The old man searchs his old pipe in the pocket of his frayed jacket, but it’s not there. He looked more carefully, now surprised, in his other pockets. On one of his hands there are some dirty springs that had been attached to his slightly sweaty skin, but not the pipe. It was neither in any of the multicolored pockets of the shirt, nor in the pants, where he ends up looking in distress. The pipe remained nowhere to be found.
He was sixty five years and for twenty years he had been dragging the same pipe from his lips to his hands, from his hands to his lips, with brief stays in the depth of the right pocket of his jacket, which strongly smells of nicotine, a rough old nicotine smell. In all those years he had changed jacket four or five times, not more, and with every change the smell would install there, unchanging and persistent. Only he had gotten used to it. Not his young daughter. She had not been able to get used to that ocre stench that would stir her guts every time. Not very often, she would take the jacket for a was. The stench did not fully go away, but the piece as a whole was more presentable. Not that it mattered much. That was above such things. His temper was naturally philosophical and when, later, due to health issues he had to stop working in the construction business to become a gravedigger, this innate disposition grew accentuated by the imperatives of the trade.
He took the episode of the lost pipe badly, despite his philosophy. It was an old friend that would not be easy to replace. Buying a new pipe was easy enough, but it took time to get used to it, to get it used to him. First it had a certain taste or aftertaste of wood, something extremely unpleasant only removed by the days and years. There was nothing like an old pipe, blackened and burnt. He had lost it, it was evident. He returned early enough, retracing the path that he had walked an hour before, to the foot of the niche, and there he began to think about the circumstances of his departure, the gestures he had made, the moment he had put the pipe in his pocket for the last time, since it was not there, when he had removed the pipe from the mouth to leave it in a place he could not figure out. He could not remember it well.
He went out of the cemetery, crestfallen and melancholic, because only there he could have lost it. One last time he went back, as he came to think that he would say the keeper that if he found a pipe of its kind it was his. But the keeper knew the old man’s pipe by heart, and no descriptions were needed. He wasn’t very concerned anyway. If he found it by chance, fine, but if he didn’t, he would not think about it that much.
Later the old man thought about whether to also warn his colleagues, but they were already far ahead. He would tell them tomorrow. It would be strange if the pipe wasn’t recovered. They would certainly not understand his anxiety. None of them smoked a pipe, and they did not know what such an object could mean to someone after twenty years of uninterrupted use. He would warn them anyway. And if they found it, they would give it back to him. He was sure about that. But they would not spare a joke or two.


lapipaEl vell cerca la pipa en la butxaca de la seves esfilagarsada americana, però no la tenia. Cercà més curosament, però ja sorprès, en altres butxaques. D’una d’elles la seva bruta de molles resseques que s’eren apegat a la pell lleugerament suada, però no la pipa. Tampoc era en cap de les butxaques de la camisa a mostra multicolor, ni en les dels pantalons, on també acabà cercant en el seu desempar. Però la pipa va romandre introbable.

Tenia seixanta cinc anys i en feia vint que arrossegava la mateixa pipa dels seus llavis a les seves mans, de les seves mans als seus llavis, amb breus estades en la profunditat de la butxaca dreta de l’americana, que sentia fortament a nicotina, a aspra i revellida nicotina. En tots aquells anys havia canviat quatre o cinc vegades d’americana, no més, i en cada canvi l’olor s’instal·lava allí, inalterable i persistent. Només que ell hi estava acostumat. La seva jove no, la seva jove encara no s’havia pogut habituar a aquella bravada ocre que li regirava les tripes cada vegada que, no molt freqüentment, agafava l’americana del sogre per a donar-li una rentada. La sentor aquella no se n’anava, ben entès, però la peça en conjunt, quedava més presentable. No que a ell li importés massa. Estava per damunt d’aquestes coses. El seu tarannà era naturalment filosòfic i quan, més tard, degut a la salut hagué de deixar de fer de paleta per fer-se enterramorts, aquesta disposició innata s’accentuà, per imperatius de l’ofici.

L’episodi de la pipa perduda, el suportà malament; tot i la seva filosofia. Era una vella amiga a la que no seria fàcil de substituir. Comprar una pipa nova, prou, era fàcil, però es necessitava temps per a acostumar-s’hi, per a acostumar-la. De primer tenia un cert gust o regust de fusta, quelcom en extrem desagradable i que solament els dies i els anys anaven matant. No hi havia res com una vella pipa, renegrida i cremada. I l’havia perduda, era evident. Prou tornà enrere, desfent el camí que havia fet una hora abans, fins el peu del nínxol, i allí comença a pensar en quines circumstàncies sé n’havia allunyat quins gestos havia fet, quan es posà la pipa a la butxaca per darrera vegada, ja que allí no hi era, quan es va treure la pipa de la boca per deixar-la en un lloc o altre que no podia esbrinar. Però no aconseguia recordar-ho bé.

Tornà a sortir del cementiri, capcot, melangiós, car només allí podia haver-la perdut. Encara una vegada retrocedí, al acudir-se-li que podia dir al porter que si trobava una pipa així o aixà, era la seva. Però el porter coneixia abastament la pipa del vell i no necessitava descripcions. Tampoc tenia la intenció de preocupar-se’n. Si la trobava bonament, per casualitat, molt bé, però si no era així ni hi pensaria més.

Després, el vell pensà en la conveniència d’avisar també als companys, però aquests ja eren lluny. Els ho diria demà. Molt seria que la pipa no fos retrobada. Cert que no comprendrien el seu desfici. Cap d’ells fumava en pipa, i no sabien el que un objecte així pot arribar a significar després de vint anys d’us ininterromput. Amb tot, els advertiria. I si la trobaven, li donarien, d’això n’estava segur, encara que no mancaria una broma o altra.




Of Walls & Beasts

Of all the things she could have said to him she chose the one that made less noise of all. That short, lousy combination of words rushed out of her mouth, through dry lips that he would never kiss again; for all the beautiful things in his life were cruelly destined to disappear.

“I think you should…” she started in a broken thin voice.

The air around them froze, so the rest of her words had no way of reaching his ears. There was no use for it anyway, as he had already lost the will to listen when he saw what her eyes were saying. He turned his gaze away –the ice around them cutting every single inch of his skin –as the world fell apart without him expecting it.

As he slowly walked towards the wall, he could barely hear her remaining words; she sounded like an echo of the person she once  had been, her voice alienated by the unbearable look in her eyes. He reached the cold surface with the palm of his right hand, before leaning his head towards the whiteness, until his right ear was flat against the wall.

He heard nothing. There was no last advice, no comforting song coming from the heart of the bricks, not a single wise whisper to be heard. He trembled as he grasped the first handful of gypsum and brick out of the wall. He did the same with his left hand, tearing apart another piece of the white cold wall. His fingers would come first, penetrating the wall as a knife stabbing meat, followed by tense hands that would easily tear off chunks of debris. By clinching his fists, he turned the pieces of brick into dust, following an almost mechanical ritual.

During all this time she had been looking past him, her eyes aiming at a point beyond his figure, apart from the things he had always known; somewhere too far away for him to reach. Only once she dared to look at the huge hole in the wall, just in time to see his silhouette disappearing through it. The rest of the time she just kept on looking at someplace beyond that room.

That is why she could not see the beasts coming.


Ever wonder if it’s forever, the moment passes,
but I feel you now, all the way down…

Biffy Clyro “All the Way Down”

We seemed to always be the first ones to rescue each album from the stores. And I say rescue, because none of the shop assistants working at those record stores, no matter how much they loved music, could ever get to treat those little square boxes with the same special care we did.
In fact, we were probably never the first ones. The kind of album that we were looking for, from American or English indie bands, did only reach the shopping center of our village  weeks after its original publication abroad.

It was then that the Barcelona of the late nineties became our little paradise on earth, a paradise with its epicenter in Carrer Tallers, the endless source of the one and only thing that mattered to us in life: music. Stores like Revolver, Discos Castellò or Arise, kept those little gems that we wanted so badly.

The ritual after the release of an album was always the same, but each of the instances became a unique moment, almost as unique as each album. I remember the excitement around the opening of the plastic wrap, inhaling the smell of the paper booklet for the first time, reading the poetry in the lyrics without having heard a song yet. But the real magical moment came with the first listening of the albums opening theme.

“It’s My Job to Keep Punk Rock Elite” of ‘So Long and Thanks for All the Shoes’ by NOFX, “Feticeira” from White Pony Deftones, “Panic”, the ‘Launched’ Beatsteaks, “Glitter and trauma “, from Biffy Clyro’s  album of the same name… the list is endless.

We had a different way of understanding music. We stared at each other without saying a thing – but telling each other everything – while the first notes came out of the huge black speakers in those years. We felt superior to the rest of the world for finding concealed nuances in each song, unveiling clever hidden tricks in the magic of each rhythm, in the mastery of every unexpected change in the tone, in those choruses full of poetry that made our souls explode.

Perhaps someday the time will come when we will realise that we were never that special, that despite what we had always thought, we were no more than simple organisms that are deconstructed with the proper arrangement of notes…

So fragile …

Our soul boiling with every chord, our mind in full swing while deciphering the impossible lyrics of every song.

Those long afternoons lying in bed, the music pounding our eardrums at an insane volume.

And our eyes, lost in a kind of unbelievable trance. Those contained screams camouflaged behind each instrument.

The black rubber flooring of the stage, the yellow light in the tubes. Feeling that the chill that once ran through your skin is still there, endless.

Perhaps someday the time will come when we will realise that we were never that special…



Ever wonder if it’s forever, the moment passes,
but I feel you now, all the way down…

Biffy Clyro “All the Way Down”

Parecíamos ser siempre los primeros en rescatar cada disco de las tiendas. Y digo rescatar, porque ninguno de los dependientes de las tiendas de discos que frecuentábamos, por muy amante de la música que fuera, podía nunca llegar a tratar aquellas pequeñas cajas cuadradas con el mismo cariño que nosotros.

A decir verdad, probablemente nunca fuimos los primeros. El tipo de álbum que perseguíamos, de bandas independientes norteamericanas o inglesas, no llegaba al centro comercial del pueblo hasta semanas después de publicarse en su país de origen.

Era entonces cuando la Barcelona de finales de los noventa se convertía en nuestro pequeño paraíso en la tierra, un paraíso con epicentro en la calle Tallers, la fuente inagotable de lo único que nos importaba en la vida: la música. Tiendas como Revólver, discos Castellò, o Arise, guardaban esas pequeñas joyas que tanto deseábamos conseguir.

El ritual del estreno de un disco era siempre el mismo, pero cada una de las repeticiones se convertía en un momento único, casi tan único como cada disco. Recuerdo los nervios al abrir el envoltorio de plástico, al oler el papel del libreto por primera vez, al leer la poesía en sus letras sin haber escuchado aún las canciones. Pero el verdadero momento mágico llegaba con la primera escucha del tema que abría cada álbum.

“It’s My Job to Keep Punk Rock Elite” del ‘So Long and Thanks for All the Shoes’ de NOFX,  “Feticeira”, del ‘White Pony de Deftones, Panic”, del ‘Launched de Beatsteaks, “Glitter and Trauma”, del disco bajo el mismo nombre de Biffy Clyro… La lista es infinita.

Teníamos una manera diferente de entender la música. Nos mirábamos sin decirnos nada – diciéndolo todo al mismo tiempo – mientras las primeras notas salían de los enormes altavoces negros de aquellos años. Nos sentíamos superiores al resto del mundo por encontrar matices escondidos en cada tema, astutas triquiñuelas ocultas en la magia de cada ritmo, en la maestría de un inesperado cambio de tono, en aquellos estribillos llenos de poesía que le reventaban a uno el alma.

Quizá llegue el día en el que el tiempo nos demuestre que nunca fuimos tan especiales, que al contrario de lo que siempre habíamos pensado, no éramos más que simples organismos que se desmontan con la configuración de notas adecuada…

Tan frágiles…

El alma hirviendo con cada acorde, la mente en plena efervescencia descifrando letras de canciones imposibles.

Aquellas tardes tumbado en la cama, con la música golpeando nuestros tímpanos, sonando a un volumen demencial.

Y nuestros ojos en blanco, sumidos en una especie de trance inexplicable. Esas ganas de gritar contenidas camufladas tras cada instrumento.

La tarima de goma negra del escenario, la luz amarillenta de las válvulas. Sentir que el escalofrío que una vez recorrió tu piel aún sigue ahí, interminable.

Quizá llegue el día en el que el tiempo nos demuestre que nunca fuimos tan especiales…



Manuel de Pedrolo

‘Touched by Fire’


She saw Sogues look up and partially open her lips as if she were about to ask something. But the girl merely looked at him for a moment before digging into the beans again with her fork. Anto took the bottle and poured wine into all four glasses.

“Legumes make you thirsty.”

The woman took a swallow and, with moistened lips, said:

“In the village, some years we ate them all winter long.”

Her husband replied:

“It’s not winter now.”

“I know.”

Ange swallowed the forkful he had just put in his mouth, and then inquired:

“Did you have your own land?”

It was her he was asking, but her husband answered before she could:

“A little bit…”

Sogues, putting down her glass, specified:

“Three little fields and a house.”

“Well, I don’t know if you could call it a house…”

“It was better than this, anyway.”

She saw that the young man was looking at her again, but he quickly turned his eyes toward Anto.

“Did you sell it, when you left there?”

“No. I’ve never believed in selling anything.”

Ange reached for the wine, but didn’t raise his glass from the table.

“Did you lease it to someone, or what?

“No, I don’t want to get into problems.”

Sogues looked at the young man, who was now drawing the glass to his mouth. Isa looked at both of them, and when Ange had taken a drink, she asked him:

“What about you? Do you have anything?”

The youth responded with a look of surprise:


“Aren’t you a farmer’s son yourself?”

“My father was a day laborer. He never owned anything but the clothes he had on.”

He picked up the fork and, with the help of the piece of bread, cut off a piece of sausage, adding:

“And I’m glad of it.”

Isa noticed that her husband was wrinkling his brow, and she observed how one of the beans slid down the edge of his fork and fell back onto the plate.

“What? I’ve never heard anyone say that before.”

The young man chewed the piece of sausage he had between his teeth, and now his expression was serious too, almost severe.

“Maybe not. But you see, to me possessing things seems immoral.”

There was a sudden, heavy silence until the husband scratched his neck with a puzzled look and then expressed his amazement aloud:

“Immoral? What do you mean?”

“I mean if I owned something I’d feel guilty.”

Anto set his fork back on the oilcloth with a disconcerted expression.

“I don’t get it.”

Sogues looked up from her plate and almost smiled.

“I do.”

Her father moved his head, but didn’t look at her.

“You be quiet.”


Manuel de Pedrolo

‘Tocats pel foc’


Ella va observar com la Sogues alçava els ulls del plat i entreobria els llavis com si es disposés a fer una pregunta. Es va limitar, però, a mirar-se’l breument abans d’enfonsar de nou la forquilla en els fesols. L’Anto va apoderar-se de l’ampolla i abocà vi a tots quatre gots.

-Fan venir set, els llegums.

Ella en va beure un glopet i, amb els llavis humits, digué:

-Al poble, hi havia anys que en menjàvem tot l’hivern.

El seu home va replicar:

-Ara no som a l’hivern.

-Ja ho sé.

L’Ange va empassar-se la forquillada que acabava de posar-se a la boca i s’interessà:

-Teníeu terra vostra?

Li ho preguntava a ella, però el seu home li passà davant:

-Una mica…

La Sogues, que deixava el got, va precisar:

-Tres finquetes i una casa.

-Bé, no sé si se’n pot dir casa…

-Sempre valia més que això.

Va veure que el xicot tornava a mirar-se-la, però tot seguit desvià els ulls cap a l’Anto.

-Us ho vau vendre, en marxar?

-No. Mai no he estat partidari de vendre res, jo.

L’Ange va allargar la mà cap al vi, però no va aixecar el got de damunt la taula.

-Ho vau deixar arrendat, potser?

-Tampoc. No vull tenir embolics.

La Sogues va mirar cap al xicot, que ara s’atansava el got a la boca. Ella va fitar-los tots dos, i, quan l’Ange va haver begut, li preguntà:

-I tu no tens res?

El noi va deturar el gest, sorprès.


-No ets fill de pagès, també?

-El meu pare era un jornaler. Mai no va tenir res més que el vestit que duia al damunt.

Va reprendre la forquilla i, amb l’ajuda del pa, va trencar un tros de botifarra, mentre afegia:

-I me’n alegro.

Ella va adonar-se que el seu home arrugava el front, i observà que un dels fesols se li esmunyia per un costat de forquilla abans de desprendre’s per caure de nou al plat.

-Com? No ho havia sentit dir mai, això.

El xicot va mastegar el tros de botifarra que tenia entre dents, i ara la seva expressió també era seriosa, gairebé severa.

Potser no. Però és que, a mi, posseir em sembla una cosa immoral.

Hi va haver un silenci sobtat i dens fins que el seu home s’escurà vagament el coll abans d’estranyar-se en veu alta:

-Immoral? Què vols dir?

-Que si posseís alguna cosa em sentiria culpable.

L’Anto va reposar la forquilla sobre l’hule amb una expressió desconcertada.

-No ho entenc.

La Sogues va alçar els ulls del plat i gairebé va somriure.

-Jo, sí.

El seu pare va fer un moviment, sense mirar-la.

-Calla, tu.


It’s me and the animals. Their growls, their pawns, their scars… The fear in their eyes as the solid white round moon above announces the end of us.

It’s me and the darkness now, like lovers blindly looking at each other, feeling one another like lost animals. The silence is so immense I could even hear my heartbeats. If only I wanted to.

Alone for the very first time, I acknowledge the simple and undeniable truths of silence, and open my ears to many other mysterious sounds I never knew existed. It is only there and then, in the depths of my own absolute calm, that I am finally able to hear her; she has the most beautiful voice in the entire world.

I imagine her golden hair gleaming at the night, her soft skin healing my fingertips, her burning eyes. But she will never be the same in every thought; in my dreams she’s always changing. Every time I open my eyes again my memory of her will be gone in a second. Every time I wake up from a dream the animals are still there, they feed from my memories, they crave on the images I keep of her.

It’s her and the elements, her terrible way of telling the moon she is never coming back. The rain falling over the burning fields, as if to break fire into little pieces. The fury in every flame coming flickering back and forth, threatening to burn both of us from the inside.

It’s us and the other beasts, growling forever, our eyes and their eyes fixed in some random point in the distance. The fear in our eyes as we tell the moon that it’s the end of us.



Manuel de Pedrolo


Half of the buildings in the city –almost two million inhabitants– were banks. In reaching this situation, there was a long hiatus during which a lot of people asked themselves, with anxiety, how would that issue end. Until then there had not been any example of any bank closing. The shops and other trades, however, suffered repeated defeats. At that moment there hardly were any coffee shops –only a sort of small caves where, with such little space, customers had to go in one at a time– or cinemas –only a few rooms, for the use of poor couples, which showed the same films all night and all day, without a stop. Other shows like theatres had been long gone out of sight and memory. The shops coped with a precarious life, practically vegetative, and it was not difficult to guess that they would eventually give up. And so it was.

One day, the number of banks in the city surpassed by one half the total number of open establishments. From that moment on, the race was frantic. The traders cleared their existences through sales and quit. The following day there were bars where there once had been shop windows. After a few months, only a few willful –perhaps two or three bad counted dozens– continued selling perfumes and clothes, toys and books, groceries and drinks. The streets offered an unusual pungent aspect. It could have been said that it was an imprisoned city, and nobody knew for certain if prisoners were the ones inside or outside. But still, it was not enough.

With every sort of well-flourished excuses, the banks, which detained by now the absolute majority, gained an order from the municipal authorities that made the shops install bars on their windows as well. According to the decree, there was a need of giving the city a uniform aspect, a severity of features suitable to the character and habits acquired by the inhabitants of the city. The traders leaned their heads and obeyed. There was nothing else they could do. Therefore, the scarce shop windows left disappeared then, and in their place, bars were installed.



Manuel de Pedrolo


La meitat dels establiments de la ciutat –gairebé dos milions d’habitants– eren bancs. En arribar a aquesta situació, va tenir lloc una llarga pausa durant la qual molta gent es preguntaven, amb angoixa, com acabaria la pugna. Fins aleshores no hi havia exemple que cap banc hagués tancat. Les botigues i d’altres comerços, en canvi, coneixien derrotes repetides. En aquell moment ja gairebé no quedaven cafès –només tot de menudes cofurnes on, faltats d’espai, els clients havien d’entrar d’un a un– ni cinemes –únicament unes quantes sales, per a ús de les parelles pobres, el les quals es projectaven de nit i de dia, ininterrompudament, les mateixes pel·lícules. D’altres espectacles, com el teatre, feia temps que se n’havia perdut el rastre i àdhuc la memòria. Les botigues arrossegaven  una vida precària, pràcticament vegetativa, i no era pas difícil endevinar que acabarien per cedir. I així s’esdevingué.

Un bon dia, a la ciutat, el nombre dels bancs fou la meitat més un de la totalitat d’establiments oberts. A partir d’aquell instant, la cursa fou frenètica. Els comerciants liquidaven llurs mercaderies a rebaix i plegaven. L’endemà començaven a instal·lar-se reixes on hi havia hagut vitrines i aparadors. Al cap d’uns mesos, només uns quants obstinats –potser dues o tres dotzenes mal comptades– continuaven venent perfums i robes, joguines i llibres, queviures i begudes. Els carrers oferien un aspecte insòlit, punyent. S’hauria dit que era una ciutat empresonada, i ningú no sabia ben bé si els presoners eren els de dins o els de fora. Però encara no hi havia prou.

Amb tot d’excuses ben amanides, els bancs, que ara detenien la majoria absoluta, van aconseguir de les autoritats municipals l’ordre que també els comerços havien d’instal·lar reixes. Segons el decret, interessava de donar a l’urbs un aspecte uniforme, una severitat de fesomia adient al caràcter i als costums que ja havien adquirit els habitants de la ciutat. Els comerciants van acotar el cap i obeïren. No podien fer res més. Van desaparèixer doncs, els escassos aparadors i, al seu lloc, es dreçaren les reixes.