- Pub. Date:
El País, España.
Big Banana, cuyo título tiene un inequívoco olor a comedia, sutil y, no obstante, lleno de fuertes componentes aromáticos. No se trata de una parodia insignificante el que dentro de la Gran Manzana, crezcan plantas propias de Latinoamérica: la inmigración hispana crea barrios y guetos en los que se habla español y se vive un poco a espaldas de la eficiencia anglosajona. En los platanares del sur del Bronx, se trabaja para vivir y se vive para charlar, tomar café, bailar, como si siempre hiciera calor, como si la temperatura sexual fuera siempre felizmente alta.
Se podría decir que Roberto Quesada ha inventado una historia de amor y de amistad, de mitos y de sueños, pero, aunque es así, hay que inclinarse por considerarla una novela de atmósfera, de clima. En realidad, todo lo que sucede pasa a un segundo plano, dominado por la capacidad del autor para describir un mundo de mestizajes, en el que la alegría de vivir es la única seña de identidad que no puede desaparecer en la integración a una nueva sociedad.
Eduardo Lin abandona Tegucigalpa para emprender una carrera de actor latino en Estados Unidos; lleno de pájaros en la cabeza, piensa que todo es cosa de llegar y recoger el Oscar. Su carrera como actor puramente realista empieza trabajando en la construcción y compartiendo casa con otros inmigrantes en uno de los peores barrios de Nueva York: cine social sin guionista ni cámaras, en resumen. La casa que comparte es una especie de paraíso para pobres: todos se ayudan y se enzarzan en discusiones sobre todo lo discutible: mi país es más bonito que el tuyo, la mujer americana frente a la latina, o ¿se puede decir no al sexo en nombre de una deuda de amor? La cuestión es hablar. Por eso, lo mejor del libro son las conversaciones entre Casagrande, el jefe de la tribu, y Eduardo. Casagrande es la experiencia y también la extravagancia mientras que Eduardo todavía está lastrado por el provincianismo, la conciencia política, y la sobrestima de su juventud.
Las ensoñaciones de este actor en ciernes no son algo aislado y sin sentido porque en Honduras se dejó a Miriam, una novia más que platónicamente enamorada de James Bond. Entre ellos dos se construye-creo que en un ritmo mal sostenido-una fantasía cinematográfica que les sostiene en el día a día-algo parecido a lo que ocurre en las novelas de Manuel Puig-y que, al contrario de lo que cabría esperarse, no les conduce al batacazo sino a una aceptación de sus propias vidas; Miriam lo sintetiza muy bien cuando llega a conocer a Roger Moore, el actor que entonces encarnaba al agente 007: "entre James Bond y Moore, prefiero al humano". Si Miriam representa esa dosis de locura necesaria para ser la novia de un actor, Andrea, el ligue del seductor Eduardo en Nueva York, personaliza el sentido común. Así, con la ayuda de estos personajes femeninos, el autor da forma a un héroe que necesita tanto de la ficción como de la realidad. Y no sólo a un héroe, porque Miriam es transmisora de su concepto de la narración. La literatura y el cine deben ser veloces: "cualquier cosa que no cumpliera con el requisito del movimiento, se convertía para ella no sólo en aburrida sino inútil en la faz de la tierra". Así, cabría deducir que Big Banana es veloz; lo parece, hay cambios de escenarios, múltiples personajes, un poco de coca y un poco de guerra, tiene un pie en la calle y otro en el celuloide. Pero insisto en que su máximo interés está en ese terreno de todos y de nadie, que es una gran burbuja, en forma de plátano, del aire procedente de América Central. Un globo festivo que flota sobre una manzana grande.
El País / Babelia p. 6. 13/01/2001. Juan Marín
"En los anales de la literatura occidental, hemos tenido la gran Madre Rusia como metáfora, el gran camino abierto de América como metáfora, y ahora, con la novela de Roberto Quesada ''The Big Banana", tenemos a Hond
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About the Author
Ha recibido el Premio del Instituto Latinoamericano de Escritores en los Estados Unidos, 1996. Y en su faceta periodística recibió el Premio Nacional de Periodismo "Jacobo Cárcamo", Honduras, 2009. Es analista internacional para HispanTV, RT (Russian Today), latinoamericano y español.
Su más reciente novela es El Equilibrista (Alfaguara 2013).
Read an Excerpt
I hate New York Telephone, I hate it, I hate New York Telephone like I've never hated before. I love New York but I hate New York Telephone ...
He was like a scratched record and a broken-down robot: he paced and cursed up, down, all over the place. He had a moment's peace, but too fleeting. All he had to do was see the phone bill and those four hundred twenty-two dollars and fifty cents rained on his head like a shower of thorns, as if a giant sea urchin had cornered him in a dead-end alley-way and were rattling off bursts of barbs at a steady clip. He swore he'd never call long distance again, he vowed to become the most prolific letter writer the post office had ever known, he screamed it at the top of his lungs, and if someone were to hide in some corner of the apartment to watch, they'd have believed him without a second thought, without the slightest doubt. Sometimes he believed it too, yet all he needed was for his thoughts to betray him for a few seconds, to remember that face and the little voice like a tiny silkworm coming out of the receiver and tickling his eardrums. His inner ear felt like a miniature, snail-shaped, spiral stairway, which the tiny silkworm circled and climbed into gently, caressing it until it slipped inside, to the hilt, to the heart, and once the tiny worm had nestled there, he didn't want it to leave. The bill at the end of the month stopped mattering. He justified it by thinking he'd find a way to pay, he'd look for a loan, get another job, trim expenses, anything for the tiny worm to stay in its nest as long as possible, inside him,with him, on his account and for him. Then, at those moments of insect delirium, he loved New York Telephone more than anything on the face of the Earth, he loved the cables, the satellite link, anything that would transport his tiny worm to him.
Outside, Queens was dressing in white, the frost cutting across the windowpanes as if it had been heaved from a faraway volcano. For some unexplainable reason, he liked the snow. He believed it made him more creative. For some reason he presumed that greater human development in some corners of the earth more than in others was strictly a matter of climatological conditions. He imagined Africa with its searing, suffocating heatwho could think about philosophy or literature, about technology or art, about space or underwater travel in such an arid place? Still, he'd been in the snow for several months already and things weren't working out at all. He'd sworn, yes he had, not to give up his aspirations.
He pulled back from the window, put the phone bill away, popped open a beer and sat on the bed. He grabbed the remote and started channel-surfing. Television wasn't what he needed. He turned it off. It was the depression, which had taken the shape of the remote; it was the sadness of seeing that the objectives he was striving for were nowhere in sight, not even in the distance. For now, at least, he had a job, and to save himself from the monstrous stress, which sometimes announced itself in the shape of the remote, other times in the form of a beer can, he thought about how much better he lived now in Queens than he had a few weeks ago in the South Bronx projects. In an attempt to escape the depression he set out on a trip to the past:
It seemed to him like several centuries' distance between Manhattan and the South Bronx. The week he'd lived in Manhattan, his outlook on life had been optimistic. He walked on Fifth Avenue, up and down Lexington Avenue, and strolled on Broadway tempted by those theaters, those people with heavy fur coats going into this theater or that. It dazzled him: the neon, the gigantic billboards, the New York Newsday building which reports instantly, by way of the link he loved the mostthe satellite linkon events in other places on the planet. It wasn't just a thought; he had the feeling that he'd been born to live in a place like Manhattan. Pity it was all fleeting: hours later he faced reality and found himself living in the South Bronx, in Mairena's house, a black man and childhood friend from the Atlantic Coast of Honduras who'd offered him a small room until he found a better situation. He'd already heard about the Bronx, and more than just heard, he'd been rattled by so many films shot in the Bronx with gangs, drug addiction, prostitution; in a nutshell, to judge by the films, it was off limits to someone like him, who'd maybe never associated with anything quite like this vein of the lowest strata on the planet Earth. That, however, wasn't what made him paranoid that he might not make it out alive; it was more the disconcerted look his friend Javier gave him when he told him he'd found living quarters in the South Bronx. He'd looked at him in despair.
Without even hiding his terror, he asked, "Are you sure you want to live there?"
He'd more or less seen it coming and replied, feigning cool, "I don't know, but there's not a lot to choose from. This friend's giving me room and board for three months until I get a handle on my situation ... I have no choice."
"Do you have the address? I'll drop you off, but I want you to know I don't recommend living there. You can stay here a few days if you need to look for a better place. The Bronx is bad, but the South Bronx is hell."
They took the subway, the number 5, which left them at 149th and Third Avenue. There they had to get a transfer as they left the train to get on the 15X bus, which took them to 174th and Washington. No one had to say a thing, look at history books, interview someone, or even see to believe. It was a matter of extraordinary simplicity; just getting off the bus you feel that whole atmosphere which corners you up against an indestructible, unscalable wall, a wall no alpinist in the Universe dares defy, a wall of discontented faces, disconcerted eyes, hasty steps as if a second of rhythm lost might be enough to bid your life good-bye. There he was getting off that bus, taking in the half-wrecked buildings of an earthen yellow. There were lots of buildings, some close together, all of a single appearance as if they were dressed in uniform. The streets were littered with totaled cars; it was like the scene of a recently ended war. His attention was drawn to the fact that with all this, there were still children playing in the square. Could they still be children, could they have any of the infant left? Maybe they're dwarves who pretend to play to get me to drop my guard, and then they'll eat me.
"What are you thinking about?" Javier asked him.
"No, nothing," he smiled. "If there are children around, it's probably pure fiction about this place being so bad."
"Maybe they'll give you the chance to fell me what this place is really like. I once heard something like there are no bad people here, it's just that air's scarce, the opposite of other parts of the planet, and you're an outsider. What would you do if an outsider came along to breathe your air, knowing it's scarce? You're not likely to hurt him, but you would keep him from breathing at all costs."
He didn't answer; an inner cataclysm kept him from answering.
He popped open the fifth beer and came back from the South Bronx; you could see Queens through the window, still dressing in white. He remembered New York Telephone again. He swore up and down he wouldn't call long distance anymore, and he took a long drink, half the can to wash the vow down. He searched for the phone bill, nodded, picked up the phone and dialed.
"Hello, Mirian dear, it's me. I'm calling to tell you not to expect any more calls from me ..."
"What's the matter, cariño?"
"No, no, it's got nothing to do with us. The bill's too high, you know. I think it's better that we write each other more."
"I agree, cariño, I'd already suggested that ..."
His face became a thing of untold sweetness. It was as if in the course of the conversation he were filling up with something that was revitalizing him.
"Yes. It's better that way. I haven't stopped thinking about the day when we can be together again."
"Yes, that day will be marvelous ..."
The tiny worm brushed his ear lightly. Now it must slip in and slither down the miniature spiral-shaped stairs, gently, slowly until it reaches the center of the nest.