Journey on Foot


Fernando González


Translation by Laura Cesarco Eglin *

AFTER writing in doña Pilar’s guest book, we went out onto the road, and we abandoned the road. The road is almost the totality of man’s life; when he is on the road he knows where he comes from and where he is heading to. The roads are the codes, and customs, and fashions. Method is a road. This is why when Jesus Christ wanted to express his infinite importance he said HE was THE WAY.

But at doña Pilar’s house we feel rebellious against the road, against that path through which all men travel, through which muleteers and business agents go. We feel hatred towards limitation. A strange desire to free oneself from the limit exists in the human heart. Might this be the key to the greatness of Jesus Christ and Socrates? Both dominated the universe, they provided norms for the world, and neither of them wrote. Jesus Christ wrote once, but he did it on sand, and nobody knows what he wrote. They did not write, that is, they did not limit themselves. Why should we talk about the power of the printing press? What writer can be compared to those TWO who wrote nothing and who dominate humanity like two infinite and unchanging roads? Is that the secret of the beauty in Shakespeare’s plays? Hamlet scarcely pronounced two monologues of unlimited ideas; he remained vague like those TWO that did not write anything. Every great hero is found in a legend. The limited, men whose biographies have been written, men who have made their thoughts and life concrete, are poor men. They are despicable like every man.

Man is an animal that sweats, that digests, that eliminates toxins, that covets another man’s wife and anything that is not his, and he is an animal who hardly thinks. Every once in a while light appears in the immense night of the embodied soul. Only for mere instances, which are separated by centuries, does a feeling or a noble idea emerge to save and redeem this putrid human bag. How long ago was Socrates given hemlock or Jesus Christ crucified? From then on there is nothing but sweat and desire to plunder.

Humanity desperately clings to its great men. It makes up their lives with legends, corrects their acts, polishes them, for these great men were really vulgar throughout 98% of their lives. As soon as a man who has managed to think, feel, and act dies, humanity grabs hold of him and perfects his image. What would happen to man if it were not for those demigods that influence him and force him to inhibit, not his ferocious instincts, but those instincts pertaining to the filthy animal that he is? There has been no San Francisco, no Cesar, no Spinoza. These were created by humanity guided by the desire to purify itself.

How arid our lives are within the limits of the roads and of the skin! We live only because the entrance to death is hidden very well. And the concepts of Saints and Heroes! Beings who inhibited their horrible passions; beings who battled against monstrosity. They were men who wished to stop being monsters. The Hero and the Saint are the result of man feeling disgusted with himself.

Where is serenity? Leonardo da Vinci hardly had time to dedicate to his work. The serenity of the most serene man, and the wisdom of the wisest man were moments.

The road helps one to move forward, and at the same time, it is an obstacle. Who dares modify the road? How long has it been since humanity’s roads are Jesus Christ and Socrates? This is why man progresses so slowly – a genius every thousand years, and in between, man practices, deforms, and perverts the feelings or ideas that that genius leaves as a legacy. Something good remains. It is incredible how in a thousand nine hundred and twenty nine years they have deformed Jesus Christ’s road! The Cross is now made of gold, the chest is made of purple clothing, and it is placed in marble palaces.

The road is the way of least resistance. In order to abandon it the spirit has to make great efforts. Who has left that road? Some madman or other, and the reformers Solon and Lycurgus feigned madness so as to apologize for wanting to reform institutions.

We returned to the road, but it was too late: we were broken and starving. Hunger and nakedness are the consequences of having abandoned the path. We had only moved forward ten kilometers towards the South. Our whole life we have loved and abandoned the road. But we have always come back! Every two years we ask God and prejudices for forgiveness. It is just that we have been hopelessly lost since 1905, that fateful year in which we failed to find the first philosophical principle, there in the pleasant company and collaboration of Reverend Father Quirós S. J.

We arrived in a bad mood at El Buey inn. A Yankee travel agent was there. There is nothing more unbearable than a salesman, whose job is to convince people and to apply the Marden method. That is how our antipathy started. We overheard him tell his muleteers and laborers that the Colombian clergy was a plague, and that the country was nothing but savagery. There was a bridle near us. We took it by the reins and set a bridle to that Mr.’s words with two beatings of the bit. We told him: “Only us Colombians can speak badly of Colombia, and only us Catholics can complain about priests.” We fled, and at 10 p.m. we arrived at Abejorral – the sweet nest of public servants, the cradle of bureaucracy. Had we killed the Mr.? We were not able to sleep, for we were expecting the police.

Only the husband can insult his wife; only the citizen can speak badly of his own country. That is some truth! At last, at five in the morning, we soundly fell asleep. Did we not deserve heaven for having exposed our lives on behalf of the clergy, whose cassocks give off a sui generis smell – a mixture of holiness and of old bills? We dreamed that an angel of feminine shape raised us to heaven very gently. We got there. They took out an enormous balance. The angel placed this book and all our sweet insanity on one scale; and on the other scale a bridle was placed. So heavy was the bridle that the balance fell towards that part until it got lost in the stars. We were not able to hold our laughter when we saw the enormous weight that the bridle had acquired… What would be of the Mr. if we were to beat him with this heavenly bridle?

Good deeds are heavy!

Fernando González

* Laura Cesarco Eglin – Poeta y traductora uruguaya. Completó un MA en Literatura Inglesa en la Universidad Hebrea de Jerusalén. Actualmente está cursando en MFA en Creación Literaria en la Universidad de Texas en El Paso.


Rio Grande Review, The University of Texas at El Paso, Proyecto de traducción del maestro Fernando González, Volume 31, Spring 2008, p.p. 143 – 144.