Crónica de Berlín en World Literature Today

- 26/01/20
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Una versión en inglés de la crónica Citas en Berlín: cuidado con esa gaveta que tiene cucarachas, apareció en espléndida traducción al inglés de Jacqueline Loss en World Literature Today, la revista de la University of Oklahoma.

Publicada inicialmente en español en la revista El Estornudo, allí cuento un viaje a Berlín para entrevistar a Svetlana Aleksiévich con Arcadi Espada, mi primer viaje a Berlín desde que treinta años atrás lo visitaba al otro lado del Muro.

La versión original en español aquí en El Estornudo.

Para continuar leyendo la traducción al inglés haz click en la imagen después del fragmento.

A Date with Svetlana Alexievich in Berlin: or, Smuggling Bugs into Soviet Moscow

By Jorge Ferrer (Translated by Jacqueline Loss)

I hadn’t been back to Berlin since the mid-1980s, but I used to go there quite often as a teenager. In fact, Berlin was the first city I set foot in outside of Cuba. We stopped there on the way to Moscow for what back then was called “habilitation,” meaning the purchase of clothes at the state’s expense so that impoverished Cubans would not look so impoverished when they were seen in foreign lands. There were a couple of stores on Calle Galiano in Havana where travelers were sent as well. In fact, the visit to Galiano was the first leg of the trip. Buying shirts and underpants, ties and moccasins, was a trip unto itself!

The most senior of functionaries like my father—who back then held a position in a bank that was responsible for counting the money that Eastern Bloc countries owed one another—traveled to Berlin to “habilitate” themselves. If you were going to work in the East, you traveled first to Berlin, to East Berlin; if you were going to work in the West, you’d go instead to Paris or Madrid for such purchases. Thanks to that, I was able to see the Wall when it was still standing. I saw it from the front and from the side. And I saw it from above, from the window of an apartment where we stayed on one of the “habilitation” trips, and from where you could also see the West. Later we’ll return to that window, not to look outside, but rather to observe what’s going on inside.

It was on a night in East Berlin in 1982 when I discovered that real socialism allowed for the possibility of a table with decent provisions on it. I couldn’t accept anything less now.

I’m still the little savage I was then, and when I enter the apartment on Hussitenstrasse, 5, I go straight to the refrigerator. It’s empty. I have forty-six hours ahead of me in Berlin, an appointment with a lady who can lead me to another, the vague idea of locating the building where I spent my first night in Berlin in 1982. The empty refrigerator vexes me. I hoped to see a yogurt, at least, or a sausage or two. Though I certainly wouldn’t have touched anything. But it was on a night in East Berlin in 1982 when I discovered that real socialism allowed for the possibility of a table with decent provisions on it. I couldn’t accept anything less now.

I go outside and walk along the green space that follows the course of the Wall and its exclusion zone. It’s the Berlin Wall Memorial. The words of the trapeze artist in Wings of Desire come to mind, the film Wim Wenders shot shortly before the city and the world grew up in 1989: “In any case, you can’t get lost. You always end up at the Wall.” “Even when it’s no longer there,” I say to myself as I walk toward the Supersonico on Bernauer Street 71–72. A name for an Italian restaurant that seems particularly suitable for a continued overlapping of past and present, flooding the Berlin air with its accordion sound (…)

 

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