Vicent Usó, La mà de ningú (Barcelona: Proa, 2011). 237 páginas.
De vez en cuando, a uno le apetece encontrarse con un libro que simplemente cumpla bien la función de entretener, de hacer pasar un rato agradable, sin que exista la necesidad de ahondar en disquisiciones filosóficas o estéticas. Para muchos lectores, el género del thriller puede ser ideal para eso, pues a fin de cuentas lo único que se requiere del lector es no perder el hilo de la trama. Si el autor tiene la pericia suficiente para poner cebo en el anzuelo, el resto, como suele decirse, es pan comido.
En La mà de ningú, Vicent Usó va incluso un poquito más lejos, puesto que plantea el thriller o la novela negra como una meta a la que se llega desde muchos puntos separados y por diversos caminos. La novela la componen en realidad seis relatos aparentemente autónomos. Dividida en ocho capítulos, siete de los cuales corresponden a dos días (miércoles y jueves), mientras que el último corresponde al siguiente lunes, cada una de las secciones que los integran lleva por título el nombre del personaje principal de esa vertiente de la trama.
Así, el primero es André Labarbe, el viejo granjero de inalterables costumbres que una madrugada se encuentra una mano seccionada a la altura del codo en mitad del camino rural que corre paralelo a la autopista. El macabro hallazgo cambiará sus hábitos, obligándole a regresar a su casa para llamar a la policía. Los siguientes capítulos, no obstante, no parecen guardar relación alguna con el descubrimiento del miembro por parte de Labarbe, y esto podría desalentar a lectores que estén más acostumbrados a esquemas narrativas más lineales y simplistas. Mi recomendación, en todo caso, tanto con ésta como con cualquier otra propuesta similar, sería seguir adelante, aceptar el envite del autor hasta descubrir qué es exactamente lo que propone.
La mà de ningú se desarrolla íntegramente en Francia. La galería de personajes comprende, además del viejo granjero Labarbe, un camionero muy perturbado de origen eslavo, un inmigrante senegalés que malvive como puede en las calles de París, una mujer casada que huye de una crisis matrimonial y que encuentra refugio en el castillo de una millonaria filántropa, una joven okupa malabarista que se gana la vida con su espectáculo en las calles de París y un rico doctor que perdió a su esposa en un accidente y que parece desvivirse por cuidar de sus dos hijas.
Si diera alguna pista sobre cuántos son los acontecimientos, y de qué tipo, que se concatenan para que Labarbe se encuentre esa mano que parece haber caído del cielo, le haría un flaco favor a quien se anime a leer La mà de ningú. Prefiero decir que se trata de una obra de amena lectura, gracias a su ritmo narrativo, más cerca del allegretto que del vivace, y que Usó emplea un lenguaje pulido y sencillo para caracterizar a los personajes con muy concisas pinceladas lingüísticas.
El desenlace es muy sorprendente, y esconde la historia de una identidad oculta. Los pudientes pueden con mucha facilidad enmascararse tras ciertas apariencias de bonhomía y blandiendo el poder que el dinero les otorga, pero cuando la verdad sale a la superficie, quedan empantanados en la más abyecta podredumbre.
Vicent Usó había publicado anteriormente nueve novelas, dos de ellas finalistas del Premi Sant Jordi. En este blog puedes encontrar la reseña del también sorprendente volumen Subsól, del colectivo Unai Siset, en el que Usó contribuyó una de las historias. Puedes también descargarte legalmente el primer capítulo de La mà de ningú aquí. Y, como suelo hacer en este blog con cierta frecuencia, incluyo también algunas páginas de la novela en mi propia versión en lengua inglesa.
Suppose it was a Thursday. One Thursday in late November just a few years ago, not too many. The sun was not out yet and André Labarbe, 76 years of age, an officially retired farmer and decorated veteran of the Indochina war, felt an uncomfortable tickle in his belly and was suddenly afraid to face the day about to start. Even though he did not look like the type to get easily frightened and that nothing seemed to portend that this day would start in a way different from those that preceded it. Let us say, therefore, that it was some sort of presentiment.
The thing is that André’s fears were not unwarranted, and in a few more minutes, at exactly eighteen minutes past six in the morning, already the victim of a remarkable upheaval, he was going to bend over double to vomit, by the side of a dusty road, the white coffee and the two pieces of toast his wife, Delphine Sainthuile, housewife and part-time farmer, had so lovingly spread with two layers, one of creamy soft butter underneath, and one on top, a thick flavoursome layer of their homemade tomato jam, the kind you cannot find in shops. But it was still forty-four minutes before that moment, and for the time being the alarm clock had just started to shatter the silence with its daily, rusty and bitter vibration. Like an indecisive snake, the man’s hand crawled from under the flannelette blanket that covered the married couple’s bodies towards the bedside table and, after feeling for it once or twice without success, found the origin of the noise and pressed the lever that put an end to the hammering of the two cracked bells. The silence restored, André lazed about for a while, as it was his habit, and finally turned on the bedside light and carefully got up. First he put down his legs on the floor, and then he pushed himself up on his elbows to avoid placing the strain of the manoeuvre on his back. He washed his face with cold water, as he had always done, and reacted to its biting contrast with noisy spasms, not realising that every morning he sprayed the mirror, the basin and the floor, but those were details he had never noticed before, and Delphine, probably too indulgent with him, had never thought it necessary to point them out to him. After making sure he had totally washed the sleep out of his eyes, he returned to the now empty bedroom, still feeling an immense weight behind his eyelids, and slowly began putting on the clothes that Delphine had purposely left on the radiator, so that he could feel the nice warmth of the fabric on his skin. At one end of the dresser, beneath the frame from which the pale faces of his two grandchildren watched him, was the letter he did not quite know how to assimilate. He looked at it for a second, but did not grab it. He knew what it said by heart, having read it and reread it scores of times, but hesitated to make a decision, and his indecision caused him to feel a tickle of unease in his belly. He tightened his belt and then put on his dark green overalls.
The lights were on when he went into the kitchen. He said good morning, turned on the radio to listen to the news and sat down to eat the breakfast ever-so-kind Delphine was already preparing for him. He took notice of her slowness, the vacillations that now affected his wife’s hands, and thought about how the years had already begun to be considerably onerous for her, although fortunately old age had not yet altered their loving devotion for each other and the reciprocal affection they had observed for who knows how long. A lifetime, so to speak. The idea comforted him, and he was even able to overcome the cramps still rumbling in his stomach. He heeded the radio announcer, who was updating details about a police investigation following a raid two days before on a Paris-based mafia network dedicated to the human trafficking of Sub-Saharan women, who, having being recruited by the criminals in a range of ways, were being forced into prostitution on the Parisian streets and brothels all over the country. The number of those arrested exceeded seventy, including pimps and prostitutes, claimed the announcer –whose voice was remarkably firm and clear so early in the morning– but the police were investigating whether one of the ringleaders had vanished thanks to an internal leak. Oblivious to any kind of self-criticism, a Parisian politician made the most of the report by declaring in his baritone voice that the fight against human trafficking was one of the priorities the government had set its sights on, and they would not spare any effort. When he finished his coffee, André went to the radio and turned it off, which did not give an NGO representative the chance to ask a (markedly rhetorical) question about what sort of fate would await those women captured by the officers, who apparently saw no distinction between a prostitute and a criminal. While his wife took the plate and the cutlery and began washing up, André returned to their bedroom. He opened a drawer in the bedside table, grabbed his wallet, his keys and a clean handkerchief, his initials elegantly embroidered in gold on a corner, and he distributed the lot in the many pockets of his overalls. When he was about to go out, he retraced his steps and stretched his hand to seize the letter, but his fingertips remained for a second on the soft white paper, without clasping it. He observed the happiness of the two children in the photograph and let his finger slide down the glass, fantasising about caressing their gentle, soft cheeks. He lifted the frame with care, took the envelope and put it in his pocket.