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Authors: Carlos Castán

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BOOK: Bad Light
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One day the investigators will come, and they will know what I knew. They will know that Nadia was not innocent, nor did she really live in an apartment in which everything was white. They will perhaps find more cards, from other, previous, bunches of flowers, now rotten, decaying throughout the garbage dumps of the world. And in those words they will spot the clues to a game of love. One day the investigators will come, and they will know, just as I knew, that Nadia spent most nights with her husband in a house in Montecanal, from which she often escaped to redeem men, to caress brains trembling in fear. And they will know that I knew she was followed, night and day, by a few hired thugs who snapped her lovers’ legs in two or left their faces scarred. They will discover that one day, at Jacobo’s apartment, those thugs were met with resistance and that things got out of hand. No one expects, in the darkness of a hallway, in the middle of the night, to chance upon a madman defending himself brandishing an axe in both hands. They will search her little pampered wife’s pad, the hideout for her mischief, the matching cushions and blinds. They will read the reports written up by the mercenaries, to be read by her husband while sitting in his office—what the eye sees through the semi-transparent curtains, the obscene poses struck by a couple of silhouettes, out-of-focus snapshots taken with a telephoto lens from the balcony across the street, recordings of moans behind doors, shot through with static but not so much so that he cannot make out, if he pricks up his ears, the echoes of a passion he has long forgotten and that cannot be rekindled except with the threat of a blade and the hounding of blood shivering invisibly in the air from the very first moment.

The investigators will turn up one day, and they will know that her husband loved her. And that he masturbated as he looked over the reports, observing those black smudges copulating behind the net curtains, shadows of flesh devouring each other. And that for her he risked jail, ruin, his whole life, only so that she might see how far, to what lengths. He would hold out his madness as proof of love and would make it up to her later with flowers and jewels whenever he broke a new toy of hers—here is my superhuman love, here are my wild eyes, my hands dirtied for you. The investigators will come, and it will take little effort for them to understand the dark pleasure Nadia took, in spite of herself and of her moments of doubt and of rage, in that game that could on no account be named, in that gift of danger galore, of pure intensity offered up to her on a plate for her days of tedium.

The investigators will turn up one day, and they will reach into the drawer containing her panties and hold them up to their noses when no one is looking. They will sniff the sheets, they will read every paper, and even when all of the evidence is staring them in the face, they will not wish to hear that she was a bitch or that she deserved to die. They will take with them only the fact that she was still young, poor thing, and that she leaves behind a teenage son and an unfinished woolen scarf she had been knitting for him. They will clutch at that so as to follow me over land and sea and hunt me down with their hounds.

My children will now be making their way home from school, their backpacks slung over their shoulders, at this hour as I write frantically, hiding out in a room in the Hôtel du Nord, once again, having checked in this time under my dead friend’s name, a stone’s throw from the Montparnasse cemetery where Duras’s sorrow and the damp bones of a poet who died on a rain-sodden Thursday are reunited with the nothingness. It is not snowing today in Paris, nor are any cars burning on the outskirts of the city, and the Eiffel Tower stands as if rusting beneath a sky that is anything but picturesque.

I will never return to my apartment. A livid lady lies decomposing on my bed. I think of her greenish, splayed legs and of the maroon dress she was wearing. The investigators will find her there when the neighbors start to complain about the smell, or when one of the hired thugs, if indeed she was followed that last time, kicks the door down when she fails to show up. The investigators will turn up at my apartment, they will rifle through my things much as I have done these past months. They will look at the same things, they will see others. They won’t even know what it is they’re looking for among all those books, clippings, photos, and papers. They will throw everything to the floor, then trample it all underfoot. They will rummage around in the trash, in the medicine cabinet, touching everything with their clumsy paws.

One day the investigators will come, and perhaps one of them, at some point, will want to know the truth. Perhaps he will sit down in my battered leather wing chair to read the notes I wrote on Celan, the watercolor I commissioned from Jacobo of the poet from Czernowitz dropping into the Seine in the early morning, together with other prints from my collection of those who fell from the sky—Dorothy Hale, as seen by Frida Kahlo, her battered corpse on the asphalt next to Hampshire House, Evelyn McHale, fingering her necklace and yet immobile, dead atop the sunken roof of a limousine parked beneath the Empire State Building; he will perhaps discover my love for all those who took the plunge, those who leapt and those who fell—Hart Crane, Virginia Woolf, Primo Levi, so many others who took to the air on the darkest of nights, those who throw themselves into the sea, into the river, down the stairwell. He will be taken aback by so many photos of Auschwitz and bound women, of slaughterhouses for men and for cattle.

One day the investigators will come, and they will know that my life has been nothing. They will see that I have gone and that my things continue to float in the density of fear. It will dawn on them that many of the books remain unread. And that that raincoat-clad girl, her hair tied up, never came to browse my shelves. That no one came, and that that woman was not, therefore, as I had dreamt, the French girl who walked barefoot beneath the rain, holding her shoes in one hand. They will reach the conclusion that I sought to distance myself from it all without ever managing to find the doors to the empty cathedral inside which I was locked. They will learn that I screamed myself hoarse only to hear my own echo beneath the domes in reply. They will know that I gave in to the weariness, they will know that I did not know what to do with all my terror and also that I needed my friend’s death in order to be able to see myself for the first time. One day the investigators will come, and they will learn of this darkness, of how desire and blood, silk and knives get caught up in the furrows of my brain. And they will see that I wanted to love but did not know how to, and that I wept for that reason, and that I aimlessly wandered the evenings of my life, mile after mile, without finding a thing, for there was nothing in the streets or the books or among the trees that was not tainted by the fear being secreted by my brain. The investigators will turn up, and they will know that one night I paced up and down the Mirabeau Bridge, barefoot, beautiful, I think, without knowing what to do, without knowing if I might be found in a bend in the River Seine, bound for Le Havre, caught up in the reeds on the shore, or seated on a bed in a hotel room, with life in full flow, the TV on, my own tears, the bad light.
Cabo de Gata, August 2012


Carlos Castán is a Spanish writer born in Barcelona in 1960. He is considered one of the best short-story writers in Spain.
Bad Light
is his debut novel. He lives in Zaragoza.


Michael McDevitt was a runner-up on the inaugural Harvill Secker/Granta Young Translators’ Prize. He has translated work by Elvira Navarro, Agustín Fernández Mallo and Luisgé Martín, among others. His translations have been published by Two Lines Press, The White Review, Hispabooks and OpenRoad/Group Planeta. He lives in Madrid.


Contemporary Spanish fiction in English-language translation

BOOK: Bad Light
5.33Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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