ROBERTO BOLAÑO WROTE THAT MARIO BELLATIN IS ONE OF THE AUTHORS “WITHOUT WHOM THERE’S NO UNDERSTANDING OF THIS ENTELECHY WE CALL NEW LATIN AMERICAN LITERATURE”. IN THE LARGE GLASS: THREE AUTOBIOGRAPHIES, BELLATIN EXAMINES THE ABSURD AND HUBRISTIC PROJECT OF THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY.
THE NOVEL IS COMPOSED OF THREE PARTIAL, UNSETTLING AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES; IN THE FIRST, FROM WHICH THIS EXTRACT IS TAKEN, YOUNG BELLATIN’S SINGLE MOTHER SELLS GLIMPSES OF HER SON’S BODY AT THE PUBLIC BATHS OF A NAMELESS TOWN, THUS BEGINNING BELLATIN’S PROVOCATIVE SKEWERING OF WHAT CAN ONLY BE CALLED A “FORMATIVE EXPERIENCE”. TRANSLATED BY DAVID SHOOK, THE LARGE GLASS WILL BE PUBLISHED BY THE INVALUABLE PHONEME MEDIA IMPRINT THIS MONTH.
from My Skin, Luminous
…on the outskirts of the tomb of Su Saint Nizamudin.
1 – During the time that I lived with my mother it never occurred to me that adjusting my genitals in her presence could have any serious repercussions.
2 – I was wrong.
3 – Later I learned that she even asked other women for objects of value so that they could see them fully.
4 – Adjusted, choked, to the point of bursting.
5 – My mother taking advantage of my pain.
6 – Collecting objects without rest.
7 – Many times things to eat or small garments for personal adornment: plastic earrings or some thin cord clasped around her wrist.
8 – One time she acquired a pencil with which she colored her lips.
9 – The enthusiasm that lining her mouth caused her was so great that for a few moments she forgot my presence.
10 – I managed then to untie the strange garment that she had devised for our visits to the public baths.
11 – I was entirely exposed.
12 – A diffuse light illumined my flesh.
13 – I decided to jump in the water.
14 – In the deepest part.
15 – I broke through some obese women that impeded my path with their bodies.
16 – I was even about to cross into the section reserved for men.
17 – If I had managed it, I am sure that I would never be received in the same way by my mother.
18 – I found myself on all fours.
19 – The water mixed with clay.
20 – If I had been standing it would have barely reached my ankles.
21 – I would remain exposed then again to the stares that make possible my current presence in these baths.
22 – The women rummaged through their belongings and managed, by means of the particular barter for my propitious body, to contemplate me for the time they deemed necessary.
23 – Unexpectedly it occurred to me to turn around.
24 – My mother was still beside the washbasins of thermal waters.
25 – She remained absorbed in the ritual of outlining her mouth.
26 – The rest observed her carefully.
27 – Except for the obese women, who seemed desperate to leave the zone reserved for them.
28 – I dare to say that this scene, of my mother coloring her lips, was a spectacle foreign to the customs of the region.
29 – It seemed so distant from our custom that I could not control myself and I yelled at her.
30 – My voice was increasing.
31 – The splash of water against the cement canals emphatically distorted the words I was directing at her.
32 – I couldn’t allow my mother’s mouth to be more important than the spectacle that my testicles are capable of offering.
33 – But in that moment it appeared to be, even the obese women looked willing to break the rules and prepared to enter the thermal waters zone.
34 – That had never before happened.
35 – After a certain age and according to different body qualities, each had their assigned section.
36 – Only children and adolescents were allowed to go between them without permission.
37 – During the first times I was accustomed to remaining under water many hours.
38 – During that time I hadn’t yet experienced how excesses usually become prejudicial.
39 – I was still unaware of how very ancient surfaces become when they are traversed by liquid substances again and again.
40 – Describing the marks that time produces over the textures is perhaps one of the most valuable teachings of these public baths.
41 – The only thing that seemed to escape that fortune of constant deterioration is perhaps my testicles, always willing for exhibition.
42 – My mother typically waited for me each day at the exit door.
43 – She looked content each time we came back together.
44 – She almost always acquired the collected objects on our journey.
45 – She liked most of the gifts that they offered her in exchange, but she seemed to have begun to feel a special predilection for lipsticks.
46 – On more than one opportunity she woke me up in the middle of the night to show me her mouth colored purple or fluorescent fuchsia.
47 – It was difficult to be sure if that exalted figure was part of a dream or an action that existed in reality.
48 – My mother doesn’t typically stop showing me her lips until I wake all the way up.
49 – On mornings like that it is difficult to return to a deep sleep.
50 – I remain between wakefulness and sleep.
51 – So I place in practice an old game—which has entertained me since childhood—that consists of taking out my genitals, without the use of my hands, from the strange undergarments that my mother made me.
52 – This garment, which I must wear at all times without its presence being often noted, isn’t exactly her invention.
53 – To design it she has followed a set of ancient patterns.
54 – I also know that her occupation of displaying her children’s genitals is not her own invention either.
55 – It has to do with an ancient practice for which not all women with children are qualified.
56 – In reality almost none find themselves in the position to go through with an exercise of this nature.
57 – From there, the tiny quantity of mothers of this type that exist today.