Unhand Me

Alfonso Reyes - Biblioteca Nacional_thumb[4]From “Major Aranda’s Hand,” by Alfonso Reyes:

“Major Aranda suffered the loss of a hand in battle, and, unfortunately for him, it was his right hand…A delicate instrument, [the hand] possesses the most fortunate physical resourcres: hinges, pincers, tongs, hooks, bony little chains, nerves, ligaments, canals, cushions, valleys and hillocks.  It is soft and hard, aggressive and loving…”

“The hand was carefully deposited in a quilted jewel case.  The folds of white satin seemed a diminutive Alpine landscape.  images-3From time to time intimate friends were granted the privilege of looking at it for a few minutes.  It was a pleasing, robust, intelligent hand, still in a rather tense position from grasping the hilt of the sword.  It was perfectly preserved…”

“Its nails began to grow, revealing a slow, silent, surreptitious life.  At one moment this growth seemed something brought on by inertia, at another it was evident that it was a natural virtue.  With some repugnance at first, the manicurist of the family consented to take care of those nails each week.  The hand was always polished and well cared for…”

“Its personality was becoming noticeable.  It acquired its own consciousness and character. It began to put out feelers.  Then it moved like a tarantula.  Everything seemed an occasion for play.  And one day, when it was evident that it had put on a glove all by itself and had adjusted the bracelet on the severed wrist, it did not attract the attention of anyone.  It went freely from one place to another, a monstrous little lap dog, rather crablike. Later it learned to run, with a hop very similar to that of hares, and, sitting back on its fingers, it began to jump in a prodigious manner.  One day it was seen spread out on a current of air: it had acquired the ability to fly…”borderingfires

“It did not obey anyone.  It was prankish and mischevious…It remained motionless, playing dead, allowing itself to be contemplated by those who were not familiar with it, and then suddenly it would make an obscene gesture…The major observed it and suffered in silence. His wife hated it, and of course was its preferred victim…The truth is that the family became demoralized…Friends and relatives deserted the family…”

“Left to its own nature, the hand gradually came to embody the Platonic idea that gave it being, the idea of seizing, the eagerness to acquire control.  When it was seen how hens perished with their necks twisted or how art objects belonging to other people arrived at the house-which Aranda went to all kinds of trouble to return to their owners, with stammerings and incomprehensible excuses – it was evident that the hand was an animal of prey and a thief.  People now began to doubt Aranda’s sanity.”

“Aranda awoke one night at midnight with shrieks of terror: in strange nuptials the severed hand, the right one, had come to link itself with the left hand, its companion of other days, as if longing to be close to it.  It was impossible to detach it.  It passed the remainder of the night there, and there it resolved to spend the nights from now on.”


“One night, however the hand pushed open the library door and became deeply absorbed in reading.  It came upon a story by de Maupassant about a severed hand that ends up strangling its enemy.  It came upon a beautiful fantasy by Nerval in which an enchanted hand travels the world…{and] some notes by the philosopher Gaos about the phenomenology of the hand…”

“The result is sad and serene.  The haughty hand that believed it was a person, an autonomous entity, an inventor of its own conduct, became convinced that it was only a literary theme, a matter of fantasy already very much worked over by the pen of writers.  With sorrow and difficulty…it made its way to the showcase in the living room, settled down in its jewel case, which first placed carefully among the campaign and high military decorations; and, disillusioned and sorrowful, it committed suicide in its own fashion: it let itself die.”

“When [the major] understood the situation, he nervously crumpled the paper on which he was about to submit his resignation from active service.  He straightened up to his full height, reassumed his military haughtiness, and, startling his household, shouted at the top of his voice: “Attention! Fall in!””

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: