Tuesday, May 5, 2020

the last book I ever read (Optic Nerve by María Gainza, excerpt two)

from Optic Nerve by María Gainza (Translated by Thomas Bunstead):

Later in the day, the Brazilian admiral, sensing rain, will advise against the attack. The Paraguayans have dug in: the trench is just over a mile long and lined with tree trunks, branches bristling forward like metal tines. The horn sounds and the Allies begin their advance, Cándido López running full tilt, eyes dead ahead, convinced that some invisible mantle is protecting him, until a grenade blows off his right hand—the one holding his saber aloft. He picks the weapon out of the tufty grass with his left and goes on, blood gushing from him; soon he begins to shake all over and, feeling nauseated, collapses in a crater.

Lying in the mud, he watches as a ladybug saunters along a blade of grass near to his face. A soldier, face bathed in blood, drops to the ground a few feet away. On the verge of losing consciousness, Cándido López drags himself to the camp at Curuzú. A medic does what he can to halt the gangrene, before deciding to cut off the hand. “Nothing for it.” Weeks later, another amputation, this time above the elbow. The guardias of San Nicolás had set out with eight hundred volunteer soldiers, and eighty-three came back alive, including the One-Armed Man of Curupaytí. Cándido López is no good to the army anymore. The war goes on without him.

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