Coses de la gent obsessionada amb les paraules. Fa un temps vam traduir a l’anglès, pel nostre gust personal i per regalar-li a l’autor i amic Jesús Tibau, el divertit conte Paper de Plata, inclòs en la seva col·lecció de relats curts El Vertigen del Trapezista. Per l’època de l’any en que estem, pot ser interessant …
They’re not biting today. It doesn’t matter; fishermen can be as patient as it takes. Despite the bluff and bluster of some, most of them afford less importance to the size and amount of fish caught than to the pleasant time they spend sitting peacefully here, in the company of their thoughts and getting to know themselves a little better than they did yesterday. People say that you have to know something or somebody really well before you can love them; if these fishermen invested just half the time in thinking about themselves as they do day-dreaming, they would truly come to love themselves. In this I have no doubt, being a firm believer in mankind’s common sense, usually.
But today they are not biting. It’s a shame as the water is crystal-clear, inviting you to jump in. “Better not: it’s December and, although it’s fine today, you’d only end up with a cold you won’t shake off all winter. When you can’t stop sneezing, you’ll remember the fool you were that day.” A girl is crossing the bridge, a pretty girl, with her sleeves rolled up, carrying a basket of washing on her head. She distracts him from his fishing. For a fleeting moment he thinks, maybe, she just might turn and offer him a smile, but it’s not to be: perhaps she’s looking the other way on purpose, causing more excitement as she passes by.
No, no luck today, they are just not biting at all. This morning, when fate allotted him this place, he’d actually thought, “Mmm, looks like a good spot.” He can’t complain really, though; a tree offers him shade and, if he wasn’t so busy staring at the river, he’d be able to see mountains in the distance, lightly-dusted with snow, like a covering of flour. But they’re not biting today; and that’s the most important feature for a fisherman to classify a landscape as beautiful.
They’re not biting. Many would have given up hours ago, not seeing this eternal calm as an opportunity for rest, but rather observing it with a certain nervousness. That is true - this peace and quiet could be a source of anxiety for sad souls but this particular fisherman isn’t the least bit worried as he stares at the line hanging down from his rod, so fine and invisible that, for a moment, it seems like it is no longer there. The wind isn’t blowing either and the sails of an old windmill, unruffled beside the path, do not move at all.
The fish are not biting. But the fisherman is not flustered; he knows you can get all kinds of days, moody and whimsy ones, and that you should not get cross because, after this day, there will be another one, and then another and ... just like that flock of sheep over there, following the shepherd. That is, of course, if you can call that a flock – four sheep and a dog with no bark. The shepherd is carrying a lamb around his neck with its legs roped up. He doesn’t seem to be in much of a rush either. Shepherds, like fishermen, understand how to appreciate the constant passing of time. Beyond him, four or five more, sitting around a fire. They must be preparing lunch ... or supper, as we have lost all notion of time by now.
They are not biting, and they won’t bite. At the end of the path, just by the bridge, an auspicious group. Three camels, serious, concentrating on the task at hand, carrying three kings from the Orient. We know they are from the Orient by the robes they wear, the path they take, and because it’s what we would expect to see at this time of year. The first one, with a white beard, his outstretched arm points at the sky. Now the fisherman looks that way too, and sees a star crossing the sky, its long tail painted with glitter. It’s dark, a strange darkness, and the hours that have passed by have done so leaving nothing behind as they go. The girl with the basket still has not reached the other side of the bridge, nor have the shepherd and his sheep, nor the windmill sails. Nothing moves, nothing at all, only from time to time when a child’s hand picks up the three kings, one by one, and moves them slowly towards a cave with an angel above it; the child is impatiently looking forward to the kings arriving for once and for all.
The fish don’t bite because the river is no more than a thin slightly-wrinkled layer of aluminium foil. “Better than nothing”, thinks the fisherman to himself, because the nativity scene is a pretend one and, like Christmas itself, once the holidays are over, the figures will be wrapped in tissue paper and put away once more.
Translated by Brian Cutts / Silvia Panisello, 2008.