‘Requiem’ by Slavko Zupcic


From Words Without Borders:

That day—I remember it clearly, I had decided while I was waiting for the bus into town: I would steal a book. When it finally came, I sat next to a woman who was coming from the hot springs; so I turned on my Walkman and listened to Charly García for the fifteen minutes it took us to get to the business district, along the Avenida Bolívar.

At the bookstore I greeted the owner; as usual, he asked after my dad.

“Good, Fernández, we’re all well,” I told him, heading over to the shelves of South American literature before he could start in on his favorite subject all these sixteen years: Manchego, why is it so expensive nowadays? What can its price have to do with the devaluation of the Bolívar, if we’re talking about a domestic imitation, something not imported? Et cetera, et cetera.

Standing by the shelf of Argentine literature, I had a thought. It really needed to be an important book, something that would justify my first robbery; and not too big, it needed to fit in the pockets of my sweatshirt. I scanned the first letters. Arlt, Borges, Cortázar. Something in the environment, maybe it was the recent news about his marriage to María Kodama, helped me decide on Borges. To be sure, it couldn’t be one of his books of stories, I had all of them, or anyway all that I thought at the time were interesting. I was still thinking this when my glance hit the two volumes of his Complete Poetry. I eyeballed the weight of each volume, maybe six hundred grams, and when the doorbell rang and Fernández leaned over to press the buzzer and receive the next client, I grabbed the two volumes and put them in the side pockets of my sweatshirt.

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