Author: Jose Ignacio

My Book Notes: The Murders In The Rue Morgue And Other Stories by Edgar Allan Poe

Esta entrada es bilingüe, para ver la versión en castellano desplazarse hacia abajo

Orion, Crime Masterworks, 2002. Book Format: Paperback. 176 pages. ISBN: 9780752847702

5ee79472f8655935931654b5977444341587343Book Description: In just five stories published between 1841 and 1845, Edgar Allan Poe laid down most of the ground rules of detective fiction. In the three tales featuring chevalier C. Auguste Dupin (“The Murders in the Rue Morgue”, “The Mystery of Marie Roget”, and “The Purloined Letter”) he created the Great Detective, not to mention the locked-room mystery, the notion of armchair detection and the secret-service story; “The Gold Bug” revolved around the use of cyphers; and “Thou Art the Man” made use of false clues and the least likely suspect.

The Murders in the Rue Morgue” is a short story published in Graham’s Magazine in 1841. It has been described as the first modern detective story. Poe referred to it as one of his “tales of ratiocination”. The story, told by an unnamed narrator, revolves around the mystery of the brutal murder of two women. An old woman Mrs. L’Espanaye, and her daughter, living alone in an old house in the Rue Morgue, were killed one day in the middle of the night. The neighbours had woke up upon hearing the cries of terror that were coming from the house. When no one answered their calls, they forced the door open and rushed in. Two voices seemed to come from above. The group of neighbours looked into one by one all the rooms but they found nothing until reaching the fourth floor. There they run into a door that was securely closed, with the key inside. They forced the door and inside they encountered the macabre scene of the two women murdered, but there was no one else. Some witnesses who claimed to have listen two male voices –one low and soft and the other one hard, do not agree in the language of the latter one. Though it is certainly not French, like the first voice.

The Mystery of Marie Rogêt”, often subtitled “A Sequel to The Murders in the Rue Morgue”, is a short story that was first published in Snowden’s Ladies’ Companion in three instalments, November and December 1842 and February 1843. Poe referred to it as one of his “tales of ratiocination”. This is the first murder mystery based on the details of a real crime. C. Auguste Dupin and his assistant, the unnamed narrator, undertake the unsolved murder of Marie Rogêt in Paris. The body of Rogêt, a perfume shop employee, is found in the Seine, and the press takes a keen interest in the mystery. Dupin uses the newspaper cuttings to get into the mind of the murderer.

The Purloined Letter” is the third of Poe’s  three detective stories featuring the fictional C. Auguste Dupin. It first appeared in the literary annual The Gift for 1845 (1844) and was soon reprinted in numerous journals and newspapers. The unnamed narrator is discussing with the famous Parisian amateur detective C. Auguste Dupin some of his most celebrated cases when they are joined by the Prefect of the Police, a man known as G—. The Prefect has a case he would like to discuss with Dupin. A letter has been stolen from the boudoir of an unnamed woman by the unscrupulous Minister D—. It is said to contain compromising information. D— was in the room, saw the letter, and switched it for a letter of no importance. Thus he will be able to use the content of the letter, now in his possession, to master to his whim the victim’s will.

The Gold-Bug” is a short story by Edgar Allan Poe published in 1843. The plot follows William Legrand, who was bitten by a gold-coloured bug. His servant Jupiter fears that Legrand is going insane and goes to Legrand’s friend, an unnamed narrator, who agrees to visit his old friend. Legrand pulls the other two into an adventure after deciphering a secret message that will lead to a buried treasure. The story, set on Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina, is often compared with Poe’s “tales of ratiocination” as an early form of detective fiction. Poe submitted “The Gold-Bug” as an entry to a writing contest sponsored by the Philadelphia Dollar Newspaper. His story won the grand prize and was published in three instalments, beginning in June 1843. The prize also included $100, probably the largest single sum that Poe received for any of his works. “The Gold-Bug” was an instant success and was the most popular and most widely read of Poe’s works during his lifetime. It also helped popularize cryptograms and secret writing.

Thou Art the Man”, originally titled “Thou Art the Man!”, is a short story by Edgar Allan Poe, first published in 1844. It is an early experiment in detective fiction, like “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”, though it is generally considered an inferior story. The plot involves a man wrongfully accused of murdering his uncle Barnabas Shuttleworthy, whose corpse is missing. An unnamed narrator finds the body and draws up carries out quite a complex plan to uncover the culprit.

My take: It’s curious, to say the least, to observe how one reading leads us to another one. In this case, although I’ve read “The Murders In the Rue Morgue” before –see my review here, I arrived at this book after reading El cuento policial (The detective story), a lecture given by Jorge Luis Borges at the University of Belgrano in Argentina on 16 June 1978 where he said: 

“Todo eso ya está en ese primer relato policial que escribió Poe, sin saber que inauguraba un género, llamado “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” (Los crímenes de la calle Morgue). Poe no quería que el género policial fuera un género realista, quería que fuera un género intelectual, un género fantástico si ustedes quieren, pero un género fantástico de la inteligencia, no de la imaginación solamente; de ambas cosas desde luego, pero sobre todo de la inteligencia. “

“All that is already in that first detective story that Poe wrote, without knowing that he was inaugurating a genre, called “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”. Poe didn’t want the detective genre to be a realistic genre, he wanted it to be an intellectual genre, a fantastic genre if you want, but a fantastic genre of intelligence, not just imagination; of both things of course, but especially intelligence.” (My free translation)

And that encouraged me to read what Borges called los cinco ejemplos que Poe nos dejó (The five examples Poe left us). 

However, the question of whether the detective story begins with Poe has no unanimous support, as Julian Symons points out: 

“Historians of the detective story are divided between those who say that there could be no detective stories until organized police and detective forces existed, and those who find examples of rational deduction in sources as various as the Bible and Voltaire, and suggest that these were early puzzles in detection. For the first group the detective story begins with Edgar Allan Poe, for the second its roots are in the beginning of recorded history.”

On this occasion, I tend to agree with Symons when he elaborates “that those who search for fragments of detection in the Bible and Herodotus are looking only for puzzles. The puzzle is vital to the detective story but it is not a detective story in itself, and its place in crime literature generally is comparatively small.”

Once settled this extreme, I’ve no problem in accepting Poe as the initiator of a new genre called today detective fiction. We may find other forerunners, but none other like Poe devoted himself also to reflect upon the skills needed to solve crimes or mysteries whose resolution appears to be impossible. Not to mention that, with C. Auguste Dupin character, Poe set the pattern of the great detectives (Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot) that came next.

My favourite, of the five short stories, is “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”, closely followed by “The Purloined Letter”. “The Gold-Bug” is worth reading. “The Mystery of Marie Rogêt”, extends much in boring explanations in my view. And “Thou Art the Man” is, perhaps, the weakest of the lot. But they are a brief read and, in view of what they represent, I felt the need to read them, and I don’t regret about it.

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

About the author: Edgar Allan Poe (1809 – 1849) was one of the most original writers in the history of American letters, a genius who was tragically misunderstood in his lifetime. He was a seminal figure in the development of science fiction and the detective story, and exerted a great influence on Dostoyevsky, Arthur Conan Doyle, Jules Verne, and Charles Baudelaire, who championed him long before Poe was appreciated in his own country. Baudelaire’s enthusiasm brought Poe a wide audience in Europe, and his writing came to have enormous importance for modern French literature. (Source: Fantastic Fiction). The Mystery Writers of America have named their awards for excellence in the genre the “Edgars.”

The Murders in the Rue Morgue has been reviewed at Past Offences, and Mysteries Ahoy!, among others.

Many of Poe’s works are available from Project Gutenberg

Read more about Poe biography at gadetection.

The Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore 

Los crímenes de la calle Morgue de Edgar Allan Poe

Descripción del libro: En tan solo cinco historias publicadas entre 1841 y 1845, Edgar Allan Poe sentó la mayoría de las bases del relato policial. En los tres cuentos protagonizados por el caballero C. Auguste Dupin (“Los crímenes de la calle Morgue”, “El misterio de Marie Rogêt” y “La carta robada”) creó al prototipo del Gran Detective, sin mencionar el misterio del cuarto cerrado, el concepto del investigador de salón y el cuento del servicio secreto; “El escarabajo de oro” gira en torno al uso de mensajes codificados; y “Tú eres el hombre” hace uso de pistas falsas y del sospechoso menos probable.

Los crímenes de la calle Morgue”, también conocido como “Los asesinatos de la calle Morgue” o “Los asesinatos de la rue Morgue”, es un relato breve publicado en la Revista Graham en 1841. Se trata del primer relato policial moderno. Poe se refirió a él como uno de sus “cuentos de raciocinio”. El relato, contado por un narrador anónimo, gira en torno al misterio del brutal asesinato de dos mujeres. Una anciana, madame L’Espanaye, y su hija mademoiselle Camille L’Espanaye, que vivían solas en una casa antigua en la calle Morgue, fueron asesinadas un día en medio de la noche. Los vecinos se habían despertado al escuchar los gritos de terror que venían de la casa. Cuando nadie respondió a sus llamadas, forzaron la puerta para abrirla y entraron rápidamente. Dos voces parecían provenir de arriba. El grupo de vecinos examinó una a una todas las habitaciones, pero no encontraron nada hasta llegar al cuarto piso. Allí tropiezan con una puerta que estaba bien cerrada, con la llave por dentro. Forzaron la puerta y en el interior se encontraron con la escena macabra de las dos mujeres asesinadas, pero no había nadie más. Algunos testigos que afirmaron haber escuchado dos voces masculinas, una baja y suave y la otra dura, no están de acuerdo en el idioma de la última. Aunque ciertamente no es francés, como la primera voz.

El misterio de Marie Rogêt”, a menudo subitulado “Coninuación de los crímenes de la calle Morgue” es un relato breve que se publicó por primera vez en la revista Ladies’ Companion en tres entregas: noviembre y diciembre de 1842, y febrero de 1843. Poe se refirió a él como uno de sus “cuentos de raciocinio”. Este es el primer misterio policial basado en los detalles de un crimen real. C. Auguste Dupin y su asistente, el narrador no identificado, emprenden la investigación del asesinato sin resolver de Marie Rogêt en París. Rogêt, una empleada de una perfumería, ha sido encontrada en el Sena, y la prensa se interesa mucho por el misterio. Dupin usa los recortes de periódico para entrar en la mente del asesino.

La carta robada” es el tercero de los tres relatos policiales de Poe protagonizados por el ficticio C. Auguste Dupin. Apareció por primera vez en la revista literaria The Gift de 1845 (1844) y pronto se reimprimió en numerosas revistas y periódicos. El narrador anónimo está discutiendo con el famoso detective aficionado parisino C. Auguste Dupin algunos de sus casos más famosos cuando se les une el Prefecto de la Policía, un hombre conocido como G—. El prefecto tiene un caso que le gustaría discutir con Dupin. El poco escrupuloso ministro D— ha robado una carta del gabinete de una mujer cuo nombre permance oculto. Se dice que contiene información comprometedora. D— estaba en la habitación, vio la carta y la cambió por una carta sin importancia. Así podrá usar el contenido de la carta, ahora en su poder, para dominar a su antojo la voluntad de la víctima.

El escarabajo de oro” es un cuento de Edgar Allan Poe publicado en 1843. La trama sigue a William Legrand, quien fue mordido por un insecto de color dorado. Su criado Júpiter teme que Legrand se esté volviendo loco y acude al amigo de Legrand, un narrador anónimo, que acepta visitar a su viejo amigo. Legrand lleva a los otros dos a una aventura después de descifrar un mensaje secreto que conducirá a un tesoro enterrado. La historia, ambientada en la isla de Sullivan, Carolina del Sur, a menudo se compara con los “cuentos de raciocinio” de Poe como una forma incipiente de ficción policial. Poe presentó “El escarabajo de oro” a un concurso de relatos cortos convocado por el Philadelphia Dollar Newspaper. Su relato ganó el primer premio y se publicó en tres entregas, comenzando en junio de 1843. El galardón incluía 100 dólares de premio, probablemente la suma más grande que Poe recibió por cualquiera de sus obras. “El escarabajo de oro” tuvo un éxito inmediato y fue la obra más popular y más leída de Poe durante su vida. También ayudó a popularizar los criptogramas y los escritos secretos.

Tú eres el hombre” es un cuento de Edgar Allan Poe, publicado por primera vez en 1844. Es un experimento temprano de novela policiaca, como “Los crímenes de la calle Morgue”, aunque generalmente se considera un relato inferior. La trama implica a un hombre acusado injustamente de asesinar a su tío Barnabas Shuttleworthy, cuyo cadáver ha desaparecido. Un narrador anónimo encuentra el cuerpoy elabora un plan bastante complejo para descubrir al culpable.

Mi opinión: Resulta curioso, por decirlo de alguna manera, observar cómo una lectura nos lleva a otra. En este caso, aunque había leido ya “Los crímenes de la calle Morgue”, vea mi reseña aquí, llegué a este libro después de leer “El cuento policial”, una conferencia dada por Jorge Luis Borges en la Universidad de Belgrano en Argentina el 16 de junio de 1978 donde dijo:

“Todo eso ya está en ese primer relato policial que escribió Poe, sin saber que inauguraba un género, llamado “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” (Los crímenes de la calle Morgue). Poe no quería que el género policial fuera un género realista, quería que fuera un género intelectual, un género fantástico si ustedes quieren, pero un género fantástico de la inteligencia, no de la imaginación solamente; de ambas cosas desde luego, pero sobre todo de la inteligencia.. “

Y eso me animó a leer lo que Borges llamó los cinco ejemplos que Poe nos dejó.

Sin embargo, la pregunta de si la historia policial comienza con Poe no tiene un apoyo unánime, como señala Julian Symons:

“Historians of the detective story are divided between those who say that there could be no detective stories until organized police and detective forces existed, and those who find examples of rational deduction in sources as various as the Bible and Voltaire, and suggest that these were early puzzles in detection. For the first group the detective story begins with Edgar Allan Poe, for the second its roots are in the beginning of recorded history.”

“Los historiadores de la novela policial se dividen entre aquellos que dicen que no podría haber historias policiacas hasta que existieran fuerzas policiacas e investigadores organizados, y aquellos que encuentran ejemplos de deducciones racionales en fuentes tan diversas como la Biblia y Voltaire, y sugieren que estos fueron los primeros enigmas en la investigación. Para el primer grupo, la historia policiaca comienza con Edgar Allan Poe, y para el segundo, sus raíces están en los comienzos de la historia escrita”. (Mi traducción libre)

En esta ocasión, tiendo a estar de acuerdo con Symons cuando explica “que aquellos que buscan fragmentos de investigación en la Biblia y en Heródoto solo buscan enigmas. El enigma es esencial para la historia policiaca pero no es una historia policiaca en sí misma, y su lugar en la literatura criminal por lo general es relativamente reducido“.

Una vez aclarado este extremo, no tengo ningún problema en aceptar a Poe como el iniciador de un nuevo género llamado hoy novela policiaca. Podemos encontrar otros precursores, pero ninguno como Poe se dedicó también a reflexionar sobre las competencias necesarias para resolver crímenes o misterios cuya resolución parece imposible. Sin mencionar que, con el personaje de C. Auguste Dupin, Poe marcó la pauta de los grandes detectives que vinieron después (Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot).

Mi favorito, de los cinco relatos, es “Los crímenes de la calle Morgue”, seguido de cerca por “La carta robada”. Vale la pena leer “El escarabajo de oro”. “El misterio de Marie Rogêt”, se extiende mucho en explicaciones aburridas en mi opinión. Y “Tú eres el hombre” es, quizás, el más flojo de todos. Pero son una lectura breve y, en vista de lo que representan, sentí la necesidad de leerlos, y no me arrepiento de ello.

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

Sobre el autor: Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) fue uno de los escritores más originales en la historia de las letras estadounidenses, un genio que fue trágicamente incomprendido en su vida. Fue una figura fundamental en el desarrollo de la ciencia ficción y del relato policiaco, y ejerció una gran influencia en Dostoievsky, Arthur Conan Doyle, Jules Verne y Charles Baudelaire, que lo defendieron mucho antes de que Poe fuera apreciado en su propio país. El entusiasmo de Baudelaire le trajo a Poe numeroso público en Europa, y sus escritos llegaron a tener una enorme importancia en la literatura francesa moderna. (Fuente: Fantastic Fiction) Los premios que otorga la Asociación de Escritores de Misterio de Estados Unidos llevan el nombre de los Premios Edgar, en su memoria.

Por cierto si tienen ustedes ocasión no se pierdan la magnífica traducción que hizo Julio Cortazar de los relatos de Edgar Allan Poe. Merece la pena.

Mis anotaciones: “Abenjacán el Bojarí, muerto en su laberinto” un cuento de 1951 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 2. 546 páginas [91 – 99] ISBN (Tomo II): 84-02-06747-6. Publicado en Sur en 1951 e incorporado a la segunda edición de El Aleph en 1956.

3772118Primer párrafo: —Ésta—dijo Dunraven, con un vasto ademán que no rehusaba las nubladas estrellas y que abarcaba el negro páramo, el mar y un edificio majestuoso y decrépito que parecía una caballeriza venida a menos—es la tierra de mis mayores.

Sinopsis: Dos amigos, Dunraven (un poeta) y Unwin (un matemático), visitan un laberinto en Cornwall, Inglaterra, una tarde del verano de 1914. Mientras están allí, Dunraven le cuenta a Unwin la historia de Abenjacán el Bojarí. Abenjacán, caudillo o rey de una tribu nilótica, junto con Zaid, su primo y visir, huye un día con el tesoro acumulado durante su gobierno. La primera noche en el desierto, se esconden en una tumba. Abenjacán no puede dormir y, temeroso de que Zaid intente arrebatarle el tesoro, lo mata. Para asegurarse de que el fantasma de Zaid no lo persiga, huye por mar y llega a Cornwall en Inglaterra. Allí ordena la construcción de un laberinto carmesí y se esconde en el centro. Zaid lo encuentra y lo mata, borrando su rostro con una piedra. Zaid hace lo mismo con el león y el esclavo que custodiaban el laberinto. Unwin no cree que la historia sea lógica. Dos días después, de regreso en Londres, Unwin le propone una versión diferente a Dunraven.

Mi opinión: Duraven le cuenta a su amigo Unwin la historia de un asesinato ocurrido hace años en Corwall, cuyas circunstancias continúan sin haberse aclarado por varias razones.

En primer lugar, esa casa es un laberinto. En segundo lugar la vigilaban un esclavo y un león. En tercer lugar, se desvaneció un tesoro secreto. En cuarto lugar, el asesino estaba muerto cuando el asesinato ocurrió. En quinto lugar. . .
Unwin, cansado, lo detuvo.
– No multipliques los misterios –le dijo–. Éstos deben ser simples. Recuerda la carta robada de Poe, recuerda el cuarto cerrado de Zangwill.
– O complejos –replicó Duranven–. Recuerda el universo.

“Abenjacán el Bojarí, muerto en su laberinto” es, con toda probabilidad, una de las historias menos conocidas de Borges. También es la última historia policial que publicó y contiene muchos, si no todos, los elementos frecuentes en su universo. La historia es fiel a su idea del cuento policial. Como escribió en su ensayo “Sobre Chesterton”: “Cada una de las piezas de la Saga del Padre Brown presenta un misterio, propone explicaciones de tipo demoníaco o mágico y las reemplaza, al fin, con otras que son de este mundo”. Y eso es en defintiva lo que hace Borges en este breve relato.

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 “Hombre de la esquina rosada” (1935), “El jardín de senderos que se bifurcan” (1941), “La muerte y la brújula” (1942), “Abenjacán el Bojarí, muerto en su laberinto” (1951), e “Historia de Rosendo Juárez” (1970)– las novelas cortas escritas junto con Adolfo Bioy Casares Seis problemas para don Isidro Parodi (1942) como Honorio Bustos Domecq y Un modelo para la muerte (1946) como Benito Suárez Lynch.

Ibn-Hakam al Bokhari, Murdered in His Labyrinth by Jorge Luis Borges

Opening Paragraph: “This,” said Dunraven with a vast gesture that did not blench at the cloudy stars, and that took in the black moors, the sea, and a majestic tumbled down edifice that look much like a stable fallen upon hard times, “is my ancestral land”. (By Jorge Luis Borges and Norman Thomas di Giovanni, trans.)

Synopsis: Two friends, Dunraven (a poet) and Unwin (a mathematician), visit a maze in Cornwall, England one summer afternoon in 1914. While they are there, Dunraven tells Unwin the story of Ibn-Hakam al-Bokhari. Ibn-Hakam, chieftain or king of a Nilotic tribe, along with Zaid, his cousin and vizier, runs away one day with the treasure accumulated during his rule. The first night in the desert, they hide in a grave. Ibn-Hakam cannot sleep and, afraid that Zaid would attempt to snatch the treasure away from him, he kills him. To make sure that Zaid’s ghost does not chase him, he flees by sea and arrives at Cornwall in England. There he orders the construction of a crimson labyrinth and hides in the centre. Zaid finds him and kills him, erasing his face with a stone. Zaid does the same with the lion and the slave who guarded the labyrinth. Unwin doesn’t believe the story to be logical. Two days later, back in London, Unwin proposes a different version to Dunraven.

My take: Dunraven tells his friend Unwin the story of a murder that occurred years ago in Corwall, whose circumstances remain unclear for several reasons.

“First, that house up there is a labyrinth.Second, a slave and a lion had stood guard over it. Third, a secret treasure disappeared –poof!, vanished. Fourth, the murderer was already dead by the time the murder took place. Fifth . . .”
Vexed a bit, Unwin, stopped him.
“Please –let’s not multiply the mysteries,” he said. “Mysteries ought to be simple. Remember Poe’s purloined letter, remember Zangwill’s locked room.
“Or complex,” volleyed Dunraven. Remember the universe.

“Ibn-Hakam al Bokhari, Murdered in His Labyrinth” is in all likelihood, one of Borges’s least known short stories. It is also the last of the detective stories he wrote and it contains many, if not all, the frequent elements in his universe. The story faithfully reflects Borges’s idea on detective fiction as he expressed in his brief essay On Chesterton“: ‘Each and every pieces of Father Brown’s Saga presents a mystery, proposes explanations of a demonic or magical type and replaces them, finally, with others that are of this world.’ (My translation) And this is in essence what Borges does in this short story.

Read this story online

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 “Steetcorner Man” (1935), The Garden Of Branching Paths” (1941), “Death and the Compass” (1942), “Ibn-Hakam al Bokhari, Murdered in His Labyrinth” (1951), and “Rosendo’s Tale” (1970) –the novellas written together with Adolfo Bioy Casares Six Problems for Don Isidro Parodi, (1942) as Honorio Bustos Domecq and Un modelo para la muerte (1946) as Benito Suárez Lynch.

An Additional Comment on Borges’ English Translations

thegardenofbranchingpaths_0000901289693.0.xdoctorbrodiesreportRegretfully, I copied the English titles of Borges stories as shown in Wikipedia, those on Borges’ Collected Fictions, translated by Andrew Hurley (Penguin, 1999).

A comment from Todd Mason pointed out to me that di Giovanni translations –Borges’s best-known English translator– were allowed to go out of print after Borges death. Maria Kodama, sole owner of his estate, renegotiated the English translation rights of his works. In particular, she terminated a longstanding agreement between Borges and the translator Norman Thomas di Giovanni under which royalties for a number of translations on which they collaborated were divided equally between author and translator. New translations by Andrew Hurley were commissioned and published to replace di Giovanni translations. (Source: Wikipedia)

Di Giovanni translations, many of which were co-copyrighted between Borges and di Giovanni himself, are no longer in print. Di Giovanni was not even allowed to self-publish his own works on his website and was forced to remove them. His translations are now a collectors item.

Jorge Luis Borges’s lost translations

The Borges Papers by Norman Thomas di Giovanni.

The Garden of Branching Paths” by Jorge Luis Borges translated by Norman Thomas di Giovanni. Original title: “El jardin de senderos que se bifurcan”, 1941

Streetcorner Man” by Jorge Luis Borges translated by Norman Thomas di Giovanni. Original title: “Hombre de la esquina rosada” , 1935

Rosendo’s Tale” by Jorge Luis Borges translated by Norman Thomas di Giovanni. Original title: “Historia de Rosendo Juárez”, 1970

You can access Norman Thomas di Giovanni translations clicking on the titles.

Norman Thomas di Giovanni (3 October 1933 – 16 February 2017) was an American-born editor and translator known for his collaboration with Argentine author Jorge Luis Borges. Norman Thomas di Giovanni was born in Newton, Massachusetts, in 1933, and was graduated from Antioch College in 1955. He met Borges in 1967 while the latter was at Harvard. In 1968, on Borges’ invitation, he went to live in Buenos Aires, where he works with the author in daily sessions. Together they produced several Borges’ books in English versions. The first of these, The Book of Imaginary Beings, was published in 1969, and the second, The Aleph and Other Stories 1933-1969, in 1970. Di Giovanni has also edited Borges’ Selected Poems 1923-1967.

Norman Thomas di Giovanni obituary

It won’t be fair to finish without quoting the last sentence of Jorge Luis Borges’s lost translations, an article in The Guardian: “It’s copyrighted in Borges’s and my name because they’re not just translations – it’s stuff we wrote together in English,” he [Di Giovanni] said. And while Hurley’s translations are competent, the fact remains that some of Borges’s original works are effectively hidden from the reading public.

Mis anotaciones: “Historia de Rosendo Juárez” un cuento de 1970 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 2. 546 páginas [385 – 390] ISBN (Tomo II): 84-02-06747-6. Publicado en 1970 en el volumen El informe de Brodie. 

jorge-luis-borges-prosa-completa-2-volumenes-D_NQ_NP_854201-MLM20290777507_042015-FPrimer párrafo: Serían las once de la noche, yo había entrado en el almacén, que ahora es un bar, en Bolívar y Venezuela. Desde un rincón el hombre me chistó. Algo de autoritario habría en él, porque le hice caso en seguida. Estaba sentado ante una de las mesitas; sentí de un modo inexplicable que hacía mucho tiempo que no se había movido de ahí, ante su copita vacía. No era ni bajo ni alto; parecía un artesano decente, quizá un antiguo hombre de campo. El bigote ralo era gris. Aprensivo a la manera de los porteños, no se había quitado la chalina. Me invitó a que tomara algo con él. Me senté y charlamos. Todo esto sucedió hacia mil novecientos treinta y tantos.

Argumento: El cuento “Historia de Rosendo Juárez” aparece recogido en el libro del autor argentino Jorge Luis Borges llamado El Informe de Brodie, publicado en el año 1970. Este libro consta de once cuentos, cuyas tramas no son similares entre sí, que se basan principalmente en temas relacionados con el destino y la ética. La “Historia de Rosendo Juárez” empieza cuando una noche dos personas se encuentran en un bar que antiguamente había sido un almacén. Parece ser que uno de los hombres era el propio Borges y el otro era un señor mayor. El personaje, que estaba en el bar, le dice al escritor que no se conocían directamente hasta aquel preciso momento. Ellos solo se conocían de mentas (“fama, prestigio, reputación”) y el anciano le hace saber que es el propio Rosendo Juárez. El interés que tiene este último de dicho encuentro es que éste quiere aclarar y contar la verdad sobre unos acontecimientos ocurridos una noche hace unos treinta años en un quilombo (“bar de alterne”). Rosendo sabe que J.L. Borges escribió un cuento sobre lo que ocurrió y quiere que vuelva a reescribir la historia verdadera.

Siga leyendo en “El lunfardo en la literatura porteña: Roberto Arlt y Jorge Luis Borges”, PDF en Internet de autor desconocido.

Mi opinión: Unos treinta y cinco años después de la publicación de la versión final de“Hombre de la esquina rosada”, Borges volvió a utilizar la misma historia en un cuento muy breve titulado “Historia de Rosendo Juarez”, publicado en 1970 dentro de la colección El informe de Brodie. A decir verdad, en realidad es un epílogo de la primera historia. El protagonista del primer relato le cuenta a Borges, el auto, su propia versión de los hechos:

“Usted no me conoce más que de mentas, pero usted me es conocido, señor. Soy Rosendo Juárez. El finado Paredes le habrá hablado de mí. El viejo tenía sus cosas; le gustaba mentir, no para engañar, sino para divertir a la gente. Ahora que no tenemos nada que hacer, le voy a contar lo que de veras ocurrió aquella noche. La noche que lo mataron al Corralero. Usted, señor, ha puesto el sucedido en una novela, que yo no estoy capacitado para apreciar, pero quiero que sepa la verdad sobre esos infundios.”

No sé qué le llevó a Borges a escribir sobre la misma historia, especialmente si el propio autor reconoció que “Hombre de la esquina rosada” era una mala historia. (Fuente: Wikipedia). Pero, en mi opinión, la narración encaja perfectamente en el universo borgiano. Simplemente necesitamos recordar aquí “El jardín de senderos que se bifurcan”. Borges, como Ts’ui Pen, no creía en un tiempo uniforme, absoluto. Creía en infinitas series de tiempos, en una red creciente y vertiginosa de tiempos divergentes, convergentes y paralelos. En consecuencia, las discrepancias en las dos historias son solo una consecuencia de las múltiples variaciones que podemos encontrar en una misma historia.

¿Quién mató verdaderamiente al Corralero?

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 deHombre de la esquina rosada”,  “La muerte y la brújula” y “El jardín de senderos que se bifurcan”, la novela corta Seis problemas para don Isidro Parodi, escrita junto con Adolfo Bioy Casares.

The Story from Rosendo Juárez by Jorge Luis Borges

Opening paragraph: It was about eleven o’clock one night; I had gone into the old-fashioned general-store-and bar, which is now simply a bar, on the corner of Bolivar and Venezuela. As I went in, I noticed that over in a corner, sitting at one of the little tables, was a man I had never seen before. He hissed to catch my eye and motioned me to come over. He must have looked like a man that one didn’t want to cross, because I went at once toward his table. I felt, inexplicably, that he had been sitting there for some time, in that chair, before that empty glass. He was neither tall nor short; he looked like an honest craftsman, or perhaps an old-fashioned country fellow. His sparse mustache was grizzled. A bit stiff, as Porteños tend to be, he had not taken off his neck scarf. He offered to buy me a drink; I sat down and we chatted. All this happened in nineteen-thirtysomething. (Translated by Andrew Hurley)

“Rosendo’s Tale” (aka “The Story from Rosendo Juárez”) by Jorge Luis Borges

Opening paragraph: It was about eleven o’clock at night; I had entered the old grocery store-bar (which today is just a plain bar) at the comer of Bolívar and Venezuela. From off on one side, a man signaled me with a “psst.” There must have been something forceful in his manner because I heeded him at once. He was seated at one of the small tables in front of an empty glass, and I somehow felt he had been sitting there for a long time. Neither short nor tall, he had the appearance of a common workingman or maybe an old farmhand. His thin moustache was graying. Fearful of his health, like most people in Buenos Aires, he had not taken off the scarf that draped his shoulders. He asked me to have a drink with him. I sat down and we chatted. All this took place sometime back in the early thirties. This is what the man told me. (Translated by Norman Thomas di Giovanni)

Storyline: The short story “Rosendo’s Tale”, is included in the book by Argentine author Jorge Luis Borges called Doctor Brodie’s Report, published in 1970. This book contains eleven short stories, whose plots are not similar to each other, that are based mainly on issues related to destiny and ethics. “Rosendo’s Tale” begins when one night two people meet in a bar that had once been a warehouse. It seems that one of the men was Borges himself and the other was an older man. The character, that was at the bar, tells the writer that they didn’t know each other directly until that precise moment. They only knew each other by mentas (“fame, prestige, reputation”) and the old man lets him know that he is Rosendo Juarez himself. The latter’s interest in this meeting is that he wants to clarify and tell the truth about some events that happened one night some thirty years ago in a quilombo (“a brothel”). Rosendo knows that J.L. Borges wrote a story about what happened and wants he to rewrite the true story.

Read more at “El lunfardo en la literatura porteña: Roberto Arlt y Jorge Luis Borges” on line PDF in Spanish by an unknown author.

My take: Some thirty-five years after the final version of “Streetcorner Man” was published, Borges used again the same story in a very brief tale titled “Rosendo’s Tale”, published in 1970 within the collection Doctor Brodie’s Report. To tell the truth, it is actually an epilogue of the first story. 

The main character of the first account tells Borges, the author, his own version of the facts:

“You’ve heard of me, sir, though we’ve never met,” the man began, “but I know you. My name is Rosendo Juárez. It was Nicolás Paredes, no doubt, God rest his soul, that told you about me. That old man was something. I’ll tell you—the stories he’d tell… Not so as to fool anyone, of course—just to be entertaining. But since you and I are here with nothing else on our hands just now, I’d like to tell you what really happened that night… the night the Yardmaster was murdered. You’ve put the story in a novel, sir— and I’m hardly qualified to judge that novel—but I want you to know the truth behind the lies you wrote.”  (Translation by Andrew Hurley)

“You don’t know me except by reputation, but I know who you are. I’m Rosendo Juárez. The late Paredes must have told you about me. The old man could pull the wool over people’s eyes and liked to stretch a point—not to cheat anybody, mind you, but just in fun. Well, seeing you and I have nothing better to do, I’m going to tell you exactly what happened that night, the night the Butcher got killed. You put all that down in a storybook, which I’m not equipped to pass judgment on, but I want you to know the truth about all that trumped-up stuff.” (Translation by Norman Thomas di Giovanni)

I don’t know what led Borges to write about the same story, especially if the author himself recognised that “Man in Pink Corner” was a bad tale. (Source: Wikipedia). But in my view, the narration fits perfectly well within Borges’ universe. We simply need to remember here “The Garden Of Forking Paths”. Borges, as Ts’ui Pen, doesn’t conceive time as absolute and uniform. He believed in an infinite series of times, in a dizzily growing, ever spreading network of diverging, converging and parallel times. Accordingly, the discrepancies in the two stories are just a consequence of the multiple variations we can find in a same story.

Who actually killed the Butcher?

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

Read the full text at Doctors Brodie’s Report by Jorge Luis Borges, translated byNorman 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 “Man on Pink Corner”, “Death and the Compass” andThe Garden Of Forking Paths”, the novella Six Problems for Don Isidro Parodi, written together with Adolfo Bioy Casares.

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.