The Uprooted: Cristina Peri Rossi. Megan Berkobien, translator.

Often you see them, walking through the streets of those grand cities, men and women who float on air, suspended in time and space. Their feet lack roots; sometimes they lack feet altogether. From their heads the roots don’t grow, nor do smooth lianas tie their centers to some species of soil. They are like seaweed driven by the currents of the sea, and when they fix themselves to some surface, it is only by chance, lasting but a moment. At once they return to floating, and there’s a certain nostalgia in it.

Their rootlessness bestows upon them a particular air, imprecise; because of this, they are uncomfortable in any place. People don’t invite them to parties, to their houses—they appear suspect. It is clear that in appearance they perform the same acts as all human beings: they eat, sleep, walk until they die, though perhaps an attentive observer would discover that there is a slight and almost imperceptible difference in their way of eating, sleeping, walking, and dying. They eat McDonald’s hamburgers, PolloPokins, either in Berlin, Barcelona, or Montevideo. And worse yet: they order from a menu of outlandish things, composed of gazpacho, puchero, and English cream. They sleep by night, like all the world, but awaking in the darkness of a miserable hotel room they feel a moment of uncertainty: they don’t remember where they are, nor what day it is, nor the name of the city in which they live.

This absence of roots gives them a characteristic feature in their looks: a tonality, celestial and waterlike, elusive, as someone who instead of nourishing himself strongly by his roots–adhered to the past and the land–floats in a vague and imprecise space.

Although some, upon being born, possessed the knotty threads that without doubt turn to solid roots in time, for one reason or another they lost them–they were stolen or amputated–and this misfortune has changed them into a species of victims. Though in place of arousing the sympathy of others, they awaken hostility: one suspects that they are guilty of some dark fault; their exile (if there was such an event, for it could be treated as a lack of birth itself) makes them guilty.

Once they are lost, the roots are irretrievable. In vain, a wanderer will spend several hours hovering on a street corner, next to a tree, gazing sideways at those long appendages that unite the plant to the ground. The roots are not contagious, nor do they attach to foreign bodies. Others think that by remaining for a long while in the same city or country that perhaps they will be granted artificial roots, several plastic roots, for example, but no city is so generous.

However, optimists exist among the rootless. There are those who seek to see the good in things and whose lack of roots provides them with a great liberty of movement, avoiding uncomfortable dependencies and facilitating their displacement. In the middle of their speech, a strong wind blows and they disappear, swallowed by the air

Translated from the Spanish short story collection Cosmoagonías. Printed with permission of the author.

About the Translator: Megan Berkobien is currently a senior in the Comparative Literature department. She is an editor for the RC Review, as well as the founder and president of the Undergraduate Comparative Literature Association. When she isn’t tackling a translation project, she is most likely working with dusty books or pretending to write her novel. To view more of her work, visit her website.

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