down, dear, you’ll see, they’ll hand over the house in time”.

“And what if they don’t?”

“Have faith. These people are serious. They promised”.

A colleague gave us a cot. Her children had used it. It needs a new mattress and repainting.

We took it apart. So we didn’t lose them, screws and springs went into the chest where Carmen keeps her jewellery. We covered the floor of the room and the corridor to the garden with newspapers. With the patience of saints, we sanded down the lathed slats of the railings and the arabesques of the headboard.

We finished at 8pm, with dead arms, sweaty, and covered with paint specs and sawdust.

“We’ll paint it next week” I tell Carmen as I serve two Pepsis.

“Yes, let’s tidy up all this”.

“Leave it to me. You’ve already worked hard enough and it’s not very good for him”.

“Or her. We still don’t know”.

“He’s male”.

“I didn’t know you were psychic”.

I sweep the house and more rat turds appear. I hide them so Carmen doesn’t worry.

We keep the cot under our bed.

I wash. Carmen already has.

The stench forces us to step back when we open the door.

“Maybe a drain in the bathroom has broken?”

Everything is intact but the smell is so thick you can almost touch it.

Carmen stayed outside retching. The lady from upstairs has come down to help her, I think she gave her some water. Marta is also with her.

I open all the windows and try not to breathe.

I search everywhere. I take the lid off the cistern, rummage under the bed, under the dismantled cot, I look among the clothes and finally, behind the pack of bottle sterilisers that we bought a fortnight ago, there’s the grey, meagre, foul body of the rat.

“Oh, just a little rat! That’s nothing” our landlady says when I take it out to the rubbish bin in the street.

 I spray the air freshener that the lady from upstairs gave us all over the kitchen-living-dining room, the bedroom, the bathroom, the cabinet.

Carmen is crying.

“Fuck, Arnoldo, I can’t cope, let’s get out of her!”

Yes, of course, don’t worry, you’ll have the house before your wife gives birth. You have my word. It’s almost certain that we’ll move at the end of the month or the middle of the next. Stop the pressure! Don’t you trust us?

Marta pays us her monthly visit. She gives Carmen some bootees that she has sewn.

“They’re beautiful, thank you”.

“Do you know what it is yet?”

“Yes! A little boy”.

“Oh, that’s great! Now you can get blue baby clothes ready for him”.

“Best not. Doctors can get things wrong sometimes”.

“Yes, that’s true”.

Carmen is now fat and finds it extremely difficult to get to sleep.

“Arnoldo, are you asleep?”

She changes position every so often, pants and moans.

“Arnoldo, get me a glass of water”.


She gets up to go to the toilet and I take the chance to smoke.

“Enough with the smoking already, ok. Remember that it hurts the baby”.

She comes back, shuffling her slippers, supporting herself on the walls.


She takes a deep breath as she sits on the bed.

“You don’t love me anymore, do you?”

I throw the butt out of the window.

“Of course I love you, baby. How could I not love you?”


“So what?” I ask sitting by her side and hugging her. She rests her head on my shoulder.

“Why don’t we do it? Don’t you fancy me anymore? I’m very fat, aren’t I?”

“You’re crazy. We don’t do it because of…” I stroke her stomach and kiss her cheek.

“Idiot. Of course you can still do it!”



“It’s like respect, fear, I don’t know”.


Now it’s her who hugs and caresses me.

“Ow, a kick! Can you feel it?”

“Yes, yes”, I touch something hard in her stomach, “is it painful?”

“A little. I’m thirsty and I need to pee. What a joke!”

“Go on, I’ll get you some water”.

I hear the tinkle of urine in the toilet.

“Don’t be afraid, ok?” she tells me sweetly.

We go to the bed together. I help her to lie down.

“My love, never leave me, even if I get like a whale”.

“Don’t worry, you’ll always be my favourite fatty”.


I look at displays in the shops on my way to the house. (The law protects me, ok). There are various things that attract me. (Yes, yes, ok, I gave you my word and I’ll keep it as soon as I can). But at the moment I have to contain myself, save money. (I still haven’t found a house or apartment that suits me, I assure you I will leave yours in the allotted time, but don’t pressure me). The birth is imminent and you don’t know if there’ll be a problem, if the baby will require special treatment when it’s born, if… (The law protects me, ok). A lawyer…

Tantas Lunas

La sala es el comedor y la cocina. Sólo un escaparate la separa de la habitación. El baño sí es independiente y amplio.

—Son apenas cinco meses —le digo a Carmen—. ¡Guapeemos!

—Ojalá sean sólo cinco meses.

—Nos tienen que entregar el apartamento entonces, ten confianza.

Carmen cocina. A su lado, en la butaca, oigo música y fumo.

—No deberías fumar. El doctor dijo que le hacía daño al bebé.

—Es verdad.

Tiro la colilla por la puerta del jardín, cae entre los rosales.

—La señora Marta se va a molestar, Arnoldo. Sabes cómo cuida sus rosas.

—Qué vaina.

 —Bueno, mi amor, ten paciencia, es su casa, hay que respetarla.

Dormimos. Carmen con las piernas en alto. Sueño que navego por un río hasta una cueva. Estalactitas y estalagmitas afloran por todas partes. Una luz tenue ilumina la gruta desde lo alto. Mi bote se para a pesar de la rapidez de la corriente. De la ribera surge un rugido aterrador. Se me erizan los pelos y no sé qué hacer. Quiero saltar del bote y hay pirañas en el agua.


Carmen, en la semipenumbra, está de pie al lado del escaparate que nos separa de la cocina-sala-comedor, alerta, con una mano sobre el corazón.

—¡¿Qué pasa?! —inquiero mientras me le aproximo.

—¡Sh! El señor de arriba llegó borracho. Está peleando con la esposa. Oye cómo llora la niña.

—Ven, vamos a dormir.

De vuelta en la cama, Carmen me pide que la abrace.

—Nunca peleemos delante de los niños  —suplica acariciándome la mano.

La señora Marta ha venido a cobrarnos la mensualidad. Mientras le hago el cheque, observa las cosas disimuladamente y conversa con Carmen sobre la marcha del embarazo, le cuenta anécdotas de los suyos y le sugiere infusiones para los malestares.

Me entrega el recibo y sale a mirar sus rosas en el jardín.

Del apartamento me han dicho que están buscando dónde mudarse, que no me preocupe, que me lo devuelven en el plazo previsto y, a lo mejor, antes, si consiguen algo conveniente. Que tenga confianza. Palabra de Boy Scout, juraron.

Carmen compró un monito para el bebé: es blanco y amarillo.

—¿Verdad que es precioso?

Sonrío, tomándolo para palparlo. Es suave.

—Sí, es bonito — respondo sin mayor entusiasmo.

Ella se nota triste.

—¿No te ilusiona? —me pregunta haciendo pucheros.

Lo lava con agua tibia y jabón azul. Lo deja secando en el baño. Cuando está seco lo mete en una bolsa plástica de cierre hermético.

—Ya está — me dice—-. Listo para que se lo ponga.

Asignamos un lugar en el escaparate para guardar las cosas que vayamos comprando para el niño.

—¡Arnoldo, mira!

Carmen señala en el entrepaño del escaparate… Unos montoncitos de granos marrón-verdoso, secos:

—¡Coño, hay ratones!

Por todos los rincones del escaparate, la cocina y el baño hemos puesto cristales verde esmeralda: raticida.

Diariamente, al llegar, revisamos y nos parecen intactos.

Hemos visto más mojoncitos de ratón.

—No puedo vivir así – se queja Carmen —. ¿Y el bebé? No lo podemos tener en esta ratonera.

— Tranquila, amor, ya vas a ver, nos van a entregar la casa a tiempo.

 —¿Y si no?

 —Ten confianza. Esa gente es seria. Lo prometieron.

Una compañera de trabajo nos regaló una cuna. La habían usado sus hijos. Necesita otro colchón y pintura.

            La desarmamos. Para no perderlos, tornillos y resortes fueron al cofre donde Carmen guarda sus joyas. Cubrimos el suelo de la sala y del corredor del jardín con periódicos. Con santa paciencia sabatina nos fajamos a lijar los palitos torneados de las barandas y los arabescos de la cabecera.

            Con el brazo muerto, sudorosos, cubiertos de polvillo de pintura y aserrín, terminamos a las ocho de la noche.

—La pintamos la semana que viene – le digo a Carmen mientras sirvo dos Pepsi-Colas.

—Sí, vamos a recoger esto.

 —Déjame a mí. Descansa. Ya has trabajado mucho y eso no es muy bueno para él.

—O ella. Todavía no sabemos.

—Es varón.

—No sabía que fueras adivino.

Barro la casa y más mojones de ratón aparecen. Disimulo para no alarmar a Carmen.

La cuna la guardamos desarmada bajo nuestra cama.

Me baño. Ya Carmen lo hizo.

El hedor nos obliga a retroceder al abrir la puerta.

—¿Se habrá roto una cloaca en el baño?

Todo está intacto, pero la hediondez es tan densa que casi se toca.

Carmen quedó afuera con arcadas de vómitos. La señora de arriba ha bajado a ayudarla, creo que le dio agua. La señora Marta también está con ella.

Abro todas las ventanas y contengo la respiración.

Reviso por todas partes. Saco las ollas del gabinete, remuevo bajo la cama, debajo  de la cuna desarmada, busco entre la ropa y, por fin, tras la caja del esterilizador de teteros que compramos la última quincena, el cuerpo gris, magro, pestilente del ratón.

—¡Ah, sólo un ratoncito! No pasa nada —dice nuestra casera cuando me ve llevándolo al tobo de basura en la calle.

Rocío el desodorante ambiental que nos dio la señora de arriba por toda la sala-cocina-comedor, en el cuarto, en el baño, en el escaparate.

Carmen llora.

—¡Coño, Arnoldo, no aguanto, vámonos de aquí!

Sí, vale, seguro, no te preocupes, vas a tener la casa antes de que tu señora dé a luz. Palabra. Es casi seguro que nos mudemos o a fin de mes o a mediados del otro. ¡Deja la presión!  ¿Acaso no confías en nosotros?

La señora Marta nos hace su visita mensual. Le da a Carmen unos escarpines que ha tejido.

—Son bellos, señora, gracias.

—Y, ¿ya sabes qué es?

—¡Sí! Un varoncito.

—¡Huy, que bien! Ya puedes preparar una canastilla azul.

—Mejor no. Los médicos a veces se equivocan.

—Sí, es cierto.

Carmen ya está gorda y le cuesta un mundo dormir.

—Arnoldo, ¿duermes?

Cambia de posición a cada rato, respira jadeante y se queja.

—Arnoldo, tráeme un vasito de agua.


Se levanta para ir al baño y yo aprovecho para fumar.

—Ya estás con el cigarrillo, vale. Acuérdate que le hace mal al bebé.

Regresa arrastrando las pantuflas, apoyándose en las paredes.


Aspira profundo al sentarse en la cama.

—¿Ya no me quieres, verdad?

Boto la colilla por la ventana.

—Claro que te quiero, negrita. ¿Cómo no te voy a querer?

—Y, ¿entonces?

—Entonces qué —pregunto sentándome a su lado y abrazándola. Apoya su cabeza en mi hombro.

—¿Por qué no lo hacemos? ¿Ya no te gusto? Estoy muy gorda, ¿verdad?

—Tonta. No lo hacemos por… — le acaricio el vientre y la beso en la mejilla.

—Gafo. ¡Sí se puede hacer!



—Es como un respeto, miedo, qué sé yo.


Es ella ahora quien me abraza y acaricia.

—¡Ay, una patadita! ¿Sientes?

—Sí, sí — toco algo duro en su vientre —.  ¿Es doloroso?

—Un poquito. Tengo sed y ganas de orinar. ¡Qué broma!

—Ve, yo traigo el agua.

Oigo le repiqueteo de la orina en la taza del váter.

—No tengas miedo, ¿sí?  —me dice con dulzura.

Vamos juntos a la cama. La ayudo a acostarse.

—Amor, nunca me dejes, aunque me ponga como una ballena.

—Tranquila. Serás la gorda de mi vida.

— Maluco.

Veo las exhibiciones de las tiendas cuando camino hacia la casa. (La ley me protege, vale). Hay varias cositas que me atraen. (Sí, sí, okey, te di la palabra y la voy a cumplir, tan pronto pueda). Pero en estos momentos debo contenerme, ser ahorrativo. (Aún no hallo casa o apartamento que me convenga, te aseguro que te desocupo el tuyo en el plazo fijado, pero no me presiones). El parto está próximo y uno no sabe si hay algún inconveniente, si el bebé al nacer requiera tratamiento especial, si… (La ley me protege, vale). Un abogado…

Voices from the Venezuelan City is live

Last night, we headed to Passing Clouds in Dalston to celebrate the launch of the Voices from the Venezuelan City project from Palabras Errantes with readings, discussions about Venezuelan literature and live music. There was a great turn out and a shared excitement for the project and for Venezuelan literature in general, which just proves how, as Carlos Colmenares Gil affirmed in his opening speech, this is a ‘golden era’ for Venezuelan literature.

Rebecca Jarman (editor of the Venezuelan edition) and Cherie Elston (editor of Palabras Errantes) present the latest project.

I was lucky enough to be involved in the project, translating Ana García Julio‘s short story, The Incident, about the human side of a random act of violence, which I read at the launch party.

The first five translations – including The Incident, plus the first two chapters of Gustavo Valle’s Underground, and stories from the wonderful Dayana Fraile, Mario Morenza and Juan Carlos Méndez Guédez – are now available at here. New translations will be released each week so stay tuned!

Voices From The Venezuelan City Launch Party

Palabras Errantes is a project originally set up by students from the University of Cambridge, to translate Latin American literature into English and publish it online. So far, they have brought us contemporary Uruguayan women’s writing, contemporary Argentinian poetry and Argentinian narrative. Now it’s Venezuela’s turn.

On Thurrsday 22 November, Palabras Errantes will launch Voices from the Venezuelan City, with readings and music at Passing Clouds in Dalston. After the party, stories (translations and originals) will be published on a regular basis on the website.

The event is free and all are welcome.