Academic journal article Chicago Review

Mephisto Waltz

Academic journal article Chicago Review

Mephisto Waltz

Article excerpt

He doesn't like Liszt because he doesn't understand that love is all rhetoric and that's what gives it a non-vegetative depth.

-Jose Donoso

When she opened her purse to look for her creams, the blue silk pajamas (which her sister Beatriz had bought her in India and which she found so comforting), the slippers, and the bottle of sleeping pills, the magazine fell to her feet (she could have sworn that she had put it away in the black suitcase!), once again disturbing her thoughts and interrupting her rest. She thought again what a coincidence it was that, this very morning, when she had tried for the umpteenth time to persuade Beatriz that her married life was falling apart and that Guillermo was of the same opinion, and she insisted that this truce had shown them the sober pleasure of living apart, her brother-inlaw arrived with the magazine where the Mephisto-Walzer appeared, which obliquely seemed to corroborate her arguments, and which she hadn't been able to shake off all day.

She had planned not to read it again until she was completely moved back into her house, after a bath, breakfast, and a little rest. But how could she resist the temptation when the magazine had fallen into her hands again? So once she was lying in the berth, her hair brushed, wrapped in her beloved blue pajamas, the sedative swallowed, she read it again, and that rereading not only annoyed her, but brought her an anguish out of all proportion when, amid the squeaking wheels, she reencountered Guillermo's voice, its rhythm and diction, his halted breathing, and she could even hear the pauses when he breathed in and exhaled cigarette smoke. She read it without interruptions; it was a very brief text. A mixture of rage and spite welled up in her, suggesting that, through such hard feelings, she could escape from the anguish. She was reminded again that the natural thing would have been for her to have received that short story as usual, for her to be the one to pass it along to the editor; as far as she could remember, in all the years they had known each other, even before they were married, when they were a carefree and somewhat ungainly pair of students in the Department of Philosophy, a place she likes to remember, he hadn't published anything unless she had read, critiqued, and discussed it with him first. And it's possible that, in Vienna, he had reached the same conclusions that she had tried to explain to her sister that morning, and that the publication of the "Waltz," without any warning, was his way of announcing it to her. A challenge? Perhaps not, but rather a polite way of indicating to her that, between the two of them, things were no longer the same.

All the grievances she had mulled over last week at her sister's house in Veracruz (to which her sister didn't seem to attribute the least importance) manifested themselves again. The second time she read it, her feeling of danger was more acute. Something in the background of the story, the final meditation around a series of small dramatic nuclei on the verge of crystallizing, of developing their own laws, of finally turning into form: minimal stories nourished in the most unlikely clichés of a fin-de-siècle decadantism, just begging for tinsel and gaud (the curvaceous figure of a woman whose disorders lead her to death, the ritual administering of a poison, the criminal attraction of music, for example), yes, that meditation that, as an afterward to an authentic drama glimpsed by chance, could only be evidence of Guillermo's disinterest in the reality in which she grounded herself, and it made her think that, in her conversations with Beatriz she hadn't known how, or maybe-let's be honest-she hadn't wanted to get to the bottom of it, and that's why it had been so easy to refute her and accuse her of being incoherent, fickle, and superficial, due to her fear of really confronting a situation that was nearly impossible for her to explain. Perhaps her sister was right when she said that the only thing wrong with them was that they had left behind the age when starting out a day, any day, could take on the character of a game, the beginning of an exceptional adventure, a fact that she accepted as if it were the most natural thing in the world, but that Guillermo refused to accept. …

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