Me había prometido no poner ningún extracto o ejemplo en ingles, pero me encontré con este compendio de cuentos de cumpleaños, compilado y editado por uno de mis autores favoritos de terror. Les dejo el cuento que escribió él y que fue publicado por el guardian.
First let me tell you about one particular birthday – my own. I was given life in this world on January 12 1949, which means I belong to the baby-boom generation. The second world war had at last come to an end, and those who had managed to survive looked around them, took a deep breath, got married and started making children one after another. During the next four or five years, the world’s population expanded – indeed, exploded, in a way never seen before. I was one of the nameless, numberless children produced during that period.
Delivered in the burnt-out ruins left after the intense bombing raids, we in Japan matured with the cold war and the period of rapid economic growth, entered the flowering of adolescence and received the baptism of late-60s counterculture. Burning with idealism, we protested against a rigid world, listened to The Doors and Jimi Hendrix (Peace!) and then, like it or not, we came to accept a real life that was neither very idealistic nor imbued with rock ‘n’ roll. And now we are in our mid-50s. Dramatic events occurred along the way – men on the moon, the crumbling of the Berlin wall. These seemed like meaningful developments at the time, of course, and they may well have exerted some practical influence on my own life. Looking back now, however, I have to say in all honesty that these events do not seem to have any special effect on the way I balance happiness versus unhappiness or hope versus despair in my life. However many birthdays I may have counted off, however many important events I may have witnessed or experienced first hand, I feel I have always remained the same me, I could never have been anything else.
These days when I drive my car I put silver-coloured CDs by Radiohead or Blur into the stereo. That’s the kind of thing that shows me the years are passing. And now I find myself living in the 21st century. Whether or not the person I think of as me undergoes any essential changes, the earth never stops circling the sun at the same old speed.
In just the same way, a birthday quietly comes around for me once each year. Do these birthdays make me happy? I would have to say, “Not especially”. Just turning from 53 to 54: who is going to view that as a great accomplishment? Of course, if a man’s doctor tells him, “You will never live beyond the age of 52. Sorry, but you’ll have to resign yourself. Now is the time to organise your possessions and write a will,” and then this man greets the dawn of his 54th birthday, that is something worth celebrating. That is a great accomplishment. For that, I can imagine chartering a boat and setting off a massive firework display in the middle of Tokyo Bay. In my case, however, for better or worse (although, of course, it is for the better), I have never been handed such a death sentence. And so my birthday never makes me unusually happy. The most I might do is open a special bottle of wine for dinner. But let me get back to this later.
I have had one very strange birthday experience – though it was strange only for me, personally.
Early one birthday morning I was listening to the radio in the kitchen of my Tokyo apartment. I usually get up early to work. I wake between four and five in the morning, make myself some coffee (my wife is still sleeping), eat a slice of toast and go to my study to begin writing. While I prepare my breakfast, I usually listen to the radio news – not by choice (there’s not a lot worth hearing), but because there’s not much else to do at such an early hour. That morning, as I waited for my water to boil, the newsreader was announcing a list of public events planned for the day, with details of when and where they were happening. For example, the emperor was going to plant a ceremonial tree, or a large British passenger ship was due to dock in Yokohama, or events would be taking place throughout the country in honour of this being official chewing-gum day (I know it sounds ludicrous but I am not making it up: there really is such a day).
The last item on this list of public events was an announcement of the names of famous people whose birthday fell on January 12. And there among them was my own! “Novelist Haruki Murakami today celebrates his **th birthday,” the announcer said. I was only half listening, but, even so, at the sound of my own name I almost knocked over the hot kettle. “Whoa!” I cried aloud and looked around the room in disbelief. “So,” it occurred to me a few minutes later with a pang, “my birthday is not just for me any more. Now they list it as a public event.”
A public event?
Oh well, public event or not, at least at that moment some of the people throughout Japan – it was a nationwide broadcast – standing (or sitting) by their radios may have had at least some fleeting thought of me. “So, today is Haruki Murakami’s birthday, eh?” Or, “Oh, wow, Haruki Murakami’s ** years old, now too!” Or, “Hey, whaddya know, even guys like Haruki Murakami have birthdays!” In reality, though, how many people in Japan could have been up at this ridiculous pre-dawn hour listening to the radio news? Twenty or thirty thousand? And how many of those would know my name? Two or three thousand? I had absolutely no idea.
Statistics aside, though, I couldn’t help but feel a kind of soft, natural bond with the world. It was not a bond that could serve any practical purpose, nor one that had any real impact on a person’s life. It was, I suppose, that special bond people feel with each other when they know one of them is celebrating his or her birthday. For a while, I tried to visualise this bond in my mind’s eye – its material and colour and length and angle and intensity. Again, for a time, I thought about ideals and compromise, about the cold war and Japan’s economic growth. I thought, too, about growing older, and about wills and fireworks. And then I stopped thinking at all and instead concentrated on making myself a good cup of coffee.
When the coffee was ready, I poured it into a mug (one with an Australian Museum logo: something I bought in Sydney), carried it to my study, sat at my desk, switched on my Apple Mac, put a Telemann concerto for woodwinds on the stereo at low volume and started the day’s work. It was still dark outside. The day was just beginning. It was a special day in the year, but at the same time it was an absolutely ordinary day. I was working at my computer. Maybe one of these years I would have the kind of dramatic birthday when I would want to sail a boat out to the middle of Tokyo Bay and set off a massive firework display. And should such a birthday ever come, I would charter the boat without hesitation, no matter what anybody might say, and I would head out to Tokyo Bay in the depths of winter with an armload of fireworks. But today, at least, was not such a day. This year’s birthday was not such a birthday. I would just be sitting at my desk as always, quietly putting in a day’s work.
As I said earlier, my birthday falls on January 12. I once looked on the internet to see who else I shared this date with and was thrilled to find Jack London’s name (and one of the Spice Girls too, I might add). I have been a devoted Jack London reader for years. Not only have I read his well-known works such as White Fang and The Call of the Wild with great enthusiasm, but also several of his lesser-known stories and his biography. I love his strong, simple style and his strangely clear novelistic vision, I love his singular energy, the way it transcends common sense and forges straight ahead, no matter what, as if to fill in some great emptiness. I have always thought of him as a writer who deserves far higher literary praise than he is normally accorded. To think that Jack London and I have the intimate bond of a shared birthday! His own January 12 occurred in 1876, 73 before my own.
When I was travelling in California in early 1990, I visited the farm Jack London owned in a place called Glen Ellen, Sonoma County, to pay my respects to this legendary writer. Or, more precisely, once, when I was making the rounds of the Napa Valley wineries in a rented car, the thought popped into my mind, “Come to think of it, Jack London had a farm around here somewhere”, so I checked the guidebook and took a detour to visit the place. London bought a winery in Glen Ellen in 1905 and turned it into a large-scale experimental farm of about 1,400 acres. He lived there until his death in 1916, running the farm and writing fiction. A part of his farm (about 40 acres’ worth) has been preserved as Jack London State Historic Park. It’s a beautiful place. The day I was there the sunlight shone with an unwavering clarity, and a quiet, pleasant breeze caressed the grass as it blew over the hills. I whiled away the autumn afternoon looking in the rooms and at the desk that London once used.
Thanks in part to such pleasant memories, I make it a point to open a bottle of Jack London wine (Cabernet Sauvignon) for dinner every year on my birthday. This particular wine is not made in Glen Ellen, but in the neighbouring district of Kenwood. Still, it is made in a winery crowned with the name “Jack London Vineyard” and its label bears the original wolf picture that was used for the cover of White Fang. This may not be the most appropriate ceremony with which to commemorate the death of a drinker of such outrageous proportions as London (he destroyed his liver and died at the age of 40) but I raise my glass in the hope that this outstanding American writer might rest in peace.