BACK TO FRONT: A STORY
Translation by Anna Heath
With my eyes in bits of sleep, and my mouth in bad breath, I woke up in the morning after a long and eventful night. It had left me turned upside down. A wince of boredom drew my mouth and part of my nose, and immediately a yawn filled in the rest of my face.
I picked up the newspaper with the latest word, as well as the fresh milk from the foot of the door, and, bending over, I leafed through the dairy, its cream, its misfortune. I added a little coffee to the newspaper, and drank it with the serenity of knowing that it was Sunday, and that if nothing at all funny happened, then Sunday would carry on for the whole day.
Nothing at all decided to happen for a few minutes, while the television watched me and changed my channel all the time, thanks to a small but effective device. The telly got bored of me quickly, and the remote control ended up turning me off. The armchair was fed up of shaping my bottom, so it stood me up.
I rang, and the handset took me by the ear. A woman´s voice, between apologetic and stupid, pleaded, ‘Manuel, are you coming?’ I told her I was, and asked her if the guy she´d been going out with a few months ago would be there. ‘Yes, you know, we´re a couple now, and my girl has got attached to him, and…’ The phone went dead. It was pointless to carry on holding it in my hand. It shook me off.
The calendar, circling today’s date with a red circle, was shouting out my daughter Rosita’s birthday on the wall. Written above it were the words ‘don’t forget that you promised her you’d write a story about the dinosaur who lived upside down’. The calendar was right on time.
I went to the bathroom, so that the mirror could see me. But it had its complaints. I had to shave and have a shower to make it happy. The mirror looked at me again and decided I’d improved a bit, but it still didn’t like my natural smell. The deodorant remade my armpits, and a cheap perfume remade my skin. A towel threw itself round me from the waist down, and whipped me off to my room.
A shirt, underwear, and my trousers dressed me quickly. It was that evil watch that was hurrying them. The tick tock was running with sprinter’s trainers. A tie began to string me up. I was able to escape thanks to some shoes that took me back to the living room.
The window watched me, and saw the roads crossing their pedestrians in different directions. Posts were urinating, as always, on their favourite dogs. A church, sitting in the entrance of a beggar, put its hand out asking for spare change. There was no doubt about it: the city walked through the street on its head, the sky was the floor. It was then that I understood why drunks and hooligans spit on it and piss on it whenever they feel like it.
After a second, the computer switched me on. On the screen, I could see the story of the dinosaur that had been writing me for a couple of days. Suddenly, the bell rang someone insistently at the door. As anyone would expect, the door opened for me.
It was some pens that were selling an obese and sorry-looking woman. I said I wouldn’t buy anything, and the door slammed on me. After this abrupt and unpleasant interruption, the story on the computer decided to carry on writing me.
Funny things, all of them face down and turned upside down, were read there about the dinosaur. Back-to-front things, like that someone´s eyes were in bits of sleep, and their mouth was in bad breath. And to be able to write these final lines, for a short while, I had to stop standing on my head.
1 This story was chosen as a finalist in the 1st annual Axolotl Magazine Literary Contest in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in August 2006. It was published in El Dominical, the Sunday edition of El Comercio, on April 28th, 2013.
Translation of “Back to Front” Copyright Pedro Novoa. By arrangement with the author. Translation copyright 2013 by Anna Heath. All rights reserved.
Pedro Novoa (1974) Writer and university lecturer. He was awarded the Peruvian prize for playwriting, the Premio Nacional de Dramaturgia 2004, and the Premio Internacional de Cuento Corto Dante Alighieri for short stories. He has published the novel Seis metros de soga (ed. Altazor), for which he won the Premio Nacional Horacio 2010 in the short novel category, and the novel Maestra vida (ed. Alfaguara), for which he won the Premio Internacional Mario Vargas Llosa. He has contributed to anthologies published in Chile, Argentina, Colombia, Spain, and Peru. One of his stories, ‘Inserte cuatro monedas de a sol, por favor’, was translated into Italian by the writer Gianluca Turconi. It was included in the anthology Schegge di futuro (Splinters of the Future) with the title, ‘Inserisca quattro monete da un sol, per favore’. The Cervantes Institute has published his essay ‘Cristales quebrados y la reconstrucción de totalidades escindidas del “boom” latinoamericano’, a work with which he participated in the conference Canon del Boom Latinoamericano in Spain in 2012. The critic Ricardo González Vigil picked him as his surprise read of 2012.