News Latin America Clean, throw and search the garbage

Clean, throw and search the garbage

Chilean writer Alia Trabucco.claudio alvarez

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“Maybe that’s what we are at birth, I hadn’t thought about it: a huge scar that anticipates those to come,” asserts the narrator of Cleanthe most recent novel by Chilean writer Alia Trabucco.

She, the narrator, will also have to tell us, at a certain moment: “My voice bothers you, am I wrong? Let’s talk about that, about my voice. They were expecting another one, right? A more meek and grateful. Are you recording my words? Are you recording my digressions? What happens to them now? Can’t the clerk use the word digression either? Would you lend me the list of your words and mine?

But let’s go back to the first sentence that I have quoted, that we will have time to return to the second later, dear reader: that, about the scar, about that part that is the softest of the skin but that keeps the memory of a terrible wound, a wound that can, therefore, be life itself, assures Estela, who works as a nanny, cook, laundress, gardener, cocktail waitress, nurse… (the mere contraction of these words in those of maidwhich almost all of Latin America uses like this, as if they were one, just as it uses thelordofthegarbage to refer to those who collect the waste but also the discards, the annoyances and even the tedium of those who have the luxury of discarding, in addition to throwing away, it denotes perverse verbal casts) in a house cuicalong after the palm of his hand is burned by the burning iron of a griddle.

Irons and piles of garbage

The iron scene —Trabucco’s work is full of powerful scenes that combine, with incredible mastery, explosions of language with implosions of the plot and vice versa—, is fundamental in the story of Clean and in the life of its protagonist and narrator, since it not only serves as the heart of the monologue that shapes the novel, but also because it becomes something like a metaphor embodied within that other metaphor that is the work of the Chilean writer: a stepfather on a finger in a body.

And it is that moment in which Estela leaves the iron, while smoothing the white cuffs of her employer’s always blue shirts, because the girl who drives her crazy, who treats her like a slave despite having pronounced the word before lullaby that the word breast and that it will end up getting entangled with the cable of the device and pulling it not want pay attention to it, condenses the specific contradictions —Estela puts her hand so that it is this one and not the little girl’s head that is burned— which in turn condense the general contradictions, contradictions that, moreover, tend threads between this book and one of our traditions, ranging from Alaide Foppa to Rosario Castellanos, passing through Piedad Bonnet or Diamela Eltit: can you serve and love at the same time? Can you need to escape from a situation as much as you need to stay in it? Can you live for one while living for others? Is it possible to command without knowing that the one being commanded is a human being?

The Mexican writer Sylvia Aguilar Zeleny.
The Mexican writer Sylvia Aguilar Zeleny.MOEH ATITAR

But if we talk about this type of contradiction, that is, specific contradictions that condense general contradictions, contradictions of those that are the norm in Latin America, a region whose border, to the north, is hybridized with another geographical space and with another language, but also with other discards, annoyances and tediums, with other spoils and waste, as well as with other verbal foundries, I repeat, of the type thelordofthegarbagewe should talk about Trashnovel by the Mexican Sylvia Aguilar Zeleny.

Here the language is a single explosion that does not stop, while the plot is the brilliant and brilliant bower of a braid of three strands that gives rise to a single implosion that does not stop either: “Yes, I am the Queen. Big Queen, even if you hear Bibi calling me Treyna Glande or Tijeras asking at the top of her voice, where is Mi Reyna Trande? Damn girls, they give everyone nicknames. That’s how creative they were with the job. You will already know them, they may seem bitches, but they are of a goodness Barbara. They are also good for the lockdowns so, if I am not there and you are in trouble, you tell them and you will see how they break the snout of whoever is bothering you. This novel was crossed by the pandemic (we will dedicate a newsletter to the books that covid-19 hid), a year after it saw the light, but now it has returned to bookstores.

In Aguilar Zeleny’s work, the trapped metaphor, like an insect in amber, is space: the huge garbage dump where Alicia is abandoned, as a child, and who will later thread her life with those of the other protagonists: Reyna, who runs a brothel, and Griselda, a doctor who lives on the other side of the border that divides but also mixes Juarez and El Paso.

What is, you may ask, that major metaphor that contains the garbage dump metaphor, again, like a stepfather in a finger in a body? Although it starts from a place that could seem its exact opposite -in Cleanthe universe of the protagonist depends on putting in a bag everything (concrete or figurative) that, as we have already said, discards or forgets people with power, while in Trashto a greater or lesser extent, the universe of the protagonists, whose voices strike us as Estela’s voice strikes us, depends on taking out of the bags (concrete or figurative) what power has also discarded or forgotten—, the metaphor is similar to that of Trabucco’s novel: Aguilar Zeleny condenses, in a few vertiginous pages in which, again, as in Cleanmemorable scenes abound —scenes in which memory conflicts with oblivion, need with guilt and love with impotence—, that world of forced labor and irrevocable servitude that separates —of course, neither spatially nor temporally, that is one of its greatest cruelties—to those who every December 31, as the Chilean writer’s Stela says, celebrate the beginning of a year of those who celebrate, for their part, that a year ends, to those who have a name and to those who do not have it, despite having received one (and here we are talking, again, about concrete things and figurative things).

Concrete and figurative things

The books by Trabucco and Aguilar Zeleny, I have already said it but I did not say it all, add up to a specific mountain range whose mountains are multiple, sinuous and intricate, but among which we must note from The buzzards without feathersby Julio Ramon Ribeyro, to dancing in the darkby Carlos Manuel Alvarez, passing through pig riderby Cronwell Jara —I will never tire of recommending this latest book—, as well as since The use of the wordfrom Rosario Castellano to Rageby Sergio Bizzio, going through Of circle and ashby Piedad Bonnet.

And they are added, moreover, to a figurative mountain range, just as multiple, sinuous and intricate as the concrete one, to which they add a new way of seeing that modern slavery that persists in Latin America or, rather, a new way of listening to it: “ My voice bothers you, am I wrong? Let’s talk about that, about my voice. They were expecting another one, right? A more meek and grateful”.


Clean has been published by Lumen. For its part, Trash was originally published by Nitro Press, but is also in a Transit edition. Julio Ramon Ribeyro’s work has been published in its entirety by Seix Barral, while that of Rosario Castellanos, published by the FCE, is also being recovered by Alfaguara. Rageby Sergio Bizzio, was published by Interzona. Of circle and ash reached bookstores thanks to Ediciones Uniandes (although it is also found in a Visor edition and in the volume of complete works published by Lumen), as well as The tribe he did it thanks to Sixth Floor.

Source: EL PAIS



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