Tlactocatzine del jardín de Flandes: ¿cómo se dice creepy en español?

Ghosts in the Garden

Ghosts in the Garden (Photo credit: viking_79)

Me encanta una buena historia sobrenatural. Los cuentos de terror, de lo fantástico y de lo sobrenatural– de fantasmas, brujas, personas que viajan en el tiempo, maldiciones, leyendas urbanas y más– atraen tanto a niños como a adultos, en la época de Halloween y en todo el resto del año.  Los cuentos que a mí me gustaban de niña contenían ciertos elementos, como fantasmas, ancianos extraños, casas viejas donde las cosas no son lo que parecen, que han sido repetidos en la cultura pop desde The Twilight Zone hasta Are You Afraid of the Dark? (¿Le temes a la oscuridad?) y La TelarañaTlactocatzine, del jardín de Flandes, un cuento del escritor mexicano Carlos Fuentes, tiene estos elementos sobrenaturales comunes, pero en manos de Fuentes no son clichés.  La historia se lee como algo nuevo.

Today is Spanish Friday, so this post is bilingual. Scroll down for the English translation.

Today is Spanish Friday, so this post is bilingual. Scroll down for the English translation.

Se trata de un joven protagonista que se muda a una vieja casona de la Ciudad de México, y narra la historia en una serie de entradas en su diario.  Un tal Licenciado Brambila ha contratado al joven para vivir en la casa, cuidarla, y prepararla para los invitados extranjeros que el dueño eventualmente quiere hospedar allí.  La casa, elegida por su “historia, folklore, (y) elegancia reunidos,” se remonta a los tiempos del Emperador Maximiliano y su esposa Carlota, y parece señorial y bonita aunque sea antigua y un poco fría.  Pero algo señala que no es una casa normal… y pronto el joven protagonista se encuentra enredado en los recuerdos que guarda entre sus muros, y en la misteriosa atmósfera del jardín del patio interior.  El tiempo físico del cuento solo toma seis días, pero en el jardín el concepto del tiempo cambia, toma forma circular.  El jardín es un espacio cerrado, pero le conecta a otro mundo, y tal vez otra época.

Tlactocatzine del título significa “señor querido,” y es una referencia a un verso que dijeron los indígenas al Emperador Maximiliano a su llegada al país.  Este cuento demuestra el interés que Fuentes tenía en la historia mexicana y sus efectos que permanecen hoy día.  El lector necesita saber un poco- aunque solo un poquito- de la historia mexicana para entender bien el cuento.  El lenguaje, también, es culto, elegante, y sensorial, con frases y referencias que mandarán al lector al su diccionario. Sin embargo, es un cuento de estructura narrativa-descriptiva, un típico cuento corto de pocos personajes y poco descriptivo- ¡pero cada palabra cuenta!  Así que cada palabra buscada en el diccionario sirve para iluminar y entender bien la historia.  El final es cerrado y sorprendente, y vale la pena, aun si cuesta tiempo llegar allí.

Este cuento fue publicado en 1954.  Ocho años después, Fuentes publicaría su famosa novela Aura, una historia sobrenatural muy influyente en sus tiempos. Todavía se ve y se escucha ecos de Aura en historias de terror actuales, como la serie de televisión American Horror Story. Tlactocatzine es un precursor a Aura y tiene muchos de los mismos temas.  Es un buen ejemplo de la literatura fantástica latina del siglo XX, y es una divertida historia de miedo para leer en una noche oscura y tormentosa, o en una tarde fresca de otoño cuando se acercan Halloween y Día de los Muertos.

Review: Tlactocatzine, del jardín de Flandes, cuento de Carlos Fuentes, de Los dias enmascarados (1954).
Lee el cuento en línea en Google Books aquí.
Practica el vocabulario del cuento en español en inglés aquí.
Compra la antología de cuentos Los dias enmascarados aquí.

I love a good scary story.  Horror stories, tales of the fantastical or supernatural– ghosts, witches, time travelers, curses, urban legends and more– enchant both children and adults, at Halloween time as well as all the rest of the year.  When I was a child, the scary stories  that I liked had certain elements, like ghosts, creepy old people, ancient houses where things are not what they seem, that have been repeated in pop culture from The Twilight Zone to Are You Afraid of the Dark? (¿Le temes a lo oscuridad? in Spanish), and the Mexican TV show La Telaraña (the Spiderweb).  Tlactocatzine, del jardín de Flandes, a story by Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes, has these common supernatural elements, but coming from Fuentes’ pen they aren’t clichés.  The story reads like something new.
From inside the Old Church, Thundridge

What’s going on inside that old house? (Photo credit: TempusVolat)

The tale centers around a young protagonist who moves to an old mansion in Mexico City, and narrates the story through a series of diary entries.  A man named Licenciado Brambila has contracted the young man to live in the house as a sort of caretaker, to make it feel more homelike in preparation for foreign houseguests whom the owner eventually wants to invite to stay there.  The house, chosen for its air of “history, folklore, and elegance combined,” dates back to the times of Emperor Maximiliano and his wife Carlota, and it looks stately and beautiful although it may be ancient and a little cold. But something seems to hint that this house isn’t exactly normal… and soon the young protagonist finds himself entangled in the memories within its walls, and especially the mysterious atmosphere of the garden in the inside patio.  In real time the story takes place over only six days, but inside the garden the concept of time changes, begins to collapse on itself.  The garden is an enclosed space, but it connects to another world and perhaps another time.

Promotional poster of American Horror Story.

The influence of Fuentes’ works can still be felt in projects like American Horror Story. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The word Tlactocatzine in the title means “beloved lord,” and it refers to a verse with which the indigenous Mexicans greeted Emperor Maximilian upon his arrival in Mexico.  This story is an example of Fuentes’ interest in Mexican history and the ways in which it continues to impact modern life.  The reader does need to know a little- but just a little- about Mexican history in order to understand the plot.  The language, as well, is cultured and elegant, full of sensory references, with phrases and illusions that will send the reader to the dictionary.  However, it’s still your typical narrative-descriptive short story, with few characters and limited description- but every word counts!  So every word encountered in the dictionary serves to illuminate  and illustrate.  The ending is final and suprising, and even if it takes an effort to get there, it’s worth it.

This short story was published in 1954.  Eight years later, Fuentes would publish his famous novel Aura, a supernatural story that became very influential in it’s day.  Echoes of Aura can still be seen and heard in current scary stories, like the U.S. TV series American Horror Story.  Tlactocatzine is a precursor to Aura and it covers many of the same themes.  It’s a good example of twentieth-century fantastic literature, and it’s a fun scary story to read on a dark and stormy night, or on a cool autumn afternoon as Halloween and Día de los Muertos time approach.

Review: Tlactocatzine, del jardín de Flandes, cuento de Carlos Fuentes, de Los dias enmascarados (1954).
Read the story online via Google Books here.
Practice vocabulary from the story with these Spanish-English flashcards.
Buy Fuentes’ short story collection Los dias enmascarados online here.

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About fjkingsbury
F.J. Kingsbury teaches ESOL and Spanish, blogs about languages and language learning, and wishes it were possible to be in the U.S. and Mexico simultaneously.

3 Responses to Tlactocatzine del jardín de Flandes: ¿cómo se dice creepy en español?

  1. Tracy López says:

    The plot sounds amazing and what a fantastic review. Even if my Spanish skills were up to reading this, I don’t think I could though. I get scared so easily that even the thought of a book called “Scary Stories” that I owned as a child, (and which was deemed harmless enough to be sold through Scholastic at my elementary school) still brings to mind the hideous illustrations in that book and makes me uncomfortable LOL

    If you love scary and haven’t seen the movie “World War Z” – I recommend it. I think I managed to make it through the first 10 minutes peeking through my fingers before I left the room. Carlos and the boys watched the whole thing and enjoyed it :)

    • fjkingsbury says:

      I had those Scary Stories books too and loved them. All the creepy illustrations! Those books were high up on banned books lists in the ’90’s. And the audiobook, with a very creepy-voiced actor, is on YouTube. I plan to play some of them in my EFL classes in about a month.

  2. Petra says:

    It looks like a good one!

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