Posts Tagged ‘glaxo’

Glaxo

July 16, 2017

Hernan Rosino’s novella Glaxo (translated by Samuel Rutter) begins with the railway line to the small Argentinian town where it is set being dismantled:

“One day the trains stop coming. Then a work team arrives. Six or seven men get out of a truck. They begin pulling up the tracks.”

Or rather, these are the opening lines; the beginning perhaps lies fifteen years before on those very same rail tracks:

“Things began to change one morning in ‘58, October of ’58. The ten o’clock train came in slowly, as usual, the engine spat out thick black smoke that blocked out the view of the silos at the mills. A few minutes later, from this very train, Ramon Folcada, stepped off onto the platform, a group of policemen waiting warmly for him and his wife, La Negra Miranda, who was barely twenty-eight years old and had unforgettable legs.”

This scene appears later, as retold by Miguelito Barrios in 1966. The novella runs not along the straight tracks of time, but moving backwards and forwards with gaps in between like tunnels: four chapters, four stations. 1973, 1984, 1966, 1959; and each time a different voice.

The first chapter presents a picture of decay and sickness. Vardemann, the narrator and town barber, observes his father, “bent over in the corner, distant and old, worn down like a bone that has been picked over.” Miguelito Barrios, a contemporary of Vardemann, returns from hospital, “holding himself up on their unfinished wall, walking with difficulty, pallid and thin.” At first it seems this is the story of industrial poisoning (a la Fever Dream) with the Glaxo factory looming over the town, and the frequently mentioned blackened metal drums burning all night, but in the final pages Vardemann visits Barrios who begs forgiveness for an unspecified offence, and we suspect that the poisoning may, in fact, be moral.

In 1984 Bicho Souza, another of “the boys from the neighbourhood”, tells of meeting La Negra Miranda, who disappeared from town many years before:

“…one morning she couldn’t stand it anymore: that night Folcada beat her, and while he beat her he told her what he had done in the clearing, he told her what Miguelito had told him, and so that very same night, she wrote a terrible letter to Migueltio Barrios, and pushed it under his door, she pushed it under before leaving…”

Souza also introduces the Western Last Train from Gun Hill, which they all watched together as kids, into the narrative. Friendly shoot-outs as children will be echoed in the tensions which develop later, particularly in Barrios’ description of Vardemann stepping off a train at the beginning of the third section in 1966. In the final chapter – told from Folcada’s point of view, opening with his abrasive, “Someone’s fucking La Negra” – the Western genre is to the fore, but, in the violence, revenge and double-crossing, it looks increasingly unlikely that the good guys will win.

At under a hundred pages, Glaxo is designed to be read in one sitting, and this allows it to work brilliantly as a mystery – the mystery being as much about the nature of the crime as the perpetrator(s). It’s also an admirable technical feat – four distinct voices across four decades. The fractured narrative, however, is not simply there for our post-modern pleasure: it places the emphasis on the effects as much as the causes of evil and leaves us with injustice rather than healing.

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