In Translation: The Meadow of the Gallows // El Prado de los Colgados

Lorea Canales is a Mexican author and winner of the Latino Book Award. This excerpt, translated from the Spanish by Gabriel Amor, is from her novel Los Perros. The original Spanish follows the English translation.

 

The Meadow of the Gallows

The field of the hanged man was a desolate and sad place. Suspended on their original structures the bodies remained hung, inert, barely swinging back and forth on windy afternoons.

Dozens of thousands of hung people, like cadavers stuck in an overpopulated spider web occupied the gray valley. Their bodies hung still, only the eyes functioned. This was an additional torture. For most, almost all of them, it was rare the head that hung sideways, most looked directly into their chest and were condemned to look only at themselves, their dangling feet and the somber earth underneath.

They appeared with no order, thrown onto the board like poorly aimed darts. Judas is on his tree at the moment of his death, before his body falls, and his skull splits in two. They arrive before the police agents with their latex gloves, or the executioner with strong hands loosens the noose, lowers the body and examines the cracked vertebra. In the instant of their last breath they come to the field and remain eternally. Only their eyes and their minds move. They don’t sleep. It is the eternal dream.

Unable to feel physical pain, their torment is endless. Yet the worse criminals take pleasure, those who were deranged and enjoyed their crimes: the assassination of a certain type of women, raping children, or cadavers. They rejoice reliving their most atrocious and bloody moments. They were perturbed, repeating the same acts once and again with a degenerate meticulousness, they find pleasure and relief staring their internal tape thousands of millions of times.

Those who committed suicide suffer the most, because they are free to think anything and create an internal world, but finding themselves unable to move, hung with their little feet in the air, makes them regret their decision. They hung themselves to be rid of life, not to remain forever hung. Before such penance, the aggravations suffered in life, their solitude and fears, diminish to the point of becoming absurd. That rejection, that bad love, that pain, they would live again, it doesn’t seem so terrible now, if they could at least move, feel.

Sarah Kane imagines the theater pieces she did not write. Her psychosis seems to her worthy of the stage, but she did not have to act the principal role. The shoelaces of her tennis shoes on her neck, sometimes she can see the plastic tip of one near her eye and underneath her, the eternal toilet. What a bad place she chose to die.

The same thoughts haunted Alexander McQueen in his armoire, the door is barely open and he can see other bodies, like cocoons at a distance. The cocktail of coke and tranquilizers has a rollercoaster effect, sometimes he is stimulated, but the downs are worse than those he had in life.

They can’t talk, can’t move, they are condemned to think for all eternity.

The regret of suicides and those who killed in cold blood, the indignation of the innocent, who are also there, or the victims, like John Brown, who died trying to abolish slavery, only lasts a couple of years. Eventually, the mind sees the futility of this and moves on.

There are those who have constructed entire universes and do not suffer, they exist in an other realm, completely absorbed by fantasies of their own creation. McQueen tries to achieve this state, sometimes in his highs he starts designing gardens made of breasts and noses, animals of pins and flowers exquisitely embroidered, but the tranquilizers soon come into effect and darken everything, pointing his gray eyes towards the gray valley, he asks himself, when will this end?

Edward Wirths, principal doctor of the SS, has climbed over the barriers of genetic engineering and decodified the genome. Once his brain entered into the cellular nucleus, he realized to what extent did humans resemble each other and the rest of life on earth. He does not feel responsible for the genocide; he feels certain arrogance towards his compatriots as he evidences their biological mistake.

Joachim Von Ribbentrop continues to make battle plans. War strategies where the owners of nuclear power keep a select group of Arian families with which they plan to repopulate the earth making it entirely blond and German speaking. His world resembles the kinder where his children went before the war.

Jocosta and Antigona are in different corners of the valley. They have both made kingdoms where order and good rule. Day by day, they govern over their realms. Jocosta’s is prettier it has a sensual aspect that Antigona’s lacks.

Marina Testseava habituated to insomnia continues her dialogue with Pasternak and Ahmatova. She has invented a new language that transmits her feelings. It is like music, but more than that, it has another frequency. If only a living soul could hear her, the whole world would change, so thinks the poet in her gallows.

The valley of the hung is desolate only in appearance.

~

El Prado de los Colgados

El prado de los colgados era un paraje desolado y triste. Suspendidos en sus estructuras originales, los cuerpos permanecían ahorcados, inertes, meciéndose apenas en las tardes cuando hacía viento. Eran decenas de miles los colgados, como cadáveres atrapados en una telaraña sobrepoblada que ocupaban el valle grisáceo. Sus cuerpos estaban privados de movimiento, sólo los ojos les seguían funcionando. Era una tortura adicional porque era raro que alguno quedara con la cabeza hacía un lado: la vista les apuntaba directo al pecho, de manera que solo se podían ver a sí mismos, a sus pies y la tierra sombría.

Aparecían sin ningún orden, aventados al tablero como dardos con mala puntería. Judas en su árbol yace al momento de la muerte antes de que se caiga y se parta el cráneo en dos partes; antes de que los agentes policiales con sus guantes de latex o los verdugos de manos fuertes desaprieten el nudo, bajen el cuerpo, examinen el rompimiento de las vértebras. En el instante del último aliento es cómo llegan al prado y como se quedan por toda la eternidad. Solo sus ojos y sus mentes se mueven. No duermen. Ya están en el sueño infinito.

No sienten dolor físico, pero su tormento es perpetuo. Sólo los peores criminales gozan, aquellos que ya en vida estaban trastornados y disfrutaban con sus crímenes, el asesinato de un cierto tipo de mujer, la violación de niños, o el sexo con cadáveres. Solo gozan reviviendo sus más atroces y sangrientos momentos los perturbados que ya tenían que repetir los mismos actos, una y otra vez con la meticulosidad de quien encuentra placer y consuelo en protagonizar su cinta interna miles de millones de veces.

El mayor sufrimiento lo tienen los suicidas. Aunque son libres de pensar en cualquier cosa al verse privados de movilidad, colgados, con sus piecitos volando –y el sólo poder verse así- se arrepienten de su decisión. Habían querido colgarse para terminar con la vida, no para permanecer colgados siempre. Ante semejante penitencia, los agravios que sufrieron en vida—sus soledades y miedos—disminuyen hasta volverse absurdos. Aquel rechazo, aquel mal amor, será rememorado de nuevo mil veces y mil veces no les parece ya tan terrible. Sarah Kane imagina las obras de teatro que no escribió, su Psicosis le parece digna del escenario, aunque no tenía ella que hacer el papel principal. Las agujetas de sus tenis en el cuello; a veces puede ver la punta emplasticada de una que se le acerca al ojo y, debajo, el inodoro eterno. ¡Qué mal lugar eligió para suicidarse! Lo mismo piensa Alexander Moqueen, enfundado en el armario. La puerta se abre apenas y divisa otros cadáveres como capullos a lo lejos. El cocktail de coca y tranquilizantes tiene efecto de montaña rusa; por lo menos a veces está estimulado, pero los bajones son peores que los más extremos de su vida. No pueden hablar, no pueden moverse. Están condenados a pensar por toda la eternidad. ∞.

El arrepentimiento de aquellos capaces para esto sólo dura unos años. La mente ve la futilidad de seguir penando y pasa a otra cosa.

Hay quienes han construido universos enteros y no sufren. Están más allá, completamente absortos en las fantasías de su propia creación. McQueen intenta llegar a eso, a veces en sus highs comienza a diseñar jardines confeccionados con pechos y narices, animales con alfileres y flores bordadas con tanta exquisitez pero los tranquilizantes pronto surten efecto y opacan todo. Gira su mirada hacia el paraje gris y se pregunta cuándo va a terminar esto.

Eduard Wirths, el doctor principal del SS, ha pasado las bardas de la ingeniería genética y ha logrado por él sólo con su razonamiento decodificar el genoma. Una vez que sus cálculos se adentraron al núcleo de la célula se dio cuenta en qué grado eran iguales los humanos y toda la vida del planeta. El doctor Wirths no se siente culpable del genocidio, inclusive llegó a sentir cierta arrogancia al vislumbrar cuán errado estaba el proyecto de sus compatriotas desde el punto de vista biológico. En cambio Joachim von Ribbentrop siguió ideando planes de batalla, estrategias bélicas dónde una vez dueños del poder nuclear salvaguardarían un selecto grupo de familias arias con las cuales repoblarían el planeta enteramente rubio y germanoparlante. Su mundo se parecía al kinder donde asistieron sus hijos antes de la guerra.

Jocosta y Antígona están en lado opuesto del valle. Ambas se han construido reinos donde impera el bien y el orden. Día a día se dedican a administrarlos. El de Jocosta es más bonito, tiene un aspecto sensual del que carece el mundo de Antígona.

Marina Tsventayenva, acostumbrada al insomnio, sigue dialogando con Pasternak y Ahmatova. Ha inventado un nuevo lenguaje para transmitir sus sentimientos, es una música pero la excede porque está otra frecuencia. Si tan sólo un ser vivo pudiera escucharla cambiaría el mundo entero. Eso piensa la poeta en su horca.

El paraje de los ahorcados es desolador nada más en apariencia.

About the Author

Lorea Canales is the author of Becoming Marta (Amazon Crossings/Amazon Publishing), an Amazon Bestseller, and Kindle First pick, and winner of the Latino Book Award. It was originally published in Spanish by Random House, Mexico, in 2011. She is also the author of Los Perros published by Random House, Mexico, in 2013. She has an LLM from Georgetown Law, worked in Washington, DC, and Mexico before joining the newspaper Reforma. In 2010, Canales received an MFA from NYU. Her articles and short stories have appeared in numerous publications and anthologies.

About the Translator

Born in Spain, Gabriel Amor has lived in New York since the age of five. He holds an M.A. in English and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing in Spanish. Amor writes bilingual poetry and is working on his first novel. He has published translations of numerous Latin American writers, and is the recipient of a 2016 PEN/Heim Grant. He was a Producer on the Emmy-nominated documentary The Woman Who Wasn’t There.

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