How far will paranoia carry two lovers away? Horacio Quiroga tells the story of a man who, before dying, instructs his compadre to take care of his future widow. The survivors fall in love but believe that their union is forbidden. Paranoia will lead them to see the dead friend and husband return to the world of the living through the big screen.
In the comments, we talk about the souls that do not rest in peace, today's voice Sam Payne, the literary contest, and the life of the Uruguayan Horacio Quiroga.
This episode was produced with the support of PRX and the Google Podcast Creator Program.
The final days of Horacio Quiroga.
In 1937, Horacio Quiroga has been diagnosed with prostate cancer and hospitalized at the Hospital de Clínicas in Buenos Aires. Alone he awaits a painful death. When Quiroga hears the rumor that a monster lives in the hospital's basement, he demands to meet him. That supposed freak of nature was Vicente Batistessa, another patient who suffered from elephantiasis, a syndrome caused by the transmission of a parasite. The compassionate writer, without hesitation, befriends him.
If you have seen the film directed by David Lynch, starring Anthony Hopkins and John Hurt: The Elephant Man, you might have an idea of the physical deformation that Batistessa suffered.
Horacio convinces the director of the hospital to allow them to share the same room. After several days, the dying writer informs Batistessa that he can no longer bear his painful suffering.
On February 17, 1937, at the age of 58, Horacio Quiroga, the great storyteller, decides to end his life with cyanide. What would become of the life of the writer's last friend, Vicente Batistessa, after having witnessed the suicide of his recent friend?
We will never know. But we can dare to imagine that someone could write a film script reliving the pain, compassion, and friendship of the last days of these two men. Perhaps with the lucidity of Lynch, and certainly with the genius, perception, and authenticity of Horacio Quiroga.
Hello! Dear listeners of Tres Cuentos, the bilingual podcast dedicated to the literary, historical, and traditional narratives of Latin America. I'm Carolina Quiroga-Stultz, and today we welcome with wide open arms the Uruguayan writer Horacio Quiroga.
The truth is that, although I had already read some stories by the Uruguayan writer, I never managed to feel deeply interested in his narratives. They were always tragic, and I also felt guilty for not being proud of this author who carried the same paternal surname as me.
For years, I said to myself: how dare you, Carolina, for not feeling some admiration for this man who many say was one of the greatest, who, along with others laid the foundations for what would later be the boom of Latin American literature!
But the answer I gave myself was, well, that story "The Decapitated Chicken" made my belly ache! And as is natural in all humans, from my visceral reaction to the story, I assumed that the rest of Don Quiroga's work would have the same uneasy effect on me.
Oh! Please universe, forgive this mortal, who was so very wrong! Because today's story is the most precious of tragicomedies, and I'm not just saying it, four more men agree with me, the four who collaborated to make this episode a reality.
As with other stories we have presented this season, I arrived at Horacio Quiroga in the book Anthology of the Hispanic American Fantastic Short Story, edited by Óscar Hahn. However, the cuento was originally published in the book The Desert and Other Tales in 1924.
Today's cuento "The Spectre" was translated by Alexa Jeffress and comes to us in the soothing and friendly voice of a great storyteller Sam Payne. I will tell you more about him in the comments.
Resting in his dying bed, a man instructs his best friend to care for his future widow. The survivors eventually fall in love but believe that their romance is forbidden. Afraid that they will be harshly reproached they let themselves be carried away by paranoia.
(From the book The Desert and Other Stories, 1924)
By Horacio Quiroga
Translated by Alexa Jeffress
Edited by Carolina Quiroga and Don Hymel
Read by Sam Payne
Every night, Enid and I attend film premieres at the Grand Splendid Theater in Santa Fe. Nothing stops us – not even storms or icy nights – from entering the tepid, dim lighting of the theater at ten o'clock on the dot. There, from one box or another, we watch the film's stories with such silence and interest that we could enjoy without drawing the attention of other watchers.
From one box or another, I say, because where we sit does not matter to us. And although some nights the Splendid theater is full, we are always sure to find a space in whichever partially occupied box we may find, always sitting silent and attentive to the presentation.
We do not disturb anyone, I do not think, or at least, not noticeably. From the back of the box, or between the girl leaning on the parapet and the boyfriend attached to her neck, Enid and I, separated from the world around us, have our eyes on the screen. And still our presence as intruders is never noted, even an attendee with worried shivers turns his head sometimes to see what it cannot be seen or feels an inexplicable cold breath in the warm atmosphere. Because now I must admit that Enid and I are dead.
Of all the women that I knew in the living world, none had the same effect on me as Enid did. Her impression on me was so strong that any image and memory of all other women disappeared. My soul turned to night, where it reached a singular, everlasting star: Enid. The mere possibility of her eyes looking at me without indifference caused my heart to stop abruptly. And my jaw trembled at the thought that one day she could be mine. Enid!
We met in the living world. The film industry, aware that she possessed the most divine beauty, exposed her image thousands of leagues across the world to the delight of men. Her eyes, above all, were unique. No other woman had that velvety gaze, nor eyelashes quite like those that framed Enid's eyes – blue velvet, damp and soothing – flushed with the happiness that wept within her.
Misfortune placed me in her path when she was already married.
There is no need to conceal names anymore. Everyone remembers Duncan Wyoming, the extraordinary actor who had the same virile acting virtues as William S. Hart, whose career started at the same time. Hart gave his films all that we could expect, yet his was a fading star. On the other hand, we do not know what we might have seen from Wyoming's star. When he was just starting his brief and fantastic career, he created an image of a man who was rough, rugged, ugly, and careless. But this image was merely his alter ego. In real life, Wyoming was a gentleman from head to toe, with the temperance, energy, and character distinctive of the best of his sex. But the charm that Enid had over me was bitter, because Duncan Wyoming, who was her husband, was also my best friend.
Two years had gone by without seeing Duncan. He, busy with his film work, and I occupied with my own literary work. When I saw him again in Hollywood, he was already married.
"This is my wife," he told me, pushing her into my arms. And he said to her, "Hug him strongly, because you will never have another friend like Grant. And kiss him, if you want."
She did not kiss me, but when her long mane touched my neck, I felt electricity in the shiver that passed through every one of my nerves. At that moment I realized I could never be like a brother to that woman.
The three of us lived together in Canada for two months, and it is not difficult to understand the turmoil in my soul regarding Enid. But I did not give away a single word, movement, or gesture in front of Wyoming. Only she could read in my gaze, as calm as it was, how profoundly I desired her.
Love, desire… One thing and the other lived inside me as twins, sharp and mixed. Because while I desired her with all the forces of my soul, I also adored her with the torrent of my blood.
Duncan never saw it. How could he?
At the start of winter, we returned to Hollywood, and Wyoming fell ill with a flu that would cost him his life. He would leave his wife with a fortune but no children. He could not be at peace because of the loneliness in which he would leave his wife. "It's not the economic situation," he told me, "But the moral abandonment. And in this Hollywood hell…"
Wyoming was taken from us while he was finishing two extraordinary films: The Wasteland and More Than Meets the Eye. With his last breath, Duncan asked us to lean towards him, and with a dying voice said: "Enid, trust Grant… As long as you have him, do not be afraid. And you, old friend, look after her. Be her brother… No, do not promise. Now I can rest in peace…"
Our pain was undisturbed. After seven days, we returned to Canada, to the same summer hut where a month before the three of us had dined under the awning. Enid gazed at the fire while I stood contemplating. Duncan was gone.
I have to admit that with Wyoming's death, I saw nothing but the liberation of the terrible caged eagle in my heart, the desire of a woman by my side that for so long I could not touch. I had been Wyoming's best friend, and while he lived, the eagle did not want his blood; it fed itself – I fed it – with my own blood. But something steadier than a shadow had begun to hang over me … and him. His wife was, while he lived – and should have been eternally – untouchable to me. But he died. Wyoming could not demand of me the sacrifice of life that he had just abandoned. And Enid was my life, my future, my breath, and my desire to live, that nobody, not even Duncan – my close, but deceased, friend – could deny me.
Look after her… Yes! but I would give her what he was no longer able to give: the adoration of a lifetime devoted to her! For two months, I looked after her like a brother – by her side day and night. But on the third month, I fell at her feet grasping the hem of her skirt with both my shaking hands and burying my face in her lap.
Enid froze and looked at me. Surely the memory of Wyoming's last moments came to mind because she violently rejected me. But I did not release her skirt.
"I love you, Enid," I told her. "I'd die without you."
"You! Guillermo!" She murmured, "It's terrible to hear you say that!"
"Whatever you want," I replied, "But I love you immensely."
"Don't say that! Don't say that!"
"I have always loved you… You know that."
"No, no I do not!"
"Yes, you do."
Enid kept pushing me away, and I continued to resist.
"Tell me that you knew…"
"No! Stop! We are defiling…"
"Tell me that you knew…"
"Just tell me that you knew I always loved you…"
Her arms gave up tired, and I lifted my head. Our eyes met, just one instant, before Enid fell, weeping, to her knees.
I left her alone but returned an hour later covered in snow. Nobody would have suspected after seeing our simulated and calm affect for each other that we had just shredded our heart strings.
We both knew the truth: that in Enid and Wyoming's union, there was never any passion. It always lacked a flare of foolishness, straying, unfairness – the flame of passion that burns a man's entire morality and scorches a woman. Enid had liked her husband and she had cared for him but there was nothing more. I was the warm shadow of her heart, where the desire that she did not feel from Wyoming burned, where her desire went to seek refuge.
His death, left a hole that I was to fill with only the love of a brother... Of a brother! For her, Enid, who was my only drop of happiness in the whole world!
Three days after the scene I just described, we returned to Hollywood. And only a month later the exact same situation occurred: I fell again at Enid's feet with my head between her knees, and her wanting to avoid it.
"I love you more each day, Enid…"
"Tell me that one day you will love me."
"At least tell me that you understand how much I love you."
"Leave me alone! Don't you see that you are making me suffer terribly?"
And seeing me tremble silently on the altar of her knees, she abruptly lifted my head and cried, "Leave me alone, please! Leave me! Don't you see that I also love you with my entire soul and that we are committing a crime?"
Four full months passed. It was a mere one hundred twenty days since the death of the man that she loved, of the friend that had placed me as a protective shield between his wife and my love for her…
I'll summarize. Our love was so deep and intertwined that, even today, I ask myself what absurd purpose could there be to our lives, had we had not found each other under Wyoming's embrace.
One night – when we were in New York – I discovered that the film The Wasteland was coming out. It was one of the two films I've already mentioned, and whose premiere I had anxiously awaited. I was intensely interested in seeing it, and I suggested it to Enid. Why not?
We looked at each other for a long while -an eternity of silence, during which memory galloped toward us among a landslide of snow and agonizing faces. But Enid's gaze was life itself, and suddenly between the damp velvet of her eyes and mine, there was nothing but the uncontrollable happiness of loving each other.
We went to the Metropole theater, and from the reddish shadow of the box we saw, enormous and with a face whiter than it was on his deathbed, Duncan Wyoming. I felt Enid's arm tremble under my hand.
He had the same gestures, the same confident smile with the same lips. It was the same energetic figure sliding by on the screen. And just twenty meters away was his wife clutching his close friend's hand…
The room was dark. Neither Enid nor I spoke a word or looked away from the screen for one moment. Large tears rolled down her cheeks, and I smiled. I smiled without trying to hide my tears.
"I understand, love…" I murmured. My lips brushed the surface of her fur coat. It was an unsettling detail of her outfit that was an unfortunate part of her Hollywood persona. I said "I understand, but let's not give up… Okay? … In this way perhaps, we will forget…"
As her only response, Enid, never losing her smile, silently found refuge on my shoulder.
The next night we returned. Why? To forget. To get accustomed to him, to his image vibrating in the halo of the light that transported him to the palpitating screen of life; to his unawareness of the situation; his confidence in the woman and the friend ... precisely that.
Night after night, always attentive to the characters, we watched the growing success of The Wasteland. Wyoming's acting was outstanding in this drama filled with thrilling energy. It was set partly in the Canadian forest land and partly in New York City itself. The central plot culminated in a scene in which Wyoming, injured in a fight with another man, suddenly realizes that his wife is in love with the man he had just killed. Wyoming tied a handkerchief to his forehead. And, lying on the sofa, still tired and panting, he observed his wife's desolation over the body of her lover.
Seldom has a revelation of defeat, desolation, and hatred shown on the human face with more violent clarity than was reflected in Wyoming's eyes in that moment. The film director had extended that remarkable expression until the point of torture. The scene lasted many seconds when one alone would have sufficed to show the crisis of a heart in that state.
Enid and I, side by side and motionless in the dark, admired our deceased friend like nobody else could. When he came forward to occupy the full screen, he seemed so close that his eyelashes nearly touched us. And as he distanced himself again in the next scene, the perspective of the entire room seemed to stretch to the point where Enid and I could almost feel a lock of Duncan's hair that somehow seemed to brush against our faces.
So, why did we keep going to the Metropole? What deviation of our collective conscious brought us there night after night to bathe our still immaculate love in blood? What omen dragged us there like sleepwalkers before an astonishing accusation? An accusation that was not even directed at us when Wyoming's eyes turned away?
Where was he looking? I do not know ... perhaps to a box on our left or right. But one night I noticed, I felt in the roots of my hair, that his eyes were turning toward us. Enid must have felt it as well because I noticed an intense shudder of her shoulder under my hand.
There are natural laws, physical principles that teach us what cold magic those photographic specters that dance on the screen are, mimicking even the most intimate details of a life that was lost. That hallucination in black and white is just the frozen persistence of one instant, the invariable importance of a vital second. It would be easier for us to see a dead person by our side, leaving the tomb to accompany us, than to perceive the slightest change in a livid face on film.
Absolutely. But despite all the laws of physics, Wyoming was looking at us. For the rest of the spectators, The Wasteland was just dramatic fiction, and Wyoming only lived through the irony of light; where he was nothing more than a creation of an electric current projected on a screen. But, for us – Wyoming, Enid, and I – the captured scene was vibrant light lived, not on a screen, but sharing our space in a box seat, where our innocent love was transformed into a monstrous infidelity in front of the living husband…
Was this an actor's farce, somehow created by Duncan? No! It was a brutal revelation; the loving wife and close friend in the theater, laughing, with their heads together, betraying the trust placed in them…
But we did not laugh, because night after night, seat after seat, the gaze kept getting closer to us each time. "A little more to go! ..." I told myself. "Tomorrow it will happen…" Enid thought.
While the Metropole burned with light, the real world of physical laws took power over us, and we breathed heavily.
But with the abrupt cessation of the lights that felt like painful blows to our nerves, the ghostly drama captured us again … and again.
A thousand leagues from New York, buried in the ground, lay Duncan Wyoming without any eyes to actually see. But as his surprise was replace by his anger, his vengeance was alive feeding off the chemical vestiges of Wyoming's character. It was there, moving in his living eyes, that, finally, fixated on ours.
Enid stifled a shriek and clung desperately to me.
"Be quiet, please…"
"But a leg just lowered from the sofa, this is not part of the scene!"
I felt the skin on my back prickle, and I looked: With the slowness of a beast and with his eyes locked on us, Wyoming sat up and then stood. Enid and I saw him stand and move toward us from the back of the scenery. He became huge in a monstrous close-up…A dazzling glow blinded us, as Enid let out a scream.
The film had burned to dust. Suddenly, in the lighted theater, every head turned toward us. Some climbed on their seats to see what was happening.
"She is sick; she looks like a dead woman," said one person in the audience.
"He looks dead," another cried.
What had actually happened? Nothing.
Enid and I didn't see each other the next day. When we met on an evening after our last visit to the Metropole theater, Enid's profound pupils reflected the shadows of the afterlife she had glimpsed. I? I had had a revolver in my pocket.
I do not know if anyone in the theater recognized us as the sick people from the night before. The lights turned off, turned on, and turned off again. I didn't have an idea in my mind what to expect, but my finger did not leave the trigger of my revolver for a moment.
All my adult life, I had kept my emotions under control. I did until the night before. But against all reason, a cold specter that carried out his everyday photographic function suddenly grew strangling fingers and directed himself to our box again at the conclusion of the film.
Again, nobody noticed anything abnormal on the screen, but to us it was clear that Wyoming remained glued to the chair, breathing heavily. But Enid – Enid in my arms – had her face turned to the light, ready to scream… when Wyoming finally sat up!
I saw him come forward, grow, and reach the very edge of the screen without separating his gaze from my own. I saw him detach from it, come toward us in a halo of light; move through the air over the heads of the theatergoers, forward, reaching us with his bandaged head. I saw him extend the claws of his hands… at the same time that Enid emitted a horrible shriek, one of those in which a vocal cord reaches a note that defies all reason! It was then that I fired my revolver.
I cannot say what happened in that instant. But after the first few moments of confusion and smoke, I saw my own body hanging over the parapet, dead.
The moment Wyoming sat up, I pointed the revolver at his head. I remember every detail. But it was me that received that bullet to my own head.
I am sure that I had intended to point the weapon at Duncan. I believed I was aiming at him but in reality, I pointed the gun at myself. It was an error, a simple mistake, nothing more; but it cost me my life. Three days later Enid was also evicted from this world. And here concludes our romance … but.
But it's not over yet. A bullet and a ghost are not enough to dispel a love like ours. Beyond death, beyond life and its bitterness, Enid and I have found each other. Invisible to the living world, Enid and I are always together, awaiting the announcement of another film premiere.
We travel the world together. Anything is possible in this state. We never miss even the slightest news of a film. We haven't watched The Wasteland again. Wyoming's acting in it can no longer offer surprises, other than the ones that we already so painfully know.
Now we've placed our hope in his other film More Than Meets the Eye. Seven years ago, the film company announced its premiere and Enid and I have been waiting ever since. Duncan is the protagonist; but we will not be in the box anymore, at least not in the same condition as those in which we had been defeated. In the present circumstances, Duncan could commit an error that would allow us to return to the visible world in the same way that our living selves, seven years ago, allowed him to animate the frozen screen of the film.
Enid and I now occupy, in the invisible incorporeal fog, the privileged sight of those who spy on others, just as Wyoming's force had done to us. If he is still jealous, if he stumbles upon seeing us and makes the slightest move outward from his tomb, we will seize the moment. The curtain that separates life from death has not opened solely in his favor, and opportunity lays ahead. Between the nothingness that has dissolved what was Wyoming, and his electrical resurrection, there is an empty space. At the actor's slightest movement, and as soon as he comes off the screen, Enid and I will sneak through a crack in the sinister corridor.
But we will not follow the path to Wyoming's grave; we will go toward life and enter it again. And it will be the warm world from which we have been expelled, the tangible and vibrant love of every human sense, that will await Enid and me. In a month, or a year, or after many decades, the time will come.
We are only worried about the chance that More Than Meets the Eye will premiere under a different name, as is customary in this city. To avoid that, we do not miss a single premiere. Night after night, at ten o'clock sharp, we enter the Grand Splendid Theater, where we silently settle in a box seat that is neither empty nor occupied.
Very well, let's leave the movie theater from where these two mortified souls may still be looking for how to return to the world of the living. Before I tell you more about today's voice, Sam Payne, remind you about the literary contest and tell you about the life of Horacio Quiroga, we should talk about those souls who do not rest in peace.
In the book La Cuentista, The Storyteller, traditional tales in Spanish and English, the academic Teresa Pijoan collected a story that we presented in the third episode, "The Hooded Mass." This cuento is one of my favorites and, when I perform it every October, is one that often provokes someone in the audience to approach me afterwards to share an incident that the story reminded them of.
If you don't remember the story, it's about two sisters who don't love each other very much, and after one dies, the survivor ends up meeting the dead sister again at a Christmas mass. Now, some say that the dead do not forget, and if you ask my mother, she will tell you that the energies of some dead people inhabit the objects they once used and that you must be very careful with that!!
Years ago, when I lived in San Antonio, Texas, after telling the story, a lady who recently arrived from Mexico related the following incident. It turns out that when she was young, her family bought an old second-hand table. The family brought it into the house and began using it as the dining table. Soon after, they began to hear strange things in the house. Sometimes it seemed like someone was banging on the table. Other times, it sounded like it was screaming. Already frightened, the family began to investigate the origins of the accursed table, and they discovered that it had been used in a courtroom some time ago. The table had witnessed, in its way, more than one order of execution or imprisonment.
In other words, those feelings of tragedy, unease, and hopelessness still permeated the table. Could this be possible? I don't know, but physicists and meta physicists say that everything is energy. Perhaps that's where the answer can be found.
I have read much of the work of the great psychiatrist Michael Newton. He asserts that reincarnation, and the temporal space between lives [that some call the original home] led him to consider the possibility that ghosts do exist.
It is worth clarifying that I came to Michael Newton's books after devouring the work of the psychiatrist Brian Weiss, who the fabulous Oprah has interviewed more than once.
Well, what I want is to read an excerpt from the book The Destiny of Souls, New Cases of Life between Lives written by Michael Newton, specifically in the chapter on ghosts.
Newton says, "Some people have the misconception that ghosts don't know they're dead or how to escape their situation. Yes, in a sense, they are trapped, but this is a condition of mental obstruction rather than material hindrance. Souls are not lost in a confined astral plane, and they do know that they have made a transition out of life on earth. The ghost's confusion lies in the obsessive attachment they have to places, people, and events they cannot let go. […]
Newton continues, "From what I have been able to observe, ghosts are less mature spirits, who have trouble freeing themselves from earthly contaminations."
I wonder, did Horacio Quiroga know anything about the passions of less evolved souls who refuse to let go? Or was the story "The Spectre" a mere fruit of his imagination with a few brushstrokes of memories from those loved ones that became ghosts? There is no way to know. The truth is that the story amused me a lot, and I could not wait to share it with you.
But let the dead rest in peace or in eternal obsession and let me tell you about today's voice.
Sam Payne hosts The Apple Seed – the award-winning national radio show on the art of storytelling produced by BYU radio – and serves as the Weber State University Storytelling Fellow.
He was part of the Peabody-nominated team that created Treasure Island 2020, the serial podcast based on Robert Louis Stevenson's classic novel. He has brought stories and songs to stage in Canada, Bulgaria, Japan, and from coast to coast in the United States, including performances at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in the nation's capitol, the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee, and the Timpanogos Storytelling festival in Lehi, Utah.
Sam has authored periodical publications for children with a regular readership of more than a million elementary school students and has written books and stage pieces including Sanctuary: The Story of Zion for the centennial of the National Parks Service, Echoes of Hammers and Spikes (With Suzanne Christensen) for the sesquicentennial of the completion of the first transcontinental railroad, and One of a Million Stars, commemorating the 14-year mission of the Mars rover Opportunity.
For those curious about Sam Payne, his career, his incredible voice, and his stories, I am leaving a link to a story he told at the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eo7JdbfmZVE
Also, if you want to purchase Sam Payne's CDs of stories, I am dropping the link to his site: https://www.sampayne.com/copy-of-about-2
Last, for those who want to check The Apple Seed podcast, you will find the link to the show in the transcript as well. https://www.byuradio.org/appleseed
It's time for the announcements, and the only one I have is to encourage you to participate in the contest "The literary basket."
To win any of the books' baskets, choose the story that you liked the most from the program, and take a photo representing the story or a scene from it. We will not accept pictures downloaded from the internet. Be creative. Compose something in the story that inspires you.
Requirement number one: you must be part of our mailing list. So, if you are not already, go to our website www.trescuentos.com and at the top is a very short form, which only asks for the name and email.
Now, how to send us the photo? Easy, there are three options. Choose the one that seems simplest to you.
For those who use Instagram, make sure to follow Tres_Cuentos_Podcast. Post the photo with the hashtag #myliterarybasket #Ilistentotrescuentos and write the name of the story you chose. You can also send us the photo through Instagram as a message.
For those participating on Facebook, make sure you follow the Tres Cuentos Podcast page, send us a message with the photo, #myliterarybasket #Ilistentotrescuentos, and write down the name story you chose.
Finally, for those who prefer email, send us the photo to email@example.com. In the theme, write "My Literary Basket" and name the story you chose.
Now, if you have listened to the rules in Spanish, you have already noticed that the hashtags are different. It does not matter if you use either.
Remember that the story you choose must have been heard on our show.
We will announce the winners in the first week of December.
It's time to tell you about today's author. This short biography was written in collaboration with Leo Quiron.
Horacio Silvestre Quiroga Forteza was born on December 31, 1878, in Salto, Uruguay. From his childhood, the life of the Uruguayan writer was surrounded by several unfortunate events. We could start by mentioning that his father, Prudencio Quiroga, died tragically from an accidental shotgun wound. The news of the accident caused the victim's wife, Doña Pastora Forteza, who was carrying the baby Horacio in her arms, to drop the child. Luckily the future storyteller was unharmed.
Sometime later, Pastora Forteza decided to rebuild her life and married Mario Barcos, an excellent husband, and father. But a sudden stroke left him with a severe mobility problem. Horacio agreed to take care of his stepfather with dedication, but this was not enough. Mario Barcos decided to use his last energy to take his life also by a shotgun wound. Horacio was one of the first people to find his stepfather's body.
Horacio didn't write about these tragic events that would allow us to understand his feelings. Similarly, no writing about other tragic events are preserved – like the death of his first wife, nor the accidental death of his close friend Federico Ferrando, with whom Horacio shared a taste for literature.
At the turn of the century, when Horacio was 22 years old, he decided to take the inheritance left to him by his father and stepfather and go to Paris. However, because his inheritance ran out in a short time, the boat trip and the residence in Paris did not last long. On his return to Uruguay, he wrote in his notes: "I have no bohemian fiber; because I am very embarrassed" (...) "Paris, maybe a lot of fun, but I get bored."
Yet, the trip was not in vain since he began writing with dedication and interacting with people close to art and literature. Later he published: Diary of a Trip to Paris.
One of the most relevant intellectual groups that Quiroga helped to form during this period was the Consistory of Carefree Knowledge. Here Horacio left his impressions of this experience: "(...) I had, in fact, a very close friendship with Herrera and Reissig during this difficult period. We saw each other with great frequency, in his house, which was not yet the Tower of Panoramas, or in mine, which was only a small flat. We read our verses to each other, with all the greater enthusiasm since in those days – in the mid-1900s – we both believed we also had a new sensibility, totally foreign to the environment. The poetry of Herrera and Reissig then orbited around Rubén Darío. Mine suffered the influence of the French, and, in particular, that of Leopoldo Lugones: precisely of 'The Twelve Joys.'"
I hope that the name of Leopoldo Lugones sounds familiar to you. You may remember that we presented one of his short stories a couple of weeks ago, in episode 46, 'An inexplicable phenomenon,' about a man whose shadow detaches and follows him everywhere.
On the other hand, for those who wonder who Herrera-Reissig is, well, he was an Uruguayan poet of a prominent family. He is best known for being the leader of the literary modernism in his country, who decided to retire from public life and with his followers went to live in the Tower of Panoramas.
Returning to the life of Horacio Quiroga, here is a curious fact that perhaps allows us to make connections with aspects of today's story 'The Specter.' Quiroga experimented with photography, and over time, became a very skilled photographer. That is why Leopoldo Lugones invited him to accompany him on an official expedition to the Misiones region.
As was the case in the United States, several Jesuit missions were built in territories today part of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay in the seventeenth century. In total, there were seven missions. By the time of Horacio Quiroga - almost a century after installing these missions-, these buildings had already been swallowed by the jungle.
Returning to Buenos Aires in 1904, and quite possibly inspired by his experience in Misiones and El Chaco region, Quiroga published the book The Other's Crime. Interestingly, many readers believed that these accounts were influenced by the style of Edgar Allan Poe. But stories of this association did not bother Quiroga. He even accepted that many of his stories were influenced by Guy de Maupassant.
The unknown and inhospitable lands of El Chaco and Misiones, full of beauty, deeply captivated the imagination of the Uruguayan writer. Between 1906 to 1908, Horacio left the city life and began his project to settle in the province of Misiones on the banks of the Alto-Paraná River. He worked as an occasional teacher of Spanish and literature in Buenos Aires to raise money for his project.
J. David Danielson, the editor and translator of the English book The Exiles and other Stories, tells us more about this period of the Quiroga's life.
Danielson tells us that Quiroga "did not need to struggle in Misiones, because that's where he wanted to be, where he felt he belonged. No doubt, it was his destiny to confront life in its basic forms and exploit the openness of the frontier, both directly in his manual labor and literarily, in his fiction. Though the urban Quiroga will always be remembered for the story "The Decapitated Chicken," in Misiones, he finds his most authentic voice. His intense feeling for the land and its people is unmistakable. Even a quasi-mystical communion of the author with nature is detectable at times."
Regarding Quiroga's personal life, it is during this period that he fell in love with one of his students, Ana María Cires. He proposed to her, but at first, her parents opposed the relationship because of their age difference. It is during this time that Horacio writes "Story of A Murky Love."
Finally, he received the authorization to marry Ana María, and they went to live in Misiones. He immersed himself in his new life in this region and did not publish any texts. So much was Horacio's enthusiasm for this lifestyle that he adapted a shipyard on his property and managed to build several boats to navigate the Alto-Paraná River. But all these adventures challenged the physical and mental strength of the Quiroga family and led to the tragic death of his first wife. Ana María took her own life by poison, using chemicals that Horacio used to develop photographs.
After this tragedy, Horacio decided to return to Buenos Aires in 1916 and tried to start again in the city. However, the lack of writing contacts and not having a university degree made it difficult for him to find a job that would cover expenses. Quiroga again tried to write for some magazines, but in general, this is a difficult economic period for him and his family.
Likewise, the literary criticism of the time was not friendly to Horacio; in some press clippings that his second wife and widow kept, there is a comment by J. Herrera y Reissig, leader of the Uruguayan modernist avant-garde-: "I send you this so you can make an option -and at the request of its author, which is somewhat arrogant-, The Coral Reef [referring to H. Quiroga...] although it has good verses in prose, it has a lot of silly, insubstantial, arrhythmic and reminiscent, but still it demonstrates artistic value (...)"
It is convenient to clarify that The Coral Reef was one of the first writings of the young Horacio, but in general, the writer seemed to care very little that his narratives were not to the general liking. On many occasions, the message he wanted to communicate prevailed more than the formal style.
The truth is that despite everything that has been dissected about the Quiroga's style, his stories have managed to endure. Stories such as "Anaconda" led to the formation of literary groups around which other influential writers and artists gathered, such as Alfonsina Storni, Ricardo Hicken, Emilia Bertolé, Annie Boule-Christauflour, Ana Weiss de Rossi, Alberto M. Rossi, among others.
I would like to invite you to investigate other stories by Horacio Quiroga. His texts are sincere when expressing human feelings and the difficulties that people face when moving towards unknown situations. We could say that the life of the Uruguayan writer was a faithful reflection of his writing. For the moment, I leave you a small fragment of Horacio's opinion on his literary creations:
"... my modest name has repeatedly been adorned with the aura of a man of fortune. The small villa that I occupy as a tenant, has been called 'mansion' [and] Mr. A. Zum Felde, an Uruguayan critic, believes I led the life of a great lord in Misiones [...] It is not necessary to be too informed, however, to guess in my stories the contrasts and vicissitudes of the writer [...] My characters do not breathe a wealthy life. Many of them, those coming from the desert, have endured nothing but the power struggle against nature or poverty. In this last circumstance, without wishing it the author of these lines has lived, during the two thousand six hundred days of permanence in Misiones."
Horacio Silvestre Quiroga died in Buenos Aires, on February 17, 1937, after ingesting cyanide and enduring painful prostate cancer.
Well, and that's it for today, I'll leave you with a poem dedicated to Horacio Quiroga by the and much-loved Argentine Alfonsina Storni.
To die like you, Horacio, in your right mind,
just as in your stories, it's not bad;
a lightning bolt in time, and the fair is over...
They will say.
You don't live in the jungle with impunity,
nor face to the Paraná.
Good! You had a firm hand, great Horacio...
They will say.
It is written, "That the hours do not hurt,
what kills us is the end."
A few minutes less... who can blame you?
They will say.
Fear rots more, Horacio, than death
that hangs behind our back.
You drank well, and then you smiled...
They will say.
I know your working hand has been praised,
but I do not know if by Some or simply by Pan,
it is not for the strong to deny their work ...
(Your work is greater than you, they will say.)
(Source: "Poesías Completas", Soc. Editora Latino Americana, Buenos Aires, año 1968. Url: https://algoespecialpresente.blogspot.com/2019/03/poema-horacio-quiroga-de-alfonsina.html)
* And that is all for today. I will see you in two weeks because next week there is a very special day that my family celebrates, a national holiday for those in the Quiroga-Hurtado family, my birthday! We will return the last week of November with the Chilean María Luisa Bombal, who tells us the story of a boat that arrives at a beach without a sea. Until the next cuento, adios, adios.
Tres Cuentos Podcast is produced with support from PRX and the Google Podcasts creator program.
Tres Cuentos is an exercise of creative writing, researching, and retelling.
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Thanks for listening, adios, adios.
El Desierto y Otros Cuentos. Horacio Quiroga. Editor Edu Robsy. España. Url: file:///C:/Users/Carol/Downloads/Horacio%20Quiroga%20-%20El%20Desierto%20y%20Otros%20Cuentos%20(1).pdf
The exhiles and other stories, selected, transalted and introduced by J. David Danielson. University of Texas Press, 1987.
Boule-Christauflour, Annie. Horacio Quiroga cuenta su propia vida. En: Bulletin Hispanique, tome 77, n°1-2, 1975. pp. 74-106. Consultado en Internet el 21 de octubre de 2021: https://www.persee.fr/doc/hispa_0007-4640_1975_num_77_1_4169
Espacio Filmica. Una Vida De Amor, Locura Y Muerte: Horacio Quiroga. Consultado en Internet el 21 de octubre de 2021: http://www.filmica.com/jacintaescudos/archivos/007299.html
Taylhardat, Karim. El undécimo mandamiento. Consultado en Internet el 21 de octubre de 2021: https://cvc.cervantes.es/el_rinconete/anteriores/junio_02/18062002_03.htm.
"Poesías Completas", Soc. Editora Latino Americana, Buenos Aires, año 1968. Url: https://algoespecialpresente.blogspot.com/2019/03/poema-horacio-quiroga-de-alfonsina.html
Thinking Back - Max Surla_Media Right Productions
Pablo - The Mini Vandals
Outcast – Myuu
The Loner - DJ Williams
Elegy - Asher Fulero
The Crows Did It - Nathan Moore
Far The Days Come - Letter Box
Impending Doom Film Trailer - Doug Maxwell_Media Right Productions
Ether - Silent Partner
Contact - The Tower of Light
They Might Not - Puddle of Infinity
Dance of the U-boat - Aakash Gandhi
Dark Toys – SYBS
Western Spaghetti - Chris Haugen
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