Monday, April 30, 2012

Una fascinación con ladrones (A fascination with thieves)

Damaso and his wife, Ana, from the 1965 movie, En este pueblo no hay ladrones.
Thieves are sexy.

There is something extraordinarily romantic about their characters when it comes to literature, but I can't quite place it.  Because frankly, if someone tried to rob my house, I'd punch him.

I got thinking about thieves in literature after finishing a collection of short stories by Gabriel García Márquez, a Colombian author most famous for his novel A Hundred Years of Solitude, or in Spanish, Cien Años de Soledad.  Of all the stories, the one that most stuck with me was called "There are no Thieves in this Town" ("En este pueblo no hay ladrones"), which *SPOILER ALERT* begins when Damaso steals the billiard balls from the pool hall, and ends with their return and his capture, while wrongly accused of stealing two hundred pesos as well.  Even though he's not an especially sympathetic character, I found myself rooting for him and his wife, Ana.  And frankly, the final passage left me shaken:

     "What do you have there?" asked Roque.
     Damaso stepped back.  "Nothing," he said.  Roque reddened and began to tremble.  "What do you have there!" he shouted, stepping forward with the bar raised.  Damaso gave him the package.  Roque took it with his left hand, still on guard, and examined it with his fingers.  Only then did he understand.
     "It can't be," he said.
    He was so perplexed that he put the bar on the counter and seemed to forget Damaso while he was opening the package.  He contemplated the balls silently.
     "I came to put them back," said Damaso.
     "Of course," said Roque.
     Damaso felt limp.  The alcohol had left him completely, and there was only a gravelly sediment left on his tongue, and a confused feeling of loneliness.  "So that was the miracle," said Roque, wrapping up the package.  "I can't believe you could be so stupid."  When he raised his head, he had changed his expression.
     "And the two hundred pesos?"
     "There was nothing in the drawer," said Damaso.
      Roque looked at him thoughtfully, chewing emptily, and then smiled.  "There was nothing," he repeated several times.  "So there was nothing."  He grasped the bar again, saying:
     "Well, we're going to tell the Mayor this story right now."
    Damaso dried the sweat of his hands on his pants.
     "You knew there was nothing."
     Roque kept smiling.
     "There were two hundred pesos," he said.  "And now they're going to take them out of your hide, not so much for being a thief as for being a fool."

Rarely do short stories stick with me like that, and this one got me thinking.  Namely, as I've already said, about other literary thieves.  Some of my personal favorites include:

  • Jean Valjean -- Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo
  • Long John Silver -- Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • The Artful Dodger -- Oliver Twist, by Charles Dickens
  • Robin Hood - Various
Any others?

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