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This article is taken from PN Review 208, Volume 39 Number 2, November - December 2012.

The Sting and the Web Ricardo Nirenberg

Long ago, my bouts of fever opened the ivory gates of unsuspected worlds. The flowers in the wallpaper attracted bees; Rahav or Leviathan would float past, open-mouthed, a wrecked galleon on their tongue, eagles and vultures diving and picking in the deep valleys between their teeth, and the scaly monsters ended up hiding, coiled, under my bed. To my nose came by turns the sulphurous smell of the cap gun long lost and the smell of the hot chocolate Mother brewed only for my birthdays; the taste in my mouth was now hard as armour plate, now bland, like bread soaked in tepid water. Then the command, ‘Open! Wide!’ broke this total disarray of the senses. I turned my head and saw another monster with a single huge, bright, round eye.

Dr Mindlin was at my bedside, head mirror in place, spoon ready to press my tongue down. Mother a few paces behind him, looking worried, hands clasped on her lap. With his gold-capped Parker 51, the doctor scribbled something and handed the bit of paper to Mother. She asked, ‘Viva Perú?’ And Dr Mindlin replied emphatically, ‘Sí, viva Perú!’

Now, even to a seven-year-old kid running a high fever it was clear that the phrase ‘Viva Perú’, or perhaps ‘Viva el Perú’, could not possibly mean, in this situation, an affirmation of support for the Andean nation. Our nation, nuestra patria, was the Argentine Republic, which dwelt, as we were taught at school, ...

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