Blogia
Daniel Gascón

THE FOREIGNERS

THE FOREIGNERS

Traducción de Philippa Tetley y Daniel Gascón.

1.

When, on the fifteenth of September of 2001, I set out on my trip to England to be an Erasmus student in the University of East Anglia, I wanted to be an American writer. I had chosen Norwich because it had a good Film and Literature department, because there were creative writing classes and because London was too expensive.

Norwich was also W. G. Sebald’s country. Come to think about it, it was a bit strange: though Sebald had been working a long time at that University –where he’d founded a Centre for Literary Translation-, he’d been born in Bavaria in 1944 and was an extraterritorial writer, who had success in English-speaking countries, was more comfortable in the company of the dead than of the living, taught classes on Kafka and Robert Walser and, in general terms, didn’t give the impression of being exactly full of the joy of life.

When I chose Norwich, I didn’t know Sebald lived there, or who he was, or even that James Stewart had spent part of World War Two in East Anglia. I learned all this in an interview that I read two months later. I couldn’t pick up Sebald’s unit –a course on Kafka’s shorter fiction- because it was for postgraduate students. On the other hand, I was afraid of meeting him, especially after finding out that he didn’t read his contemporaries, because now I was a contemporary author and felt a bit guilty.

That day, in the train to Norwich, I carried two books by Sebald, an English-guide book and an English-Spanish dictionary which was exaggeratedly big but, appropriate, I hoped, for a literature student. I also carried two copies of my book, which I thought I’d give to Martin Amis as soon as I met him, or donate to the library, though I ended up giving them to a couple of girls that looked pretty enough. I had waited to read to The Rings of Saturn for a long time. I was already on the train when I opened it and started to travel beside the narrator through the landscapes of Suffolk County, to examine the skulls of the dead and the history of silk in China and Europe.

The train was old and didn’t have many passengers: a man reading a newspaper, a sleeping woman and two girls with lots of bags. I thought it’d be nice to fall a bit in love with an English girl, like in a story by Kureishi. We’d go to London on weekends and I’d learn dirty words in English.

The train stopped. I looked out the window. I thought I’d see a typical Sebald landscape, but it was dark and I couldn’t see shit. I heard the announcer: the only thing I understood was the word fatality, fatality on the tracks, fatality on the road [1], something like that. The man who was reading the newspaper looked up when he heard the voice. He made a resigned gesture. He said (in an easy to understand English accent): “Somebody committed suicide”.

The two girls stared at me. One of them –the prettiest- said: “Hi, you’re Spanish, aren’t you?”

I’m from Saragossa.

We’re from Burgos.

The train started to move. The snack vender came through and I closed my book and sat next to Marta and Natalia, we asked for coffees and chocolate bars and I couldn’t stop thinking: “Suicide, how rude”.

Las dos fotos son vistas del campus de la UEA desde el lago. La residencia de Norfolk, donde yo vivía, tenía forma de zigurat. Yo estaba en la planta baja, solía entrar en mi cuarto por la ventana.

Sobre Sebald y los contemporáneos ha habido alguna polémica.



[1] English expressions that appear in the Spanish original are italicised.

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