They haven’t dressed him yet, and there’s the shudder, the substance that emanates in silence and crushes him, because a glance lets him see that Rufo’s sister or mother, who knows, crosses the street cautiously bearing, folded upon arms outstretched as if to offer a gift, a beautiful dress complete with lace and ribbons, and he understands his friend’s last privilege; it’s Rufo and not he that will depart for the cemetery dressed, adorned as a proper girl.
It's a miracle, really, or rather a series of miracles that made it possible for us today to read these lines from Esdras Parra's story "To the North the Antillean Sea." It was 1968 when she published this piece in her short story collection, and this is one of the stories that quickly brought Parra critical praise and cemented her place as a rising star of Venezuelan literature. Her writing would be considered experimental and even radical today, but fifty years ago? It must have been explosive, and it's no surprise that "To the North..." has been anthologized as one of the finest examples of 20th century Venezuelan literature.
The two stories I've translated for this booklet are ambiguous in every sense. Their language is enigmatic, it resists cursory reading; whatever action they contain unfolds at a slow burn. And yet her fiction has an absorbing, hypnotic quality. Reading Parra's stories you sense that there's something profound going on here beneath the quiet surface of the plot and that you will be rewarded for every bit of time and effort you put into wading forward into the winding narratives, and it's true. There's more here than I could explore if I wrote an entire book about Parra's fiction. So I'll stop here and just say there's more description of the stories in the last post here, but it's best to go into them without demands. This is a gift, the voice of a trans woman from a different time reaching us at a moment when we hardly have any collective past or memory or sense of where we are now, but I think it's voices like hers that help us find our way.