Amparo Dávila’s translator discovers the truth behind her fiction.
The stories of the Mexican author Amparo Dávila intrude on “external reality” in unnerving ways. To illustrate, I’ll offer a personal tale: my brush with her story “Moses and Gaspar,” which appears in the Winter issue of The Paris Review. Last fall, when Audrey Harris and I were at work on the translation, I visited a friend who was moving house in Oaxaca. We’d packed some of her books into boxes and paused, at twilight, to sit down for dinner at a table in a large half-covered patio. My friend said that her two cats sensed the upcoming move and had become agitated. At that moment, we saw that one of them—a big marmalade cat, an intelligent and communicative fellow—was crouched at the far end of the tabletop. In the meager glow of the single bulb that lit the growing gloom, the cat began to cry soundlessly: tears filled his eyes and dripped onto the edge of the table and the floor below, while he stared into space. “See?” said my friend. “He knows we’re moving.” It was an uncanny, inexplicable scene. Cats are emotionally sensitive to changes, I know—I’ve heard cats cry, moan, yowl in distress—but never had I seen one mourn in a way that seemed so peculiarly, exclusively, jarringly human. I went home that night to find a new round of corrections on “Moses and Gaspar” in my inbox. Read More