Autors i Autores

Jesús Moncada

The Towpath.

English [Fragment of The Towpath]

"They're mining the bridge," muttered Aleix, looking at the river from the gallery of the convent. "The Fascist must be close."

Almost immediately, above the clamour of the streets, they heard the voices of the members of the municipal committee advising the inhabitants to evacute the town. From that point on, Malena's memory was a confused muddle: feverishly stuffing clothes, jewels and money into a suitcase with Anna's help, the scrum of people pushing their goods ans chattels along in carts, aggravated by the presence of retreating military vehicles. She remembered seeing the party leaders load filing cabinets full of documents into a lorry from the Segre mine outside the committee's headquarters, and long lines of people walking off down the Ebro. The quayside was thronged with crowds hoping to be taken on board the few available barges; the captains were attempting to establish order in the midst of chaos. Ther wasn't room for everyone; there weren't enough boats and so they could only take old people, invalids, women and children. One by one the ships sailed off down the Ebro, the water almost up to their gunwales, overloaded with terrified folk; those who didn't fit had to escape by the Lleida road or cross the Segre by the pontoon at the orther end of the town.

Aleix pushed a way trough the groups of militiamen down to he Town Square Wharf. Nelson made room for her and Anna on his boat, the last one to get out. Night was closing in over the valley, shells has started to explode and bullets were whistling past. On the bridge, the last stragglers among the soldiers were still silhouetted against the evening sky. She looked despairingly at Aleix, who stood on the wharf and watched her as the barge drew away.

"Go to Barcelona, to Aunt Assumpta's," he shouted. "I'll come for you there."

Someone next to her burst into tears but an almigthty clatter like a drum-roll drowned them out: the groom at Senyora Sallere's mines had opened the stable doors when he left, and the teams of horses were galloping along the wall by the Ebro, scared out of their wits by the mayhem and the thunderous explosions which were coming nearer and nearer.

The sailing barge skimmed over the black waters and Aleix soon faded into the darkness. As they rounded the confluence of the Ebro and the Segre, a wall of flames lit up the blackness and turned the valley blood-red, like a brief false dawn. They were blowing up the bridge. A moment, later, the wave caused by the explosion nearly swamped the barge. But Malena didn't hear the terrified cries of the fugitives packed on to the ship or Nelson's curse. In the midst of the chaos she had a dreadful presentiment: she would never see Aleix again."

(The Towpath. Londres: Harvill, 1994, p. 131-132)

Translated from the Catalan by Judith Willis ©