Saturday, March 20, 2010

More Stories by Eduardo Galeano.

Instructions for a Successful Career

A thousand years ago, the sultan of Persia said, "How delicious."

He was eating his first eggplant, sliced and dressed with ginger and Nile herbs.

The court poet praised the eggplant for the pleasure it brings to the palate and the bedroom, for the miraculous feats of love that outshine the wonders of the powdered tiger's tooth or grated rhinoceros horn.

Mouthfuls later, the sultan said, "What garbage."

The court poet then cursed the perfidious eggplant for the torture it wreaks on stomach and brain, for the delirium and insanity that brings virtuous men to ruin.

" A minute ago you had eggplant in paradise; now you're sending it to hell," commented one astute observer.

And the poet, an early prophet of mass media, set things straight: "I am the courtier of the sultan, not the courtier of the eggplant."

Against the Current

The ideas in the weekly Marcha tended to be red; its balance sheet was a whole lot redder. Hugo Alfaro, besides being a journalist, sometimes filled in as manager and had the demoralizing task of paying the bills. Once in a great while Hugo would jump for joy: "We've got the issue covered!"

Advertisers had come through. In the world of independent journalism, a miracle of that order is celebrated as proof that God exists

But the editor, Carlos Quijano, would blanch. Horror of horrors; there was no news as bad as that news. To run advertisements meant sacrificing a page or more, and he needed every sacred column inch to question certainties, yank off masks, stir up hornets nests, and help make tomorrow more than just another name for today.

After thirty-four years in print, Marcha ceased to exist when the military dictatorship that overran Uruguay put an end to such lunacy.

Instructions for Reading the Paper

General Francisco Serrano of Mexico was settled in a easy chair at the Sonora army casino, smoking and reading.

He was reading the news. The paper was upside down.

President Alvaro Obregon was curious. "Do you always read the paper upside down?"

The general nodded.

"And could I ask why?"

"From experience, Mr. President, from experience."


  1. Carnal Affront

    A man imprisoned by desire walked alone in the elements. The soft hills of the countryside not far from Montevideo swelled into disturbing curves of breasts and thighs. Paco gazed upward, seeking to escape from temptation, but the sky denied his eyes the peace they sought: the clouds moved in step, swaying as one, offering themselves to each other.

    Paco's sister Victoria, who owned the farm, had warned him: "Absolutely not. No chicken stew. Don't touch the chickens."

    But Paco Espinola had studied the Greeks and knew something about the question of fate. His legs urged him forward forward to forbidden territory, and, obedient to the voice of destiny, he went along.

    Much later, Victoria watched him approach. Paco walked slowly, and he carried something dangling from his hand. When Victoria realized it was a dead chicken, she turned into a fury.

    Paco called for silence. And he told the truth.

    He'd entered the coop in search of shade and saw a red-feathered hen. He gave it a few kernels of corn, the hen ate them and said, "Thank you."

    Then another hen, the color of snow, just as polite, came over to eat and also said, "Thank you."

    "But then this one came along," Paco said, swinging the bird from its wrung neck. "I offered her a few kernels. She wouldn't touch them. "Won't you eat, sweetie?" I asked. And she raised her crest and said, 'Go fuck your mother.' Can you imagine, Victoria? Our mother? Our mother!"

  2. Map of Time

    Some four and half billion years ago, give or take a year, a dwarf star spit out a planet we now call Earth.

    Some four billion two hundred million years ago, the first cell took a sip of sea broth and like it. Then the first cell divided in two, so it would have someone to offer a drink.

    Some four million years ago and a bit, woman and man, all but apes, rose up on their legs and embraced, and for the first time experienced the joy and panic of looking into each other's eyes while doing so.

    Some four hundred fifty thousand years ago, woman and man struck two stones together and lit the first fire, which helped them battle fear and cold.

    Some three hundred thousand years ago, woman and man spoke the first words and believed they understood each other.

    And there we are still: wanting to be two, dying of fear, dying of cold, searching for words.

  3. The Fountain

    In the twelfth century, when water was free like the air and unlabeled, the pope and a fly met up at a fountain.

    Pope Adrian IV, the only English pontiff in the history of the Vatican, lived a hectic life due to incessant wars against William the Bad and Fredrick Red Beard. Of the fly's life, nothing is known worth mentioning.

    By divine intervention or destiny's design, their paths crossed at the fountain in the plaza of the town of Agnani, one summer noon in the year 1159.

    The Holy Father, who was thirsty, opened his mouth to drink and the fly went down his throat. It was a mistake, for there was nothing of interest down there, but once inside neither the fly's wings nor the pope's fingers could get him out.

    In the struggle, both of them met their fate. The choking pope died of a fly. The imprisoned fly died of a pope.

  4. "Voices of Time; A Life in Stories" by Eduardo Galeano, translated by Mark Fried; Metropolitan Press, 2006