"The Road" by Cormac McCarthy

Con un estilo implacable y una trama de una profundidad emocional turbadora, esta durísima novela sobre los límites del amor y la voluntad de supervivencia es un sombrío augurio sobre el colapso civilizatorio que nos aguarda.

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Daniel Francis

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Molly Malcolm

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Some books are instant classics. The Road by Cormac McCarthy is one. Writing in a Southern Gothic tradition, McCarthy explores unforgiving, violent lives illuminated by moments of goodness. Haunting and profound and written in lyrical pared-down prose, The Road describes the journey that an unnamed man and his son make after a global catastrophe. The book contains deep reflections on what it means and does not mean to be human.  

DISASTER

The Road describes all the love and protection a father can offer his son in a post-apocalyptic environment. The reason for the disaster is never explained. Was it a nuclear strike? An asteroid? A giant volcanic eruption? Whatever has happened, the world has changed forever:

“With the first gray light he rose and left the boy sleeping and walked out to the road and squatted and studied the country to the south. Barren, silent, godless. He thought the month was October but he wasnt sure. He hadnt kept a calendar for years. They were moving south. There’d be no surviving another winter here.”

“Se levantó con la primera luz gris y dejó al chico durmiendo y caminó hasta la carretera y en cuclillas estudió la región que se extendía al sur. Árida, silenciosa, infame. Debía de ser el mes de octubre pero no estaba seguro. Hacía años que no usaba calendario. Irían hacia el sur. Aquí era imposible sobrevivir un invierno más”.

WHAT IF...

Central to The Road is the question: ‘What if...?’ What if you found yourself in a world with no fresh food or water, no government or laws, no electricity or shelter? Could you survive? What if you met thieves and murderous gangs? Would you join them or flee from them? What if the sky and land were filled with ash and the old world were reduced to debris? How would you cope? This is reality for the man in the book, who asks the same questions of a fellow survivor on the road: 

“How do you live?

I just keep going. I knew this was coming.

You knew this was coming?

Yeah. This or something like it. 

I always believed in it.

Did you try to get ready for it?

No. What would you do?

I dont know.

People were always getting ready for tomorrow. I didnt believe in that. Tomorrow wasnt getting ready for them. It didnt even know they were there.”

“¿Y cómo vive?

Voy tirando. Sabíia que esto iba a pasar.

¿Sabía que iba a pasar?

Sí. Esto o algo parecido. Siempre creí en ello.

¿Intentó prepararse?

No. ¿Qué se podía hacer?

No lo sé.

La gente siempre se afanaba para el día de mañana. Yo no creía en eso. Al mañana la traía sin cuidado. Ni siquiera sabía que la gente estaba allí”.

DANGER

The man tries to teach his son the skills to keep him alive and the values to keep his humanity alive with him. When catastrophe strikes, what sort of person do you become? Forced to scavenge for food, they face constant danger: from starvation, cold, sickness and from the gangs of hunters who eat human flesh. In one of the most frightening scenes in the book, the exhausted man fails to listen to instinct as they approach a large house:

“What is this place, Papa?

Shh. Let’s just stand here and listen.

There was nothing. The wind rustling the dead roadside bracken. A distant creaking. Door or shutter.

I think we should take a look.

Papa let’s not go up there.

It’s okay.

I dont think we should go up there.

It’s okay. We have to take a look.”

“¿Qué sitio es este, papá?

Chsss… Quedémonos aquí y escuchemos.

No había nada. El viento agitando los helechos muertos junto a la carretera. Un crujido en la distancia. Puerta o persiana.

Creo que deberíamos ir a ver.

Papá, no subamos.

No pasa nada.

Yo preferiría no subir.

Tranquilo. Tenemos que echar un vistazo”.

THE COAST

The Road is a bleak, desperate story but there is great tenderness in the relationship between father and child, and even flashes of humour. The young boy carries what he calls ‘the fire’: his humanity, innocence and integrity. The pair dream of reaching the coast, hoping to find other survivors, other decent people, and when they see the ocean, the boy is full of questions:

“What’s on the other side?

Nothing. 

There must be something.

Maybe there’s a father and his little boy and they’re sitting on the beach.

That would be okay.

Yes. That would be okay.

And they’re carrying the fire too?

They could be. Yes.”

“¿Qué hay al otro lado?

Nada.

Algo habrá, ¿no?

Quizá un padre y su hijo sentados en la playa.

Eso sería bonito.

Sí. Sería bonito.

¿Y podría ser que ellos también llevaran el fuego?

Sí. Podría ser”.

CONVERSATIONS

It is a heartbreaking and unforgettable novel; some of the most powerful passages in The Road are found in the conversations between father and son. McCarthy reportedly told Oprah Winfrey that much of the dialogue was inspired by real discussions he’d had with his own son, John. The Road was released as a movie in 2009, starring Viggo Mortensen.

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