Pointing first to the rock bluffs, then the raptors that hovered there, and then to their eyes that—made for hunting—flashed like shattered quartz, pulled up wild from the sea, the fog having lifted, hours, centuries ago, Choose one, he said,
whispering almost; Choose quickly. As between forever, and the light now fallen. The willed suspension of belief, say, versus the color of joy outrivaling whoever's best intentions. That's how hard it was. Any words left that had stood for something
still meaning, but in the way that moss can mean: all winter; beneath the ice and snow.
Look—they're turning: how gracefully each
moves, in the surprise of woundedness—and, where arrow meets flesh, the blood corsaging . . .
Revelation, jackhammers, love, four hooves in the dirt. How speechless, now. As if always
light must wed the dark, eventually, and the dark
mean silence. I disagree. Touch not the crown— Don't touch me—
TRANSLATOR’S NOTE: The Barcelonese Esther Tusquets (1936– 2012) was already well known in Spain as director of the publishing house Editorial Lumen, when in the late 1970s and ’ 80s she stunned reading audiences with the publication of a highly praised narrative cycle whose daringly innovative content and prose style broke new ground for the Spanish novel and for women’s writing. Her first novel, The Same Sea as Every Summer (1978), with its controversial subject of an affair between a middleaged woman and an adolescent girl and its highly erotic imagery, caused a sensation in early post-franco Spain. In the following years more books appeared in rapid succession, forming a trilogy of novels about the sea, then a longer series of interrelated works that unveil an intense and self-contained narrative world. Tusquets’s works epitomize intimist literature, offering a profound and lyrical exploration of a woman’s inner life. Her books seek to undermine the cold materialist values of the social milieu she grew up in, that of pro-franco upper-middleclass Catalonia, while inscribing her own distinctly feminine vision, both on the level of substance and style. Through her fluid musical prose, her long winding sentences that follow the logic of feeling states, Tusquets’s narrative voices reach out to the other, affirming understanding and love as the fundamental experience of life.
The stories presented here, “Always the Sea” (2008) and “Two Old Friends” (2009), written near the end of the author’s life, touch on central themes of her work: the importance of the human connection, of art and beauty, and the confrontation with aging and death as the ultimate reality. Indeed, a lifelong obsession with death permeates Tusquets’s work. The young Sara, protagonist of her story collection
as a child lies awake at night, suddenly overcome by the palpable and horrific imagined experience of her own death. Elia, midlife protagonist of the novel Stranded, sees love as the one experience that can, for a time at least, transcend and thereby defeat death, since love embodies the fullness of life. In a feminine rewrite of Ingmar Bergman’s chess game between the medieval knight and Death, Elia speaks of her inner landscape as a battlefield wherein each piece of terrain that love abandons is immediately occupied by death. Allied to the theme of love and death is the leitmotif of the sea, symbol of female eroticism, life and death. As the author’s natural element, the sea serves as the backdrop, the perennial point of departure and return, for her entire narrative series. Thus her short tale “Always the Sea,” an account of an old woman’s final return to the sea, can be read as the last page in the book of her life.