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Translation Tuesday: Bad Mexican Dog (Jonas Eika)

in Ark Review/Translation by

Translation Tuesday is an ongoing series of translations focused on contemporary Scandinavian literature. In this edition of Translation Tuesday, Sheri and Neus have translated an excerpt from Jonas Eika’s Efter Solen (2018) into English and Spanish.

Efter Solen is a series of four short stories that apparently present four different worlds: a divorced Danish IT consultant travels back to Copenhagen and misses a meeting, a young Mexican boy is working on the coast of the country to make some money and pay for film school, a love triangle between drugs, a pregnancy and London, and a man discovers a strange object while his wife is at a concert in Las Vegas.

Mysteriously received in Denmark as a work of science fiction, Efter Solen, in fact, seems quite anchored in the “real world”. It examines how work functions as an activity and form of living in the contemporary capitalist world and how this affects the life stories of different people depending on their lines of work, social class, and cultural context. These stories bring the most human and sometimes cruel part of their characters to the fore, somehow always presented in relation to their social reality. Far from the rather popular first-person, autofictional narratives so prevalent in new Danish literature, these stories present an unfiltered vision of our globalized world, with all of its hypocrisy and nuances.

Jonas Eika is a Danish writer born in Aarhus (1991). He is a graduate of Forfattenskolen [The Danish Writers’ School]. His debut Lageret Huset Marie (Lindhardt og Ringhof, 2015) caught the attention of both the public and the literary critics of the country and won him the Bodil og Jørgen Munch-Christensens debutantpris for young Danish debutants in 2016. Efter Solen is his second book.

 

Bad Mexican Dog

There’s something special about the beach because I am a beach boy, something is going to happen down at the beach. I remember the beach in Essaouira, Marseilles, San Juan, where it didn’t happen, and every night I looked up at a sky so blue between the power lines that it made my face hurt. Not because there’s anything special about the sky, only that it’s sometimes a very hard blanket stretched tight over my head, and makes me feel the impassable distance; if I was in heaven I’d look up at the earth, blue between the power lines. I am a fifteen-year old, skinny and brown-haired boy with green eyes. I strut straight and tall with a little curve in my back like a panther, small and bashful because no one notices me. Now I’m in Cancún, Mexico, and I’ve been standing in front of the counter for a while now without being seen. It’s early in the morning, and the owner is fighting with his wife about a boy who quit without warning just today. I picked this beach club because the lion on its flag reminded me of an English tourist with a full beard who gave big tips in Essaouira, Marseilles, San Juan. The owner turns to me with short-tempered eyes, but before he gets the chance to tell me off I say this:
      “Word is you need a boy?”
      “We always need boys,” the owner answers, “but are you a real beach boy?”
I say yes, I’m made of the right stuff, and list my previous employments.
     “Alright then, follow me,” he says and walks around the back of the square bamboo hut which is the club’s bar and reception. He opens the door to an elongated storage room. Towels, fans, sunscreen and after-sun lotion. Half-liter bottles of mineral water naturel in a cooler. The morning sun makes spots on my skin through the holes in the thatched wall. The owner throws a pair of black swim trunks and a white undershirt on the bench and says that I should get changed here. Then he leaves the room, and while I sit and undress I can see the bar counter through a hole in the wall, out there the sky and the sea so blue between the beach chairs that it tickles my crotch. There’s a reason I’m here, there’s something I need to do. In the sand in front of the bench, an elongated pool has been dug and covered with pool-blue plastic. The water is full of small blobs like jellyfish swimming around like living water. My legs are too short to reach, but I can feel the slimy dampness under the soles of my feet.
      “You know the deal?” shouts the owner and opens the door as I’m pulling the swim trunks on over my hips. “You keep your tips. The rest is mine.”
      I agree, and he straps the fanny pack on over the swim trunks. That way you can keep the lotions in the holster on the side, and there are four round pockets that’ll stretch for the water bottles. I can feel the owner’s chest hair against my shoulder as he suits me up. He says the other boys will tell me everything I need to know about life on the beach.

***

Bad Mexican Dog

Hay algo de especial en la playa, pues soy un beach boy y siempre espero que pase algo en ella. Recuerdo la costa de Essaouria, Marseilles, San Juan, donde nunca pasaba nada y por la noche me dedicaba a mirar el cielo entre líneas eléctricas, tan azul que me dolía la cara. No es que haya nada especial en el cielo, a parte de cuando se convierte en una manta tiesa tendida sobre mi cabeza que provoca un sentimiento de distancia insuperable. Si estuviese en el cielo miraría hacia la tierra, azul entre líneas eléctricas. Tengo 15 años, soy delgado y castaño con ojos verdes, mi andar es recto y estilizado, y mi espalda se curva ligeramente como una pantera, pequeña y sutil, porque nadie me puede ver. Ahora estoy en Cancún, México, esperando delante del club sin que nadie me vea. Es bastante temprano y el propietario discute con su mujer sobre un boy que hoy ha dejado el trabajo sin previo aviso. Escogí este beach club porque tiene una bandera con un león que me recuerda a un turista inglés con barba que daba buena propina en Essaouria, Marseilles, San Juan. El propietario se dirige hacia mí con cara de pocos amigos, pero antes de me mande a paseo le digo:
      “¿Dicen que os falta un boy?”
      “Siempre nos faltan boys” contesta el propietario, “¿pero eres un beach boy de verdad?”
Digo que sí, que tengo lo que hay que tener y menciono mis puestos anteriores.
      “Bueno, entonces sígueme.” me dice el propietario mientras se dirige hacia la parte trasera de una casa de bambú que resulta ser el bar y la recepción y abre la puerta de un almacén alargado. Toallas, ventiladores, crema solar y after sun, botellas de medio litro de agua mineral en una neverita. El sol matutino deja manchas en mi piel a través de los agujeros de la pared trenzada y el propietario deja un bañador negro y una camiseta interior blanca en un banco, me dice que me cambie aquí mismo y se va. Mientras me cambio puedo ver la barra del bar a través de un agujero en la pared, el cielo y el mar entre hamacas, tan azules que siento un cosquilleo en la entrepierna. Hay una razón por la que estoy aquí, hay algo que debo hacer. Delante del banco hay una piscina de plástico azul y alargada enterrada en la arena. El agua está repleta de pequeñas burbujas que parecen medusas, flotando como agua viva. Mis piernas son demasiado cortas para alcanzar el agua, pero noto una ligera humedad en las plantas de los pies.
      “¿Sabes de qué va esto?” me grita el propietario y abre la puerta mientras me subo el bañador por las caderas. “Tú te quedas las propinas y yo el resto.”
Le digo que sí, él se abrocha la riñonera por encima del bañador. La riñonera tiene una funda al lado del cinturón para llevar la crema y cuatro hebillas elásticas para las botellas de agua. Siento los pelos del pecho del propietario en mi hombro cuando me enseña el equipo y me dice que los otros boys me explicarán todo lo que necesito saber sobre la vida en la playa.

This excerpt from Efter Solen is published by permission of Basilisk and © Jonas Eika. Translation copyright © 2018 by Sherilyn Hellberg and Neus Casanova Vico.

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