Dos Indios (1983)

From Thunder’s Mouth Press:

When the mist lifted, Manco saw that the small plaza was filled with people. He was on his father’s shoulders listening to a man address the crowd. The man, whose costume was the color of clouds heavy with rain, held his odd-shaped cap in his hands and looked earnestly at the people. Manco heard the words “Dios” and “Cristo,” which were familiar to him, though they did not sound the same coming from this man, who blinked his eyes when he spoke. Looking about him, Manco saw that not only his father and mother and two sisters, but his relatives and all his neighbors were pressed together, listening. Manco glanced from one face to another … The faces looked the way they did when they ate, very serious, without joy. Manco looked again at the speaker: he had done something to himself, his hair was too short on his head so that his ears stuck out. Nor did his body seem comfortable in its tight costume with the shining buttons and the enclosed shoes. Manco remembered another man he saw once with faded skin and hair the color of winter grass. The speaker reminded the boy of the faded man, though the speaker’s skin was not faded, but was the color of earth, like Manco’s own skin. It was something else, something in the speaker’s manner.

Now he held his cap in one hand, and in the other held a cloth that fitted over his fingers:

“Brothers, sisters, this little doll I have in my hands can talk and sing. It can weep. Its name is Jesús Cristo.” The speaker turned to the doll: “Weep for our brothers and sisters, Señor.” He looked up again at his audience. “Jesús tells me that he cannot weep for you here because here is not the proper place. But if you promise to come to the Iglesia this afternoon at three o’clock Jesús will weep for you, and he will sing to you of his sufferings …”

Manco wondered why the speaker was addressing the people in Spanish and not in Quechua.

“Jesús es el Generalísimo — Jesús is the great leader of the Salvation Army, my brothers and sisters. And everyone of you can become soldiers in this wonderful army if you promise forever to obey your general, who will address you this afternoon at three o’clock in the Iglesia.”

Reviews:

“Joining the flesh of its people with the flesh of the natural world through music, Dos Indios is finally about the search for the spirit of the body. Jaffe’s prose is simple, direct and lovely, and like his gentle musicians, it sings.”
–Toby Olson

“Those familiar with Jaffe’s experimental works, Mole’s Pity and Mourning Crazy Horse, will find in Dos Indios the same compassion for human suffering, the same regard for man’s resilient spirit, the same ability to uncover beauty and hope within even the most grotesque and painful aspects of contemporary life. But Dos Indios also represents a new and highly successful direction in Jaffe’s fiction: a clarity of vision that allows a crippled Peruvian musician to unfold with the precision of realism and the resonance of myth.”
–Larry McCaffery

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