The Machine to Think of Gladys

BEFORE GOING TO BED I made the daily round in the house, to control that everything was in order; the window in the small bathroom, down the hallway, was open – so that the polyester shirt I was going to wear tomorrow would dry overnight –; I closed the door (to avoid air currents); in the kitchen, the faucet was leaking and I tightened it, the window was open and I left it like that – closing the blinds –; the trashcan had already been emptied, the three knobs on the electric cooker were at zero, the control dial of the fridge was on 3 (soft cooling) and the bottle of mineral water already open had the patent stopper on; in the dining room, the big clock was winded to last a few more days and the table had been cleared; in the reading room, I had to turn off the amplifier, somebody had left it turned on, but the record player had automatically turned off; the ashtray of the armchair had been emptied; the machine to think of Gladys was plugged in and making its usual, soft purr; the high, little window facing the light well was open, and the smoke from that day’s cigarettes escaped, slowly, through it; I closed the door; in the living room I found a cigarette butt on the floor; I put it in the standing ashtray that the maid sees to empty every morning; in my bedroom I wound up the alarm clock, checking that the time it showed matched the one on my wristwatch, I set it to ring half an hour later the next morning (because I had decided to cancel the shower; I felt like I was coming down with a cold); I went to bed and turned off the light.
At dawn I woke up restless, an unusual noise had startled me; I curled up in bed and covered myself with the pillows and I put my hands around the back of my neck and waited for the end of all that with the nerves on edge: the house was collapsing.


By Mario Levrero.

Translated, from the Spanish, by Ignacio Azcueta and Maria Pape.

Jorge Mario Varlotta Levrero (1940-2004) was a writer, comic-book scriptwriter, columnist and crossword puzzle creator from Uruguay. With over fifteen books published, Levrero cultivated a plastic style that resists any classification: his aesthetics verged from the asphyxiating Kafkaesque narrative of París (1980), a post-apocalyptic account of the French capital, to the limpid minimalism of El discurso vacío (1996), a project that juxtaposes the novel with the personal journal. 

Ignacio Azcueta is a Licenciado en Letras from the Facultad de Filosofía y Letras, Universidad de Buenos Aires (UBA). He has published a number of academic articles in different journals. Currently he participates in the investigation group coordinated by Román Setton, focused on critical theory and crime fiction.
Maria Pape is a master’s student in Comparative Literature at the University of Copenhagen. She has done a significant part of her studies in Barcelona and Buenos Aires. She will be starting her PhD studies in Comparative Literature at the University of Pennsylvania the coming academic year.