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The Emigrant’s Hand

By
May 1, 2005

In the triangle of flesh between Castro’s thumb and index finger, three small birds are tattooed in black. They are tiny and delicately shaped, like Chinese characters. They fly over the folds of the skin. When his hand closes, they hide in a grotto.
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Petrel. A small black and white bird, the storm-petrel (Hydrobates pelagicus) lives on the open sea year round, except during the mating season. It is the smallest marine bird in Europe.—Manuel Seco, Dictionary

Petrels are small pelagic birds; they are black except for the tail, which is white; the beak has nasal tubes. They fly flush with the water and appear to be walking on the surface.—Guide to the Birds of Galicia

One

The bar at the Old Crow was long, a good four men laid out. You could look from one end to the other, but for me there was only Castro’s hand, it held me in a hypnotic grip. It didn’t matter if it was quietly wrapped around a pint of beer or rounding off a story in the air and then suddenly drifting off, as though telling it had been a mistake.

Close up, his eyes caught my attention, too. They were like a landscape with clouds, the sea, even a red glistening sun seemed to set in his teary right eye. Sometimes it would flare up into a summer storm with bolts of lightning, and Castro’s voice would thunder. There were certain chemical products that set off his allergies. One of them was Conservative Margaret Thatcher’s hairspray. In those days, the Prime Minister would appear on the nine o’clock news, immediately after the horse races, and however much the regulars at the Old Crow lowered the volume to reduce her from a demon to a pantomime, they would still feel her annoying, almost equestrian lash and it made the beer taste bitter. Castro had spent year after year as a janitor in a psychiatric hospital—as big as a city—in Epsom. He quit the day that he found himself, on his Sunday off, rocking endlessly back and forth on a bench in the shady green of Mount Hill. He caught himself in time, in the enveloping rock and roll at the antechamber of madness. Later he became a valued hospital porter in London’s St. Thomas Hospital, recording with watery eyes every ailment that passed down the corridors. He considered this reason enough to pack off the Iron Lady, her black purse full of piranhas, in a pile of shit.

I marvel at his hand, a hand that navigates the air, shimmering against the light, as if each finger were tied to the dart through a nerve ending.

There was another matter that affected his reputation as a tranquil porter and orderly. Something difficult for the others to spot, that he kept in the corner of his eye, and that I, in time, came to recognize. The arrival of the past. An unhealthy form of melancholy that sometimes crossed the threshold of the Old Crow. Anyone, for example, caught the darts Castro launched into the air at the government, cursing England and the day he arrived at Victoria Station in this country where the filth wears perfume, dresses like clerks, devours garbage, is more crooked than a folding chair, colder and muddier than the Thames, and has more affection for dogs than for children. “That’s what they’re like, brother,” he confides. “There’s no land like Galicia. Later they’ll show up there as tourists and get high for four pesetas. A paradise!” I’m seeing how Castro silently aims for the bull’s eye in the Old Crow with darts of truth and hits them dead on with disturbing precision, the feathery guides like cactus flowers.

I marvel at his hand, a hand that navigates the air, shimmering against the light, as if each finger were tied to the dart through a nerve ending. Next it pulls back. It closes into a strong fist. It rotates slowly around the wrist. Then it spreads open again, fingers drumming the air. His hand is a living being. This is where Castro exists now, where his guts stir, his eyes on guard, his mouth gaping. The diver’s hand is a nuptial fish among garlands of algae, the jellyfish’s shadow, a starfish clinging to the rocks; it is the camouflaged hunter abandoning his prey so that the squid believes it’s escaped until it emerges startled on the surface. It has fastened itself to the diver’s arm that now raises it, humiliated, in triumph. In the triangle of flesh between Castro’s thumb and index finger, three small birds are tattooed in black. They are tiny and delicately shaped, like Chinese characters. They fly over the folds of the skin. When his hand closes, they hide in a grotto.

“Swallows?”

“No, they’re not swallows, they’re storm-petrels. The sailor’s faithful companions.”

When the orderly takes a patient down the polished corridor, seabirds whistle in the wheels. They circle around the invalid’s face when the silent orderly sticks the I.V. tube in or folds the sheet over his chest, the ultimate gesture of protection. In the first moments of anesthesia, the storm-petrels move flush with the curled edge of sleep and perch on the eyelashes so that sleep, though deep, is not abysmal. And emerging from that clinical immensity, the patient leaves the operating room to return to consciousness, and works his way back into existence starting from the orderly’s tattoos.

Now Castro collects the darts from the bull’s eye and gives them to his drunken friend.

“It’s your turn. Even if you could figure it out, when you throw it, it comes out the way it wants.”

“You have to point with your tongue, too. Where the hell do you think you are?”

Then he signals with his index finger, cutting short the storm-petrels’ flight. “I don’t like people who come here with a load of shit in their heads,” Castro tells him. “Pick a fight with the government, with anyone, but don’t dump on the country that opened its doors to you. Or do I have to explain to you why we came here with our cardboard suitcases? We boarded the train like cattle. We didn’t even have a john. You had to stick your butt out the door to do your business. At the border at Irún some guy harangued us about the glory of Spain. Damn Spaniards! Always got their nose in the air. What a bastard! A lecture! He should have given us

a shot of Felipe II. A swig of cognac for posterity! When we said our goodbyes, we were all in tears. But remember who cried the most? The ones who stayed. They were the sad ones. Not from homesickness, but from not being able to leave.”

Now Castro’s eyes gleamed coldly like a stone pavement. A sheet of rain passed over them. “Don’t fuck with me!” he exclaimed. “They filled the cities with banks and funeral homes. If the clergy ever sees me, it’ll be as ashes. I won’t have a burial, a few moments of fame—a death notice and a funeral mass—what a gallego actually lives for. I’ll go back in a tobacco pouch!”

“You’ll weigh a pound,” joked Rugueiro.

“The clergy never did me any harm,” says the other one seriously, like someone who’s met the devil, horns, tail, and all.

Castro smiled with a touch of malice. He turned toward the bar and I thought that the

tempest had died down. But it was only a break to take another swig. He didn’t like the warm beer.

“You know something? I love my mother, she’s who I’ve got there, I love the ones who died, the house with the fig tree, gone now. I love the sea at Orzán, I love my memories, good and bad, but don’t ask me to love my country.”

“You say that, but you don’t mean it,” stammered the other one, alarmed as though hearing blasphemy for the first time. “Whether you like it or not, you have to love your fatherland. It’s where you’re born!”

“My fatherland is a hospital.”
From the back room of the Old Crow, bathed in the moonlight of the billiard lamp, came the report of a ball being hit. Some miss-shot sent it into the pocket. The eight ball, no doubt. The noise of the ball falling is greater because it rolls in the silent wake of a miscue, to the confusion of the player, who acts annoyed and blames it on the cue.

For a while I nursed the illusion that the ball went through the billiard table pocket and rolled across the floor as far as our feet, and that this spirit emanating from the bad shot ended the dispute. It was Ruán, our songbird, who turned. When he sang in the Old Crow about the green, green grass of his native land, the velvety green table surface would expand like a meadow in moonlight. Our hearts welled up with the desire to kiss that pasture.

Ruán fluttered his cards, making filigrees of air. In his youth in Galicia he’d been a singer with traveling orchestras, engaged on the spot at the Tacita de Plata, the musicians’ hangout, to liven up country fairs in remote villages. He would say, “Like birds, we arrived after the harvest. In winter it was as hard as the Via dolorosa. We’d play, three or four of us, in rooms that had been stables the day before. I was the singer but I didn’t really know how to sing.”

He was watching the shining darts. He clicked his heels and flashed a flamenco smile. “I left to buy dancing shoes. Ones like Fred Astaire’s.”

At the Old Crow now, no one sang about the green, green grass of their native land. Ruán was operated on for throat cancer. I HAVE A CRAB, he writes on his slate. It was something that we lived with, not as an illness, but as a deliberate and brutal injustice because of its exact location. A humiliating order for silence that came from the Most High. Either God was very hard of hearing or he was throwing stones at his own roof, because Ruán’s voice was a consecration. The green billiard surface wore out and no longer evoked the green grass of his native land. They put a mechanism in Ruán to restore something of a voice, though he vowed he would never try it out. He couldn’t stand that snoring, out-of-tune tenant they had billeted in his body. We could sympathize with him but it gave us heart all the same. “Look, Ruán, Beethoven was deaf.” Then he had written on the slate, AND IT MESSED UP THE TOCCATA. One day he came in all sad, his eyebrows knit like a visor. He leaned on the bar, without greeting any one, his gaze lost in the foam of a dark beer. Suddenly, the marker was on the slate and he wrote, FRIENDS, I WON THE LOTTERY. By the way he left, without saying good-bye, we came to the conclusion that this time something really unpleasant had happened. We didn’t see any more of him. We looked for him, but he’d erased all his tracks. He fell into a billiard pocket.

It seemed to me that Castro had also noticed the noise of the falling ball. His expression was without its usual energy and his glance was clouded, resting on the hand with the storm-petrels, like one who reads something that others don’t see.

“Love,” he said finally, “You can love a woman, a child, a dog, but a country, a country. . . Enough! Drop it! Let’s drink. To everyone’s health!”

“Long live Galicia!”

“Long may the blackbird sing!”

“Long live those from Shit Street!” proclaimed Arturo Rugueiro with pride. They were both born there, near the Vereda del Monte Alto.

If La Coruña were a stone ship beached in the Atlantic, Monte Alto was the city’s prow. My childhood playground was shaped like a triangle. To the left was the provincial prison, to

the right the San Amaro cemetery. Straight ahead was the old lighthouse, the Tower of Hercules. The first and the last light, the light of arrival and of farewells. Because of it, when people would ask us what we wanted to be when we grew up, our eyes glanced furtively from the prison to the cemetery. Finally, we’d find salvation in the old lighthouse. And an inner voice cried, “Emigrant!”

Ladbroke Grove came, then Kensal Rise. Once more I watched the way Castro walked. Arms curved in an arc, fists half open, a hands’ length from his thighs, the steps always following one right after the other. Cutting the wind, like the head of a flock of migrating birds. An advancing front opened a hole in the tunnel of the night. An empty bottle rolled across the sidewalk. “Come back pregnant, sweetie,” shouted a bum sprawled in the doorway of John Nodes Funeral Home. Service day and night. Elegant carriage with a glass case for the casket. Horses adorned with ostrich plumes. It moved me, right there, amid the traffic, Ladbroke below. “Horses, horses!” cried a boy to his mother. She was smoking a cigarette the way mothers do when their hands are otherwise occupied: flicking, inhaling, and exhaling

at the same time. “Yes, horses.”

“Watch Castro’s walk,” said Rugueiro. “He looks like the man who shot Liberty Valance.”

“No,” I answered. “He walks like someone who pushes hospital beds.”

“You push them too and your hands are in your pockets.”

Jack Sullivan, who came up behind us, half exhausted, gave the verdict. “He walks like someone who’s lost something.”

Two

One day her name slipped out—Irene—but Castro never introduced us to her. When he would say, “No, tomorrow I can’t, I have something to do,” and make a gesture with the finality of an official stamp, we would guess that the something to do was Irene, who we assumed was English or Irish. He had pronounced it “Eye-reen.” And we’d sing him the old song that we closed the Old Crow with each night,

Irene, goodnight,

Irene, goodnight.

Goodnight, Irene, goodnight, Irene,

Goodnight, Irene, Irene, goodnight!

Castro’s hair was so gray that it seemed to rejuvenate his face. That’s how I always remember it, tinged with a distant snowfall. We would make jokes at his expense. “How old is your princess?” “There’s no fool like an old fool, Castro.” And how old was he? Thinking a lot about it, I had a feeling from him, a sensation of knowing everything and of knowing nothing.

He surprised me one Sunday morning as we walked through Queen’s Park, a sprinkling of rain on our faces, by talking about his date with Irene. We were going to the travel agency on Portobello Road to get our tickets to fly home for Christmas. He was cheerful. He was bringing his mother a Scottish shawl.

“Don’t laugh, our date is at the museum.”

“The museum? The one with the mummies?”

Once we’d visited the British Museum. We were passing by it. There was a chestnut vendor in the courtyard near the main entrance. Castro’s hand itched for them, or a bag of cherries in the summer. He was as happy as a kid with his bag of hot chestnuts, watching the endless stream of people. Then it popped out of him,

“Why don’t we go in?” He added for justification, “It’s warm inside, and it’s free.”

I’m picturing him in the hall of Egyptian mummies, standing petrified in front of a corner showcase, to attract less attention, and holding his bag of chestnuts at half mast, like a spent torch in soot-stained hand.

“They’re going to embalm you, too,” growled Rugueiro, to make him move.

But it was he who drew us to the showcase. “No shit! Did you see this? It’s their cat. They made a mummy out of pussycat!”

He talked a lot about how smart it was, that these very people knew how to deal with death, even to stock it with animals so that in the distant beyond there would be a cat, all wrapped up and ready to keep the rats at bay.

“No, not the one with the mummies,” smiled Castro, “the one with the paintings in Trafalgar Square. The National Gallery.”

Then, as though I had asked him to explain why he was taking a woman on a date to a museum, he added, “It’s warm and it’s free.”

“Are they nice, the paintings?”

This time he was unequivocal. “There’s an incredible one.” His hand drew a deft sketch in the misty air. “It’s of a big horse, with glowing eyes, it practically seems to jump off the canvas.” He spoke with the fire of someone sharing a discovery. “But the best, you know, the best painting is of a storm, it’s in the same room as the horse. You feel the crash of the sea, like you were right there in the picture with those seasick people on the pier. Better than a photograph. Whoever painted it knows the sea like the back of his hand.”

“And this Irene,” I dared to ask, “what’s she like?”

But he still hadn’t shaken loose from the seascape or else pretended he didn’t hear me. “It’s the pier at Calais. It says so on the label.”

He took a few steps with his head down, following a train of thought.

Suddenly he turned, locking eyes with me, and said, “Do you always pay attention to what I say?”

He left the path and stood by himself on the lawn. A squirrel was foraging in the grass.

It stood up tail spread, considering whether the intruder was worth fleeing from, its body alert and in a questioning pose. But Castro walked on without paying it any attention, pushing an invisible gurney. I finally called to him, thinking that I might have offended him. Without pausing he made a gesture as if to say, “Just a minute, I’m coming.” He stooped to pick up something. With the gravity of a detective presenting a murder weapon, he returned with the butt end of a broken bottle. Oddly enough, his hand was trembling, the hand with the storm-petrels.

“They just threw this in the grass!”

With time, the emotion of returning becomes a memory. At first, the suitcase doesn’t feel heavy, even though it’s stuffed full. But later, the baggage, despite being lightweight, starts to feel as heavy as the person carrying it.

It was also raining, with the intensity of sleet, on the night of our flight back home for Christmas. It was a cheap flight, a charter for immigrants like us, leaving from Heathrow’s Terminal One. We’d arranged for a taxi, a gypsy cab, to take us. London was as quiet as a sleeping village, streetlights few and far between. It was the first time we were actually traveling together, Castro and I, after all those years, but we didn’t even comment on it as we waited drowsy and out of sorts at the main entrance of Trellick Tower. With time, the emotion of returning becomes a memory. At first, the suitcase doesn’t feel heavy, even though it’s stuffed full. But later, the baggage, despite being lightweight, starts to feel as heavy as the person carrying it. Castro was strong and when the taxi arrived, he took both our bags and headed for the trunk.

The driver turned out to be a young Kashmiri. He treated us formally, as though he were picking up relatives. He was listening to a music cassette from his country, a woman’s voice, a melancholic ebb and flow that seemed to follow the obsessive beat of the windshield wipers. From time to time we said something, just to make conversation. Castro asked if there were tomatoes in Kashmir. The driver smiled wanly and said, of course, that the valleys there were very fertile. After a little while he looked out of the corner of his eye at Castro, who was sitting in the front seat. Then he spoke, his tone serious.

“Excuse me, sir, why did you ask me if there were tomatoes?” Without waiting for the reply he added with a touch of hurt, “Do you think we are a poor country with starving people?”

Weighing this strange reaction, Castro replied evenly. The hand with the storm petrels wiped an opening in the fogged-up window.

“Actually, I asked because I love tomatoes. Where there are tomatoes, you can get everything.”

Again the driver smiled faintly.

So the fault has to be mine. Why was I the one to ask him if things were going well, if he was happy in London? We were in the stretch of highway leading into Heathrow. The driver didn’t answer. He shook his head as if to shake free of God knows what dream or what failure. His right hand shot from the steering wheel to the glove compartment, he got something out of it, which he brought to his mouth. He searched into the night, into the passageway of headlights flaring up in the rain. As if there were a sudden need to rush, his features tensed and he began accelerating. First in a seamless way that fit into the music. But then it went to the max, until the hand on the speedometer began to vibrate. I wondered what was wrong with my question, what raw nerve I had hit with that foolish remark about happiness that so enflamed the speedometer hand. Castro put his hand, the one with the storm petrels, on the man’s shoulder. “Relax, friend, relax. We have time.”

That hand was the last thing I saw before the car skidded into the guardrail as though it wanted to throw itself off the highway, far from the woman’s sad song.

Three

When they woke up, the patients heard everything. My experience as a orderly seemed now to be necessary preparation for me, training, as though I were looking it over for years, taking the measurements of the place where we would meet, the gurney and I, rolling through the emergency room of my hospital. They said I was unconscious, but I knew who brought me in. Señor Sullivan pushed with calm speed, with measured stride, like he was guiding a raft in water up to his waist. Jack Sullivan always had a sparkling smile. A parachutist in the Second World War, he is still astonished to be alive. He used to talk about his childhood in Fulham along the Thames, where Bretons would come on bicycles with strings of onions, hawking their produce, “Spanish onions, Spanish onions!” When we’d pass each other, pushing gurneys, we’d always cry out, “Spanish onions!” He and Castro were good friends. They would greet each other at work like two athletes scoring a basket, slapping palms. Castro said they ought to give him a bonus for that smile, that beaming keyboard. It would be unjust to have an accident and not enjoy Señor Sullivan’s warm smile on the way to the operating room. Now I know that if I didn’t open my eyes, it was out of shame for having survived.

At night the worst hospital sound is the zipper on the body bags for the corpses. We put them in a metal box on the gurney.

At night the worst hospital sound is the zipper on the body bags for the corpses. We put them in a metal box on the gurney. We would work in pairs. The nurses would wash the dead body quickly and put it in the bag. There were no walls, only rolling curtains between the patients, and the sound of the zipper would cut right through a patient’s sleep like a saw blade.

If you did it slowly, deadening the friction of the locking rows as much as possible, you kept hearing it like a ghostly train in the night. If you did it in one pull, disguising the sound with a discreet coughing fit, it would sound as loud as a saw cutting through wood. It’s what the night holds in a hospital, the sound of silence being broken. A concerto of ruptures. The leaden pace of clocks. On night duty Castro would say that those clocks kept bad faith. To me they lost time when no one was looking.

As I awoke with difficulty from the anesthesia, I had the sensation of slowly unzipping the body bag zipper. I was talking to Castro, but I knew that he was already in the metal box from which there is no exit. The airplane was ready to take off for home. It was a very rainy night in Galicia. No one else got off the plane, only the two of us in an empty airport. There weren’t even any police around. Suddenly a cleaning woman in a blue uniform appeared. It was Rosalía.

“What are you doing here?”

“Cleaning, what should I be doing? I clean the National Gallery and when I’m done I fly off on the broom.” Her eyes were laughing. She looked happy that we ran into each other, but Castro looked away. He seemed very preoccupied with the baggage carousel and was unloading the luggage, worried about the Scottish shawl, perhaps.

I got along well with Rosalía. We had made the interminable trip together that brought us to Victoria Station in 1961. From the time we got on in La Coruña, in a train with seats so hard that you got sores on your butt, she didn’t let go of her purse, which she clutched to her chest. The high tight boots she was wearing bothered her a lot. They looked like leather but really were vinyl and made her skin itch. But on the second day, while crossing France, she took them off and seemed to revive. I remember that in Calais, at the pier, while waiting for the ferry, she exclaimed, “England really is an island!” We laughed and laughed.

“What are you carrying in that purse, if I can ask?”

“Nuts.” And it was true. In the English train, she took out handfuls as through they were a squirrel’s winter provisions. Later, asleep, she leaned her head against the window, with twilight for a pillow, and I was tempted to take her hand in mine. I didn’t dare. We parted in Victoria Station, she walking unsteadily and stiltlike in her cheap boots. We haven’t seen each other since then.

This friend of yours,” said Rosalía sarcastically, “he’s not very chatty today. That’s not surprising. What a brush-off he gave me!”

I was totally surprised. Was there something between them? From the depths of the airport I heard the sharp sound of billiard balls. Trembling, I suddenly realized that Castro was far away from everything, pale, his skin bloodless. He lifted a drooping sleeve. His hand was missing. The hand with the storm-petrels.

Without a word, I pulled him to the plane.

“But what’s happening?”

“We have to go back, Castro, back to before.”

I used force. I unzipped almost all the zippers on the corpses. We returned to the scene of the accident. The young Kashmiri driver was lying there. We were all stretched out on the asphalt. Words from the ambulance team floated above me and came through the sound of the rain like static.

“Two are DOA and one injured. Yes, confirmed. Not a thing. The injured is presenting head injuries, superficial lacerations with heavy bleeding. Fractured femur. One hand amputated. Yes, we have it in ice. St. Thomas staff, the injured and one of the DOAs. Staff ID. Castro,

C-A-S-T-R-O. Yes, a shame. We’re going there.”

I had to remember. Another tug on the body bag zipper. The taxi returns to the highway, rights itself back up. Like the tombstone of a sarcophagus next to me. I knock on the window with the thick end of a billiard cue. Explosion of glass and bones. All the friends, all the gang on hand, on the sidelines bleeding from their wounds. I use my arm like a blind man’s stick to make an opening. The car tumbles again. Demon of a door. Hits the wrist like a guillotine.

Immobile in my diving suit of plaster, I look from my horizontal position at the bulkiness of my hand, raised up on pillows. It’s not a normal bandage, it’s more like an awning. For the second time the nurse lifts the bandage and inspects it closely. She puts oil on it to prevent the bandages from sticking to the joints. That’s not normal either. She thinks that I don’t see her.

They say that there are four stages when you come out of anesthesia. I don’t remember anything of the deepest stage, at the operation’s climax. But there has to be a corner in the mind where something stays recorded. I try to open the zipper completely. I dive into the bottomless well of anesthesia. I feel the smooth touch of eels against me. I remove the slime, the leeches suck the blood staunched in the hand. It forms the outline of storm-petrels against the light. Is that really Dr. Lemmon, the microsurgeon? Once I was asked to take him to Histopathology. It was a museum, a foundry of limbs and organs preserved in glycerin and alcohol. He explained that he worked at a military hospital that specialized in prostheses and artificial limbs. They had achieved an incredible level of technical perfection. Not even a palm reader would be able to tell, at first glance, which hand was artificial and which was real. But the greatest breakthrough, he added (if he may confide in me), will be with transplants that were never considered possible before. Confidently, he said, “What we do with organs now we’ll be able to do with everything.”

A frightening thought went through my mind. Could a head also be transplanted with dreams and memory inside? But I couldn’t bring myself to ask him that. “Then could a limb, a leg, for example, be transplanted from another person?”

“Why not?” he answered. “We’ve already done it with a thumb. And the big toe can substitute for the tip of the thumb without a problem.”

I couldn’t see my hand, but I tried to picture it in my mind. A neurologist had taught me that we never lose the memory of our healthy body. We can endure changes and mutilations to it but we always retain the original image. The mind, for example, preserves the wrinkles when cosmetic surgery erases them from the face. So I sent my nerves to inspect the area around my hand. I forgot about the rest of my body. I couldn’t move my hand. But it seemed to me that I could picture it in my head. It was much larger than before. Shortly afterwards, I felt a prickling like the fluttering wings of storm-petrels. Castro’s hand responded. It was alive. The strangest part was that my mind wasn’t surprised. It recognized it as my own.

Castro had told me a story in the Old Crow, his strongest memory from having been on ship—a fight he saw between a narwhal and a swordfish in the Antarctic. They attacked each other, leaping high out of the water, striking with their weapons, horn against sword, in a brutal dance. The captain, fascinated, ordered the ship’s speed reduced. When he described the deep-sea duel, Castro’s hand became a great silvery fish emerging from the foam. Very soon my hand would be that fish.

Manuel Rivas, born in La Coruña in 1957, is a novelist, poet, and essayist and has worked as a journalist for both Spanish-language and Galician-language media in Spain, such as El País and Diario de Galicia. He has published eight novels (which he writes in Galician), and was awarded two national prizes, the Premio de la Critica for Un millión de vacas (1989) and the Premio nacional de narrativa for his novel ¿Que me quieres, amor? (1996). His novel The Carpenter’s Pencil (1998), about the repression of dissidents during Franco’s rule, is the only that has been translated into English and was made into a film in 2003. The two-story work, A man dos pianos, first appeared in 2002, followed by Rivas’ own version, La Mano del emigrante, in Castilian (2002). Vermeer’s Milkmaid is his first short story collection to be published in English translation (2002).

Valerie Saint-Rossy lives in New York City and has a background in the Romance languages. She first became interested in the bilingual aspects of 20th-century Spanish writers while living in Spain in 1989. Two writers she has translated (Manuel Rivas, a Galician, and Qium Monzò, a Catalan) write in their regional languages yet are widely read and honored throughout the Spanish-speaking world for Castilian versions of their works, which they often have written themselves.

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One comment for The Emigrant’s Hand

  1. Comment by Anne on October 22, 2012 at 4:43 pm

    Wish this showed the whole story instead of half of it :(

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