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Panic Signs

Cristina Peri Rossi

Publication Year: 2002

Cristina Peri Rossi is one of the most acclaimed and personal voices in Hispanic letters. This volume of short stories, Panic Signs, first published in 1970 in Montevideo, Uruguay, presages the atrocities that would come with dictatorship in 1972.

The premonitory dimension is one of the striking characteristics in all the stories — a sense of impending catastrophe, sometimes hallucinatory and often graphic, leads us to undetermined places where the horrors of censorship, torture, and human bondage take place. At the same time, the stories expose the shackles that incapacitate us and deny us the acceptance of ourselves.

This elegy for freedom mourns the loss of liberty and justice while seducing us into questioning what we hold true. The metaphorical procession of images, and the craftsmanship of a narrative that continually engage us, motivate us to explore our own uncertainties and values, and offer an unquestionable opportunity to reassess today’s global conditions. Peri Rossi succeeds in creating a whirlwind of despair and self-discovery, impelling us to assess our own panic signs and so avoid being entrapped by those who hold power over us.

The translation of this powerful text will help English-speaking readers attain a more profound understanding of the complexities of Latin America’s cultural and socio-political issues.

Published by: Wilfrid Laurier University Press

Contents

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pp. ix-x

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Preface

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pp. xi-xii

Indicios Pánicos/Panic Signs by Cristina Peri Rossi was first published in 1970 by Editorial Nuestra América in Uruguay. This collection of short texts powerfully presages what would become the cruel reality of Uruguay after the military coup of 1972. It speaks of the despair that people feel when their houses are destroyed by police searching for clues to implicate innocent...

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Prologue

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pp. 1-3

According to the dictionary (the only book which has been constantly rewritten) signs are actions or signals which reveal what is hidden. The dictionary adds a delightful detail: strong signs are those that prompt one to believe or surmise something, in such a way that they themselves are proof or semi-proof....

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1. I am very interested in botany

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pp. 4-5

I am very interested in botany. It could be said that I'm self-taught: I have my room filled with leaves of different shapes, colours, denticulation, and palmation. The leaves are so plentiful that they've started to climb up the walls, soaking up the lime from them. Beautiful spear-shaped leaves that point down toward the floor, others with deep, even scallops; acicular...

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2. I live in a country of old people

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pp. 6-8

I live in a country of old people. Our birthrate is the lowest in the world and it's not reasonable to expect that it will increase in the near future, given that young couples who are still at the reproductive age emigrate to more prosperous countries. This should come as no surprise, because we don't cultivate the land, nor do we set up factories, or build homes....

3. I have never been in Vermont

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pp. 9-

4. We have not gone to the moon

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pp. 10-

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5. For more than twenty-five years

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pp. 11-

For more than twenty-five years, my brother Luis has been looking at the sole of his shoe. It's a nice new sole, because before those twenty-five years, he had only walked one block. What he picked up on that journey--I mean the residue that remained stuck on the shoe--has been enough to...

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6. Sometimes my mother consoles me

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pp. 12-

Sometimes my mother consoles me over my slow birth. "Don't be ashamed or complain," she says, "and don't believe that what exists outside is very different. There are other reasons for pain, the same darkness, the same wailing. Besides, outside nobody protects you. On the other...

7. I spent many years caressing statues

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pp. 13-

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8. I always imagine

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pp. 14-

When I got tired, they were destroyed. From dreaming so much, someone had pulverized them. The last one I touched disintegrated in my fingers. I thought it was a sacrificed female astronaut. Things like that have been seen all through the ages. I had missed the age of prophecy and response. I had...

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9. She brought me passionate presents

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pp. 15-

There was one of her mother's teeth retrieved after death, a bit yellowish, it smelled of dried herb. One day she brought me a dead fern inside a small case with burnt ends. We cried a whole afternoon over the delirious separation of its filaments. She also gave me an old lens that belonged...

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10. She hands me the scarf

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pp. 16-

She hands me the scarf and smiles at me lovingly: she hopes that when I reach the corner a gust of wind will hang me in my scarf, or that I will decide to commit suicide with the needle with which she has sewn my shirt. I take the scarf and leave the smile: maybe it's true that it's cold...

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11. I contribute to the general racket

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pp. 17-18

I contribute to the general racket with a small noise. It's the noise of my ribs and organs that are growing disproportionately, possessed by the fever of growth, willing to take over the superficial epidermic tissue that encases me. I have consulted the doctor about this strange malady, but I've had no...

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12. She had been brought from Peru

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pp. 19-20

She had been brought from Peru on the train, a four-day trip. During the journey she saw grass, red sand, dust, dust, dust that trailed along the roads and stayed suspended in the air. Many Indians at the stations, quiet and gloomy. Then again, the sun and the land. Dry light, hunger,...

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13. I have a tiny apartment

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pp. 21-22

I have a tiny apartment from which I can hear all my neighbours. When I turn the key in the lock, I can hardly get in, because the space between the wall and the door is so small it doesn't allow me inside with the door open at the same time. If I'm standing up I can touch the ceiling with my hands,...

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14. She has given me happiness

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pp. 23-

She has given me happiness inside a tightly closed box, given it to me saying, "Be careful, don't lose it, don't get distracted, it's taken me a lot of effort to get it: the markets were closed, the stores didn't have any, and the few street vendors that used to exist have retired because their feet got...

15. Dialogue with the Writer

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pp. 24-25

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16. For many years I lived

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pp. 26-27

For many years I lived inside a bottle. As soon as I forced the doors of my mother's womb with some difficulty, she put me there to preserve me better. Every other day she would freshen the water in the jar so that I lived in perfectly hygienic conditions....

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17. When I was mature enough

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pp. 28-29

When I was mature enough to abandon the glass jar, my mother got into it. She had been tired of living for some time and envied me a little every time she saw me carefree, swimming around the glass. I was already grown up enough and she was old. "Son," I read in her eyes many times,...

18. Hell is bloody birds

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pp. 30-

19. "You are very beautiful"

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pp. 31-

20. I will till no more

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pp. 32-

21. In the ghetto of my womb

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pp. 33-

22. I dreamt that I was

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pp. 34-

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23. Desertion

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pp. 35-37

From a distance it looked like a statue, but up close you could see that it was a desperate woman. She was looking down from the cornice, and swaying in the air above, like the shadow of a palm tree, leaning a little against the side of the terrace roof, she seemed to be stuck to the wall and a bit twisted,...

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24. What is happening?

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pp. 38-40

"No, it's better for me to come," said the other old man, who was a little younger, but not by much. People knew he was a little less old because the wrinkles on his face were less pronounced than those of the older man's--his wrinkles looked like little slashes that penetrated the bone--and because he could breathe more easily and regularly, but...

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25. As I was walking along

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pp. 41-

I said to her, "Let me get by, I'm in a hurry," and the mistake answered me with sheets of paper and books in hand. The sheets I had forgotten. They were papers full of signs, papers from bars and movie theatres; I had doodled on them, scribbling engagements and memories, little...

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26. The Acrobats

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pp. 42-46

No more flowers in my room, Maria Teresa, awaiting your visit. In the photograph album, Maria Teresa is a flowing shadow, a liquid blot now dried, that has left behind a yellow flower, from the fixative, testimony forever, Maria Teresa, that your gaze is the warmest I can remember, the...

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27. Besieged

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pp. 47-55

When I returned home I found four enormous blue birds looking directly at me. Four enormous blue birds. It was nighttime, so the blue uniform of the bird closest to me got lost in the street's air which was also blue. I tried to hurry to move away from there as fast as I could, so they would't see me....

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28. The minister called me

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pp. 56-58

The minister called me and I rushed through the corridors. I had bought a pair of slightly used wings at a bazaar to use each time the minister rang me with two long buzzes followed by a short one. I couldn't buy new ones because my salary was barely enough to eat on, but at any rate, they...

29. "What are you doing?"

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pp. 59-

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30. Disobedience and the Bear Hunt

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pp. 60-68

I hesitated a long time before giving a title to this text. As the reader will understand when reading it, disobedience and bear hunting are two different things (which makes it impossible...

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31. The Statue

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pp. 69-72

Your husband came to question me and I stuttered out some disconnected explanations in reply. He asked me what your favourite colour was and I told him red; if indeed you liked music and I replied that you used to sing an aria at night ("There once was an old king, King Thulé,...

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32. I possessed her when I was eight

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pp. 73-

I possessed her when I was eight years old, while playing children's games. Since then, I haven't stopped doing it, regularly. If it rains, I possess her slowly, to blend the noise she makes with her legs drawn up against the sheets with the noise of the falling rain. If it's a mild day, I possess her...

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33. Mam's Farewell

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pp. 74-76

And now, at the hour of your death, mamá, tell me stories of incestuous love affairs, loves of that kind; at the hour of your death, mamá, remember me, with a small bouquet of flowers, a dead person is a dead person and nothing else; a body that dissolves little by little. Incestuous and sublime love affairs,...

34. I started to feel your absence

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pp. 77-80

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35. At the corner bar

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pp. 81-82

"Gad, another preacher," she said. "I've been a convert to several religions, already. What are you suggesting to me now?" she asked as she watched out of the corner of her eye Richard Burton, who, with an obscene, senile gaze, was chasing a little four-year old blonde girl as she ran...

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36. When the bishops rebelled

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pp. 83-

When the bishops rebelled, the field was left sown with fainted pawns: the rooks ran to take refuge in the tamarinds and a knight, utterly terrified, wandered along the road, blinded in both eyes and bleeding from the ears. The remaining pawns prepared an ambush in vain: they died next...

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37. A Great Family

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pp. 84-87

When the reinforcements arrived, we surrounded the block and installed the spotlights and the machine guns. Even though there were only two men inside the house, we called the armed forces for help: it's time they started moving. They collect their pay every month and do nothing....

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38. Such apparent senselessness

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pp. 88-

Such apparent senselessness did not at all impress them: dying for those who didn't know they were dying for them.

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39. I was enjoying an ice cream cone

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pp. 89-

Juan Carlos Onetti had a little dandruff and I a little cough, but just the same, in unison, we studied the marks the glasses had left on the table cloth and the three marks, in the shape of a duck, of the irregular steps of the cripple....

40. Selene I

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pp. 90-

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41. Selene II

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pp. 91-

Adjacent and distant, light giver, duenna of a sea of permanent calm, of a cold and grey sadness, of an inconsistent dust and doesn't drift away, everything in peaceful repose, neighbouring seas, fleeting promontories light-molten, sky-blue and selene, close, adjacent....

42. I have come by train

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pp. 92-93

43. Urgent Messages for Navigators

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pp. 94-95

44. The Social Contract

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pp. 96-101

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45. The Stampede

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pp. 102-107

He never got up again, not since the day the shots were heard and there was a run, not of the bulls, but of soldiers and civilians; the soldiers were armed to the teeth, for war, with arms brought from the United States, requested by the President for Life of the Ambassador who then attentively...

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46. The Hero

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pp. 108-112

It was an enormous horse, mounted by a national hero. It was customary for visitors and many tourists to stop and contemplate both horse and hero. The stateliness of the horse, his colossal size, the perfection of his muscles, his stance, his crest, everything about that magnificent beast gave cause for...

Other books by Cristina Peri Rossi

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pp. 113-114


E-ISBN-13: 9780889209497
Print-ISBN-13: 9780889203938
Print-ISBN-10: 0889203938

Page Count: 126
Publication Year: 2002