Last October, the Nobel Prize for Literature was awarded to Abdulrazak Gurnah (Zanzibar, Tanzania, December 20, 1948), an almost unknown author in Spanish, who has lived in England for more than fifty years. There he received his doctorate in letters, was a professor, and retired since 1917. He is the author of essays, short stories and a dozen novels, the best known, Paradise, recently arrived at the Mexican novelties tables with the publishing label of Salamandra (translation by Sofía Noguera Mendía). I transcribe the first lines.
“Let’s start with the boy. His name was Yusuf, and when he was twelve years old he had to leave home suddenly. He remembered that it was a dry season and that each day was the same as the previous one. The flowers died as soon as they sprouted. Strange insects came out from under the stones to writhe to death in the searing light. The sun made the distant trees tremble in the air and the houses shuddered and gasped with difficulty. With each footstep a cloud of dust rose, and an oppressive stillness hung over the hottest hours. Precise moments like these came to his mind when he least expected it.
“At that time he saw two Europeans on the platform. They were the first he had seen in his life, but still she was not scared, at least not at first. He often went to the station to watch the trains come in, loud and graceful, and then waited until they started moving again under orders from the scowling Indian signalman with pennant and whistle. Sometimes Yusuf waited for hours for a train to arrive. The two Europeans were also waiting, standing under an awning with luggage and other bulky belongings stacked neatly a short distance away. The man was corpulent, and so tall that he had to lower his head to avoid touching the awning under which he protected himself from the sun. The woman, whose glowing face was partially obscured by two hats, was a little behind him in shadow. She wore a frilly white blouse buttoned at the neck and wrists and a long skirt that brushed her shoes. She was big and tall too, but in a different way. While she gave the impression of being made of some malleable matter, as if she were capable of taking on another form, he seemed to have been carved from a single piece of wood. They looked in different directions as if they didn’t know each other. Yusuf watched as the woman wiped her handkerchief over her lips, casually removing bits of dry skin. The man had red spots on his face, and as his eyes slowly swept over the cramped, cramped landscape of the station, taking in the shuttered wooden warehouses and the huge yellow flag with a picture of a shiny black bird, Yusuf had a chance to study him carefully. . Then he turned and noticed that Yosuf was looking at him. The man first looked away, but then turned to him and studied him for a long time. Yusuf couldn’t stop looking at him. Suddenly the man let out an involuntary growl, bared his teeth, and flexed his fingers inexplicably. The boy took the warning and walked away, muttering the words he had been taught to say when he needed God’s sudden and unexpected help.”
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Abdulrazak Gurnah – Two Europeans on the platform | Forever!