by Liliana Heker
Now that it's safe to avoid jinxing my adopted home team from achieving their best World Cup finish in the last 25 years (¡Vamos Argentina! ¡Vamos Carajo!), I thought I'd share a futból/soccer/football piece or two during the second half of Spanish Lit Month to help chase away the World Cup hangovers that all but the Deutschland fans and/or the Messi haters must be feeling at this point in time. First up: Liliana Heker's "La música de los domingos" ["The Sunday Music"], a very satisfying short story barely seven pages in length which manages to do a great job of simultaneously paying tribute to and poking fun at the rabidity which "the beautiful game" inspires in its fans all while touching on the ways fútbol fandom can unite and divide families. As fate would have it, the #10 of this story is the cranky unnamed grandfather of the narrator who's only referred to as "el viejo" ["the old man"] throughout: a diehard fan of Boca who insists on gathering his entire family around him every Sunday to watch various matches from the early afternoon until after midnight and whose favorite pastime, aside from the sport itself, is looking out into the street and lamenting, "Lástima la música" ["What a shame about the music"]. One day, Uncle Antonito, a River Plate supporter who becomes fed up after enduring one too many mocking serenades from his Boca Juniors fanatic of a relative, asks the viejo what music could he possibly be complaining about since the only music to be heard in the house is his; the old man, interrupting, authoritatively and dismissively but somewhat enigmatically replies: "No hablo de la música que se escucha, Antonito; hablo de la que falta" ["I'm not talking about the music that can be heard, Antonito; I'm talking about the music that's missing"] (114). The narrator, self-described as "una mujer casadera" ["a woman of a marriageable age"] who would prefer not to waste her weekends "vociferando los goles como una desgraciada" ["screaming at goals like a miserable wretch"] just to keep her crochety old grandfather company (114-115), says that she would have been more than willing to leave things at that. However, her twin cousins, not so easily defeated, pester the grandfather until he finally explains to them what he means by "the music that's missing." The answer: "la música de los domingos" or "the Sunday music" (115). In the remainder of the story, Heker displays a light touch and a warm, sentimental streak in the manner in which her narrator seems to gradually become aware of how her grandfather's passion for futból is tinged with nostalgia for the Buenos Aires of days gone by. "Parece que poco a poco fueron entendiendo qué quería decir el viejo con 'música de los domingos'" ["It seems that, little by little, the twins were beginning to understand what the old man meant by 'Sunday music'"], she writes. "Algo que en otros tiempos había estado en todas partes, dijo, y que se podía escuchar desde que uno se levantaba. Como una comunión o una sinfonía, parece que dijo" ["Something that in former times was everywhere, he said, and that could be heard from the moment one woke up. It was like a communion or a symphony, it seems he said"] (115). When the twins decide to give their grandfather the gift of what he refers to as "Sunday music" for his birthday (it falls, appropriately enough on a Sunday), he gets dragged to their quasi-tenement house near Paternal, in a foul mood promptly insults the barrio, and then gets rejuvenated when treated to an unexpected, staged show of "Sunday music" in which the whole neighborhood seems to be in on the joke: radios blare different football matches from behind apartment windows, two or three boys in a doorway sing the grandfather's favorite football chants, little kids behind a wall yell as they star in their own matches with each other: "decían pasámela a mí, decían dale, morfón" ["they were saying pass it to me; they were saying come on, ballhog"] (117). Although it'd make little sense for me to belabor this summary any further given the fact that I don't think "La música de los domingos" is even available in English, suffice it to say that Heker's attention to detail--and in particular to the spoken language of her characters--is such that the description of the voices on the radio ("Cabezazo de Gorosito...recibe Moreno con el pecho, la duerme con la zurda, gira y..." ["What a header from Gorosito...Moreno stops the ball with his chest, controls it with his left foot and..."]) and the reactions of the "fans" on the street ("¡Goool!, gritaron los muchachos del portón" ["'Goalll!,' shouted the kids in the doorway"]) is handled in such a way that it makes it easy to picture the grandfather's astonishment as he's confronted with the rousing, Argentinean fan chants of "Oléee, olé-olé-olá" and "esta barra quilombera no te deja de alentar" coming from the hallways, the patios and the terraces which have seemingly transformed themselves, fútbol fairy tale like, into the "tribunas" or "stands" of his memory or imagination (118-119). A lovely story winningly told.
"La música de los domingos" appears on pp. 111-119 of the Roberto Fontanarrosa-edited Cuentos de Fútbol Argentino [Argentinean Football Stories] (Buenos Aires: Alfaguara, 1997).
Other short stories in the collection:
Adolfo Bioy Casares/Jorge Luis Borges, "Esse est percipi"
Marcelo Cohen, "Fantasía española"
Humberto Costantini, "Insai izquierdo"
Alejandro Dolina, "Apuntes del fútbol en Flores"
José Pablo Feinmann, "Dieguito"
Inés Fernández Moreno, "Milagro en Parque Chas"
Roberto Fontanarrosa, "Escenas de la vida deportiva"
Rodrigo Fresán, "Final"
Elvio E. Gandolfo, "El visitante"
Héctor Libertella, "La cifra redonda"
Diego Lucero, "Hoy comienza el campeonato y habrá fiesta para rato"
Marcos Mayer, "Ver o jugar"
Pacho O'Donnell, "Falucho"
Guillermo Saccomanno, "Tránsito"
Juan Sasturain, "Campitos"
Osvaldo Soriano, "Gallardo Pérez, referí"
Luisa Valenzuela, "El mundo es de los inocentes"
Diego Alejandro Majluff has posted an audio version of Heker's story at his blog Escribiendo con lápiz, which I strongly recommend for those able to follow along in Spanish.