A short story by Marvel Moreno / Translated by Isabel Adey & Charlotte Coombe
Marvel Moreno was born in Barranquilla, Colombia in 1939. Raised in an upper-middle-class family, as a teenager she was expelled from Catholic school for defending Darwin’s theory of evolution against the Doctrine of the Church and subsequently forced to abandon her studies at the age of 16. She was named the Queen of the Carnival in Barranquilla in 1959 but left her hometown soon after for Paris, where she settled during the 1960s and 70s. In France, she discovered such twentieth-century writers as James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Carson McCullers and William Faulkner, who had a profound influence on her writing. By the time of her death in 1995, Moreno herself was a familiar figure across intellectual circles in Latin America and Europe. In this exclusive short story translated from the Spanish by Isabel Adey and Charlotte Coombe, Moreno explores religious oppression, a recurrent theme in her work.

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The beach is the only place where I don’t feel scared. I’d come here every day at sunset with Alicia and papá and run barefoot, scaring off the night herons that lingered by the shore. I liked to watch them fly away as my feet sank into the foam, white at midday but pinkish around that time, when the night was appearing from the right and covering the sky, and the sun was the colour of an orange. I’d run up to the sand dunes already covered in darkness, climb to the top, and then tumble down, rolling over and over until papá scooped me up. Papá would burst out laughing and Alicia would look all serious: come on, your hair’s getting dirty and I’m the one who’ll have to wash it.

Maybe one day, here on the beach, I’ll run into the ghost of my papá. Ghosts are real, my grandma tells me, don’t listen to what your cynic of a father told you. I wish it were true, then I could see his grey hair and his smile again. We could walk hand in hand to the dunes and sink into the sand, giggling, and even though he’d be a ghost, he wouldn’t hurt me. Not like the other ghosts, the ones that hide in every corner of the house. I don’t know if they’re real or make-believe, but it feels like they’re lurking under the beds, hidden in the wardrobes, reflected in the mirrors. I am so scared to walk from room to room that I have to call grandma and get her to come with me. Thankfully she understands without me having to explain; she says she was the same at my age.

The fear started with the paintings. There used to be other things hanging on the walls, pictures that papá brought back from Europe and that my grandma thought were immoral when she came to live with us. She took them down and burned them in the yard like she did with papá’s books, then she hung up her own, all thorny hearts and men burning among demons and flames. I wouldn’t even dream of looking at them: I’d hold my breath as I walked past them so that the evil inside them wouldn’t enter my body. Not like Alicia, who wasn’t even bothered by the paintings. She made fun of them, pulled faces at them. One day, I remember she grabbed me by the hand, don’t be so silly, she said, then took a lipstick and drew a clown’s face on the glass of each painting. My grandma went on about it for more than three days. She even got the local priest to come by with holy water, to wash away the desecration, apparently. That same afternoon, while the priest and my grandma were in the living room drinking loquat chicha, Alicia gave me the signal and we ended up here, on this beach. I’d brought my ball with me in case grandma appeared at the window, then if she saw Alicia throwing the ball in the air and me trying to catch it, she’d think that we were playing, not talking. But Alicia looked serious, so serious that she barely noticed I was there. I saw her walking over to the sand dunes and followed her in silence.

‘Take off your sandals,’ she said abruptly.

‘But grandma said…’ I protested.

‘Take them off,’ she interrupted, not even looking at me. ‘You’ve walked barefoot on this beach for nine years. If you catch a parasite, you can always take a laxative.’

She spoke calmly (it reminded me of papá), as if everything was exactly the way it used to be. I remember putting my sandals down next to the old log – the one I’m looking at from where I’m standing now – then running through the surf, begging her to chase me. But she didn’t feel like playing, so I went up to the top of the dunes, lay down on my tummy and rolled over and over, down the hill. I felt nothing. I did it again and again but felt nothing.

‘Why the sad face?’ Alicia asked me. ‘It’s not the same anymore,’ I said.

‘What isn’t?’

‘Rolling down the dunes.’

‘What’s different about it?’

‘It used to give me butterflies in my tummy, but now it doesn’t do anything.’

‘Maybe it’s because your hair’s in those plaits,’ said Alicia. ‘Come here and I’ll take them out for you.’

Without giving me a chance to protest, she began to undo my hair, promising that she would plait it again before we went home.

I wished I could always wear it like that, hanging down loose to my waist. When the breeze blew it tickled my back, and at night I would brush it in front of the mirror so that the lamplight would reflect off it. I tied it up with a ribbon in the same colour as my pyjamas and left the light on, waiting for papá to come up to say goodnight. He said it was pretty, what pretty hair you have, he would say.

Jorge liked my hair too. He used to collect the little pinkish shells that the sea leaves on the sand on stormy nights and would make hairbands out of them to put in my ponytail. He was the one who did my ponytail for me when it was especially windy, those times we took his boat out to that beach, deserted like this one, where the blue hole in the sea opens as soon as the land ends, and the water is crystal clear. He was the one who showed me how to dive with my eyes open, down to the cave where the goldfish live.

In fact, Jorge knew how to do everything: repair the boat, catch fish, play guitar, and make up boleros. He also sensed things, papá used to say. He said it that day when Jorge pulled the drowned man out of the water. I remember it so well: it was in Miramar, and it was just like the story of the boy who cried wolf, because the man had shouted that he was drowning several times, and every time they swam out to get him, he started laughing. We had gone to that beach to meet some of papá’s friends, and Jorge and Alicia were off on their own, chatting and tracing shapes in the sand with a stick. Nobody took any notice when the man started shouting again, but Jorge realised that this time it was for real, and he went running straight into the sea.

In the commotion, I managed to slip away from Alicia and push my way between the legs of the people in the crowd. I saw Jorge leaning over the man, sucking a stream of dirty water out of his mouth, and then spitting it out. But he couldn’t save him. I thought Jorge looked sad when they covered the man with a sheet, leaving his feet sticking out, the colour of candle wax.

During the holidays, Jorge always came to the house for dinner. After we finished eating, he would sit and talk to papá on the veranda while Alicia untangled my hair. Alicia had soft hands, and she was obsessed with working at every knot until it came undone. She didn’t torture me by plaiting or pulling on my hair because she knew I liked to wear it down, loose so that the breeze would nudge it, carry it, and sweep it along like the sea does to the seaweed.

But now everything is different, since papá’s funeral, I mean. That morning, my grandma, who only found out the night before, came into my bedroom carrying a dress and two ribbons. All of them black. Still foggy-headed from the syrup that she’d given me in the night to help me sleep, I didn’t quite understand what she was saying. She had planted herself in front of the window and the sun was already up, so I had trouble making out her face: two skull-like eyes and, instead of a mouth, a thin line spitting out words I’d never heard before. The only thing I understood was that from then on, I would have to obey her because she was intent on safeguarding my innocence (I’m still not sure what that means), and then later, that good girls wear their hair in plaits. I’ve always hated the way she tugs my hair when she plaits it every morning; I have to loosen it lock by lock when she’s done, just enough so that it stops hurting my head, but not so much that she notices.

The truth is, everything changed when my grandma came to live with us: she pulled me out of the gringo school and put me in the one with the nuns, where they made me learn the catechism by heart in three months. No more riding on the milkman’s donkey, no more sliding down the rope that papá had hung on the soursop tree, no more playing in the street with the boys. Papá couldn’t have cared less about me hanging around with them, but grandma says they’ll teach me bad things and that, more importantly, if I associate with the rabble then nobody decent will ever want me.

I think Alicia knew everything would change, that late afternoon when we talked at the foot of the dunes. I can still picture her there, sitting on a log covered in tiny snails, with her arms wrapped around her knees. She stared at the ball of sun being chased off by the night as the darkness came towards us, while I, afraid that grandma would come out to find us, focused on pulling the little snails off the log. Nothing is more fun than watching a snail in shock, with its pink, wet body shrinking back inside its shell. But Alicia said what papá always used to say, that it’s better to leave things where they are, as nature intended. So I changed games and started throwing my ball into the sea and waiting for the waves to bring it back to me. But I still felt like I’d lost something, because rolling down the dunes didn’t make me feel anything anymore.

‘There’s nothing else for it,’ Alicia said suddenly. I looked at her without saying a word.

‘I have to leave,’ she said.

‘Leave?’ I asked. ‘Where are we going?’

‘No. You’ll be staying here,’ she said. ‘That witch thinks I’m a bad influence on you. Yet another reason why I have to leave.’

A roaring sound filled my ears. I clung to her legs and said, ‘You’re not going, you can’t leave me here on my own.’

She started stroking my hair and talking to me, but I couldn’t hear much above the roar. It was as if all the noise in the world, of the waves hitting the rocks, of the rain when it’s driven in hard by the wind, as if all this came flooding into my ears and stopped me from hearing. I think she was talking about the law (I knew that laws existed because papá had told me about them). The rest I heard after I’d stopped crying. I made her repeat it three times, my face pressed against her legs, until she had explained the matter of legal age.

‘Luckily, papá left things in order,’ said Alicia. ‘She can’t touch our inheritance, except for part of the interest on it. And that’s only when I turn twenty-one.’

I didn’t quite understand that part, but it still stuck in my mind. In any case, my grandma only ever spends money at church, when she lights candles in front of each saint and throws coins into a little wooden box beneath the painting of the souls in purgatory. The rest of the time she’s so stingy that she’ll barely even give me fifty cents for a snack, and if I ever ask for a Coca Cola to drink at breaktime, she’ll make me wait two days for it. It’s true that my grandma takes care of things for me: more than papá, who always had his nose buried in a book or one of those magazines that came from France. With grandma here, I have all the pencils and notebooks I could ever need. I even have a nice satchel to take to school, and she gives me a fresh uniform and shines my shoes every day. And I’d have no reason to complain if it weren’t for the whole plait business.

That, and her obsession with the devil. The nuns also say the devil wants to steal my innocence, and the only reason he hasn’t already is because my guardian angel is watching over me. Maybe that was what was going through Alicia’s mind that night while she unplaited my hair: there must have been some reason why she told me not to believe anything grandma said.

‘At least if I go, I won’t have to keep watching her fill your head with nonsense,’ she said.

‘But you won’t see Jorge either,’ I said, with a lump in my throat.

Back then, we had to jump through a thousand hoops so that she could meet up with Jorge at night- time. If my grandma decided to stay up reading that Constancio Vigil book (she bought me other books by him, and the story of Marta y Jorge made me cry), I would run into the living room and keep her talking while Alicia crept down the stairs, shoes in hand. But if she went to bed early, I had to wait until she was fast asleep to open the living room window so that Alicia could climb back in.

When papá was alive, Jorge used to come and call for Alicia after dinner. Papá always let them go out, so long as Alicia had finished her homework and came home by eleven. From the window I could see them walking along the beach together, their shadows merging into one long shadow on the sand, which turned blue when the full moon came and took the blue cover of night from the sea. It was even better during the Christmas holidays because Jorge would spend the whole day with us. Papá would get the pine tree from Canada; it always smelled so different to the trees around here. Jorge spent many evenings decorating it with ornaments, stars, silver streamers, and little lights with coloured water that moved up and down and made bubbles. The pine tree was green and smelled good. It smelled like December.

This year, the ornaments and garlands didn’t make it out of their boxes. My grandma arranged a nativity scene, using sand-covered rocks for the mountains, and my wooden building blocks for the paths and the steps that the three wise men climbed up. She scattered cotton wool and little animals all over it: the nativity scene was pretty, but it didn’t shine, and it didn’t smell of anything. The worst thing about it was that for the nine days leading up to Christmas Eve, I had to kneel in front of it and pray every day: kneeling down there, the only things I could see were the four table legs and the wires my grandma had put there to light up the little bulb inside the star.

Now I spend my life praying: at school, at the beginning and end of every lesson, and at home with my grandma, when we listen to the litanies on the radio every evening. And if I wake up in the middle of the night and I’m really frightened, I hold my breath and say a Hail Mary in my head. The fear is horrible. Sometimes I’m too scared to wake my grandma who is sleeping next to me, scared that before I open my mouth, the thing hiding behind the wardrobe will leap out and get me.

It was through her obsession with prayer that grandma found out about Jorge. She wasn’t satisfied with praying to the big glass-eyed Baby Jesus in the cupboard in front of her kneeler. Or with making the sign of the cross every time she passed by her paintings. Or with going to church every Sunday. No, none of that was enough for her. One fine day, she decided she was going to attend mass at six o’clock every morning. And of course, there, she made friends with another praying mantis just like her: Doña Inés, a woman who was faithfully devoted to knowing the private business of everyone in town.

Don’t listen to her – people who have no life of their own like to live vicariously through others. That’s what dad used to tell Alicia whenever she complained about Doña Ines spying on her. This is all his fault: not only did he go and die on us, leaving us in the hands of grandma, but he also let Doña Inés spy on us, and now Alicia is never coming home again. That’s what my grandma told me, that she’s never coming back, not even for the holidays, at least not until she’s twenty-one. But by the time Alicia is that old, I’ll probably have forgotten her.

My grandma is round at Doña Inés’ house right now, god knows what she’s telling her. She won’t be home until five: just enough time for me to unplait my hair and take off my sandals. I like letting my feet sink into the sand and feeling the sun on my face with my eyes closed. I’ll do my hair again when the fading light tells me that grandma is on her way back. It doesn’t matter if she comes back with more gossip, I’ve already told her everything I know. It breaks my heart to have betrayed Alicia, but I was just so scared of sleeping alone.

The terrible thing happened yesterday, or maybe three days ago, I don’t know, time is all messed up. I remember grandma standing there in the doorway, waiting for the driver to drop me off from school. I could tell by her face that I was in trouble, I could see it in the way she was looking at me. She was quiet to begin with; she didn’t say a word while she made me a snack and tidied the table where I do my homework. I just sat there, worrying that she might have found one of my keepsakes, the things that remind me of papá and Alicia. Then all of a sudden, out of the blue, she announced that she would be sleeping on her own that night. A chunk of corn lodged in my throat and I felt like throwing up. Still, I kept chewing slowly, and I did my best to swallow it even though all the saliva had vanished from my mouth. Just thinking about it now, I can feel a weight in my belly. I cried, I begged: nothing. I couldn’t get a word out of her. Time was running out, and as my mouth became drier and drier, I noticed that the darkness was chasing off the sky.

‘Raise ravens, and they’ll peck out your eyes,’ my grandma said finally. ‘But it doesn’t matter, off you go and do your chores.’

‘Why are you saying that, Grandma?’ ‘I thought you loved me.’

‘I do love you,’ I assured her. ‘Nobody loves you more than me.’

‘And nobody has deceived me more.’

That was how I found out that Doña Inés – the old hag – had told her everything: about Alicia and Jorge being boyfriend and girlfriend, about them going out together.

‘What’s wrong with that?’ I asked.

‘I can’t tell you. I can’t risk you losing your innocence.’

‘Then why are you angry with me?’

My grandma hung her head and began to cry. I had never actually seen a grown-up cry before. She asked for forgiveness and said that she was sorry for alarming me, poor girl, you’re only a child after all.

I knew that Alicia had done nothing wrong, but that what she was doing seemed wrong to my grandma; Alicia had told me that herself. The evening when we went to the dunes, I asked her:

‘Why do you meet Jorge in secret, without grandma knowing?’

Alicia told me that people change, you see, she said, we aren’t the same as we were three thousand years ago (and I remembered a book that papá had bought me, the one that explained the evolution of human beings, and which had also ended up in the fire). But old people, said Alicia, don’t want young people to live differently from them.

‘So what’s right for me is wrong for grandma,’ she explained.

But the fact that I had lied to my grandma, who was still crying, made me feel bad. And afraid. I thought that from that moment on, no amount of Hail Marys or holding my breath would protect me from the things that lurked behind the doors and in the wardrobes. That’s why, when I heard grandma vowing that Alicia would never come back, I decided to tell her the truth.

‘And you thought it was better to lie to me,’ said my grandma resentfully.

‘I would have told you if you’d asked.’

‘Don’t lie to me again,’ she yelled, and I noticed that her face had changed: there wasn’t the slightest trace of her tears, just two eyes squinting back at me, shining like the eyes of a dog glaring at a stranger.

‘You’re lying,’ she said again. ‘How can there be so much wickedness in such a little girl?’

‘Me? But what have I done?’ My knees started shaking.

‘Ask your conscience,’ she said, walking towards me.

‘Ask the guardian angel who abandoned you when you decided to be your sister’s accomplice.’

I thought she was going to hit me. That’s how close, how furious she was.

I moved back against the wall.

‘Plotting with her,’ she repeated, still moving towards me. ‘Contriving to trick me, to cheat decency itself.’

‘Alicia had a boyfriend,’ I said again. ‘Everyone knew that, I thought you did too.’

‘Aha! No, no, no.’ She started laughing like the witch in Snow White. ‘You think you’re smarter than me, don’t you? We’ll see about that,’ she said.

She repeated those words, we’ll see about that, as she dragged me all the way down the hallway to the room where she kept her kneeler. I kept crying and begging for forgiveness, terrified that she would leave me alone, surrounded by those paintings, and facing that glass-eyed Baby Jesus.

I don’t know how long I was on my knees, with my hands over my face, waiting for all the ghosts to come at me. I sat there completely still, thinking, maybe if I don’t move, they won’t notice that I’m here. I didn’t move, not even when I felt the beads of sweat trickling down my legs, tickling me. Not even when cramp set in and my mouth went as dry as my tongue, as rough as a cat’s tongue when it licks your hand.

I only started trembling when I heard her footsteps approaching from the corridor and the key turning in the lock. And not because I was putting it on, but because I couldn’t help it. I was still trembling – even after vomiting in the bathroom – as I sat facing her, in a living room armchair, and the beads of sweat turned into cold shivers.

She seemed calm. She told me she wasn’t going to hurt me, and that she didn’t want to frighten me or anything like that. And she wasn’t going to force me to tell her anything I knew; she just wanted me to own up to my mistake, I think that’s what I understood.

‘You’ve committed a sin,’ she said. ‘You understand that, don’t you?’

I could hardly talk. I got the vague feeling that it would have been a bigger sin to tell on Alicia.

‘Look me in the eye,’ ordered grandma.

I looked at her, but not in the eye.

‘Think about it,’ I heard her say. ‘Put yourself in my place; I had a daughter and I gave up twenty years of my life for her. Twenty years, can you even imagine that?’

And once again she started telling me what she had told me after my father’s funeral, and so many other times. It was the story of my mother, an ungrateful woman who married the first foreigner to set foot in Cartagena where they lived, who ran off to France and left her mother behind; about how she never came back, never gave her a second thought. It was only when my mother died during childbirth that the foreigner, the man who had taken her daughter away, decided to come and live here on this beach in Puerto Colombia where there’s nothing but the seagulls and the black herons and the sound of the waves.

I started to think about everything that my grandma did for me. She could easily have abandoned me or sent me away to boarding school, like she did with my sister. I thought about how many times I had distracted her while Alicia crept down the stair, shoes in hand – my grandma, who suffered so much when she lost my mother – and about all the time she couldn’t see us because papá wouldn’t let her visit.

‘You’ve got a grandmother in Cartagena,’ said papá, ‘but I don’t want her to make you sick with fear like she did to your mother.’

In the end, papá died in his car because he was driving along that road in Barranquilla with his foot firmly on the gas, not thinking that by driving so fast he was going to end up crashing and leaving me in the hands of my grandma forever.

I thought about this, and about papá’s funeral, every time I got sick after he died. When all was said and done, my grandma was the only person who had really looked after me. She was there at the foot of the bed, day and night, taking my temperature and giving me syrups, making sure I had everything I needed. She was the only person I could rely on in my life, she’d told me that so many times, and though I never really paid her any attention, what she said was true. Just like it was true that I’d betrayed her: not because there was anything bad about what Alicia and Jorge were doing – if there was, papá would never have allowed it – but because I’d kept it from her. And maybe it was bad; not for papá but for her, and in that case, I guess there must be something bad about it.

To tell the truth, I don’t know what’s right or wrong anymore, but in that moment, sitting in front of her, one of my knees jiggling up and down uncontrollably, I got this feeling that I was in danger and that by simply telling the truth, I would be saved. So when she said that Alicia and Jorge were up to no good and that was why they chose to meet at night, I said yes, and that’s why I was so afraid of the dark.

‘Alicia should have told me about Jorge instead of hiding on the beach like some common maid,’ my grandma said, in a matter-of-fact way that made me feel relieved.

Then she crouched down, reached into her sewing basket and took out the dress she was knitting for me. She put on her glasses, wound the yarn around her finger, and the needle started moving.

‘Why didn’t you tell me?’ she asked.

‘I thought that you’d stop her doing it,’ I said.

‘Stop her doing what?’

‘Seeing Jorge.’

‘But you know me better than she does. You could have explained that I’m not the witch she thinks I am.’

‘I didn’t think of that,’ I said, feeling calmer.

She looked at me, raising her eyebrows. Through the lenses of her glasses, her eyes looked dark and sunken.

‘We didn’t talk about that kind of thing very often,’ I said.

‘So when did you talk about it?’

‘I don’t know, I can’t remember…. One night, after papá’s funeral, something like that.’

Without saying a word, she continued her rhythmic knitting.

I kept quiet for a while, and then suddenly, without knowing why, I confessed that I helped Alicia to slip out of the house every night.

‘I lied to you for those three months,’ I told her. ‘I would come into the living room and talk to you so that Alicia could sneak out without you seeing her.’

My grandma stopped knitting, and I ran over and buried my head in her lap. Crying, I begged her forgiveness. I won’t move from here until you forgive me, I said.

‘It’s alright, it’s alright,’ she whispered. ‘But you have to tell me everything.’

‘What?’ I asked, blowing my nose into the handkerchief she had fished out of her pocket for me.

‘What you saw… they kissed, didn’t they? They lay down together on the beach.’

I said yes to everything. I even told lies: that Jorge slept in Alicia’s room and left at daybreak, that I’d seen them skinny-dipping (I knew my grandma would like that because she’s horrified by the thought of naked bodies and makes me bathe in a robe). And afterwards, when I heard her say that they had robbed me of my innocence and that I’d been corrupted, I felt disgusted, so disgusted that it made me retch and I almost had to run to the bathroom again. I even felt disgusted by her scent; I’ve never liked the smell that comes from my grandma’s body. But I was repentant, I don’t know, she said I should repent, and I really wanted to wash away my guilt. So together, we went to the room where the Baby Jesus sits surrounded by candles, and I kissed his feet, begging for forgiveness.

In the end, it all turned out fine. My grandma told the cook to make a big chocolate cake and said I was allowed to eat as much as I wanted. And today, for the first time since Alicia left, she’s let me come here to the beach, on my own, while she visits Doña Inés.

When I’m by myself, I can do what I want, everything is different. I stand here with the breeze blowing at my back, and my hair wraps itself around me; I cup my hands and the sea fills them. It’s as if I’m walking with papá, looking at Jorge and Alicia up there on the dunes. I don’t want to think about why I said such bad things about Alicia and myself, I don’t want to remember those things. Instead I’ll just throw my ball into the sea and wait for the waves bring it back to me, and if a current carries it away, if a current takes it away now, I just take my clothes off because nobody’s watching, I wade into the warm water and find the current, and I swim until I find that cold halo under the water. I let myself go, float a little, on my back with the sun on my face and my eyes closed so that it doesn’t blind me. The water swirling around me will form waves when it reaches the beach, turning white or pinkish when the sun is going down. I turn and see my ball, bobbing up and down like a half moon. I follow it, certain that I can catch it, I paddle once, twice, controlling my breath so that the sea will push me – like Jorge said, don’t resist the water; the water will carry you. It will carry me far away from the house that’s getting smaller and smaller now, far away from the fear that I no longer have. Even if I went back, I’d never feel the fear again. I could walk through the rooms on my own, paint silly faces on the pictures, and laugh to myself. Instead, I laugh as I follow my ball, with that iodine smell, in that cold current. I move one arm, then the other, tilt my head to the right, to the left, cut through the water, split it in two. And I swim and swim as, over the blue water, the blue and black water, my ball drifts further and further away.


ABOUT THE TRANSLATORS

ISABEL ADEY is a translator and editor based in Edinburgh. She has taught translation at the postgraduate level and has been translating and editing professionally since 2011. She holds an MA from the University of Edinburgh, where she specialised in Latin American Women’s Writing (Silvina Ocampo, Rosario Castellanos, Luisa Valenzuela, Cristina Peri Rossi) and Jewish-German literature (Kafka, Seligmann). She completed her MSc at Heriot-Watt University, where she wrote her master’s thesis on translating style and culture in the work of Juan José Millás. A former winner of the Goethe-Institut’s Emerging Translators Programme, she has a passion for unusual books that deal with cultural identity, women’s rights, and migration. | Follow Isabel on Twitter

 

CHARLOTTE COOMBE is a British translator working from French and Spanish into English. Her translation of Abnousse Shalmani’s Khomeini, Sade and Me (World Editions, 2016) won a PEN Translates award in 2015. She has translated The President’s Room by Ricardo Romero (2017) and Fish Soup by Margarita García Robayo (2018), both for Charco Press, and Eduardo Berti’s novel The Imagined Land (2018) for Deep Vellum Publishing. She has also translated poetry and short stories by Rosa María Roffiel, Edgardo Nuñez Caballero and Santiago Roncagliolo, for Palabras Errantes. She was awarded a second PEN Translates award in 2019 for her forthcoming translation of the novel Holiday Heart by Margarita García Robayo (Charco Press, 2020). | Follow Charlotte on Twitter


Video collage by Jin Kim

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