Posts filed under 'Latin America'

Translation Tuesday: A selection from Poems for Michael Jordan by Francisco Ide Wolletter

fate is the phenomenon of the ball passing through empty space to arrive at your empty hands

Awarded first place in the CNCAs Roberto Bolaño Prize for Young Literary Creation in the Poetry category, twenty-seven-year-old Francisco Ide Wolleter stands out from the latest generation of Chilean litterateurs. His “Poems for Michael Jordan” are miracles of observation, imbuing quotidian life with existential drama. You won’t ever watch basketball the same way again after this.

I

 the ball’s porous plane

makes me think of human skin

 

a tactile nostalgia

though contact is always illusory

 

the facts are thus: we’re structured on emptiness

built of atoms,

atoms whose nature is to repel

and be repelled.

 

that’s why we don’t mix with things

that’s why when we touch

we haven’t really touched anything at all

 

READ MORE…

Translation Tuesday: “Okinawa, Mon Amour” by Betina González

In Japan everything always happened in reverse: wolves did not eat people, kamikazes were not afraid of death, grumpy people smiled.

It’s #Giving Tuesday! If you’ve enjoyed our Translation Tuesday posts, please consider a $25 donation to our newly launched fundraising drive today! Every little will help us bring you more of what you love.

***

In Japan everything always happened in reverse: wolves did not eat people, kamikazes were not afraid of death, grumpy people smiled, and Cinderella was a stoker’s son named Mamichigane.

Every day, Miriam thought about that typhoon-exhausted island she had never seen: Shuri Castle cloaked in flames, the drowned children of the Tsushima Maru, and the woman who came down from Heaven and had to stay on Earth because some man stole her magic kimono.

Every day, Miriam fed her fish, dusted off the glass cases of her tragic geishas, and cursed, with much gentility, her destiny as a South American. Her big brother’s explanations didn’t help much. As Kazuo so often reminded her, the Ryukyu Kingdom had little to do with Japanese traditions, and the people of Okinawa ever fled their island. Okinawa had to be the one place in the world with a commemorative statue of the Father of Immigration: Kyuzo Toyama, the hero who arranged the flight of the first Okinawan-Hawaiian citizens in 1899. For Kazuo, the argument reinforced a historical truth: their ancestors were in fact the first settlers of the Americas and, according to him, merely completing their millennia-long task. The Indian-American was practically Japanese; if Kazuo had any talent, he would draw a manga of the second wave of continental population, destined to perfect a race of supermen through dry-cleaning and karate. READ MORE…

Translation Tuesday: “The First” by Mariana Graciano

Short fiction translated by Kadiri Vaquer

 An unpredictable cloud of smoke forced him to move around constantly. He had nowhere to stand to avoid it. That day, grandpa mentioned how every January 1st, the wind blew in all four directions. The rest of the family watched him start the fire for the barbecue and his theory, once again, was proven.

It was a thick and humid beginning of the year. After eating, the family rested under the ombu tree like animals waiting for the storm. When the sky turned black, the women hurried to take everything inside: cups, chairs and the clothes hanging on the line.  Then it began to rain, just like that, a curtain of water, hard and even. READ MORE…

Who’s Who in La Zona? (Part II)

In conversation with translator Steve Dolph on Juan José Saer

Catch up on Part I of this fascinating interview here.

Steve Dolph is the translator of three books by the late Argentine novelist Juan José Saer, who died in Paris in 2005. All three were published by Open Letter Books, the most recent (June ’14) being Saer’s final, unfinished novel, La Grande. Mr. Dolph is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Hispanic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, where his research treats Renaissance ecopoetics and the pastoral tradition. His most recent translation, of Sergio Chejfec’s “El testigo” / “The Witness,” is available in the July 2014 issue of Asymptote.

Jeremy Davies: I seem to recall reading, third hand, of Saer demolishing, in Le Monde, an apologist article by Vargas Llosa, likewise in Le Monde, in which the latter more or less put forward the notion that everyone should just “forgive and forget” regarding the “disappearances”… Are you familiar with that altercation?

READ MORE…

Who’s Who in La Zona?

A conversation with translator Steve Dolph on Juan José Saer

Steve Dolph is the translator of three books by the late Argentine novelist Juan José Saer, who died in Paris in 2005. All three were published by Open Letter Books, the most recent (June ’14) being Saer’s final, unfinished novel, La Grande. Mr. Dolph is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Hispanic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, where his research treats Renaissance ecopoetics and the pastoral tradition. His most recent translation, of Sergio Chejfec’s “El entenado” / “The Witness,” is available in the July 2014 issue of Asymptote.

This interview was conducted via e-mail over the early summer months, rambling like “a long afternoon’s conversation,” as Dolph commented, which is perhaps the most apposite way to approach an author so devoted to the vagaries of unfocused thought, and the ways its wandering through time and space makes itself manifest in language.

—Jeremy M. Davies

READ MORE…

Interviewing “Los bárbaros”: Ulises Gonzáles, Spanish literature in New York

A conversation with the editor of "Los bárbaros," a Spanish-language journal based in the Big Apple

Peruvian writer Ulises Gonzáles founded the thrice-yearly journal Los bárbaros in 2014. Gathering work from Spanish-language writers about New York, Gonzáles talks about the important role of New York City for contemporary writers in Spanish and his hopes for the journal’s future.

Eric Becker: How did the journal come to be?

Ulises Gonzáles: It’s a great story, actually.

Some of us were in a class at the CUNY Graduate Center and someone mentioned something about the poem “Waiting for the Barbarians” (by the Greek poet C.P. Cavafy). But that person connected it to the idea that now the barbarians are major figures in language and literature departments (throughout the world) and were creating their own literary theories and not leaving it just to the French anymore—because of people like Borges.

And today, for example, people in English departments are reading Borges and it was all about this idea that now the barbarians are in charge. The reach of English is still, of course, broad. But one thing that I like about these Latin American writers is that every one of them is going to tell you that among their favorite writers are maybe Faulkner, maybe Hemingway, maybe Wilde. There’s a big connection: it’s like “I got all this from English literature, I’m going to recycle it and I’m going to tell you about my world through what I learned and at the same time I’m going to teach you something about my world.” READ MORE…

July Issue Spotlight: Sergio Chejfec’s “The Witness”

A close look at Sergio Chejfec's masterful not-quite fiction, non-quite essay, "The Witness"

Patty: The phrase “of-the-moment” is so annoyingly trite, but for lack of a better expression, Sergio Chejfec is perhaps one of today’s most of-the-moment writers, and the short fiction/systematic essay-musing “The Witness”—translated by Steve Dolph and published in Asymptote’s July issue as part of our Latin American feature—proves beyond a shadow of a doubt just why that is.

They say, more or less, that anyone who’s made the mistake of leaving can’t make the mistake of returning. READ MORE…

Translation Tuesday: “A Brief Life” by Carlos Labbé

A young man's decidedly uncanny encounter at the beach

One summer I was at a beach in Mar del Plata with a group of young Argentine friends, around ten men and women, the majority attractive, at an age with more than enough time to spend hours arguing about unimportant matters as if they were the most profound things in the world. I remember that I was fresh out of University and had traveled to Argentina for the summer. My principal interlocutor, strangely, seemed older than I, although in reality he was quite young. He was bolder in the discussion, he seemed to know the names of many more books and authors, his hair was long, his voice husky, his face angular, his body athletic. He was drinking maté and his name was Julio. Everyone else was lying around on towels with dark sunglasses, bikinis, beers, CDs, and cigarettes. Every now and then one of them would enliven the discussion with a favorable comment for Julio or for me, with objections or laughter.

– No, loco, you’re wrong. Or, are telling me you want to write like Oliverio Girondo? Man, you’re bitter.

READ MORE…

Borges, the Quixote, and Two Street Markets

The author of "The Antiquarian" tackles Borges, contextual understanding… and the singular joys of book shopping

The first time I read “Pierre Menard, author of the Quixote,” I was seventeen and in my freshman year in college in Lima. As anyone who reads Borges for the first time, I was dazzled by the story of a fictional French writer who, at the beginning of the twentieth century, wants to write once again, without plagiarizing or recovering it from memory, Cervantes’s Don Quixote. The most memorable passage of the story comes when the narrator, a friend of Menard’s, and very likely a French fascist, analyzes one paragraph from the novel in two different ways. First, assuming that Cervantes is the author, he concludes that the paragraph is rhetorical and verbose, when written by a seventeenth-century Spaniard. Later, assuming the author is Pierre Menard, a contemporary right-wing surrealist poet, he finds that the same words are fantastically counterintuitive and herald a new form of understanding the world. Since the narrator is a fascist, one suspects that his interpretation is an overinterpretation, the grotesque imposition of ideas that were not there in the original text.

READ MORE…

Asymptote Summer 2014 Issue – Out Now!

Three cheers for great literature!

Hot off the e-press: Asymptote’s July issue is now live! The star-studded issue reads like a cool glass of water, and with good reason: the cold-as-ice cover is inspired by Latin America, currently in the dead of winter and the subject of this issue’s special feature.

Highlights in this Latin-American edition include writerly tributes to Osvaldo Lamborghini (by César Aira), Julio Cortázar (by Sergio Chejfec), and Gabriel García Márquez (by the legend’s very own Portuguese translator Eric Nepomuceno), alongside poetry from Chilean prizewinner Rául Zurita and fiction by Uruguayan author Cristina Peri Rossi. We’ve even got a video trailer for them!

READ MORE…

Interview with Luis Negrón

"I wanted a book that showed how people find happiness, even if society at large thinks that in their life there is no space for it."

Reading Luis Negrón’s award-winning debut short story collection, Mundo Cruel, one is struck by the author’s daring, his at-times startling insights, and his blistering sense of humor. It is a remarkable collection, and the first translated work to win a Lambda Literary Award for gay general fiction. In his interview with Asymptote blog, Negrón talks about melodrama and monsters in fiction, homophobia in present-day Puerto Rico, and his experience with acclaimed translator Suzanne Jill Levine.

Eva Richter: Your epigraph is a quote from Manuel Puig’s “A Melodramatic Destiny.” “So then, a melodrama is a drama made by someone who doesn’t know the difference, Miss?” / “Not exactly, but in a certain way it is a second-rate product.” How does the notion of melodrama as a second-rate or even naive drama play into your short stories? 

Luis Negrón: There are two ways to answer this question. One, the most obvious one, is by explaining melodrama itself: it is a drama where destiny cannot be escaped. I played with and tried to transform this notion of melodrama in my texts, but not only with the structure of them, but with their aura, the environment of the melodrama, its false and perhaps fake way of suffering. It is also important to put the stories in context. In Latin America, melodrama is king. Our music is melodramatic; our politics are melodramatic, our sports, our way or conceiving love, romantic love, all kinds of love, are pure melodrama. It is our way of dealing with most situations. This is more the case in the working class population, where access to different forms of dealing with feelings are not at hand or are simply unknown. For this reason, melodrama is abundant in the book: it shows how my characters construct whole gammas of feelings, and how they make decisions or just follow the paths dictated by their destiny.

READ MORE…

Interview with Suzanne Jill Levine

"A greater problem is that there are fewer and fewer readers interested in serious or innovative literary works."

Luis Negrón’s short story collection Mundo Cruelrecently translated into English by Suzanne Jill Levine, has met the acclaim it well deserves. The first translated work to win a Lambda Literary Award for gay general fiction, Negrón’s debut book is an exceptional merging of absurdist humor (one story chronicles a man’s desperate attempts to have his dead dog stuffed), naturalism (the characters’ voices instantly take shape, come to life), and melodrama. In an interview with translator Suzanne Jill Levine, winner of PEN USA’s Translation Award, Levine discusses what drew her to Negrón’s work, and her career as a writer, translator, and educator.

 

Eva Richter: How did you first learn about Luis Negrón’s work, and how did you come to translate him?  

Suzanne Jill Levine: Out of the blue I received an email from a young editor at Seven Stories Press, Gabriel Espinal, asking me to consider translating Mundo Cruel. The stories and the author, Luis—who is now a dear friend—were totally unknown. At first glance through the book, I was skeptical. Then Gabe invited me to visit him in NYC to talk about it. I was touched by his enthusiasm, the story of how he discovered Luis, and I felt admiration for the work of Seven Stories Press, and so I agreed to do a sample.

As I began translating, I found myself smiling and even laughing as I went along. A miracle: I had discovered a new writer who had a sly sense of humor, and who was dealing with such a destitute, sometimes sordid microcosm, which in his hands became a rich kasbah of living speech, ordinary yet extraordinary characters, depicted with pathos, wit and penetrating wisdom. I was sold.

ER: Mundo Cruel recently won the 26th Lambda Literary Award for gay fiction. Could you speak a little about contemporary LGBT literature in English translation? 

SJL: I cannot comment authoritatively on this, though I presume that LBGT literature receives more recognition now than when I began translating in the 1970s. Translations in general have a double challenge in an English-speaking world—or should I say marketplace—where publishing literature even written originally in English is getting more and more difficult. I wasn’t aware, either, that Lambda had never in its history awarded a [fiction] translation, though I was struck by the fact that mine was the only translation considered this year. Maybe Lambda should add a category for works in translation? Anyway, in the context of Latin American literature, I was among the first to seek out and translate gay writers Severo Sarduy and Manuel Puig, subversively marginal among the Boom writers such as Garcia Marquez—and can only hope that this helped paved the way for others. Puig, from Argentina, was an important pioneer and spokesman for Latin America in this respect.

ER: What were some challenges you faced when translating Mundo Cruel? There are two short stories told by narrators speaking on the phone, using slang, colloquialisms, which I thought specifically must have been demanding. 

SJL: The challenges are precisely what make translation worth doing, but yes, the language in these stories is often a very private language, spoken by a particular group in a particular barrio of San Juan. All the stories are “spoken” with the author as eavesdropper, but there is actually only one in which the narrator is speaking on the phone and it is hysterical because the reader hears only one side of the conversation, a device Manuel Puig used in Betrayed by Rita Hayworth.  The main character, the speaker, is gossiping about “La Edwin,” for example: “The thing is that La Edwin fell for this little ‘Che Guevara’ and she’s got it bad… but when it comes to you-know-what the big machetero can’t even use his machete in the name of the Cuban Revolution… No, girl. That’s not the problem. It’s that the guy was and is straight.” Etc. The best way to explain to you is to show you, right? I also recommend that you read my book The Subversive Scribe: Translating Latin American Fiction, in which I recreate the process of translating slang, puns, and other “impossibles.” In a sense your question is like asking how a musician performs a piece of music; it’s a matter of ear.

ER: Did Luis Negrón engage in the translation process?

SJL: Luis, whose English is great, was a wonderful collaborator and the perfect source, of course, for any questions I had about gay slang, meaning, register, tone: we basically hunkered down for three days in a friend’s apartment in NYC and went through the manuscript. I also went over the text with another Puerto Rican writer and colleague in Santa Barbara, Leo Cabranes-Grant. 

ER: A number of contributors to Asymptote blog have discussed Americans’ “lack of interest” [Nicolás Kanellos] in Spanish-language literature. Javier Molea, of McNally Jackson, said, “With few exceptions, there is no connection between the Spanish literary world and the English one. Any literary event in Spanish is allocated to the community events section of the newspaper, while a literary event in English is highlighted in the culture section.” As an acclaimed translator of Manuel Puig, Jose Donoso, and now Luis Negrón, what are your thoughts on this topic? 

 SJL: I think that what Javier is trying to say is that writers play a more important role in Spain and Latin American countries than they do in the United States (I hesitate to speak for Canada and the UK). A literary event in Bogotá will probably bring in a larger audience than in lower Manhattan. A greater problem is that there are fewer and fewer readers interested in serious or innovative literary works. Here and there a significant writer receives recognition, but more often, from what I’ve observed, there seem to be certain fashionable writers who come to represent their culture or nation in the global marketplace, mainly because of a generally superficial knowledge we have of literature as well as of other cultures and countries. Tim Parks has written on this topic, and I think he is completely accurate.

ER: Regarding the diminished appreciation of serious or innovative literature, why do you think that is? How has it affected your work?  

SJL: In part I am speaking as an educator regarding this sense of a diminishing literary readership. My friends in publishing have plenty to say about this problem as well. In the past 30 odd years in academe I have watched the Humanities lose ground to the Social Sciences, but even more so, I have watched generations of students turn from the written word to the video/digital world: they are becoming increasingly illiterate, either uninterested or unable to read.

Obviously there are elite groups that continue to cultivate the study and appreciation of literature, and of course many will say that literature is evolving into other equally creative forms—and no doubt some of this is true.

How does the diminishing interest in literature affect me? There are fewer books I want to translate and fewer opportunities for publishers to translate the works of writers I like.

This being said, I am working more with poetry—and have discovered wonderful new poets from Mexico, Cuba, and Nicaragua—and also on my own creative non-fiction. After all, translation is a rite of passage, as someone once said. In 2012 I came out with my first poetry chapbook (Reckoning: Finishing Line Press), which brings together poems I’ve written with poems I have translated—and the translations seem almost more autobiographical than the originals…

ER: Do you have a translation philosophy that guides your work? How did it serve you (or not) in your translation of Mundo Cruel? 

SJL: The Subversive Scribe speaks about translation as creation or “transcreation.” A writer, a translator succeeds in creating when s/he finds a voice: I would say that this happened in the translation of Mundo Cruel, but only you, the reader, can tell me if this is true.

***

Suzanne Jill Levine’s acclaimed translations, which include books by Guillermo Cabrera Infante (Three Trapped Tigers) and Manuel Puig (Betrayed by Rita Hayworth), have helped introduce the world to some of the icons of contemporary Latin American literature. She is also an editor of Penguin Classics’ essays and poetry of Jorge Luis Borges and the author of The Subversive Scribe: Translating Latin American Fiction. She is the winner of PEN USA’s Translation Award 2012 for her translation of Jose Donoso’s The Lizard’s Tale.

Translation Tuesday: Dead Stars by Álvaro Bisama

"The past is that: a photo taken in a hotel we wish was our home—false photographs, proof of the life we never had."

Forthcoming from Ox and Pigeon Press is Megan McDowell’s English translation of Álvaro Bisama’s Dead Stars, which won the 2011 Santiago Municipal Prize for Literature and the 2011 Premio Academia, given out by the Chilean Academy of Language for the best book of 2010.

Álvaro Bisama’s award-winning novel Dead Stars is a story-within-a-story set against the backdrop of Chile’s transition to democracy after decades under the Pinochet dictatorship, filled with characters desperately searching for a way to escape their past, their present, their future: a small-town metalhead; left-wing revolutionaries without a new cause; a brotherhood of cough syrup addicts; punks, prostitutes, and thieves. Through them, Bisama’s tragic novel explores how our choices, the people we know, the places we pass through, and the events of our lives exert an unsuspected influence long after their light has gone out and they have faded from our memory (Ox and Pigeon).

 ***

Javiera failed almost all of her classes. We always used to put her name on our assignments. That way she’d come closer to passing her courses. I made that gesture, same as Donoso, and Luisa, our classmate who was going out with Charly Alberti, the drummer from Soda Stereo.

You’re fucking with me, I said.

Seriously, that’s what she said, that she was Charly Alberti’s girlfriend, that he was crazy about her and sometimes he’d sneak away to Chile in secret to see her. Donoso and I knew about it. No one else. Not even Javiera, unless Donoso told her. But I don’t think he did. Donoso was very discreet. But that’s what Luisa told us. She confessed one time when she was drunk, and it was all downhill from there. She was always telling us the gory details about her and Alberti. She told us they’d spent the weekend in Reñaca, because he’d flown in on his private jet to show her his new album. She told us her parents knew about it. That it had been hard to convince her father, who was a cop and an evangelical, but Alberti had done it. That he was serious about their relationship. That he had been respectful of her. That she was still almost a virgin. I don’t know what she meant by that almost, but Donoso would hug her and sometimes she’d open her backpack and take out a giant album full of photos of Charly Alberti, a heavy book full of concert memorabilia, posters from TV Grama and VEA, and newspaper clippings. There was only one photo of them together, Alberti and Luisa, taken in the hallway of a hotel.

**

Her: Aside from many other things, the past is that: a photo taken in a hotel we wish was our home—false photographs, proof of the life we never had.

**

She said: But it doesn’t matter. The photo isn’t important. What’s important is Luisa’s role in all this, because I was with her when I saw Javiera and Donoso’s relationship start to go to shit. Because, even though she was a facha right-wing conservative, she went with me to a party thrown by the Youth League in a typographical union off Calle Colón. I don’t know why we went. Maybe we just wanted to relax. Or maybe it was easier to go there than home after classes. I don’t know. The fact is, we went. We killed time browsing thrift stores, and then we made ourselves up in the bathroom of a diner. Javiera and Donoso were at the party. We hadn’t seen much of them that semester. Javiera was in the middle of an appeal, trying to get them to let her take a class for the third time, and Donoso was busy at the restaurant. So, I went with Luisa to the party. She complained because they weren’t playing “Luna Roja,” and she insisted that Alberti was coming to see her that weekend. That she wasn’t going to drink too much because Alberti hated it when she drank, he detested drugs and alcohol. Of course, the party was full. I was drinking beer. I didn’t see Javiera anywhere. In the throng of people, I saw Donoso with a bottle of pisco in his hand. There were a few bands that played Andean music, and a couple Pablo Milanés clones. In between the bands, people danced. The party was fun, if you like that kind of thing. I didn’t really like it, but it wasn’t terrible. This was just before the mayoral election in Valparaíso. Back then, before the Spiniak case, that fat guy Pino was way ahead. At the university, someone said Javiera was going to run for council. I don’t know if it was just a rumor. It was probably true. The party would put any university leader up for election; they’d send whoever it was to campaign in villages out in the middle of nowhere, like Catemu or Puchuncaví. To us it seemed like an obvious thing that Javiera would be a candidate. So that’s how things were at that party: Luisa talking about Charly Alberti, Donoso drinking alone, Javiera nowhere to be found. The last thing I saw before disaster struck was this: Donoso sitting in a plastic chair clutching a bottle of straight pisco. That was the cut-off point, maybe. That was the moment when I lost sight of them, because Luisa went to the bathroom and she didn’t come back, and after a while someone told me: Your friend is in the bathroom crying. I went to find her. The bathroom was disgusting, but there was Luisa, sitting on the wet floor, hysterical. She had a piece of paper in her hand. A newspaper page. Luisa was holding a page from a newspaper or a magazine and sobbing hysterically. No, the fucker can’t do this to me, he can’t do this, Luisa said. I hugged her and she repeated it, he can’t fuck me over like this, he can’t do this to me, the motherfucker, she was saying, sniffling. I hugged her and she was pretty drunk and then I saw that page in her hand. There was Charly Alberti with his bride, a model. That’s why Luisa was crying. Because of that page she found on the floor of the bathroom or in the hallway. A social page, a page with the kind of short articles that close every edition of a paper. That loose page, lost at the party, a little bit of trash just like the one you have in your hands now, the newspaper page that shows Javiera with white hair. It’s like someone let these articles loose in the wind, waiting for someone else to see them and break down, just like I’m doing now, man, just like Luisa broke down then.

**

The past is always a newspaper page left behind on the ground, she said.

**

She said: But then something happened. While I was hugging Luisa, we heard noises coming from the men’s bathroom. Shouts. We heard something break. A mirror. A woman’s voice screeching: Let him go, you asshole, let him go! Then more voices. Let him go, man, you’re going to kill him. Let him go. Luisa stopped crying. I got up from the floor. There was a cumbia song playing. We walked out of the women’s bathroom. The door to the men’s room was across the hall. The paper with the photo of Charly Alberti’s wedding stayed behind on the floor. At that moment, several guys shoved Donoso out of the bathroom. He fought back, legs kicking. His shirt was torn. They threw him to the ground in the middle of the dance floor. They kicked him. We watched as they carried him to the door and threw him down the stairs. The cumbia never stopped. And then they finally played Soda Stereo. It all lasted one minute, two minutes, she said. It lasted for half of one song. We couldn’t do anything, say anything. Then, Javiera came running out of the bathroom. She went after Donoso. She didn’t see us. We stood there, paralyzed. Then, the same guys who had kicked Donoso out went back to the bathroom and hauled out a guy, unconscious, his face covered in blood; it seemed like he was someone important. I’d seen him around campus. He was always surrounded by members of the Youth League, and he always sat in front at the events they held in the quad. He never spoke. The others conferred with him in whispers. But now the same people who whispered to him were carrying him like a sack of potatoes. His mouth was destroyed. I think he was missing teeth. I guess those teeth were scattered around the bathroom and covered in urine, dirty water, and blood, she said. And the guy wasn’t responding. I guess they put him in a taxi and took him to the hospital. Luisa didn’t say anything. I remember the two of us just stood there outside that bathroom, staring at the tiles. More than the blood or the guy’s face, I remember those tiles, just that: the dragons drawn in black and white on the floor. Those tiles were worn out, chipped by the passage of time, cracked. The bathroom at my house had similar ones. I dreamed about those dragons for a week. Finally I said: What just happened? I don’t know, Luisa answered.

**

But I know. What happened was that everything went to shit, she said.

I said: It’s a law of nature. When everything goes to shit, someone’s teeth wind up on a bathroom floor. There’s no turning back. No turning back.

***

Álvaro Bisama (Valparaíso, Chile, 1975) is a writer, cultural critic, and professor. In 2007, he was selected as one of thirty-nine best Latin American authors under the age of thirty-nine at the Hay Festival in Bogota. Estrellas muertas (Dead Stars), his third novel, won the 2011 Santiago Municipal Prize for Literature and the 2011 Premio Academia, given out by the Chilean Academy of Language for the best book of 2010. His most recent novel, Ruido (Noise), was published in 2013 and was a finalist for the Premio Altazor.

Megan McDowell, Asymptote managing editor, is a literary translator from Richmond, Kentucky. Her translations have appeared in Words Without Borders, Mandorla, Los Angeles Review of Books, McSweeney’s, Vice, and Granta, among others. She has translated books by Alejandro Zambra, Arturo Fontaine, Carlos Busqued, and Juan Emar. She lives in Zurich, Switzerland.