The Vida Perra of Juanita Narboni
Translated by Nadia Benabid
to the issue 8 page
The novel is written in the gritty Tangier Spanish (popular among Tangier Jews of Sephardic origin) which draws on Spanish, Hebrew and Arabic with a dollop of Portuguese, French and English thrown in. The novel takes place in Tangier in the 1950s during the period when Morocco has declared its independence from France and large numbers of the French, Spanish and Jewish population were leaving the country. (Sephardic Jews haved lived in Morocco since antiquity.) Juanita Narboni and her few remaining women friends feel abandoned and isolated. Vázquez believed that the oral tradition of language is passed down through women and deliberately used Haketia, the everyday vernacular of the immense Jewish community when Tangier was an international city, to evoke in Juanita Narboni’s monologues the memory of a time which no longer existed.
I twisted my heel. I knew it. The one and only pair on offer at El Rubito’s. Modèle unique, my ass! Never in my life have I had to scale the Siaghine at this clip. Whoosh! There goes the Pharmacie Bouchard. Which reminds me, mother wants us to pick up a tin of pillules des Vosges. And finally, at last: Coffee Roasters: Las Campanas. The one who’s roasted is me. We’re never gonna to make it on time. And these skanky maideles without a care in the world. Man crazy…is the only thing they know about. And then there’s me, Juani, bringing up the rear with my limp. We’ll be late, como siempre, no news there. And you know me and getting to the movies on time – how I like to see it all, todito – A to Z. But do they care? They don’t care. Come on, Juani, one more little push. Oh, how I’m winded. Oh, how I’m burning up all over myself. O.K., O.K., not too far now. Calle Italia and finally, Dieu merci, the gateway to the Medina. We made it. Late, of course, impossibly late, but here we are. I’ll arrive at the cinema with my heart in my throat, but I’ll arrive. Now what? Pop into Furlan’s for candy? The Perugina kind? Ah well, in that case, fair enough. They never, ever stop talking. Yackety-yackety- yackety-yak -- that’s all they know. Of course, I never understand a thing they say. They talk in code to keep me in the dark. Aaah, they can all drop dead. It’s always about the same thing anyway. But if I miss La cucaracha, which is the first movie ever made in natural color, because of them, I will never forgive them. And remind me, the main feature was? Some kind of drama. That’s what it said in El Porvenir. I read it this morning: a drama! Like I should care. Ish kebbible. A drama, so what? How boring. It’s probably up their alley, but what’s drama to me? If only I would’ve come with mother, everything nice and calm, just the two of us, always on time. Mother listens to me, not like these nafkas always wanting to be yanking and jerking me over all creation. Where have they disappeared to now? I don’t see them by the door. They went inside! It already started! Didn’t I tell you? Not even time to get a program. The same thing happened with La verbena de la Paloma, I didn’t get a program that time either, and it was so beautiful -- in the shape of a lady’s fan. Mohamed, hijo. You need your brains checked if you think he’s going to pay you any mind. You can holler at the top of your lungs, he won’t take notice. Too busy ogling the hellcat maideles. I might as well not exist.