Pageviews past week

Friday, February 10, 2012


The following is the Captain's prayer from Alvaro Mutis' novella The Snow on the Admiral translated by Edith Grossman


from The Snow of the Admiral

Alvaro Mutis

High calling of my protectors, those who have gone

before me, my constant guides and mentors,

come now in this moment of danger, extend your sword,

with firmness uphold the law of your purpose,

revoke the disorder of birds and creatures of evil omen,

wash clean the hall of innocents

where the vomit of the rejected congeals lieke a sign of

misfortune, where the garments of the supplicant

are a blemish that deflects our compass, makes our cal-

culations uncertain, our forecasts mistaken.

I invoke your presence at this hour and deplore with all

my heart the manacles of my equivocations:

my pact with man-eating leopards in the mangers,

my weakness and tolerance for serpents that shed their

skin at the mere shout of lost hunters,

my communion with bodies that have passed from hand

to hand like a staff to ford a stream, and on whose skin the

saliva of the humble is crystallized,

my ability to contrive the lie of power and cleverness

that moves my brothers away from upright steadiness in

their purposes,

my carelessness in proclaiming your power in customs

offices and guardrooms, in pavilions of sorrow and on pleas-

ure boats, in guard towers along the border and in the corri-

dors of the powerful.

Wipe away in a single stroke all this misfortune and in-

famy, save me,

certain of my obedience to your bitter laws, your abu-

sive haughtiness, your distant occupations, your desolate


I give myself completely to the domination of your unob-

jectionable mercy, and with all humility I prostrate myself

at your feet

to remind you that I am a traveler in mortal danger, that

my ghost is worth nothing, that those who perish far from

home are like trash swept into a corner of the market,

that I am your servant and am helpless, and that these

words contain the unalloyed metal of one who has paid the


owed to you now and forever throughout pale eternity