Monday, October 08, 2007

Kurosawa’s Dreams

Por Raúl Zurita
(Translation by Anna Deeny)


Like shame that possessed me then I began
to dream. The lagoon is yellowish and beyond the
salt promontories that encircle it is the ocean.
The beach entrance is called Punta de Lobos and the
salt mines are nearby. We cross the lagoon in a
boat led by a barefooted oarsman and I feel the
clamor of the gigantic breakers thrashing
at least 50 feet away. During the dictatorship the
place became popular because Pinochet had
turned it into one of his summer resorts and now
it is a surfer’s paradise. Neither the mines nor the
lagoon have survived and I had forgotten them
completely. Some days following the death of my
grandmother I remembered them: the boatman rowed
in front of me and behind him there were walls of salt.
I am five years old, my sister is three and we are with
my grandmother. Born in Italy, in Rapallo, she
arrived to Chile with my mother still a child. Both
were widowed two days apart. My mother,
then my grandmother. It was a short summer.
My mother, my grandmother, my sister. My grandmother
died in 1986. I survived a dictatorship, but not
the shame. Many years later, when it was
my turn, her face came down upon me like
a white mountain of salt. I wanted to write it, but
the words, like smoldering entrails, arrived
dead to my fingers. My name: Akira Kurosawa.


Today Buenos Aires has disappeared. In a few more
hours all of the cordillera cities will fall and
before the end of the day the avalanche of white
bodies will overcome the Andes and Santiago will
disappear. It is inevitable and my father has come back
to wait with us. His face shows signs of
fatigue and he looks much older than he should
at 31. He told us that he had come back and
nothing more. Some days before, my grandparents
had returned, my mother’s parents. I have been
observing them, they don’t speak to each other and
have merely returned. Unlike my father, they look
younger, but they have the same tired expression.
It’s good that the family reunites, says my
mother who’s now alone with my father.
I hear someone cry. Mama or my father who’s come back,
I don’t know. My grandparents have also left and
once in a while they watch me. Veli is not who I
remembered her to be and has no memories of
my grandfather. He wears a worn blue aviator
uniform and I know it is the one Veli kept at home.
It has begun to snow. For many days now the
television shows only images of the multitudes
each time greater clasping each other over the
snows of the Andes. The end is imminent and
I light the watchman’s candle. It’s very cold.
Someone was telling me that Kurosawa is
a word written with letters of snow and of the end.


The end has come. The white crevices extend
themselves open in the horizon and as I awake
I know that I’d been in the cordillera. I made
coffee and decided to wait. Some time ago
I sold Olivetti typewriters and it didn’t
surprise me to come across the sales team
again. We were a group of twelve and
Dezerega assigned territories. He was our boss.
The fact that several had died already, including
Dezerega didn’t surprise me either. I finished
my coffee and remembered how he tried to defend me when
they threw me out. The room where we met in the
mornings was like a classroom, with
lined up desks and Dezerega’s up front. I think
that I began to respect Dezerega, also Luis
Cerda, the guy covered for me and would wait for me
to take off to the bowling alley for a cup coffee. I saw Luis
Cerda not long ago. He had dozens of typewriters
piled up in his room, some Lettera 32s that are
grey. He said they were leftovers and that
it didn’t matter because no one uses typewriters
anymore. Today is already too late. The repression has been
ferocious and they have thrown the bodies over the sea and the
mountains. As I get up I notice that I cannot
move my arms that are frozen below the snow.
Kurosawa, I said, I was just a typewriter
salesman and now I’m dead and it snows.


The stars transformed themselves into that rose glow of
early morning and soon it will be light out. For
several days now I have only slept short whiles in
the midst of a torrent of images from which I
awaken startled. I was standing, several
inches from a promontory of ice that
transparent managed to reveal infinities of faces
that moved their lips as if they attempted to say
something. One of the faces was Víctor Jara’s the
singer and it surprised me that he was there because
I knew he had been killed in a Chilean stadium.
As I woke up, on the radio they were playing La
plegaria del Labrador and my survival
instincts made me get up right away to turn it
off. The song didn’t come from there because the
radio had broken some time ago, but the
music continued. I dressed and went out. The day brightened
and the song appeared to emerge from everywhere. As
I looked around not far away I saw a chain of
the other summits and realized that he was
dangling from the one that should be jutting out. The voice of
Víctor Jara now completely covered the summits
of The Andes and I wanted to cry but could not. The ice
cap covered me impeding any
movement and I could only move my lips.
Wake up and look at your hands, I sang softly.
On the other side, someone with my face watched me.


The mountain summit retreated vanishing
inside the sky and I definitely knew my father
would die. I remembered that a long time ago
it did not snow over Santiago and I told myself that I had
already lived enough, that I already was much
older than he and that I was fine. I thanked him for
having waited 55 years to come back because at
57 I could take it. I picked out his clothes and began
to dress him. My shirts were a little big for him
and while lifting his head to put on the one that
seemed best I felt the first wave of
tears behind my eyes struggling to get out.
I told myself again that father died 55 years ago, at
31 years of age, exactly the 16th of February, and that
maybe I missed him, but it’s not something that
I would have thought much about. I didn’t know when
he came back. He moved into my guest room and for the
last years we’ve been able to speak some. Now he had
died and I dressed him while my mother and my
sister waited in the living room. When I opened the
door to tell them that they could come in the fury
of the wind and hail thrashed me stunning me and
blind I ran across the field. Kurosawa, I yelled,
he returned to die again with me. As I opened
my eyes above me I saw the dizzying white of
the summit and much further below the first lights of
the city illuminating. Only then could I cry.