Adriana Buenos Aires:
The Last Bad Novel

Macedonio Fernández

A Note on the Bad Novel

There are two types of novel: the one which the reader holds in his hands is “the last novel in the Bad Genre,” just as “The Novel of Eterna and the Child of Sorrow, Dear Person of a Love that was Never Disclosed,” is the “first novel in the Good Genre.” The prologues to the latter notified the reader of this fact and explained clearly why it was necessary to hit on, and finish, the Last Bad Novel before writing the first good one.

It has been a difficult task. Perhaps the greatest achievement for an author who possesses the secret of writing the Good Novel is to resist the constant temptation to correct the many examples of artistic naiveté in this story, the ridiculous digressions, the sentimental style, and the prodigious coincidences. Let it be understood that, for an author who could so easily produce a novel of genius, the writing of this one was a true feat of discipline.

I hope that the reader will appreciate the effort it has cost me to avoid making this novel brilliant. When I tried to find someone to write it for me, my modest friends excused themselves by saying that they did not have the requisite lack of talent to do the job. Certainly it is more difficult to write a Bad Novel in bad faith than to write a good one in good faith.

Once more: don’t confuse the two.

Lastly, I confess that, in my weakness for good writing, I have torn up and thrown away a priceless Bad Ending full of blood and disaster worked out with such skill that the entire novel served only as a preparation for the ending. Instead, I have given it the conclusion which you will read: a perfect ending for a Good Novel rather than a Bad one, according to my theory that true tragedy lies, not in the separation or the death of lovers, but in love weakened and forgotten.

Good Bad-Novel readers will have to forgive me for my un-deafening ending. I admit that it will awaken neither the neighbors nor the protagonists. Forgetting is the most truly tragic part of life, and the saddest thing about it is that it happens unnoticed: it is the gradual, insidious coming of resignation. And the protagonists don’t realize that they are dead.


“. . .And I want to ask you something,” she said suddenly, turning to face me, “I want to know, how are you?”

How much she wanted to tell me! Her look was noble and energetic. She wanted to say: I expect an unselfish answer. She asked and demanded—out of friendship but also out of pity for my situation in relation to her—that I renounce that hope of which we had never spoken, but at which we had both guessed.

“Adriana,” I said serenely, “your happiness makes me happy. It is an immense relief for me to feel that I am sincere in saying this. The dreams that you discovered in me are now asleep and they will never awake if Adolfo recovers, as I am sure he will. An hour ago I didn’t understand my feelings, even the ones that concerned myself alone. Now that I see you happy, I have discovered that I can find joy in seeing you that way, happy in love,” I sighed.

“Is that really true?” she asked in a strange tone of voice.

I hesitated; a new wave of emotion flooded my being.

“I don’t know. The voice of my heart trembles, Adriana; I can’t hear it.”

Then the woman of my fate, the soul of beauty, that sweet child came afire. Taking both my hands and bending her face close to mine, she said in a choking voice:

“Eduardo: when I meet the man who needed only one glance to know me and the second to love me and offer his heart, when I discover that there can be a love like this in the world, when I learn that you love no other and yet you devote yourself to bringing about the love that another has for me, my soul would be plunged in eternal blindness if I did not tell you that in one of the two worlds that correspond to each life you are my only love”

“In which world, Adriana?” I asked, my heart on fire.


“Play your guitar a little, Eduardo. I know that when you have a guitar you forget all about me.”

“Even with my guitar, I think of you; with you, I would never think of the guitar. Life is made up of two things: love and love-substitutes. Art, science, concern for humanity, have no value in themselves: either they are born as a commentary on love or they compensate for its temporary or permanent absence. Music is a contemptible game played with the shadows of feelings if it is sought for itself and not for its prophesy of love. Life without the companionship of love or the hope of having it soon is . . . like a blind man’s open eyes. Selfishness is the only loneliness, the only unhappiness.”

“But you are not without love, Eduardo.”

“I am not, Adriana; you have given me your magnificent company; with the words you have just said, my loneliness has vanished. Even before you spoke, I treasured your Love in my Hope; I told myself: there is a light, there is a world in which I have Adriana’s love, in which she can and does love me.”

“Before I met you, I felt, but I didn’t understand, that I lacked something, even though I had all of Adolfo's love. I didn’t know that I needed, that perhaps everyone needs, for my soul to be seen as well as loved. I belong to love, only and wholly to love. I alone knew this: I alone, even in the midst of Adolfo's passionate love. Only you have understood me, and if I live for a hundred years more, no other man will understand me as you have. You needed only one glance. Like blind men, the others passed by me and failed to guess who I was: I lost hope that anyone ever would. Sometimes I say to myself, ‘Poor Adolfo,’ and I wonder: if my poor body, if my womanly shape had not presented an appearance that excited his senses, would he have come to me? That is why, Eduardo, I am love for you. Although I don’t know how or where, I am sure that there is one face of the mystery of life in which you and I are each other’s only love.”

“Before I met you, I was all intelligence: I saw deeply into the soul, into everything. And I had nothing. I have seen you, I have loved you, and now everything is mine. If I tortured myself with doubts as to whether I had or would have your love, it was because I let myself be troubled by the influence of men and times who deny what the light of my heart has always shown me: that he who loves will be loved in return. Not only because everything that your voice says, Adriana, is my truth, but also because you say things that no imagination could invent, I am sure now that I will never lose this harmony of my mind and my heart.”

“Eduardo, we will speak much more of our love in the days that come. Do you remember that on the first day you said to me: ‘Young lady: you are love itself’? It was a miraculous moment for me, because it was the first time that anyone saw into my soul; because by recognizing me so soon you showed that my inner, my only reality was overflowing, because when you said it so simply you proved the force of your vision; because . . . I felt myself loved in a different way from the way Adolfo loves me. I love him, and I always will: my feeling for him is stronger and more compelling than ever, but I know now that I will never be able to elevate our love to the heights of which I am capable, because his heart is tender and gentle, nothing more.

“He has my compassion; that is to say, he has my body. He has my love as well, my wounded love.”

Then she said: “I have given you nothing.”

I looked at her mouth: so pure in its loyalty that no explanations were necessary: the kisses I took from her carried Adolfo’s name. I said nothing, and I don’t believe that in doing so I put a lie between us.

“I will not be able to give you anything in this world where Adolfo, you, and I have met.”

And with this she fell silent. Everything had been said and understood.

We spoke ever more slowly and softly as mutual understanding filled us to the brim. From then on we did not need words.

And so our love remained: spoken and unpromised, fulfilled and impossible.

SOURCE: Fernández, Macedonio. “Adriana Buenos Aires: The Last Bad Novel” (excerpts), translated by Paula Speck, in Macedonio: Selected Writings in Translation, edited by Jo Anne Engelbert (Fort Worth, TX: Latitudes Press, 1984), pp. 76-80.

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