The following is a translated excerpt from the novel Antes que desaparezca by Sylvia Iparraguirre, published in 2021 by Alfaguara.
Unannounced, the past invades the Russian literature class one autumn morning in Buenos Aires. I’m facing one of the windows of the museum library, talking about Pushkin. It’s raining outside and I allow myself a few seconds’ pause—after all, I’m the one teaching the class—to linger on the beauty of the rain falling on the sculptures in the modern interior courtyard, the clear water sliding down the bronze.
The piece appears below in both English and Spanish.
When I first read Tomás Downey’s story, “Los hombres van a la guerra,” I reread it. This was the ending’s doing: it called into question all that came prior, as the best endings do (I think here of Alice Munro). So I had an ulterior motive for translating the story: I wanted to understand how Tomás had put it together, how he’d written towards that ending. I’m not convinced I’ve figured it out. But in a sense, translating the story was studying it, and I hope that something of the circular way it works makes its way into my own writing. I hope, too, that readers of “The Men Go to War” have a similar experience: that the ending directs them back to the beginning for a second read.
On December 5, 1976, I arrived in Madrid from Argentina. I flew Iberia airlines, caught the plane in Montevideo because I was afraid of the disappearances happening at the border. I left wearing summer clothes, as if I were a tourist heading for the beaches of Uruguay, then, two or three days later, landed in Madrid, where it was winter. My father and sister saw me off. It took me six years—the years of the dictatorship—to return.