Iban Zaldua

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A short story by Iban Zaldua originally published as Bibliografía, in Gezurrak, Gezurrak, Gezurrak (Lies, Lies, Lies), Erein, 2000. Translated from Basque by Kristin Addis (An Anthology of Basque Short Stories, Center for Basque Studies, Reno, 2004).
The alleged terrorist arrested the day before yesterday is in the middle of the room, in an uncomfortable chair, hands and legs tied. In a cold sweat. Suddenly he raises his eyes, and dares to look toward the policeman who tortured him half an hour earlier. The policeman's face is hidden behind a ski mask, and he's reading a book. He doesn't seem to realize the prisoner has woken up, since he doesn't raise his eyes. The alleged terrorist is stunned to recognize the book in the policeman's hands: the same pearly gray cover, the same design, the same title and author. The alleged terrorist has also read this book, not long ago. He doesn't understand how it can be in his torturer's hands. He remembers that he read it with the same passion he now sees in the policeman. He hardly noticed what was going on around him. He never wanted to reach the end of that book.

Policeman 76635-Q's boyfriend gave him the book, a week ago. He loves reading, but doesn't have much time for it. He decided to leave the book at work, to take advantage of the odd free moment and read a few pages. His co-workers laugh at him when they see him take the book from his desk drawer, since they've never seen him so involved. 76635-Q doesn't care. This book is special. He never wants to reach the end of it. It's the first time this has happened to him.

A.J.C., the policeman's boyfriend, reads quite a bit more than 76635-Q. His work isn't so hectic (he works at the jail), and he has hours on his hands without much to do. He would like to spark this interest in 76635-Q because he loves to talk about books (and about films), but he hasn't had much luck so far. In fact, he didn't know if he was picking a winner with this book, and still doesn't know; they haven't been together since he gave 76635-Q the book. He'll be delighted when he next gets together with the policeman, tomorrow or the next day, and the first thing he hears from him will be how much he likes this book. A.J.C. acquired the book in a search of the 4th cellblock, in a cell they turned inside out. He doesn't remember the name or face of the prisoner whose cell it was, nor whether they found anything there. He just saw the book on a shelf, and since he recognized the author's name, he decided to take it. He doesn't regret it; it's this author's best work, without a doubt.

The prison worker A.J.C. doesn't remember the prisoner in that cell, but Pedro (that was his name) remembers that inspection clearly, as well as the millions he endured before it. To tell the truth, he doesn't mind so much about the book. He never would have managed to finish it anyway, but he kept pictures of his girlfriend among its pages and losing those pictures pisses him off - they were pretty, very colorful, taken in Benidorm and Alicante. In that search, they fucked up his little television set too.

The girlfriend smiling in Pedro's pictures wouldn't care to be known as such; at the most, she would admit to being Pedro's ex-girlfriend. Sara Fuentes hates those months she shared an apartment with Pedro; hates Pedro too, or hated him, she's no longer sure -- so much time has passed. Now she lives in her parents' house again, and works in a flower shop, half-days. She no longer uses heroin, and therefore no longer has to commit petty theft to buy it. Sara has completely forgotten the book she left behind when she left Pedro, as well as a number of other things she abandoned in the apartment. She stole it from the city library, and in fact, policeman 76635-Q just now realizes this when he sees the library's seal on the lower right-hand corner of page 111 (later he'll realize the same seal also appears on pages 211 and 311). Sara tried to sell the book a couple times at the Sunday market in the new plaza, but no luck. The books by Michael Crichton and Vázquez Figuero that she stole from the Corte Inglés, on the other hand, they couldn't buy fast enough.

When the book arrived at the library, Alizia Fernández de Larrea catalogued it and put the seal on pages 111, 211 and 311; also on the first page, but Sara ripped out that whole page before trying to sell the book. When Alizia was putting the seal in it, she decided she would read the book; she had already had the chance to skim the beginning, and she liked it. But she didn't have time to carry out her plan. One afternoon, as she was driving home, a bomb went off, intended for the Civil Guard patrol car behind her. The Civil Guards came out fine, but Alizia was severely injured, and died in the hospital five hours later.

Among other things, they want a confession to having taken part in this attack from the alleged terrorist in the middle of the room, in an uncomfortable chair, hands and legs tied and in a cold sweat. The alleged terrorist, on the other hand, has forgotten all the endless questions they asked, and the book the policeman is reading is the only thing in his mind. He liked that book so much. With something like a smile, he remembers he decided to buy it because his name and the author's are the same. And because he had to wait an entire morning sitting next to the picture window in that cafe. An antidote for boredom.

As he thinks these thoughts, policeman 76635-Q closes the book, and, half-heartedly, starts to rise.

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