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‘The Roulette Player’

The Impedimeneta publishing house is already in the sixth edition of El Ruletista since in 2010 it decided to recover this semi-unpublished short story by Mircea Cârtârescu. The story was part of a larger volume entitled The Dream, and was published in 1989, although it did not pass the communist censorship and the Romanian author had to compromise with the mutilation of the book, pruning that completely suppressed that story and part of the others that were part of it. the play. We had to wait until 1993 to see the complete book published, this time with the title of Nostalgia. But the intrahistory of El Ruletista and the book of stories where it ended up inserted can be better explained by its translator, Marian Ochoa de Eribe, also author of the small preliminary study that opens the edition of Impedimenta.

I am more interested in delving into the causes that have contributed to the fact that this story has continued to be republished almost uninterruptedly for a decade. Beyond the loyalty of Cârtârescu’s readers and the helpful brevity of the little book, there is in The Ruler a magnetism that is very similar to that exerted by the unnamed protagonist of the story. The so-called Ruler, with whom the narrator claims to have had an irregular friendship since childhood, decides to overcome his economic hardship by participating in the ritual of Russian roulette, from which he always miraculously emerges unscathed. Such is the luck that accompanies the unwary, that there comes a time when he decides to add more bullets to the barrel of the revolver until it is completely loaded with six cartridges.

Cârtârescu describes, with a great command of the atmosphere, the sordidness of the cabals and their protocols, and denounces, albeit veiled, the idleness of the wealthy class, which enjoys insanely with the morbidity of that tragic-playful ceremony betting their money at the cost of the lives of ragged bums and other outcasts of society. But it is the roulette player in question who captures all our attention. When the winnings from the bets have managed to palliate his monetary emergencies and, therefore, make his participation in the macabre liturgy unnecessary, the protagonist continues risking his life, assuming more and more risks and turning the act into a show that aligns with everything. kind of sophisticated performances.

In reality, behind this sickly attitude lies the metaphysical radicality that the flirtation with death exacerbates until it dilutes the border between being and not being, in accordance with the oneiric tendency of the Romanian literature of the 1980s that incorporated the dream as a symbiont of the life to the point of being confused with it, a philosophical premise that, on the other hand, had already been cultivated, among others, by Calderón in our golden theater. During the story, metaliterary reflections are interspersed by the narrator, a successful old writer, dissatisfied with his literary balance and who seems to encrypt his immortality in the narration of this final story, just as the protagonist also defies the logic of life, enlarging the legend of his quest to achieve immortality even in death.

The bias of dream literature reaches its climax here when the narrator assumes his condition as a fictional entity within the story (in the manner of Unamuno in Niebla), a condition in which he trusts his eternity, since his resurrection will take place every time he draw the reader closer to your story and breathe life back into it. In such a way that the legendary immortality of the roulette player and his success in the collective memory of the readers is linked to the narrator’s own immortality: a song to posterity thanks to Literature. The last bullet in the cartridge.

To Ana Robles, who emptied the barrel of the revolver when I was a roulette player and life was Russian roulette.

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