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Tyrant Memory (excerpt) by Horacio Castelllanos Moya

Tyrant Memory (excerpt) by Horacio Castelllanos Moya

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Published by Sampsonia Way
From Tyrant Memory, By Horacio Castellanos Moya, translated by Katherine Silver. Copyright ©2008 by Horacio Castellanos Moya. Translation copyright ©2011 by Katherine Silver. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing.
From Tyrant Memory, By Horacio Castellanos Moya, translated by Katherine Silver. Copyright ©2008 by Horacio Castellanos Moya. Translation copyright ©2011 by Katherine Silver. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing.

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Published by: Sampsonia Way on Jul 21, 2011
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05/28/2013

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Haydée’s Diary
 
 Friday, March 24 
It’s been a week since Pericles was arrested. I expected him to be released today,as has always occurred on previous occasions, when they let him come home after a week. But now the situation is different. Colonel Monterrosa told me as much,at noon today in his office, with a look of regret on his face because he respectsPericles: “I’m sorry, Doña Haydée, but the general’s orders are final: Don Pericleswill remain under arrest until further notice.” I began to suspect that the generalis angry or afraid about something else when, on that first day, I found out theyhadn’t locked him up in the room next to Colonel Monterrosa’s office—he’s thechief of police—but instead had taken him to one of the cells in the basement;the colonel told me he was very sorry, but the decision to deal more firmly withPericles had come straight from the top. During his previous imprisonments,my husband could receive visits from friends authorized by the colonel, and wealways ate lunch and dinner together in that room, where I’d bring the food MaríaElena and I had prepared. Now, Pericles is isolated, and they allow him to comeup to that other room only once a day, at lunchtime, to meet me. But I suppose Ishouldn’t complain: Don Jorge’s situation and that of other political prisoners ismuch worse.After speaking with Colonel Monterrosa, I returned home and called myfather-in-law to ask if he knows why Pericles isn’t being released. My father-in-law told me the general has his reasons, and the best thing for me to do is bide mytime. I did not insist. My father-in-law is a man of few words, loyal to his general,and Pericles’s articles criticizing the government upset him greatly; every timeI’ve ever asked him why they arrested my husband, he answers simply that acts of disobedience cannot go unpunished.Then I called my parents’ house to tell them the bad news. My mother askedme how Pericles is taking it. I told her he seemed to have been expecting it, hisonly remark being, “It appears the man is very frightened.” My husband never callshim “the general” or “Mr. President,” or “the Nazi warlock,” like my father andhis friends do; he simply calls him “the man.” My mother asked me if Betito and Iwere going to come over for dinner. I said yes; the youngest is always the favoritegrandchild.Our neighbors came over for a visit this evening. The Alvarados expressedtheir regrets that Pericles had not been released, though they are very careful whenit comes to discussing politics. Raúl is a doctor, but astronomy is his true passion;he has a telescope and whenever a special phenomenon is about to take place,
 
which he always knows about, like a meteor shower, he invites Pericles to stay upwith him to watch it. Rosita, his wife, brought me some women’s magazines shegot from the Neighborhood Circle, a club sponsored by the American Embassy, of which they are members—I’d like to join but Pericles does not think very highly of it. 
Saturday, March 25 
I find relief from my solitude writing in this diary. It’s the first time since we weremarried that I have been separated from Pericles for more than a week. When Iwas a teenager I used to keep a diary, a dozen or so are stored away in my memorytrunk; I used to spend days in my room reading one novel after another, lost in myown fantasy world. Then came marriage, children, responsibilities.This morning, before my father left for his finca, we had a longconversation. I asked him if he could think of any way to pressure the general torelease Pericles. He told me that in a few days the coffee- growers’ associationwould meet with the American ambassador, and he would present Pericles’s caseas one more violation of freedom of the press, he said it wasn’t enough for thedictator to detain Pericles’s boss, Don Jorge, and to keep the Press Club closedsince January, but now he has gone after the columnists. But he warned me that the Nazi warlock has gone off the deep end and doesn’t listen to anybody, “not evenyour father-in-law,” he told me. My father respects my father-in-law, even thoughsometimes he calls him “the cantankerous colonel,” and he doesn’t approve of histotal obedience to the general.At noon, I brought my husband books and tobacco. We ate in silence. I thentalked to him about family matters; he told me he is weary of the lack of naturallight, and the damp. I don’t like his pallor or that cough of his, which is becomingchronic. He repeated that “the man” feels besieged, trusts no one, otherwise hewouldn’t have consigned him to this basement cell, and wouldn’t keep him lockedup.Clemen dropped by this afternoon. He’s outraged that his father is still behind bars. I told him his grandfather has recommended patience, for there isnothing to be done at the moment. My eldest son is hot-blooded, imprudent;he was cursing the general, calling him “that little shitfaced dictator,” sayingthat nobody wants him anymore, he should step down and leave the country. Isuggested he show some restraint with his words. He promised he would come for lunch tomorrow, Sunday, with his wife and children.Later in the afternoon, Carmela came by, and we had a cup of coffee on theterrace; she is still my best friend, has been ever since high school. She brought adelicious lemon pie. She was very sorry to hear that Pericles had not been released,
 
and she warned me that there are new rumors of a coup d’état.A short while ago, just as I was sitting down to write, my sister Ceciliacalled. I told her about Pericles, but we soon started talking about the cross she bears, much weightier than mine: her husband, Armando, has become an inveteratealcoholic, and every time he gets drunk he turns aggressive, violent; he has never hit her, because he’s afraid of my father, but he always gets into serious troubleand ends up at that house of ill repute. They live in Santa Ana, the city where wewere born and raised, where I married Pericles; it’s also where my grandfather’sold mansion is, which my father has turned into a coffee-processing plant.(...) 
Monday, March 27  
It’s strange how sometimes when I write in this diary I feel nostalgic for myadolescence. Then I remember I turned forty-three last October, I have threechildren and three grandchildren, and I started writing this diary as a substitutefor my conversations with my husband. I needed this time alone, Pericles’s longabsence, to get me to open this beautiful notebook and begin to let my fountain penglide across its bone-colored pages. I bought it nine years ago in Brussels, whenwe’d already moved into the house on Boulevard du Régent; in the mornings, after Pericles had left for the embassy and Clemen and Pati for school, I would roamaround the city for a few hours with Betito, who at five years old was too youngto go to nursery school in a foreign language. I bought this notebook at a shopnear Saint Catherine’s Square. I saw it in the window, I loved the design on itshard cover, and I immediately decided to buy it to write down my impressions as astranger in that city, a fantasy I’d been harboring ever since we crossed the Atlantic by steamship. But I never wrote in it, not till now.This morning, María Elena returned from her village later than usual;usually she’s here by eight, but today it was almost eleven before she arrived. Sheexplained that Belka, her daughter, has a terrible flu, and they had to take her tothe hospital early in the morning; Belka is six years old, spirited and charming,and lives with María Elena’s parents and siblings, and we only get to see her whenwe visit the finca; María Elena’s family has always worked for my family. I askedher to finish cooking the meatballs and rice that were already on the stove while I packed the rest of the food in the basket I take to Pericles every day: a thermos of coffee, hard-boiled eggs, milk, and sweet rolls for breakfast; and ham and cheesesandwiches for dinner. What matters most is that he not have to eat that filthy foodthey serve at the palace.My husband was very upset today: he found out that the general didn’thave him arrested because of the article he wrote criticizing him for violating the

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