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  • The Little Hunchback
  • Roberto Arlt (bio)
    Translated by Sergio Waisman (bio)

The various, exaggerated rumors that have been spread about the behavior I observed in the company of the little hunchback Rigoletto, at Mrs. X’s house, have served to distance many people from my side.

Still, my peculiarities wouldn’t have led to any major misadventures, were it not for the fact that I refined them by strangling Rigoletto.

Wringing the little hunchback’s neck has been more disastrous and reckless to my interests than if I’d made an attempt on the life of a charitable member of society.

The police, the judges, and the newspapers have been set upon me. Even now I still ask myself if Rigoletto (considering the rigors of justice) might not have actually been called to be a great leader, a genius, a humanitarian. How else is one to explain all the cruelties of the law that have been let loose to avenge the deceased — when, to make the well-known louse pay for his insolence, a brigade of blue bloods kicking him in the derriere would have barely sufficed.

I’m not unaware that there are worse things on our planet, but this doesn’t help me when I look with anguish at the leprous walls of the cell where I’m housed, awaiting an even worse fate.

But it was written that from a deformed creature so many difficulties must fall upon me.

I recall (and this by way of information for those aficionados of theosophy and metaphysics among you) that ever since I was of a tender age, I was attracted to the deformed. I hated and was drawn to them at the same time, just as I detest and am drawn by the open depths under the balcony of a ninth floor, the railing of which I have approached on more than one occasion, my heart quivering with caution and delightful dread. And just as, with my eyes on the emptiness, I can’t keep from the terror of picturing myself flying off the edge, my stomach knotted in the asphyxia of the fall — likewise, when in the presence of a deformed creature, I can’t escape the nauseating image of myself hunched over, grotesque, appalling, abandoned by everyone, living in a doghouse, chased by packs of vicious children who want to stick needles in my hump… [End Page 663]

It’s terrible. Even without taking into account that the deformed are perverse, foul, wicked beings…So, having strangled Rigoletto, I believe I can now declare that I’ve done society an immense favor, for I’ve freed sensitive hearts (such as mine) from a terrifying, repugnant sight. Without adding that the little hunchback was a cruel man. So cruel that every day I had to tell him:

“Listen, Rigoletto, don’t be so perverse. There’s nothing worse than seeing you whip that innocent sow. What has that hog done to you? Nothing. It’s true, isn’t it, that it hasn’t done anything to you?”

“Why do you care?”

“It hasn’t done anything to you, and still you insist, stubborn and cruel, you vent your rage on that poor beast…”

“If I become truly bothered, I’ll douse the pig with gasoline and light it on fire.”

After uttering these words, the little hunchback would crack his whip on the animal’s hairy back, gnashing his teeth like a devil on stage. And I’d tell him:

“I’m going to wring your neck, Rigoletto. You’d better heed my fatherly warnings, Rigoletto. For your own sake…”

I’d have been better served preaching in the desert. He adored going against my orders, at all times displaying his sardonic, fierce temperament. It was useless to assure him that I’d thrash his hide or strike him hard enough to knock his hump out his chest. He remained loyal to his impure behavior.

Returning to my current situation, I’d say that if there’s something I regret, it’s having been naïve enough to discuss these minor details with the journalists.

I thought they’d know how to interpret my comments, but here...


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pp. 663-677
Launched on MUSE
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