Scarecrow & Other Anomalies
translated from the Spanish by Gilbert Alter-Gilbert
ISBN 1-879-378-29-9 (paper)
191 pages, $15
Cover art by Alfredo Castañed:
Cuando el espejo sueña con otra imagen
Out of print; available as an e-book
Paperback copies may be available through SPD Books
Read Interview with translator Gilbert Alter-Gilbert
The first appearance in English of one of the most fantastic writers of Latin America, who was also something of a prankster. After writing the indescribable collection of short pieces called Espanatapájaros ("Scarecrow") in 1932, Oliverio Girondo rented a landau coach from a mortuary and hired liveried footmen and coachmen to attend the vehicle. In place of the floral wreathes he stacked copies of the book, printed with his own money,and in one seat propped up a huge scarecrow he had made out of papier-mâché, with a top hat, button eyes and painted white gloves (see photo below). Then Girondo got in and, drawn by six horses, paraded through the streets of Buenos Aires announcing publication of Espanatapájaros through a megaphone, handing out copies and directing the bewildered public to a shop on la Calle Florida. There, on the sidewalk, a bevy a pretty girls selected by the author hawked the book, its cover bearing a likeness of the same well-heeled scarecrow. By such means the edition of 5,000 copies sold out in fifteen days. The dummy scarecrow retired to the vestibule of Girondo's estate on Calle Suipacha, where it greeted unsuspecting visitors forever after. It was donated to the city museum after Girondo's death in 1976.
Scarecrow inspired the feature film The Dark Side of the Heart (1994), directed by Eliseo Subiela.
This is a book that takes scenes, metaphysical interminglings, and a love for linguistic play that borders on dangerous ("I don't have a personality; I am a cocktail, a conglomerate, a riot of personalities"). But the pieces also display a sort of slapstick bravado, a fondness for absurd situations, even as they recognize at every turn the grinning specter of death and emptiness peeking from the shadows.
~ Literature and Arts of the Americas #68, May 2004.
Excerpt from Scarecrow:
I couldn't care less if women have breasts like fresh magnolias or withered figs, skin smooth as a peach or rough as sandpaper. I accord it an importance equal to zero whether they wake up with the breath of an aphrodisiac or the breath of an insecticide. I am perfectly capable of enduring a nose on them that could take first prize in a carrot exposition. But here's the thing!—and in this I am inflexible—I do not pardon them, under any pretext, if they don't know how to fly. If they can't fly, they have wasted the time they took trying to seduce me!
It was for this— and no other— reason that I fell in love, so madly, with Maria Luisa.
What did I care that her lips came in installments and that she suffered from jealous rages? What did I care about her duck feet and her looks like those of a fortuneteller holding back a secret?
Maria Luisa was a veritable plume!
From the break of day she was flying. She flew from the bed-room to the kitchen, from the dining room to the pantry. She flew to prepare my bath, to lay out my shirt. She flew to do her shopping, to do her household chores...
With what impatience I awaited her return, on the wing, from some trip in the outskirts! There in the distance, lost among the clouds, would be a rosy little dot. "Maria Luisa! Maria Luisa!" I would cry... and in a few seconds she would already be clasping me with her feathery legs, in order to lift me in flight to someplace or other.
For miles of silence we traced the lines of a caress that brought us close to paradise; for hours on end we nestled in a cloud, like the angels, then suddenly corkscrewed, like a dead leaf, to make a forced, spasmodic landing.
How delicious to hold a woman so light... though, now and then, she might make us see the stars! How voluptuous to spend the days among the clouds... and pass the nights in solo flight!
After we have known an ethereal woman, what kind of attractions could a terrestrial woman offer us? In truth, is there any substantial difference between living with a cow and living with a woman who who has her buttocks three and a half feet off the ground?
I, for my part, am incapable of comprehending the allure of the pedestrian woman, and no matter how hard I try to conceive it, find it impossible to achieve or even to imagine better lovemaking than that which is experienced while soaring through the heavens.
Girondo read his poetry!
Girondo's papier-mâché "Scarecrow" (Espanatapájaros)
in the City Museum of Buenos Aires
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