The opening of Zama by Antonio Di Benedetto  translated from the Spanish by Esther Allen

       I left the city and made my way downriver alone, to meet the ship I awaited without knowing when it would come.                                                                                                             

     I reached the old wharf, that inexplicable structure.  The city and its harbor have always been where they are, a quarter-league farther upriver.                                                                  

     I observed, among its pilings, the writhing patch of water that ebbs between them.

              A dead monkey, still whole, still undecomposed, drifted back and forth with a certain precision upon those ripples and eddies without exit.  All his life the water at forest’s edge had beckoned him to a journey, a journey he did not take until he was no longer a monkey but only a monkey’s corpse.  The water that bore him up tried to bear him away, but he was caught among the posts of the decrepit wharf and there he was, ready to go and not going.  And there we were.                                                                                                                                        

There we were: Ready to go and not going.

In a nightmare/vision Zama sees horses in the street trample a small girl.

I withdrew.  My boots dragged in the dirt; I could not lift my feet.  Had my arms been longer, my fingernails, too, would have been encrusted with red earth…I know nothing more.  Night, my benefactress, came to my tired body.

Later, Zama goes with a military detachment into the jungle.

The sun was a dog with a hot, dry tongue that licked and licked me until it woke me up.


Author: abookwomansholiday

The perfect holiday for a lifelong reader is one with a stack of books and few distractions. Retiring after three decades as a bookseller, I look forward to reading my way through the stacks and shelves and lists of books waiting for me. This blog will be something of a grab bag or commonplace book of reviews, quotations, notes on the history of books, the contemporary book trade, and anything connected with books and language. Reading is a great pleasure. Thinking and talking about books multiplies and intensifies that pleasure.

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