The Cafe Irreal: International Imagination 

Issue Nineteen

Archaeotourism Update, Girl With an Olive Branch, and Pachyderm by Margarita Engle
The Canary by Juan José Millás
Herzenboogen's Theory of Collective Truth by Caitlin Horrocks
Just Words by Guido Eekhaut
Masks by Flavia M. Lobo
I'll See You in My Fugue and A Morbid Philosophy by Fred Ferraris
The Other Assassin and Odysseus in Hell by Zachary Mason


irreal (re)views


The Canary
by Juan José Millás

he business meeting had gone on longer than I could have imagined. Tired, I closed my eyes and saw that my palate had been transformed into a cathedral's nave. I pulled my molars from the gums, the gaps mutating into two lateral chapels. My tongue, parched from too much smoking, made a fine floor for the edifice. Old ladies, minuscule as caterpillars, sat on the benches and prayed, or offered up votive candles to cherished saints. Suddenly, a procession of acolytes, got up in red, emerged from the vestry. This was the cue for the bishop to start his sermon.

It was at this moment that the man next to me lit a cigarette. Coughing, I lifted my hand to my mouth but not before noticing that some foreign body had managed to enter it. Taking pains not to be observed, I glanced furtively and discovered that my mouth now swarmed with a host of diminutive old ladies, their skirts rumpled. Surreptitiously, I gathered them all and put them in my jacket pocket. About to sneeze, I covered my mouth again, this time disgorging the acolytes, the bishop and some Japanese tourists. I picked them up and placed them next to the old ladies and, feigning interest in the dreary minutiae of the business proposal, started to explore these curious denizens with my fingers. By now my pocket was a seething mass of insects desperate to climb up my hand. Arriving home, I went up to my canary's cage and threw in all the insects. I was disappointed to see that at first my canary merely picked at them. But it was only a matter of time before it succeeded in finishing off each and every one, and I must say that its culinary verdict appeared to be favorable.

The next day, prey to remorse, I made my way to confession. I had barely knelt down when a hurricane blew me, the priest, and other parishioners, far away. My leg broken, I took refuge at first in a leather glove and then at the bottom of a sack from which I could hear the ominous flapping of a huge bird's wings. I am writing these lines in my diary, as quickly as I can, before I am devoured. I can only hope that my words will fall into the hands of someone who knows what the devil is going on.

(Translated by Peter Robertson)

Printed with the kind permission of Mercedes Casanovas Agencia Literaria (Barcelona)

Juan José Millás (Valencia, 1946) is a prolific Spanish author and journalist, based in Madrid. He has won the following literary prizes: Premio Sésamo (1974) for his novel, Cerbero son las sombras (1974); Premio Mariano de Cavia; and, for his journalistic work, Premio Miguel Delibes de Periodismo (2003).

Peter Robertson is a Scottish writer based in Madrid and Buenos Aires. He has contributed critical articles to Spike Magazine and The Buenos Aires Herald. His translation of Rubén Darío's "Thanathopia" has been published by Eclectica and his translations of two Paul Éluard poems are scheduled to appear in the autumn edition of The Salt River Review.

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story copyright by author 2006 all rights reserved
translation copyright by translator 2006 all rights reserved