Translation from NER 35.1.
For a long time now, she cannot tell precisely how long but for quite a while, sadness, that peculiar, sly, fearful emotion that is unlike any other, has clung to her like a second skin. “It has been,” the woman thinks with a sad smile, “like meeting years later an old friend—or an enemy—from childhood.” One that was almost forgotten, or almost unknown by now, because she had spent many years without falling into it. In fact, all those of her maturity and prime. And now her smile becomes more pronounced, because she knows, and she is not even sure of regretting it, that strictly speaking she has never matured. Few people mature: men tend to remain in childhood, tied or not to their mama’s apron strings, whereas women, no doubt superior—and now the sad smile has an ironic touch—tend to spring gracefully into adolescence, and then remain there, the two together forming a charming world riddled with spoiled boys competing in their small or large, almost always dirty, battles, and unhappy frustrated women, because life, love, children, were not like what they had been told (except for those of the third world, of course, who were too busy struggling to have some of their children survive the hunger, the epidemics and other calamities to have time to feel frustrated, and besides, the reality that has fallen to their lot does indeed resemble what they had expected with resignation ever since they reached the age of reason).
In the life of the woman—not in vain has she repeated, with an emphasis that now seems to her ridiculous, that she preferred intensity to happiness—there have been moments of boundless joy, when she felt that she could touch the sky with her hands, and pathetic, desperate, sordid moments—these last she could tolerate the least—; she has fallen in love a heap of times and fallen out of love just as many; she has had children who have formed the center of her universe and have then grown almost foreign to her; she has achieved spectacular successes in her work, which have never seemed to her, because they have certainly not been, sufficient; she has at times disposed of a considerable fortune, and has squandered it gaily, confident of being able to remake it, because life—who said that it is short, who invented that nonsense that it flies by in an instant?—if it is not interrupted by an accident or an illness, is interminable, and has time for all the foolishness and all the bad deeds that one can conjure up, which in turn are not so many.
—translated from the Spanish by Barbara F. Ichiishi
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 middle-aged 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.
Barbara F. Ichiishi received a BA in French literature from Mount Holyoke College, an MA in Comparative Literature from the University of California, Berkeley, and a PhD in Spanish from the University of Iowa. She is the author of The Apple of Earthly Love: Female Development in Esther Tusquets’ Fiction and the translator of some of Tusquets’s major works, including her novel Never to Return, her story collection Seven Views of the Same Landscape, her memoir Private Correspondence, and her historical memoir We Had Won the War. She has published articles on Spanish and Latin American women’s literature, and is co-translator of Edouard Glissant’s historical drama Monsieur Toussaint.