View From The South

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Eduardo Galeano's View From The South

Eduardo Galeano The couple

A couple was walking across the savannah in East Africa at the beginning of the rainy season. It was way back in the Pliocene during the Tertiary period, which is like saying before before. That woman and that man still looked a lot like apes, truth be told, although by then they were standing up straight and had no tails.

Sadiman volcano was belching as usual. The rain of ash preserved the couple’s footprints, from that time through all time. Under grey beds of volcanic ash, the prints remained intact. And now those footprints tell us that Eve and Adam were walking together and at a certain point she stopped, turned away and walked a few steps on her own before returning to the shared path.

The oldest human footprints in the world left evidence of a doubt. A few years have gone by. The doubt remains.

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The Kiss
Antonio Pujía randomly picked out one of the blocks of Carrara marble he had been buying over the years.

It was a tombstone. It came from a grave, who knows where. He hadn’t the slightest idea how it came to be in his workshop.

Antonio laid the tombstone down on a base of support and set to work. He had a vague idea of what he wanted to sculpt, or maybe he had none. He began by erasing the inscription: the name of a man, the year of birth, the year of death.

Then the chisel entered the marble. And inside the stone Antonio found a surprise waiting for him: the marble vein was in the shape of two faces eye to eye, something like two profiles attached at the forehead.

The sculptor obeyed the stone, excavating carefully until the encounter the stone contained took form.

The following day, he figured his work was done. And then, when he raised the tombstone, he saw what he hadn’t seen. On the back was another inscription: the name of a woman, the year of birth, the year of death.

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The sun is hiding behind the cypresses when Aurora Meloni reaches the cemetery of San Antonio de Areco. They had called her. ‘We need the space. You understand, lots of people die.’

An employee tells her: ‘Pleased to meet you, señora. That comes to 300 pesos. Here you go.’

And he hands her the bones in a plastic bag, the kind you use for putting out the garbage.

In an enormous black car, Aurora takes away the bones.

The driver, dressed in black from his cap to his shoes, drives in silence.

She’s thankful for the silence. She doesn’t glance at the black plastic bag. She gazes at the world flowing by on the other side of the window.

In an open field a few boys are playing soccer. Aurora can’t bear their wanton happiness and she turns away. She watches the back of the driver’s neck. She doesn’t look at the bag, which rides on the floor, squeezed between her legs.

Who is inside the bag? The boy who used to sell home-made cheese and custard with her in the street markets of Montevideo? The one who slept wrapped in her arms? Why didn’t anyone tell her everything would go by so fast? Where are the words they never said? The things they never did, where are they? Many years have gone by. Seventeen or a hundred. The armed men who kidnapped Daniel are still free and they are still armed.

And Daniel? Is he here in this plastic bag? Is this the man who swore he’d change the world and ended up in the gutter on a highway like this one, his body full of holes?

And what about her? Is she in this never-ending car-ride, this rented funereal float? Is she this woman biting her lips and feeling her eyes sting? Is this a car? Or is it a ghost train that jumped the rails with her inside and took her off to nowhere?

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The Seven Deadly Sins
When he thought he was dying, a friend told me he was guilty of greed, envy, gluttony, lust, sloth, pride and anger.

‘I never went to confession. I didn’t want the priest to enjoy my sins more than I had, so out of greed I kept them to myself.’

‘I didn’t confess my envy of mosquitoes that could fly up that woman’s skirts.’

‘Gluttony? Yes, gluttony. From the moment I first saw her, cannibalism didn’t seem like such a bad idea.’

‘It was lust or x-ray vision that always made me see her naked, the way you see a sword naked despite the sheath.’

‘To enter her was the only thing in the world about which I wasn’t slothful. Outside her I dragged myself around like a bug that’s been sprayed.’

‘I stayed inside her, entering more than leaving, until my pride made me believe she was me.’

‘And one night, in anger, I broke that mirror to pieces.’

Eduardo Galeano is one of Latin America’s foremost writers. He lives in Montevideo, Uruguay, and his latest book Upside Down is published by Metropolitan Books, New York.

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New Internationalist issue 342 magazine cover This article is from the January/February 2002 issue of New Internationalist.
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