Friday, October 8, 2010

"The Bosses," Mario Vargas Llosa

In celebration of Mario Vargas Llosa's Noble Prize of 2010. A translation of a section of one his mini novels, "The Bosses" (Los Jefes):


He examined us with his beady little eyes, pretending to be disinterested and nonchalant. But it was impossible for us to ignore his forced smile and the fear and hate deep inside that dumpy body. He frowned and then relaxed his brow, sweat gushing out of his tiny purple hands.

He was shaking:

"You boys know what this is called? It's called rebellion. You all think that I'm going to succumb to the caprices of a bunch of idlers? I crush insolence..."

His voice lowered and raised. He was straining not to scream. "Why doesn't he just blow up already?," I thought. "Coward!"

He had stopped. A grey spot floated around his hands, resting against the glass desktop. Suddenly his voice raised. He swung around sharply:

"Out! Whoever mentions examinations will be punished."

Before Javior or I could make a gesture to him, the true Lu appeared, the one from the night robberies at the Tablada ranches and the battle with foxes on the dunes.

"Mr. director..."

He didn't turn to look at him. His eyes askance must have been releasing fire and violence, like that time when we fought in the dry riverbed. He must have been opening his mouth wide full of saliva, bearing his yellow teeth.

"We can't tolerate being failed either because there's no schedule. Why do want us all to get bad grades? Why?"

Ferrufino had drawn closer. He was practically touching his body. Lu, pale and terrified, continued speaking:

"...we're tired of this..."

"Shut up!"

The director had raised his arms, his fists crumpling something. "Shut up," he repeated infuriated. "Shut up you animal! How dare you!?"

Lu stood there quiet, gazing at Ferrufino as if his eyes were about to suddenly jump out from his neck: "They're both the same," I thought. "Two dogs."

"Seeing as how you learned from this one."

His finger was pointing straight at my forehead. I bit my lip: I immediatly felt my tongue slide against a hot string. This calmed me.

"Out!," he yelled again. "Out of here! Or you'll regret it!"

We left. An immobile anxious crowd extended to the edge of the stairs connecting San Miguel's college to the plaza Merino. Our classmates had tromped through the small gardens and fontain; they were silent and worried. Strangely, between the white, ecstatic patches some blanks appeared, small rectangles that no one had trampled. Their heads all looked the same, like in a march formation. We crossed the plaza.

No one asked us anything: they moved to one side, making way and pressing thier lips. They stayed where they were until our feet hit the avenue. Then, following some dispatch no one had given, they filed in behind us, without compass, as if we were heading back to classes.

The pavement boiled. It looked a mirror the sun was slowly dissolving. "Is it true?," I thought. One sweltering night I'd been told, on this very street, but I didn't believe it. The newspapers had all said that the sun, in a few isolated spots, had driven some men insane and at times even killed a few.

"Javier," I asked. "Did you ever see an egg fry on the asphalt?"

Surpised, he shook his head.

"No. But I've heard abou it."

"Is it true?"

"Who knows? We could try it out. The ground is burning like a heater."

Alberto appeared in the doorway of La Reina. His blond hair shined beautifully; it looked like gold. He waved his right hand cordially, enormous green eyes opened wide, smiling. He was curious to know where we were marching to, this amorphous, silent multitude under a crude heat.

"Are you coming later," he yelled out.

"I can't. I'll see you tonight."

"He's a moron!' Javier said. "He's a drunk."

"No," I affirmed. "He's my friend. He's a good guy."