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Story

Vanity

By: Eduardo Liendo
Illustrated by: Henry González
Selection and Compilation: Carolina Fonseca

 

 

It all started with the tedious chore of learning the alphabet. The illness might still have been curable at that point. It had not spread very far. Later came the reckless reading of comic strips, the never-ending adventures of El caballero de antifaz (The Masked Knight), followed by Tom Sawyer, Tarzan of the Apes, The Count of Monte Cristo, and similar works. Nonetheless, I was not an abnormal child. There was a period during my teens when it looked like I might recover fully. But an unfortunate mishap exacerbated the pernicious obsession; it was a time of disastrous exposure to biographies, novels, novellas, supplements, poetry collections, newspapers, dictionaries, evil stories, and other diabolical ways of enslaving the soul.

My life was still balanced: half living and half reading. I thought —wrongly— that marriage would fulfill my existential needs and I would overcome the dreadful vice, perhaps adopting another, more obliging one. But that didn’t happen. As time passed, I talked to Vivien less and less and I read more, even at completely inappropriate moments. The crisis reached its peak; I gradually lost the ability to speak plainly and could express myself only in pretentious circumlocutions. Vivien suffered and often cried when she realized she could not cure me. Then we stopped making love, although sometimes before going to sleep, I sketched a learned dissertation on the infinite possibilities of the orgasm. I read almost continuously and my back grew stiffer. The palms of my hands and the soles of my feet thinned alarmingly. Language implacably shaded into literature.

The last night, I bid Vivien farewell with a sad look of resignation; we both had to accept the inevitable. In the morning, I awoke next to her, completely stiff, rigidly vertical, and ponderous. After the first shock, she compassionately picked me up, opened me, and let a tear fall onto one of my pages.

The following day, she sorrowfully donated me to a public library, where an employee placed me in a good spot, just between Amiel’s Intimate Diary and Lin Yutang’s The Importance of Living. My paramount vanity was thus gratified. Vivien now shares the apartment with a friend who is so healthy that he doesn’t even read the newspaper. Meanwhile, I wait patiently for that wonderful moment when a kind-hearted reader picks me up and I might hope to rest under their pillow at night.

The Red Crocodile. Publicaciones Seleven, Caracas, 1987.

The Author

Eduardo Liendo (Caracas, 1941) is a storyteller, university professor, and literary workshop coordinator. He has published several books, including novels, stories, and a volume of essays. He studied at the Institute of Social Sciences in Moscow and was the director of cultural outreach for the National Library. He has coordinated literary workshops in storytelling for the Rómulo Gallegos Center for Latin American Studies (1987, 1993, and 1994) and he led the Storytelling Workshop at the Faculty of Literature of Andrés Bello Catholic University (1990-2005). Mr. Liendo has been honored with national and international awards. In 2008, Spanish publishing house Alfaguara launched the Eduardo Liendo Library, which began with the publication of Contraespejismo, a selection of excerpts of his unpublished novels and stories. In 2015, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Literature by Cecilio Acosta Catholic University (UNICA) in Maracaibo.