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Adam Buenosayres

Adam Buenosayres: A Novel

A novel by Leopoldo Marechal
Translated by NORMAN CHEADLE
with the help of Sheila Ethier
Introduction and notes by Norman Cheadle
Copyright Date: 2014
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  • Book Info
    Adam Buenosayres
    Book Description:

    A modernist urban novel in the tradition of James Joyce, Adam Buenosayres is a tour-de-force that does for Buenos Aires what Carlos Fuentes did for Mexico City or José Lezama Lima did for Havana - chronicles a city teeming with life in all its clever and crass, rude and intelligent forms. Employing a range of literary styles and a variety of voices, Leopoldo Marechal parodies and celebrates Argentina's most brilliant literary and artistic generation, the martinfierristas of the 1920s, among them Jorge Luis Borges. First published in 1948 during the polarizing reign of Juan Perón, the novel was hailed by Julio Cortázar as an extraordinary event in twentieth-century Argentine literature. Set over the course of three break-neck days, Adam Buenosayres follows the protagonist through an apparent metaphysical awakening, a battle for his soul fought by angels and demons, and a descent through a place resembling a comic version of Dante's hell. Presenting both a breathtaking translation and thorough explanatory notes, Norman Cheadle captures the limitless language of Marechal's original and guides the reader along an unmatched journey through the culture of Buenos Aires. This first-ever English translation brings to light Marechal's masterwork with an introduction outlining the novel's importance in various contexts - Argentine, Latin American, and world literature - and with notes illuminating its literary, cultural, and historical references. A salient feature of the Argentine canon, Adam Buenosayres is both a path-breaking novel and a key text for understanding Argentina's cultural and political history.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-8531-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. ix-xxx)

    “The publication of this book is an extraordinary event in Argentine literature.” So wrote Julio Cortázar in his 1949 review ofAdán Buenosayres(20)² shortly after the novel was published in 1948 . The young Cortázar struggled somewhat to conceptualize just why the novel was so extraordinary, but there can be little doubt that this literary event had an influence on Cortázar’s brilliantRayuela(1963) [Hopscotch] whose unusual structure and celebration of language surely owe something to Marechal’sAdán. Later, other novelists of the 1960s Boom generation – Ernesto Sábato, Carlos Fuentes, José Lezama Lima, Augusto Roa Bastos – echoed Cortázar’s appreciation;...

  5. Illustrations
    (pp. xxxi-xxxviii)
  6. Indispensable Prologue
    (pp. 3-6)

    On a certain October morning in 192—, at not quite noon, six of us entered the Western Cemetery,² bearing a coffin of modest design (four fragile little planks), so light that it seemed to carry within not the spent flesh of a dead man but rather the subtle stuff of a concluded poem.³ The astrologer Schultz and I held the two handles at the coffin’s head, Franky Amundsen and Del Solar had taken those at the foot. Luis Pereda went ahead, stocky and unsteady as a blind boar. Bringing up the rear came Samuel Tesler, pawing with ostentatious devotion...


    • Chapter 1
      (pp. 9-29)

      Temperate and blithe are the autumn days in the witty and graceful city of Buenos Aires, and splendid was the morning on that twenty-eighth of April. Ten o’clock had just struck. Wide awake and gesticulating beneath the morning sun, the Great Capital of the South was a gaggle of men and women who fought shrieking for control over the day and the earth. Rustic reader, were you graced with birdlike powers and had you from your soaring flight cast your sparrow’s gaze o’er the burgh, I know that your loyalporteñobreast would have swollen, obedient to the mechanics of...

    • Chapter 2
      (pp. 30-56)

      Hesitant, his soul hanging from a thread and his heart thumping like a drum, Adam tapped his knuckles against the door of the other’s room. With bated breath, he listened a long while for some sign of life. But a hard silence reigned within that cave, as though room number five were not a hollow cube but a solid mass. Clenching his fist, Adam knocked again, then put his ear to the door; again the only response was a silence that seemed to revel in its very perfection.

      “Koriskos answers not,” Adam said inwardly. “Koriskos sleeps.”

      Determined that an enterprise...


    • Chapter 1
      (pp. 59-96)

      Her broomstick tapping rhythmically, Old Lady Chacharola made her way down Hidalgo Street toward Monte Egmont, slowly, all right, but erect and straight as a spindle. Her mouth cruelly clenched, eyes stony, brow stormy, the whole of her exuded bile and vinegar as she shuffled along the sunlit sidewalk in her faded, floppy shoes. In her Sicilian heart, as in a chemist’s retort, hatred simmered on the slow fire of memory, the memory of a daughter whose name she never uttered if not to curse it countless times – as countless as the drops of milk she’d fed her, she thought,...

    • Chapter 2
      (pp. 97-146)

      Ethel Amundsen brought the rhapsody to a splendid close with a crashing chord in the lower registers of the keyboard. The upright piano shuddered, two terra-cotta shepherds sitting on it toppled over, and the merchant ship placed between them began to pitch, as if casting off its moorings. The applause already resounding in the parlour grew warmer still as Ethel spun round on the piano stool, got to her feet, and walked over to the sky-blue divan, swinging her firm, guitar-shaped hips. Señor Johansen cried a heartyBravo!, and even Captain Amundsen¹ seemed to smile from his bromide photo up...


    • Chapter 1
      (pp. 149-192)

      In the city of Trinity and its port, Santa María de los Buenos Aires, there is a frontier zone where burg and wilderness meet in an agonistic embrace, like two giants locked in single combat.Saavedrais the name cartographers have assigned to that mysterious region, perhaps in order to hide its true name, which must not be uttered. “The world is preserved through secrecy,” affirms theZohar. And it is not for all and sundry to know the true names of things.

      The traveller who turns his back on the city and directs his gaze toward that landscape will...

    • Chapter 2
      (pp. 193-234)

      Adam Buenosayres, the astrologer Schultz, and Samuel Tesler were tarrying, deep in thought, in the chamber where the deceased lay in state. As men who have plumbed the ancient mystery of death, all three contemplated the mortal remains of the man who had been Juan Robles (a fine specimen of acriollo, if ever there was one). According to the neighbours, he’d kicked the bucket after fifty-nine years in an existence both happy and laborious. He’d whiled away his time on earth drifting frompulperíatopulpería, from siesta to siesta, watching his famous mares stomp mud for brick-making.¹ And...


    • Chapter 1
      (pp. 237-267)

      In the open doorway of his restaurant, Ciro Rossini – the great Ciro! – stood in deep melancholy, his eyes wandering as he spun the yarn of his autumnal thoughts. Having scrutinized the midnight sky and noticed in the east a threatening squadron of shit-coloured clouds, the proprietor of Ciro’s Gazebo said to himself in alarm:

      Wind from the east,

      rains like a beast.¹

      As though the wind wished to corroborate Ciro’s private reflexion, a treacherous gust suddenly shook the manes of the trees along the street, tearing from them a whirlwind of coppery leaves that floated in the air before fluttering...

    • Chapter 2
      (pp. 268-288)

      Step right up, gentlemen! Come and see the ancient monster, the beast of a thousand shapes and none, whose poverty is equalled by her sumptuousness, dressed in all the world’s finery, the most bedizened among the naked, the most naked of the bedizened, nothingness tricked out as Iris, the shadow of a mystery! Before your dazzled eyes She may appear as something firm and strong: fortress or barbican, bastion or battlement, rock or metal. But look out! Nothing is as frail as She, nothing crumbles as easily as her gaudy edifice of spume. Or perhaps you believe that She is...

    • Chapter 3
      (pp. 289-304)

      He caught up with him only a hundred yards up the street, for the philosopher, after tearing full speed across the dangerously exposed intersection at Camargo Street, had finally stopped and was waiting in the deep shadows that the trees, under the glare of the lights, cast upon the sidewalk. Adam Buenosayres, in flight as well, found Samuel sitting on a doorstep, his gnomish legs ridiculously shrunken and his cyclopean thorax heaving and wheezing audibly.

      –So? asked Samuel, as soon as he saw Adam arrive.

      Adam Buenosayres, still panting, went to the curb, peered into the secret depths of...


    • Chapter 1
      (pp. 307-324)

      “Bringing him to such a sorry pass.” “That used to bring him to so sorry a pass.” “That to a pass so sorry ...”

      Adam Buenosayres awakes with that shred of sentence still hounding him like an imbecilic gadfly, as it has done all through his sleep. When his eyes open, he sees the figure of Irma by his side, her industrious hands coming and going over the breakfast tray.

      What time is it? he asks, infinitely discouraged.

      Ten-thirty, answers Irma.

      “That to a pass so sorry ...”

      Is it raining?


      “And he’d told Irma her eyes were like...

    • Chapter 2
      (pp. 325-339)

      You, Mother! Are you aware of the responsibility you bear for your Son, who is soon to enter the stormy fray of life, with no other spiritual or moral arms than the ones forged in the home? Home, I said. Sacred word! Mother, have you reflected upon the dangers lying in wait for your child if he’s left exposed to the temptations of the street, which looks to be the case?

      The Principal waits for an answer, his little eyes radiating severity and reproach. His voice is mellifluous, even though his earthen complexion, his sharply defined features, his rustic torso,...

    • Chapter 3
      (pp. 340-356)

      Midnight: solitude, emptiness. Alone, I alone on the skin of the world, spinning as it flees, fleeing as it spins, “an old top without children.”² Why without children? At that time I was playing around with logic, not noticing that dissimilar objects are always harmoniously related:splendor ordinis. Last night I tried to explain it at Ciro’s place – quite sloshed. That other image, too: “The Earth is an antelope in flight.” Or this one: “World, a stone buzzing in the seven colours.” Cosmic terror, ever since my childhood: a little boy clinging to his motionless horse and sobbing in anguish...

  12. BOOK SIX

    • (“The Blue-Bound Notebook”)
      (pp. 359-392)

      My life, for the first ten years, offers nothing that merits the honour of the pen or the exercise of memory. At that age, the soul is like an empty goblet plunging deep into the inconstant river called reality (the name we first give to the earth’s deceitful colour), therein to glean, gather up, and devour visible creation, as though she existed for the sole purpose of such a barbarous harvest. It is a time when child, stone, tree, and ox go whirling hand in hand in the first dance, without distinction of colour or clash of frontier. But later,...


    • (Journey to the Dark City of Cacodelphia)
      (pp. 395-618)

      On Saturday April 30, 192–, in the lowlands of Saavedra, at midnight, the astrologer Schultz and I set out on the memorable journey I now propose to recount. Our itinerary was to include, according to the astrologer’s nomenclature, a descent into Cacodelphia, city of torment, and an ascent to Calidelphia, city of glory.¹ Needless to say, the mere announcement of that journey had plunged me into doubt, hesitation, and not a few reservations, aware as I was that for some time Schultz had been pondering a trip to hell in order to explore its sinister realms, a descent undertaken...

  14. Glossary
    (pp. 619-622)
  15. Notes
    (pp. 623-690)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 691-699)