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He pursued her all through the library between tables, chairs, and lecterns. She escaped, while speaking of women's rights, which had been grossly violated. Five thousand absurd years separated them. For five thousand years she had been pursued inexorably, held back, reduced to slavery. He tried to justify himself by praising his virtues rapidly and in a fragmentary fashion, uttering broken, incomplete sentences with tremulous gestures.

He searched vainly for the texts that could support his theories. The library, specializing in Spanish literature of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, was a great enemy arsenal bolstering the concept of honor and similar atrocious ideas.

The young man tirelessly cited J. J. Bachofen, the wise man all women should read, because he has restored to them the grandeur of their role in prehistoric times. If the savant's books were at hand, he would have confronted her with the portrait of that obscure civilization, ruled over by women when the earth had a hidden, womb-like humidity in all its parts and man was trying to raise himself out of it by building lake dwellings.

But the girl was left cold by all this. That matriarchal period, unfortunately belonging to prehistoric times and scarcely provable, seemed to increase her resentment. She always got away, fleeing from one bookshelf to another; sometimes she climbed up the ladders and overwhelmed the young man with a rain of abuse. Fortunately, in his defeat something came to his aid. He suddenly remembered Heinz Wolpe. Citing this author, his voice acquired a new and powerful accent.

"In the beginning there was only one sex, evidently feminine, which reproduced itself automatically. A mediocre being began to take form sporadically, leading a precarious and sterile life faced with formidable maternity. Nonetheless, little by little it began appropriating to itself certain essential organs. The moment arrived when it became indispensable. Women realized too late that half her elements were gone and that she needed to seek them in man, who was man by virtue of that progressive separation and that accidental return to his point of origin."

Wolpe's thesis seduced the girl. She looked tenderly at the young man. "Man is a child who has behaved badly to his mother all through history," she said, almost with tears in her eyes.

She pardoned him, pardoning all men. Her glance lost its brilliance, she lowered her eyes like a madonna. Her mouth, hard with scorn before, now became soft and sweet as a fruit. He felt mythological caresses burst from her hands and lips. Trembling, he approached Eve and Eve did not flee.

There in the library, on that complicated and negative stage, at the foot of volumes of weighty literature, the millenary episode began, just like life in the lake dwellings.

Juan Jose Arreola is a Mexican writer whose stories first appeared in magazines in Guadalajara in the early 1940s. This story is reprinted from Varia Invencion, a collection of short pieces published in 1949. The English translation by George D. Schade was first published by the University of Texas Press in Confabulario and Other Inventions, |C~ 1964.
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Title Annotation:short story
Author:Arreola, Juan Jose
Publication:Americas (English Edition)
Date:Nov 1, 1992
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