4 June 2015

The dinosaur

One of the most famous micro-stories written in Spanish comes from the pen of the writer Augusto Monterroso. It consists of seven words and reads:

"Cuando despertó, el dinosaurio todavía estaba allí"

It is not the shortest micro-story of the literature of the language of Cervantes, but it is the most famous. In fact, since its publication in 1959 in "Complete Works and other stories", it has been analyzed and used in different ways.

For example, this micro-story was widely used in Mexico due to the constant victories of the PRI
(Institutional Revolutionary Party), that managed to retain power for over seventy years. For its ability to stay in power for so many years, the party was often compared to a dinosaur that did not seem to understand that its time was over.

Many people have tried to explain the meaning of this micro-story in different ways. Some have given it a philosophical explanation, while other stick to the use of metaphors in order to reach an appropriate explanation of the seven words and the comma. Some are even engaged in trying to find out who awoke, why, where the dinosaur was, what kind of dinosaur was, or where "there" is. 

Certainly, literary critics have done their part in analyzing Monterroso's micro-story to great lenghts. Here I am including one that has caught my attention. 

But this is not all. When it comes to translating those seven words and the comma into English, there is something that strikes me.  In Spanish "despertó" may apply to any living creature as the subject is elicited. However, the translation that I have found on the Internet is this: "When he awoke, the dinosaur was still there ". Obviusly, this translation brings some problems as it does not conform to the original text. 

In any case, Monterroso's micro-story seems to fulfill one of the functions of literature: to entertain.

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