Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Mario Benedetti's "The Other I"

My Spanish tutor introduced me to Mario Benedetti, an Uruguayan fiction writer, poet and journalist. My homework was to translate his story "The Other I." I don't put my fingers up my nose, at least not in company, but I can certainly see how vulgarity could co-exist with poetry in the same person. Here's a fellow-exile.


It was about a common fellow: in his trousers mended with knee patches, he would read comics, make noise when eating, put his fingers up his nose, snore in his nap. He was called Armando. Common in every thing but one: he had an Other I.

The Other I used to have a certain poetry in his eyes, fall in love with the actresses, lie casually, get excited at dusk.

The fellow was very worried about the Other I, because the Other I made him feel uncomfortable in front of his friends. On the other hand, Other I was melancholic and, due to it, Armando could not be so vulgar as he wished to be.

One evening Armando returned from work, tired, took off his shoes, moved lethargically his toes and switched on the radio. On the radio Mozart was played, but the fellow fell asleep. When he woke up, the Other I was crying in despair. At that moment, the fellow did not know what to do, but pulled himself together and insulted the Other I consciously. This one did not say anything, but the next morning he committed suicide.

At the beginning, the death of the Other I was a rude blow for poor Armando, but at once he thought that now he could be completely vulgar. That was a comforting thought for him.

He mourned for 5 days only, when he left for the street with the intention of showing off his new and complete vulgarity. From far he saw his friends coming closer. That filled him with happiness and immediately he burst out in guffaws.

However, when they together passed him by, they did not notice his presence. Worse, the fellow caught up and heard what they said: “Poor Armando. To think that he seemed so strong and healthy.”

The fellow did not have any choice but to stop laughing and, at the same time, felt at the height of the breastbone a breathlessness that seemed full of nostalgia. But he could not feel real melancholy, because the Other I had taken away all the melancholy.


Mario Benedetti was born on September 14, 1920. In 1949 he published his first book of stories. In 1953 appeared his first novel, Who of Us. With Poems of the Office, published in 1956, Benedetti influenced the development of the Uruguayan poetry. In 1957, he traveled for the first time to Europe. Two years later, he published another key book in his corpus, Montevideanos, an excellent collection of stories that shows his urban conception of literature, but widened the social register and deepened the vision that took in the common man. For more than ten years Benedetti lived in exile, far away from the Montevideanos. “Nevertheless, I think that one positive effect that the Uruguayan dictatorship caused was to disperse my Montevideanos all over the world, and writing followed after them to different geographies of exile,” he affirmed. In this way he made Buenos Aires, Lima, Havana, and Madrid his cities of passage, but they also leave their imprints on him.

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