Last December I published a post about Hernán Casciari and Orsai. Today I wanted to share with you a translation I did of one of Casciari’s most popular short-stories: Finlandia (Finland). The story was first published in his blog in 2005 and then, in 2011, it was republished in the magazine Orsai (Orsai 02) with drawings by Javier Olivares. Below, you can see a sample of one of the drawings that illustrates Finlandia.

The story needs no further introduction, so I hope you enjoy this version as much as I enjoyed translating it! And if you have any suggestions or comments about the translation, feel free to make them in the Reply section.finland


On December 14th 1995 I killed my sister’s eldest daughter while reversing my car. During the blunt impact, my family’s howling and the actual realization that I had run into a trunk, I lived the most intense ten seconds of my life. For those ten seconds, I hung onto time and I realized that any possible future would be an endless hell.

I was living in Buenos Aires and I had travelled to Mercedes to celebrate my grandmother’s eightieth birthday (that’s why I remember the exact date because she will be ninety in a few days; because in a few days it will be the tenth-year anniversary of something, not good or bad, that has defined my life unlike any other event).

We celebrated my grandmother’s birthday with a barbecue in our country house; we were having a nice conversation after the meal. At three o’clock I borrowed the car from Roberto to go to the newspaper and hand in an interview. I got into the car, I looked at the rear mirror to check there were no children playing around and I reversed the car to align it with the gate and gain access to the street. It was then that I felt the impact, a sharp blow against the car’s rear, and the world stopped forever.

Forty meters from me, at the table where everyone is talking, my sister, terrified, stands up and screams her daughter’s name. My mother, or perhaps my grandmother, or somebody also screams:

—He ran her over!

At that moment, I realized that my life, as I knew it, had come to an end. My life was no longer my life. I realized it immediately. I realized that my three-year-old niece was behind the car; I realized that because of her height I couldn’t have seen her through the mirror before reversing; I realized, finally, that I had just killed her.

Ten seconds is the time my family takes to run from the table to my car. I see them stand up, their faces distorted. I see an endless glass of wine falling to the floor. I see them all coming straight towards me. I don’t do anything; I don’t get out of the car; I don’t look at anybody: my eyes can’t be entertained with the real world because I have begun to travel in time, a very long and awful trip that would take ten seconds in reality but that, internally, it would take a viscous eternity.

At that moment (I don’t know why I’m so certain) I have no doubts about what I’ve just done. I don’t think about the possibility of having run into a trunk. I don’t even think that my niece is taking a nap inside the house. I see everything so clearly, so truly, that the only thing left to do is to think of me for the last time before letting myself be killed.

«I wish Negro would kill me» —I think—, «I hope he gets so mad, so enraged that he beats me up like an unmerciful father until I’m dead. I hope that he doesn’t give me the option of having to kill myself, tonight, because I’m a coward and I couldn’t do it; because I would do the most despicable act: I would go to Finland”. I spend the last ten seconds, the last peaceful seconds I will spend in my entire life, thinking about the person I will no longer be.

I was almost twenty-five years old. I was writing a very long and pleasant novel. I lived in a beautiful house in Villa Urquiza, with a Ping-Pong table in the terrace. I had my whole life ahead of me. I worked in a magazine that paid well. I had an intense social life. I was happy. And then, I kill my three-year-old goddaughter and all the lights go off in all the rooms in all the houses where I could have lived happily ever after. I reflect about all of this dispassionately because I no longer own a body to tremble.

During those ten seconds, when real time has literally ceased, when my brain works for hours to fit into a ten-second box, I see clearly that I have only two options –if my brother-in-law doesn’t do me the favour of killing me—running away (immediately, bribe somebody and flee the country) or killing myself. As things stand, my biggest regrets are not to be able to write or laugh ever again.

For a long time, years, I was surprised at how coldly I faced disaster in those ten seconds when I thought that I had killed my niece. It wasn’t exactly coldness, but something worse: a split soul, an inhumane objectivity. It bothered me that I wouldn’t be able to write anymore, that in my suicide or escape –I hadn’t decided which one yet—I would have to give up one option: pleasure.

I could go to Finland, yes, to any cold and remote country. I wouldn’t be able to phone my family and friends anymore. I could become a butcher in a supermarket in Hämeenlina, but I wouldn’t be able to write, love a woman or fish anymore. I would be ashamed of happiness. I would be ashamed of forgetting, of distractions. An involuntary guilt would always be there and when I had a false sense of calm or I forgot for a moment what had happened, guilt would return to prolong my suffering. Life had ended. I had to disappear.

And what if I disappeared? What if my family could no longer see the killer? What kind of peace was I offering them? My family, the ones that were now running slowly from the table to my car to kill me or to see a child’s corpse, could think that I was in exile, hurt and afraid, fearful and mean, or agoraphobic. They could suspect that I was mad, like those people that wonder aimlessly after an earthquake; numb, sick, a bum. They could even forgive me because they would see me incapable of happiness, dejected. They would kill those that cursed me saying that they had seen me laughing in a Finnish town, drinking in a brothel, writing a story, making money, seducing a woman, petting a cat, fishing a boga or giving out money to a Moroccan in the subway. They wouldn’t believe that someone (not I in particular but someone) could be capable of such weakness, of such sad forgetfulness, of killing and not crying, of escaping and forgetting a summer’s afternoon when a child, your own blood, lied dead under a car tyre.

Ten endless seconds until someone sees the trunk and everyone forgets the situation.

Nobody, none of the people that were having lunch that day ten years ago in Mercedes, remembers this story now. Nobody has had nightmares; only I have woken up in a sweat for years, when those ten seconds come back at night without the happy ending. For them it is only a dent in my bumper at the end of spring.

Nothing bad happened that afternoon, and nothing bad happened, before or afterwards, in my life. Ten years have passed and since then everything has been peaceful; an oasis where nothing inevitable has interfered in my life. Why then, these days, do I feel like I have turned ten and not thirty-five? Why do I give more importance to this date when I didn’t kill anybody than to that previous one when I was born screaming, crazy with life? Why some nights do I wake up and I’m short of breath and I feel the real cold of a Finnish cabin? And why do I find the odds and ends of anguish and exile, and I suffocate because I didn’t have the guts to kill myself?

It is the frailty of peace that provokes shivers and uncertainty. It is the dreadful speed of misfortune that stalks like an eagle at night and waits hidden to steal everything and leave us grasping the steering wheel and thinking that the only option is to die alone in Finland, with dried eyes from not weeping.

Luckily, there is usually a trunk and we live in peace. But we all know, beneath laughter, love and sex, and the nights spent with friends, books and records, that there isn’t always a trunk. Sometimes there is Finland.

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Orsai: The true age of countries

IMG_0668I’ve been following Hernán Casciari’s blog, Orsai, on and off for almost 10 years. Hernán is an Argentinian writer and journalist that lives in Barcelona, well, really Sant Celoni. He created an award-winning blog novel (or is it a novel blog?) that even got staged in Buenos Aires. In 2010, he kissed goodbye to all the newspapers and publishing houses he was working for and created his own «publishing house» by a sort of crowd-funding method (you can watch him explaining this himself in a TED talk here, with English subtitles).

But, in this post, I don’t want to discuss why I follow Hernán’s blog, why I find what he does interesting and fun, or to do an analysis, description or critique of his work. I want to share with my English-speaking friends a translation into English of the first post I read in his blog, «La verdadera edad de los países», and the one that converted me to casciarism.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did, and if you have corrections feel free to share them so we can improve the translation.

The true age of countries

By Hernán Casciari

A clever reader commented on my article España, decí alpiste [Spain, you snooze you lose], that Argentina is not better or worse than Spain, only younger. I liked that theory so I made up a game to discover the age of countries based on the dog system. We were told when we were children that to know a dog’s real age we only had to multiply its biological age times 7. Then, with countries, I thought, we only had to divide its age by 14 to find out the human age equivalent.

Confusing? Not to worry, in this article I give some revealing examples.

Argentina was born in 1816. It is one hundred and eighty-nine years old. If we divide this by 14, Argentina is thirteen years and four months old. In other words, Argentina is at an awkward age: a forgetful, rebellious wanker that answers without thinking and has balls. That’s why it is renowned for having one of the best football teams in the world.

Almost all the countries in Latin America have the same age, and as it happens often in these cases, they get into gangs. The Mercosur gang is formed by four adolescents that have a rock band. They rehearse in a garage making a lot of noise but having never released an album. Venezuela, with her incipient breasts, is about to join the band to do vocals when in fact, she wants to have sex with Brazil, a guy of fourteen with a big cock. Oh, dear, so young. One day they’ll grow up.

Mexico is also a teenager but with Indian heritage. That’s the reason why he seldom smiles and only smokes peyote, and not a harmless joint like the rest of his pals. He hangs out with the United States, a seventeen-year-old retarded boy who spends his time killing hungry six-year-olds from other continents.

On the other side of things, there is ancient China, for example: if we divide its 1200 years by 14, we have and old woman of around eighty-five, conservative, that smells of cat pee and spends her days eating rice because she is too poor to buy false teeth. She divorced Japan ages ago but has an eight-year-old grandson, Taiwan, who renders her life impossible. Japan, a cantankerous old man who can still have a hard-on, is living with the Philippines, a young twat always willing to do any aberration for money.

Then there are those countries that have just come of age and they go round driving their fathers’ BMWs. Take for example, Australia and Canada. They are the typical countries that grow up protected by daddy England and mummy France, with a very posh and strict education, and now they behave like mad. Australia is an eighteen-year-old chick that does topless and has sex with South Africa; Canada is an emancipated gay man who will soon adopt little Greenland and form one of those alternative families that are so in vogue.

France is a separated thirty-six-year-old woman. She will fuck anything that moves but she is very much respected professionally. Germany, a rich lorry driver married to Austria, is her occasional lover. Although, Austria knows she is being cheated on she doesn’t care. France has a six-year-old son, Monaco, on his way to becoming gay or a dancer, or both.

Italy has been a widow for a long time. She spends her time minding San Marino and the Vatican, two catholic twins identical to the Flanders. Italy was married for the second time to Germany (a short-lived marriage: they had Switzerland) but now she couldn’t care less about men. Italy would like to be like Belgium, a lawyer, independent, that wears trousers and discusses politics with men as an equal. (Also sometimes Belgium has wild fantasies about cooking spaghetti).

Spain is the most beautiful woman in Europe (maybe France could compete, but loses on spontaneity, too much perfume). Spain walks around topless a lot and she is invariably drunk. Usually, she has sex with England but then she reports abuse. Spain has children everywhere (almost all of them are thirteen years old) living far away from home. She loves them dearly but she is annoyed when her children, sometimes hungry, spend time with her and open the fridge.

The other one that has children scattered everywhere is England. Great Britain sails at night, screws young women, and nine months later an island appears somewhere in the world. But England doesn’t wash his hands: the islands might live with their mothers, but England supports them. Scotland and Ireland, England’s brothers that live upstairs, are always drunk and they can hardly play football. They only bring shame to the family.

Sweden and Norway are two thirty-nine-year-old (almost forty) lesbians in great shape for their age but that wouldn’t give a toss about anybody. They have sex and work: with a degree in something or other. Sometimes they do a threesome with Holland (when in need of dope), and sometimes they flirt with Finland, a thirty-year-old guy, a bit of an androgen that lives in an attic without furniture and spends hours talking with Korea on the mobile.

Korea (the one in the South) constantly looks after her mad sister. They are twins, but the one in the North drank amniotic fluid at birth and is disabled. She spent her childhood playing with guns and now, living by herself, she can be unpredictable. United States, the seventeen-year-old retarded, keeps an eye on her, not because he is afraid but because he wants her guns.

Israel is a sixty-two-year-old intellectual with a shitty life. Many years ago, the lorry driver, Germany (that used to drive around roads while Austria was sucking him off) didn’t see Israel crossing and ran over him. From that day on, Israel became enraged and now, instead of reading books, he spends his time throwing stones at Palestine, a girl washing clothes in the house next door.

Iran and Iraq were sixteen-year-old cousins that stole motorbikes and sold their parts until one day they stole a replacement part from the United States and the business went bust. They are sitting around with their fingers up their asses.

The world was fine as it was. One day, however, Russia started living (out-of-wedlock) with Perestroika and they had a dozen and a half children. All strange, some morons, others just schizoids.

One week ago, and due to a mess that involved gunshots and dead citizens, we, the earnest people in the world, discover that there is a country called Kabardino-Balkaria. A country with a flag, president, national anthem, flora, fauna and even inhabitants!

To be honest, I’m a bit afraid that young countries spring out like that, so suddenly. We find out about their existence inadvertently and we are forced to pretend we know, not to look ignorant. I wonder why new countries are born if the ones already there aren’t behaving properly at all.