Mis anotaciones: “Hombre de la esquina rosada” un cuento de 1935 de Jorge Luis Borges


This post is bilingual, scroll down to find the English language version

Editorial Bruguera, 1980. Col. Narradores de hoy. Formato: Rústica. Jorge Luis Borges Prosa Completa. Volumen 1. 448 páginas [195 – 202] ISBN (Tomo I): 84-02-06746-8. La versión definitiva de este cuento se publicó en 1935 en el volumen Historia universal de la infamia.

el hombre de la esquina rosadaPrimer párrafo: A mi, tan luego, hablarme del finado Francisco Real. Yo lo conocí, y eso que éstos no eran sus barrios porque el sabía tallar más bien por el Norte, por esos laos de la laguna de Guadalupe y la Batería. Arriba de tres veces no lo traté, y ésas en una misma noche, pero es noche que no se me olvidará, como que en ella vino la Lujanera porque sí a dormir en mi rancho y Rosendo Juárez dejó, para no volver, el Arroyo. A ustedes, claro que les falta la debida esperiencia para reconocer ése nombre, pero Rosendo Juárez el Pegador, era de los que pisaban más fuerte por Villa Santa Rita. Mozo acreditao para el cuchillo, era uno de los hombres de don Nicolás Paredes, que era uno de los hombres de Morel. Sabía llegar de lo más paquete al quilombo, en un oscuro, con las prendas de plata; los hombres y los perros lo respetaban y las chinas también; nadie inoraba que estaba debiendo dos muertes; usaba un chambergo alto, de ala finita, sobre la melena grasíenta; la suerte lo mimaba, como quien dice. Los mozos de la Villa le copiábamos hasta el modo de escupir. Sin embargo, una noche nos ilustró la verdadera condicion de Rosendo.

Argumento: “Hombre de la esquina rosada” relata unos acontecimientos que ocurrieron en un quilombo (“un bar de alterne”) llamado “Salón de Julia”, situado en el Barrio de Santa Rita (zona rural de la ciudad de Buenos Aires), donde se bailaba el tango, se bebía y se alternaba con mujeres de vida alegre.

Una noche llegó al barrio un coche lleno de hombres que venían del Norte. Uno de ellos se llamaba Francisco Real, cuyo seudónimo era el Corralero. Éste era alto y fuerte, con melena grasienta y vestido con un chambergo (“tabardo de uniforme militar”). El Corralero tenía fama de matón. En el bar de Julia, Rosendo Juárez cuyo apodo era el Pegador, su mujer llamada la Lujanera y muchos de los habitantes del barrio estaban disfrutando del ambiente de milonga (” baile y fiesta”). Poco después, el grupo de hombres del Norte entraron en la taberna en busca de pelea. El narrador del cuento, que participa en el relato, explica que el recién llegado, Francisco Real, entró de manera violenta en la cantina y que el propio narrador intentó frenarlo pero sin suerte. Mientras el Corralero iba adentrándose en el tugurio, todos los que estaban allí le escupían y le daban golpes, trompadas y cachetas, pero él continuaba caminando ausente a lo que ocurría a su alrededor.

El Corralero, con este viento de chamuchina (“chusma y fruslería”), fue empujado hasta llegar cerca de la persona que estaba buscando. De golpe, el forastero dijo:

“Yo soy Francisco Real, un hombre del Norte. Yo soy Francisco Real, que le dicen el Corralero. Yo les he consentido a estos infelices que me alzaran la mano, porque lo que estoy buscando es un hombre. Andan por ahí unos bolaceros (“mentirosos”) diciendo que en estos andurriales hay uno que tiene mentas (“fama”) de cuchillero, y de malo, y que le dicen el Pegador”

Rosendo Juárez no respondió con la actitud que todos los presentes esperaban, que era la de enfrentarse al Corralero. Entonces, es cuando la Lujanera, la mujer del Pegador, le dio un cuchillo a su marido para que se enfrentara con el forastero. Por sorpresa de todos, Rosendo no solo no utilizó el cuchillo sino que lo tiró por una ventana. El Corralero insistió en el desafío al Pegador y viendo que este último no respondía le dijo: “De asco no te carneo. ( “descuartizar como a un carnero”)”.

Entonces, la mujer de Rosendo se acercó al forastero y le dijo que lo dejara porque su marido había demostrado, delante de todos, que era un cobarde. Ella convenció fácilmente a Francisco Real diciendo: “Déjalo a ése, que nos hizo creer que era un hombre.” Y juntos empezaron a bailar. Pocos minutos después, la Lujanera y el Corralero salieron del bar de Júlia.

La voz del narrador vuelve a aparecer y explica que se siente avergonzado y deshonrado, ya que su ídolo había sido desprestigiado delante de todos. Éste, con una gran tristeza interior, salió del antro a tomar el aire. Rosendo Juárez también salió del salón y coincidió con el cronista de los hechos, pero al encontrarse solo se murmuraron dos palabras. Al cabo de unas horas, el comentarista volvió al recinto.

Esa misma noche, la Lujanera y el Corralero regresaron al quilombo (“bar de alterne”). Él estaba herido de muerte, agonizando. La mujer explicó que mientras estaba con Francisco Real alguien lo llamó y le clavó un puñal. Ella dejó claro que no había sido su marido, sino que lo había apuñalado un desconocido.

Los hombres del Norte acusaron a la Lujanera de asesina, pero el narrador de la historia les convenció de que no era posible, ya que ni las manos, ni el pulso de una mujer podrían acabar con la vida de un hombre tan fornido. Al acercarse la policía, se decidió tirar el cuerpo del Corralero al arroyo para evitarse problemas. (Fuente: El lunfardo en la literatura porteña: Roberto Arlt y Jorge Luis Borges. PDF en Internet de autor desconocido).

Evito deliberadamente contar el final del cuento, si no lo han adivinado.

Mi opinión: El cuento de Borges “Hombre de la esquina rosada”, se publicó por primera vez con el título “Leyenda Policial” en la revista Martín Fierro del 26 de febrero de 1927. Una segunda versión se integró en el volumen El idioma de los argentinos en 1928 con el nombre “Hombres pelearon” y una tercera versión se publicó como “Hombres de las orillas” en la Revista Multicolor de los sábados, en el periódico Crítico del 16 de septiembre de 1933. La versión final con su nombre definitivo se integró en el volumen Historia universal de la infamia, que se publicó en 1935. (Fuente : Wikipedia) El cuento está dedicado al escritor, poeta y periodista uruguayo Enrique Amorim.

Uno de los aspectos que más me interesó de esta historia es su lenguaje. Está escrito en lunfardo, un argot originado y desarrollado a fines del siglo XIX y principios del XX entre las clases bajas de Buenos Aires y desde allí se extendió a otras ciudades cercanas, como los alrededores de Gran Buenos Aires, Rosario y Montevideo. Por lo tanto, no sorprende que a algunos lectores les resulte difícil leerlo sin la ayuda de un diccionario. Se adjunta una nota explicativa de expresiones y palabras lunfardo para las personas interesadas en El lunfardo en la literatura porteña: Roberto Arlt y Jorge Luis Borges (PDF)

Es sin duda una de las pocas incursiones de Borges en la ficción criminal. Y a pesar de que el propio Borges lo consideró una de sus peores historias, realmente lo disfruté y no me canso de volver a leerlo. Ya he publicado sobre esta historia corta aquí y aquí, pero me animé a volver a escribir sobre ella al encontrar información adicional que pensé que podría ser de interés para algunos lectores.

Me parece importante resaltar que Borges anuncia el desenlace de la historia desde la primera página: “pero es noche que no se me olvidará ….. y Rosendo Juárez dejó para no volver, el Arroyo” y, sin embargo, el interés de la historia se mantiene hasta el final.

El texto tiene una secuela que el mismo Borges escribió algunos años después, “Historia de Rosendo Juárez” en la colección El informe de Brodie, 1970, donde el propio Rosendo Juárez da su propia versión de lo sucedido. (Continuará …. )

Texto original

Mi valoración: A+ (No se demore, consiga un ejemplar de este libro)

Sobre el autor: Jorge Luis Borges (Buenos Aires, Argentina, 24 de agosto de 1899 – Ginebra, Suiza, 14 de junio 1986), fue un poeta, ensayista y escritor argentino de cuentos cuyos trabajos se han convertido en clásicos de la literatura mundial del siglo XX. Después de 1961, cuando compartió junto con Samuel Beckett el Premio Formentor, los cuentos y poemas de Borges empezaron a ser reconocidos en todo el mundo. Hasta ese momento, Borges era poco conocido, incluso en su Buenos Aires natal. A su muerte, el mundo de pesadilla de sus “ficciones” se había comparado con el mundo de Franz Kafka y había sido elogiado por condensar el lenguaje común en su forma más permanente. Por su trabajo, la literatura latinoamericana pasó del ámbito académico al terreno de los lectores generalmente educados. Entre sus incursiones en el campo de la ficción policial se pueden mencionar, además de La muerte y la brújula y El jardín de senderos que se bifurcan, Seis problemas para don Isidro Parodi, escrito junto con Adolfo Bioy Casares.

Man on Pink Corner by Jorge Luis Borges

Opening paragraph: Imagine you bringing up Francisco Real that way, out of the clear blue sky, him dead and gone and all. Because I met the man, even if this wa’n’t exactly his stomping ground—his was more up in the north, up around Guadalupe Lake and Batería. Truth is, I doubt if I crossed paths with the man more than three times, and all three were on a single night—though it’s not one I’ll be likely ever to forget. It was the night La Lujanera came home to sleep at my place—just like that, just up and came—and the same night Rosendo Juárez left Maldonado* never to return. Of course you probably haven’t had the experience you’d need to recognize that particular individual’s name, but in his time Rosendo Juárez—the Sticker, they called him— was one of the toughest customers in Villa Santa Rita. He was fierce with a knife, was Rosendo Juárez, as you’d expect with a moniker like that, and he was one of don Nicolás Paredes’ men—don Nicolás being one of Morel’s men.* He’d come into the cathouse just as dandified as you can imagine, head to foot in black, with his belt buckle and studs and all of silver. Men and dogs, both, had a healthy respect for him, and the whores did too; everybody knew two killings’d been laid to him already. He wore a tall sort of hat with a narrow brim, which sat down like this on a long mane of greasy hair. Rosendo was favored by fortune, as they say, and we boys in the neighborhood would imitate him right down to the way he spit. But then there came a night that showed us Rosendo Juarez’s true colors. (Translated by Andrew Hurley)

Streetcorner Man by Jorge Luis Borges

Opening paragraph: Fancy your coming out and asking me, of all people, about the late Francisco Real. Yes, I knew him, even if he wasn’t from around here. His stamping ground was the Northside – that whole stretch from the Guadalupe pond to the old Artillery Barracks. I never laid eyes on him above three times, and they were all on the same night, but nights like that you don’t forget. It was when La Lujanera decided to come around to my place and bed down with me, and when Rosendo Juárez disappeared from the Maldonado for good. Of course, you’re not the sort of person that name would mean much to. But around Villa Santa Rita, Rosendo Juárez – or, as we called him, the Slasher – had quite a reputation. He was one of don Nicolás Paredes’ boys, just as Paredes was one of Morel’s gang, and he was admired for the way he handled a knife. Sharp dresser, too. He always rode up to the whorehouse on a dark horse, his riding gear decked out in silver. There wasn’t a man or dog around that didn’t respect him – and that goes for the women as well. Everyone knew that he had at least a couple of killings to his credit. He usually wore a soft hat with a narrow brim and tall crown, and it would sit in a cocky way on his long hair, which he slicked straight back. Lady luck smiled on him, as they say, and around Villa all of us who were younger used to ape him – even as to how he spit. But then one night we got a good look at what this Rosendo was made of. (Translated by Norman Thomas di Giovanni)

Storyline: Streetcorner Man (alka Man on Pink Corner recounts some events that took place in a quilombo (‘a brothel’) called Julia’s Place, located in Santa Rita’s borough (rural area of the city of Buenos Aires), where tango was danced, alcohol was drank, and women of relaxed moral could be found.

One night, a car full of men that were coming from the North arrived to the neighbourhood. One was Francisco Real, called the Butcher. He was tall and strong, with greasy mane and dressed in a chambergo (“military uniform tabard”). The Yardmaster was reputed to be a thug. In Julia’s place, Rosendo Juárez, whose nickname was the Sticker, his woman la Lujanera and many people of the neighbourhood were enjoying the milonga (‘dance and feast’) atmosphere. Shortly after, the group of men from the North entered the tavern looking for fight. The teller of this tale, who participates in the account, explains that the newcomer, Francisco Real, violently entered the canteen and the narrator himself tried to stop him with no luck. As the Butcher got deep into the tavern, everyone who was there were spitting him and punching him and shoving and slapping, but he continued walking absent of what was going on around him.

The Butcher, with this wind of chamuchina (“rabble and gimcrack”), was pushed until arriving next to the person he was looking for. Abruptly, the stranger said:

“I’m Francisco Real, from up on the Northside. Francisco Real, and they call me the Yardmaster. I’ve let these poor sons of bitches lift their hands to me because what I’m looking for is a man. There are people out there—I figure they’re just bolaceros (‘talkers’), you know—saying there’s some guy down here in these boondocks that fancies himself a knife fighter, and a bad’un—say he’s called the Sticker.”  (Translation by Andrew Hurley

‘I’m Francisco Real and I come from the Northside. I let these fools lay their hands on me because what I’m looking for is a man. Word is going around that there’s someone out here in mudville who’s good with a knife. They call him the Slasher’ (Translation by Norman Thomas di Giovanni)

Rosendo Juárez did not reply with the attitude that everyone present expected, which was that of confronting himself to the Butcher. Then, it is when the Lujanera, the Slasher’s woman, gave a knife to her husband for him to face with the stranger. To everyone’s surprise, Rosendo not only did not use the knife but threw it through a window. The Butcher insisted in the challenge to the Slasher and seeing the latter was not responding, he said: I don’t carneo you (‘I don’t cut you to piecemeal like a ram’), because you disgust me.

Then, Rosendo’s wife approached the stranger and told him to leave him because her husband had shown to be a coward, in front of everyone. She convinced easily Francisco Real saying: “Forget that dog—he had us thinking he was a man.” And together they begun to dance. A few minutes later, la Lujanera and the Butcher left Julia’s Place.

The narrator’s voice re-emerges explaining that he feels ashamed and dishonoured, since his idol had been discredited in front of everyone. And so, with a great inner sadness,  he left the den to take a breath of pure air. Rosendo Juarez also left the hall and coincided with the chronicler of the events, but when they encountered they only murmured two words. After a few hours, the commentator got got back to the precinct.

That same night, la Lujanera and the Yardmaster returned to the quilombo (‘brothel’). He was mortally wounded, agonizing. The woman explained that while she was with Francisco Real someone called him and stabbed him with a knife. She made it clear it had not been her husband but he had been stabbed by a stranger.

The men from the North accused la Lujanera of murderer, but the narrator convinced them it was not possible, since neither the hands, nor the pulse of a woman could end the life of such a stocky man. When the police approached, it was decided to dump the Butcher’s body to the creek to avoid hassles. (Source: El lunfardo en la literatura porteña: Roberto Arlt y Jorge Luis Borges . On line PDF in Spanish by an unknown author). 

I deliberately avoid telling the ending of the tale, if you have not guessed it.

My take: Borges short story “Man on Pink Corner” was first published under the title “Leyenda Policial” in the magazine Martín Fierro of 26 February 1927. A second version was integrated in the volume El idioma de los argentinos in 1928 with the name “Hombres pelearon” and a third version was published as “Hombres de las orillas” in the Multicolor Magazine on Saturdays, in Crítico newspaper of 16 September 1933. The final version with its definitive name was integrated into the volume Historia universal de la infamia, published in 1935. (Source: Wikipedia). The short story is dedicated to the Uruguayan writer, poet and journalist Enrique Amorim.

One of the aspects that interested me most of this story is its language. It is written in lunfardo,  an argot originated and developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries among the lower classes in Buenos Aires and from there spread to other cities nearby, such as the surrounding area Greater Buenos Aires, Rosario and Montevideo. Thus, it is not surprise that some readers find it difficult to read it without the help of a dictionary. An explanatory note of expressions and lunfardo words is attached for interested individuals El lunfardo en la literatura porteña: Roberto Arlt y Jorge Luis Borges (PDF in Spanish). 

It is undoubtedly one of the few incursions of Borges into crime fiction. And despite Borges himself considered it one of his worst stories, I have really enjoyed it and I don’t get tired re-reading it. I have already posted about this short story here and here, but I encouraged myself to re-write about it when finding additional information that I thought might be of interest to some readers.

I feel important to highlight that Borges announces the denouement of the story from the fist page: ‘the same night Rosendo Juárez left Maldonado never to return’ and, nevertheless, the interest of the story is kept to the very end.

The text has a sequel that Borges himself wrote some years later, “Rosendo’s Tale” in the collection Doctor Brodie’s Report, 1970, where Rosendo Juárez himself gives his own version of what happened. (To be continued …. )

Read the full text at Collected Fictions by Jorge Luis Borges, translated by Andrew Hurley here.

Read the full text at A Universal History of Infamy by Jorge Luis Borges, translated by Norman Thomas di Giovanni here.

My rating: A+ (Don’t delay, get your hands on a copy of this book)

About the Author: Jorge Luis Borges (Buenos Aires, Argentina, August 24, 1899 – Geneva, Switzerland, June 14, 1986), was an Argentine poet, essayist and short-story writer whose works have become classics of 20th century world literature. After 1961, when he and Samuel Beckett shared the Formentor Prize, the stories and poems of Borges began to be increasingly acclaimed all over the world. Until then, Borges was little known, even in his native Buenos Aires. By the time of his death, the nightmare world of his “fictions” had come to be compared to the world of Franz Kafka and to be praised for condensing the common language into its most enduring form. Through his work, Latin American literature emerged from the academic realm into the field of generally educated readers. Among his incursions in the field of detective fiction it can be mentioned, besides Death and the Compass and The Garden Of Forking Paths, Six Problems for Don Isidro Parodi, written together with Adolfo Bioy Casares.

3 thoughts on “Mis anotaciones: “Hombre de la esquina rosada” un cuento de 1935 de Jorge Luis Borges

  1. At least four notable fantasy writers had their early reputations “made” by stories they thought were Certainly Not Bad, but not the best they could do…unfortunately, those stories followed their authors around and people would be so thoughtless as to come up and tell them–Wow, that’s your best story! A half-century later, the writers might hear that from thoughtless fans…you never did better than an example of yeoman work. Other writers might be affected this way, but those I know shared this experience were Borges, with “El hombre de la esquina rosada”, Theodore Sturgeon with “Microscopic God”, Isaac Asimov with “Nightfall” and Robert Bloch with “Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper”…

    Borges was known to at least some Anglophone readers from Anthony Boucher publishing his translation of “The Garden of the Forking Paths” in ELLERY QUEEN’S in the 1940s, and Borges made his first appearance in a US fantasy/sf magazine, FANTASTIC UNIVERSE, edited by Hans Stefan Santesson who also edited THE SAINT MYSTERY MAGAZINE in those years, and had edited the Unicorn Mystery Book Club earlier…I suspect he did the translation of one of the vignettes from THE UNIVERSAL HISTORY OF INFAMY, as it’s uncredited in that last, 1960 issue of FU.

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