Pablo Martín Sánchez ‘The Crucial Moment’

“Sure, I lived four years in Santiago. But I never worked for Allende. I went for a symposium at the University of Chili, I was taken in by his project and I stayed on. 7DBC8600-4510-495A-960E-593CB0CC4EBCThen along came the mother-fucking military and everything went haywire. Though, the truth is it was Allende’s fault. As one of my friends says: if you’re only half a revolutionary you might as well dig your own grave.”***

The story, read for the Spanish and Portuguese lit month, takes place in Barcelona in 1975, just before the first democratic elections after the Franco period and incidentally the day of the author’s birth, in six time periods, midnight, dawn, morning, midday, afternoon and evening of a single day, slowly building up to the Crucial Moment.

In Parallel, at the beginning of each section, Sanchez tells the story of a baby being born that day.

The story has six narrators at each time period, seemingly unrelated but on a collision course for the evening, there is Gerardo Fernández Zoilo, a university teacher having spent time in Chili, illustrated in the opening quote, and Carlotta Felip Bigorra, a student investigating stolen babies and who sleeps with her teacher Gerardo at midnight.

There are José María and María Dolores Ros de Olano Y Figueroa, he a wealthy and corrupted business man formed by the Franco years and she a photo of his dead mother, observing from the living room wall:

“A light comes on in the building opposite, where the young widow lives. Then again, these days, she could just be single. Or worse still, divorced! These civil marriages are a real crime: When you want to get married, you get married as God wished and good luck. But I’m sure she’s a widow, we widows recognise each other at once, even after the mourning period.”***

Finally There are Clara Molina Santos, a bullied school girl and the greyhound Solitario VI, at the end of his useful career, we are introduced to him in the kennels at night with the drunken keeper, Atilano, who beats the dogs and one of the new greyhounds, Mogambo, who begins to howl:

“Stop howling boy, stop howling. Atilano lowers his head, half shuts his eyes and rocks back and forth, from toe to heal, again and again and again. Finally he clears his throat and advances down the central corridor….far from calming down, the howls become louder and break into barking, the voices of the other new dogs quickly add to the mayhem….Atilano seizes his cane and begins to bang on the bars of the cages, and occasionally lets slip between the bars, judging by the yelps. Other greyhounds in the stable join in in protest. Me, I sit back and howl at the nearest light….Atilano turns back….I pretend to be sleeping.”
“I heard you Solitario, Carry on like that and you’ll wind up in Casablanca.”***

As the day goes on each one of the narrators, with the exception of Maria Dolores, the photograph, makes a decision that leads to the final showdown, Maria Dolores had made her decision many years before, when trapped on the fifth floor of a burning apartment with her baby son.
An intriguing read.

First Published in Spanish as “Tuyo Es El Mañana” in 2016 by Editorial Acantilado.
Translated into French by Jean-Marie Saint-Lu and published as “L’instant Décisif” by Editions La Contre Allée in 2017
*** my translation

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