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.
This past fall, I asked Lara Moreno if she would be willing to send me some stories. I had read her novel Piel de lobo (Wolf Skin) (Lumen, 2016) over the summer and was struck by the honesty and intimacy in her portrayal of the interior life of her protagonist, Sofía, a woman in her thirties, mother to a young child, and wanted to try my hand at translating her particular voice. Lara was gracious enough to send me several Word documents, including the story “Toda una vida,” winner of the 2013 Cosecha Eñe prize organized by the prestigious Spanish literary magazine Eñe: Qué Leer, and I’ve been honored and delighted to work with her since.
I woke up early to finish some reading, but have been in bed for hours scrolling through Facebook, with little fingers and tired eyes fixed to the screen, and now it’s 1 pm. Though the streets of Barcelona are sunny most days, only secondhand light teases in from the center courtyard of the apartment building, and sometimes in here I forget what sun is. It’s the only bedroom that faces inward, the one my host mother lived in as a girl. This was her childhood home.
Mid-May in Galicia. I was expecting rain and gloom but at five in the afternoon the sun is still high as I come down from the dusty hills into the town of Fisterra. Here, the path along the beach into town is made of flat stones that shine so brightly I can barely see. I want to stop someone and ask if this is heaven. I haven’t spoken a word out loud for hours.
Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, “Open Air, Relational Architecture”, 2012. Commissioned by the Association for Public Art, Philad
Twenty-four searchlights, all high-powered, were set on rooftops around Philadelphia’s Benjamin Franklin Parkway last September and October. They were programmed, however, to avoid shining their spotlights on any physical objects: no buildings, no naked windows, no trees. Instead, they glimmered straight up into the sky: twenty-four columns of light responding — here solid, there faint, twitching and beating and sweeping across the sky together, then separating — to the voices of Philadelphia residents.
Fluent in the languages of unnatural death, Luis Boscán set down on thick paper the confessions of the Spanish damned while, outside the cruel chamber furnished ingeniously with instruments of torment, the fountains of Seville produced liquid acanthus leaves to the sound of castanets.
After the sad burger I had on our layover in Brussels, I vow never to eat so poorly again, at least not while in the European Union. As my girlfriend Ashley and I touchdown in Catalonian country, a craving comes over me that only meat of the reddest proportions, fish of the freshest means, and cuisine of the finest and oldest preparation can fill. Waiting at baggage claim can be so torturous after a long journey, but there I recall that most excellent bite of food from my last trip to Barcelona. The stand out. The thing that made me come back. The McFoie. It was at Carles Abellan’s restaurant, Tapas 24. A “foie gras burger” of veal sirloin and foie gras constructed to look like a McDonald’s hamburger, a touch of home for any American who grew up on the flat beef patty, two pickles, and dallop of ketchup. The McFoie came rare and juicy, and with an artisan’s touch, too rich to be eaten too often, but with flavor so profound that I found myself dreaming of it as my baggage arrived and my girlfriend’s did not.
I already know Gaudi’s phantasmagoria: the commissioned houses that curve like ocean waves or flash in the sun as though they were covered in fish scales, the Art Deco-Gothic cathedral spires that replicate eternity via never-ending construction, the public park that simulates an underwater landscape. I already know the urban legend that Walt Disney, after spending time here as a young man, would forever replicate the fanciful stone gargoyles, arches and spires of the Barri Gotic in his cartoon worlds, and in the Fantasyland of his first theme park in California.
The ants have returned to Carrer Hort. We thought we’d eliminated them, crushing them under the flat rubbery green kitchen sponge in a flurry of destruction. They’re small, these Spanish Mediterranean ants, but they’re tougher than they look, and after five days’ absence during unrelenting rain they’ve returned, arriving from some unknown and undiscoverable place to scurry frantically around the kitchen sink.