The Dominican writer Juan Bosch, in Las dictaduras dominicanas (1988), argues that the first United States occupation of the Dominican Republic from 1916 to 1924 left a legacy of political and social instability. Instead of enabling Dominicans to create and administer their own political institutions, he explains, the United States “without political or legal authority” made the majority of the economic and political decisions during that period (Bosch 1988, 6–7). The most long-lasting and eventually ruinous choice was the US Marines’ training and promotion of a then young Rafael Leonidas Trujillo through the ranks of the National Army. By 1930, as commander in chief of the Dominican military, Trujillo would help overthrow President Horacio Vásquez, thereby ushering in thirty-one years of “behind-the-scenes political intrigues” from 1930 until his assassination on May 30, 1961 (Derby 2009, 229).
Trujillo’s assassination and the planned coup that was to follow were terribly botched. Rather than allay the collective fear of retribution and repression that were hallmarks of Trujillo’s dictatorial control over the Dominican Republic, the immediate result was an even higher level of national panic. John Bartlow Martin, who would become US ambassador to the Dominican Republic in March 1962, recalled the days following the assassination as a “sheer nightmare” in which “all the hate, all the fury, all the contempt for the people … were vented now upon the assassins and their relatives” (Martin 1966, 60). Even with the expulsion of most of Trujillo’s immediate family and those loyal to the trujillato, no revolution arrived. Instead, according to Bosch, there was only infighting, petty jealousies, and distrust among Dominican politicians: “It was a sad spectacle for those of us who understood that the last chance for a Dominican revolution was vanishing” (1965, 50–51).1 For Bosch, the wave of democratic reforms that ushered in his tenure were insufficient to counter the almost complete political and legal void of the past decades. Although freely elected to the presidency in December 1962, Bosch had struggled to stabilize a country rife with unrest among Dominicans on the left and mounting suspicion from those on the right. Cuba’s successful revolution in 1959 also fueled the suspicions of political leaders from the United States and the Dominican Republic who worried about a second Caribbean nation falling to the Communists.
Yet, in the midst of the overwhelming quagmire of political chaos, daily threats to his presidency, and an increasingly vocal opposition, another story was playing out behind the scenes; Ambassador Martin’s role in the translation and publication of Bosch’s short story “La mancha indeleble.” Martin and Bosch’s unlikely literary collaboration, in light of their shared struggles to lay the groundwork for a stable Dominican government, seems trivial. The rhetoric of the Cold War, however, was intimately involved in the story’s final English translation and mirrors the complicated ideological and philosophical incommensurability of United States–Dominican relations in the 1960s.
At the center of my analysis is this unique affiliation between Bosch and Martin and their understanding of the relationship between literature, power, and politics. They shared similar experiences as journalists, creative writers, and, ultimately, interpreters of Cold War politics in a variety of formats. Yet each understood the dynamics of the Cold War and the political choices it afforded in diametrically opposed ways. To explore the depths of these philosophical and political differences, I examine a variety of cultural texts, including essays by both authors and their respective accounts about the era of Bosch’s presidency. I was able to use Martin’s papers at the Library of Congress as primary resources about the saga of the story, its translation, and publication. The collection covers a large body of Martin’s personal and professional papers from 1939 to 1983. There are over 150,000 individual items held in 453 containers and arranged in a series of nine categories, including his notes for his most ambitious book, The Life of Adlai E. Stevenson. The majority of my research centers on the “Ambassador File 1961–1974,” which contains a wealth of material ranging from postcards and telegrams to key correspondence during Martin’s time in the Dominican Republic. There are also notes and parts of early drafts of some sections of his book Overtaken by Events: The Dominican Crisis from the Fall of Trujillo to the Civil War. There are seven boxes contained in the series, numbered 44–50, and of these, boxes 44 to 46 include the two translations of “La mancha indeleble” and several other telegrams, memos, and letters that are directly connected to the Cold War and its presence in many facets of United States–Dominican relations of the time.
Taken together, my analysis of these resources and the history of the short story’s publication are directly tied to the growing area of Cold War literary and cultural studies that is answering Ann Douglas’s observation in 1998 that while literary critics were engaged with postmodernism and postcolonialism, the significance of the Cold War, and how it shaped and influenced most post-1945 American literature, went unnoticed (Douglas 1998, 74–75; quoted in Belletto and Grausam 2012, 3). For Latin American literature, especially after the Cuban Revolution, the influence of the Cold War, through institutions such as the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA’s) Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF), extended to the role of translation to “consolidating and maintaining control over political discourse” (Rubin 2012, 56). Ultimately, the final publication of “The Indelible Spot” in the Saturday Evening Post fits well with Rubin’s idea of “worlding,” in which “the process of immediate translation and rapid circulation was part of the changing conditions of literary and cultural production and transmission” that made writers of other countries more accessible and, ideally, more vulnerable to the power and authority of a given institution or, in the case of the United States, a given ideology (Rubin 2012, 57–59).
The Power of Literature
In the fall of 1961, Martin arrived in the capital of Santo Domingo to help install a coalition of politicians, anti-trujillistas, clergymen, and business owners to aid with the transition to democratic elections. By March 1962, with his return as the US ambassador, the alliance was on the verge of collapse. The city of Santo Domingo was a “jungle,” he wrote, where “Dominicans were like moles blinded by the sudden sunlight,” presumably of freedom (Martin 1966, 66). Martin would seem an odd choice for ambassador to such a volatile yet strategically important country. Although he had been a speechwriter for Adlai Stevenson, John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, and Lyndon Baines Johnson, he had no State Department experience, spoke minimal Spanish, and had spent the majority of his life in the Midwest. Martin was the author of fifteen books, predominantly in the genre of true crime. He was also a freelance journalist for publications as diverse as the Saturday Evening Post, Life, Look, Collier’s, Atlantic Monthly, Reader’s Digest, Harper’s and the Indianapolis Times. Martin’s ties to American publishing were central to the US publication of Bosch’s “The Indelible Spot.”
Martin’s relationship with the Dominican Republic began in 1937 when he traveled to the country to write his first published article for the magazine Ken: The Insider’s World, about Trujillo’s reign. David Smart and Arnold Gingrich of Esquire founded Ken “to influence public opinion toward action where applicable,” specifically in response to the Spanish Civil War. The most famous contributor to the publication was Ernest Hemingway, who highlighted the plight of the Spanish Loyalists against European fascism to embolden US involvement (Baptista 2009, 30). The magazine was large format, filled with photographs, cartoons, and stylized drawings. Articles varied in length and were densely packed into a four-column grid, usually interrupted at some point by a photo or drawing that would occupy two columns of a given page. Martin’s article appeared in the December 29, 1938, issue along with articles on Hitler, Seabiscuit, and illegal coal mining in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Martin’s essay on Trujillo, “Conquistador in Khaki,” opens with a photo of Trujillo and his wife followed by a brief summary of the article about the innumerable abuses of power Trujillo carried out in the first seven years of his dictatorship from 1930 to 1937. In much the same way that Hemingway’s contributions to the magazine highlighted the predicament of the Spanish Loyalists, Martin’s piece argued that the United States would best serve “this ancient bullet-ridden Republic” by abandoning the Good Neighbor policy in favor of more direct or even “armed intervention” (1938,79).2
In his memoir It Seems Like Only Yesterday (1986), Martin notes that this was his first published article, for which he was paid $150 and from which he carried the voucher in his wallet “until it wore out” (1986, 15). As he goes on to say, however, the importance of the article was “writing and traveling to the Dominican Republic. That doomed beautiful island republic played a crucial role for me lifelong” (1986, 15). Martin’s passion for the Dominican Republic, at least to some degree, was a natural extension of his interest in and championing of what he called “life’s losers … the underdogs, los de abajo, those from below” (1986, 149). Much of the article focuses on the great divide between Trujillo and his followers versus the “Dominican common people.” The story opens with the suggestion of a possible revolt in retaliation for Trujillo’s soldiers’ abuse of a campesino (1986, 75). The revolt, Martin clarifies, never happens, and once again the people return to life “under a harsh and bloody reign of terror” (1986, 75). Perhaps it was because of this sense of injustice, the abuse of the innocent, and the United States’ continued refusal to intervene on behalf of the Dominican people that Martin, acting on the advice of a fellow writer, Jack DeWitt, added a key event in the final article that did not occur.
The decision is important for two reasons. First, it will be the only time Martin ever fictionalizes a piece of reportage. His culpability is sufficient that he mentions the false episode twice within the first few pages of his memoir. Once, to talk about why he decided to make up the rape and sequestering of a young girl by one of Trujillo’s men, and a second time to publically state that it was “a shabby trick, a counterfeit substitute for solid reporting” (Martin 1986, 12–15). As he recounts his experiences to DeWitt, he mentions having seen one of Trujillo’s soldiers “take a teen-age girl by the hand and disappear with her into the darkness.” He was unsure, however, as to their relationship. DeWitt’s advice is to include the episode but “embellish that story and use it to personify the military’s power” (Martin 1986, 12). When he is asked to revise the piece for Ken he includes the “invented” episode, which appears in the middle of the published piece (1986, 15). Martin’s description goes well beyond a simple invention, however, and includes a level of detail that lends an air of veracity to the story. He names the young woman María, says she is twenty years old and engaged to be married. The soldier, he says, sits down with the couple and after a few drinks forces her to leave with him. She appears two weeks later, no longer engaged, shunned by her friends, turning to prostitution (Martin 1938, 76). The irony of Martin’s deception was that it was not far from the truth. Many a narrative of Trujillo throughout his regime noted this very kind of behavior.3 Second, although he would never again resort to such fictions, the decision is a clear indication that Martin was well aware of the power of literature to influence public opinion and policy.
In her groundbreaking study on the Cold War and Latin American literary production, Jean Franco argues that with the exception of the “committed” artists of the 1940s in the United States, most writers separated politics and art. With the advent of the Cold War, modernism and “spiritual critique” (aka New Criticism) became the preferred contexts of expression and analysis. For Latin American writers, meanwhile, the Cold War and expressly the Cuban revolution led to a “split” in which writers could no longer merely profess commitment but “were challenged by publics whose imaginations were fired by armed struggle and revolution” (Franco 2002, 2). Far from avoiding controversy, writers throughout the region “substantially redefined their traditional pedagogical role,” recasting their work as a challenge to, not a continuation of, authority (Franco 2002, 4). In one of the first and most comprehensive studies of Bosch’s literary career, Margarita Fernández Olmos (1982, 7) observes that for Latin American authors, like Bosch, writing was by its very nature individual and social insomuch as the literary expression “responds to the exigencies of society and exercises a certain influence over it.” Bosch reaffirms this interconnectedness when he explains that from an early age he knew he would be a writer “with a very clearly defined purpose; to serve my people” (Piña Contreras 2000, 39). Even years later, in 1989, in an interview with Miguel Anibal Perdomo, when asked if he agreed with Carlos Fuentes’s conclusion that writers who become involved with politics harm their writing career, Bosch responded, “No, in my case it has not been true. In my case one understands, let’s say, my double profession, a writer and a politician since the dictatorship of Rafael L. Trujillo” (Perdomo 2000, 149). Although Bosch was a master of the short story, his publications also include three novels and numerous essays ranging from a few pages to book length. Son of a Catalonian father and a Puerto Rican mother, Bosch grew up in La Vega in the heart of Dominican farmland, where his father grew tobacco, sugar, and cacao. Bosch was an outspoken opponent of Trujillo, had been jailed by Trujillo’s henchmen, and fled the country in December 1937 to escape Trujillo’s request that he join the regime; “it was dangerous not to accept” (Despradel 2000, 105). Throughout his twenty-four-year exile he would publish a variety of direct and indirect attacks upon the trujillato and in 1939, in Cuba, he founded the Partido Revolucionario Dominicano (PRD).4
Echoing Franco’s observation about the new commitment of writers in Latin America, Bosch, in the prologue to his Antología personal, notes that upon his return to the Dominican Republic in October 1961, “I stopped writing short stories” (2009, 3). In fact, “La mancha indeleble” was his last short story (Fernández 1982, 173). He continued, however, to write essays, and was clearly aware of his role as a representative of his country’s future. On the eve of his return to the Dominican Republic, his essay “Panorama político en 1961” appeared in the journal Cuadernos del Congreso por la Libertad de la Cultura. The history of Cuadernos was similar to that of Ken as it was published with the purpose of disseminating a specific ideological perspective: American democracy. Franco argues that with the CIA’s founding of the Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF), which issued Cuadernos, “the line between cultural criticism and propaganda was decisively crossed” (Franco 2002, 30). As the CIA’s Spanish version of their worldwide publications designed to “administer, control and manage various discourses of the Cold War,” Cuadernos offered international exposure and the cache of “being published in the same journal as ‘world writers’ such as Thomas Mann, Benedetto Croce and Upton Sinclair” (Franco 2002, 35). For the CCF, these writers were “essentially transformed into representatives and cultural emissaries” of their countries (Rubin 2012, 40).
Although Bosch does not directly mention Trujillo’s death, the volume is dedicated to the Puerto Rican writer and intellectual Jorge Mañach, who had died on June 25, 1961, almost a month after the ajusticiamiento.5 So, too, Bosch twice talks about the Latin American political situation in the “promedio” (middle) of 1961, which suggests that the piece was written after May 30. Bosch contextualizes his argument in terms of the nineteenth-century wars of independence throughout Latin America. Those upheavals were primarily the effort of the landed and upper classes in revolt against Spanish rule. For the middle and lower-middle classes, however, little changed, and in the absence of Spanish governance, there was a “semivacío” (dearth) of social and political institutions. In the twentieth century, he contends, much of Latin America is simply a “political and economic satellite of the United States” in collusion, once again, with the upper classes (1961, 14). A key aspect of maintaining this relationship between the United States and the ruling classes is the threat of communism, especially in the wake of the Cuban revolution. Anticommunism, Bosch argues (1961, 15), is not so much about “the love of freedom as it is the defense of its privileges.” This Cold War rhetoric is exactly what helps to maintain the status quo in Latin America even as countries such as the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua suffer under “the persistence of frightening tyrannies.” He is not, however, promoting communism or, as he describes it, the “reactionary propaganda” that is taking hold of the disaffected masses throughout the region. There will be revolutions, he concludes, and it matters little to most whether they be communist or democratic, but clearly his hope is that these “major changes” come about through the creation of economic and social institutions free from the rhetoric of both sides (Bosch 1961, 15).
Many of Bosch’s reservations about the role of the United States in the future of Latin America in general and the Dominican Republic in particular are clear throughout the essay. He is especially dismissive of the Kennedy administration, calling it “intrinsically weak” as it struggles to appease “the anti-imperialistic sectors … that want to see the North American government free of the influence of colonialist businessmen and the almost overpowering pressure of these latter forces” (Bosch 1961, 14). In a 1979 interview, as he explains why the PRD first sent only a commission to the Dominican Republic after Trujillo’s death, he notes that this preliminary gesture was important to allay the fears of the United States, because “by 1961, do not forget, the United States’ government saw communists even in the sacristy of the Church” (Despradel 2000, 126). Ultimately, the opportunity to publish in Cuadernos provided Bosch a timely forum to promote substantive change in the Dominican Republic in the wake of Trujillo’s assassination, hopefully outside the sphere of the United States’ influence. It is not, however, the stark condemnation of communism for which the journal was founded. The disjuncture between Bosch’s nuanced attitude toward communism and his rejection of the ideological dilemma of Cold War rhetoric was a harbinger of the ideological disconnection that exasperated his relationship with Martin and his brief time as president.
The Trujillato without Trujillo
According to Bosch, he first met Martin in June or July of 1962, three months after Martin’s arrival, in the wake of a failed attempt on the part of Trujillo’s vice president, Joaquín Balaguer, to take power as the “rightful” next in command. Bosch described Martin as “a man with a grim face and a gentle soul … a Kennedy liberal,” who, like many left-leaning American intellectuals of the time, “passionately believed in the need for the United States to oversee totally a crusade to bring the Andean Hamlet a constructive democracy” (1965, 100).6 The irony of Bosch’s portrayal, as he describes Martin as a “crusader” who would bring democracy to “the Andean hamlet,” underscores the continued sense of inequity, indeed, patronization, whenever a Latin American country found itself within the sphere of US political influence. Martin’s first recollection of Bosch was a bit more positive, although he recalls their initial meeting to be in April. He described Bosch as “a tall, erect man with curly snow-white hair, high cheekbones, high broad forehead and striking blue eyes.” Bosch, he said, “had the air of one fit to lead” (1966, 112).7 As they continued to work closely, however, Martin would grow increasingly impatient with Bosch, describing him as someone who “shrank from power” adding that “people who fear the power they possess may use it erratically” (1966, 299). In short, Martin was never convinced that Bosch was actually strong enough to fend off the Castro Communists.
As one of the new Cold War warriors, those who believed it was underdevelopment that drove instability in Latin America, Martin was uniquely equipped to do JFK’s bidding while bringing that much-needed cultural and political aid through the auspices of the Alliance for Progress to counteract past inequities; at least he believed he was. Almost immediately, however, he is concerned about the so-called Castro Communists, who could quickly lead the Dominican Republic away from democracy. In the old part of Santo Domingo, he is certain, agents of these Castro Communists are fomenting riots and other public protests. Martin had a very clear definition of a Castro Communist as someone who “took money and instructions from Communist parties outside the Republic” but were “attracted far more to Fidel Castro than to Marx or Lenin” (1966, 128). Castro’s revolution posed a different problem for Martin and other Cold War liberals because it had been a revolution to overthrow a brutal dictator similar in many ways to Trujillo and other such infamous rulers throughout Latin America in the early 1960s. How were they to contain the flow of revolutionary zeal emanating from Cuba and create fair and just democracies in places like the Dominican Republic, which, Martin sadly notes, was considered to be a “showcase of democracy” despite the legions of problems that confronted the country (1966, 5). For liberal democrats such as Martin, the Alliance for Progress was focused on helping Latin American countries toward economic and, therefore, democratic stability. Its founding seemed the perfect anecdote to years of strained relations among the various countries and the United States. Closely allied to Cold War strategies, however, the Alliance was also created, in Kennedy’s words, to remind the world that “this Hemisphere intends to remain the master of its own house.”8
For many in Latin America, including Bosch, the program was reminiscent of the past colonial and neocolonial attitudes of the United States throughout its history. Moreover, the apparent short memory of Martin and other government officials regarding the history of US occupation in the Dominican Republic from 1916 to 1924 created an ideological impasse in which US officials read Bosch’s questioning of the intentions of the Alliance as dangerously close to procommunist sentiments. In Martin’s memoirs of Bosch’s presidency, the Alliance and its success is closely linked to “non-Communist” sentiments while, for Bosch, there is a clear sense of frustration at the imposition of American ideas and technology on his country through the Alliance and the Peace Corps (Martin 1966, 269; Bosch 1965, 150–159). Despite these misgivings, Martin worked diligently with Bosch and his supporters throughout the 1962 electoral season, and on December 20, 1962, Bosch became the first freely elected president of the Dominican Republic.
The day after the December election, Bosch asked Harry Shlaudeman, Martin’s chargé d’affaires, to arrange a meeting to discuss Bosch’s impending trip to the United States. Along with his request for a visa for his wife and meeting with various politicians in Washington, Bosch was, according to Martin (1966, 299), delighted at the possibility of working with Martin’s group of publishers and editors. For Martin, Bosch’s trip would be an opportunity to bring Bosch out into the open after being “too long submerged in the conspiratorial underworld of Caribbean exile politics” (Martin 1966, 299). In fact, throughout his time as ambassador, Martin was acutely aware of how the lack of knowledge about the Dominican Republic on the part of the United States’ government and people threatened to be as destabilizing for the country’s future as an internal attack. In some respects, Martin’s campaign to publish something by the Dominican president in English was integral to this publicity campaign. By connecting Bosch with a possible publisher, Martin argued (1966, 389), he was “using any tie I could to build bridges,” bridges not only between himself and Bosch but, just as importantly, between Bosch and US interests in Latin America.
Martin’s early attempts in January 1963 were with his editor Dorothy Olding at Harold Ober Associates.9 In January 1963, Olding reported that she and her colleague Ivan von Auw had tried to reach Bosch during his stay in New York, leaving “countless messages,” but Bosch did not respond. She also submitted “three of J.B.’s books” to Atheneum, where they were rejected, as well as two other publishers who still had not answered. Finally, she told Martin, she was unsuccessful in convincing anyone at the Saturday Evening Post and other magazines to see if they might be “interested in him as the subject or writer of an article.”10 The next correspondence in the series is a brief letter from Martin to Olding dated February 22, 1963, in which he notes that Jack Fisher, editor in chief at Harper’s, is “interested in a piece by President-elect Bosch. I expect to get a translation of one of his stories which, with his permission, I will forward to you.”11 The story was “La mancha indeleble.”12 The previous day, February 21, Juan Gorrell, a foreign service officer, sent Martin his translation with a brief note suggesting to Martin that publication of the story in the United States would “no doubt” make Bosch “delighted and feel appreciated in the U.S.”13 Martin’s next letter to Olding, however, is a month later on March 19, when he sends her two versions of the story, one by Gorrell, “The Stain That Will Not Wash Out,” and another by Shlaudeman, adding that Bosch “much prefers the first one [Shlaudeman’s] titled “The Indelible Spot.”14 Martin goes on to explain that he gave Bosch two options for publication, one, “like Harper’s, which would pay little and reach a small but influential audience,” or “a magazine such as Life, Look, or the Post, which would pay far more and reach a much larger though perhaps less influential audience.” Bosch chose the latter, Martin says, “and wants the highest price he can get.”15 Olding responded on April 1 that she, too, prefers the more literal (Shlaudeman) translation, adding that she will probably have more success getting the story published than “I have had with the three books.”16 By the end of April, the Saturday Evening Post had agreed to publish the version translated by Shlaudeman and sent Bosch a check for $1,250, prompting Martin to tell Olding that Bosch “said he made more money this way last month than by being president.”17
The successful placement of Bosch’s story did not occur in a political vacuum. Indeed, among the flurry of communiques between Martin and Olding there are a number of radiograms, memos, and letters that hint at some of the challenges Martin faced during his tenure. For example, there is a copy of the three-page letter of January 16 addressed to Secretary of State Dean Rusk from T. E. Sunderland, then president of United Fruit Company, concerning a strike by banana workers in Haina.18 The strike, Martin concludes in Overtaken, “sounded nasty,” but he resents Sunderland’s attempts to undermine his (Martin’s) authority, demanding that Sunderland apologize and write another letter to the Secretary “telling him the truth” (Martin 1966, 311–312). So too, in Olding’s March 12 letter to Martin, after she tells him, yet again, that she cannot find anyone interested in publishing Bosch’s books, she goes on to note, “I gather there was a little interference at the Inauguration but thankfully not too serious.”19 Preparations for the February 27 inauguration were daunting, as Martin and his staff had to arrange for a peaceful transfer of power between the provisional government headed by Rafael Bonnelly and the newly elected president. Along with credible threats of counterrevolution and assassination, Martin had to prepare to receive a growing array of Latin American dignitaries and host Vice President Lyndon Johnson. The ceremony, Martin explains (1966, 330–336), “was a shambles, an uncontrolled crowd without any security” and yet, ultimately, a peaceful one.20
From “La mancha” to “the Indelible Spot”
Bosch wrote “La mancha indeleble,” his last short story, in exile in Venezuela in 1960 and published it two years later as part of his short story collection Cuentos escritos en el exilio. Even within the collection, “La mancha” stands out as decidedly different in focus, tone, and style. In total, there are ten short stories and a novella, “Cuento de Navidad.” Of the ten stories, “La mancha” is the only one not set in a rustic context in which ignorance, grinding poverty, or human folly plays a central role. Several are more like folktales or parables in the style of costumbrismo and often include colloquial speech reminiscent of rural experience and expression. The novella combines the traditional story of the birth of Jesus, the role of the three wise men, and Santa Claus in an episodic farce that ends on the Texas-Mexico border. The only unifying force of the collection is that Bosch wrote them while living outside of the Dominican Republic. As for “La mancha,” it is the only story set in an urban location, the only one, as Beatriz Carolina Peña notes (2004, 128), written in the first person, that “is similar to the very eventful and controversial life of its author.”
The story, as published in the original collection, consists of three pages of first-person narration and begins with a sentence that immediately establishes an air of the unreal: “All those who had passed through the door before me had given up their heads, which I saw placed in a long row of display cases” (1963, 78).21 The unnamed narrator, on seeing the heads, is “paralyzed by terror” (1963, 78). A disembodied voice then commands that he “deliver his head,” and the narrator stalls for time, trying desperately to think of a way out of this predicament (1963, 78). Without a clear direction, or even a basic explanation of what is happening in the story, the sense of confusion, even anxiety, heightens as the narrator’s questions about how he would actually remove his head are met with simple and straightforward directions by his disembodied captor: “Seize it firmly with both hands, press the thumbs in under the jawbone” (1963, 78). Soon after this exchange, the narrator bolts for the door and escapes to the street. He hides at home for a week and then, finally, goes out to a café, whereupon two men sitting next to him recognize him as the one who fled “after he was already signed up” (1963, 79). Completely unnerved, the narrator spills coffee on his shirt, creating the eponymous stain that persists despite repeated washings. The story ends with his unabated fear and the realization he does not know “if the two men in the café were members of the Party or enemies of it” (1963, 79). There is no resolution of the story beyond this point. No explanation of why the stain will not disappear. No confirmation of the ideology of the two strangers at the café. No hint, even, of what will next befall the narrator. Without specifics pertaining to who, what, where, why, or when, the story is clearly marked as ambiguous and, therefore, unsettling.
Adam Lifshey, in his 2008 article on indeterminacy and representations of the trujillato, writes that “La mancha indeleble” is not easy to classify in terms of meaning and context for several reasons. First, because Bosch wrote it in exile, there would seem to be a direct link with Trujillo and his oppressive regime; people forced to undertake unreasonable orders, anonymous threats carried out against individuals, spies everywhere, and so on. Peña (2004, 129), however, argues that the demand that the protagonist surrender his head is a metaphor for how Bosch would have felt had he accepted a post in Trujillo’s government: “An acceptance would have meant a renunciation of his ideas.” A third possibility comes from a 1975 interview that Margarita Fernández Olmos conducted with Bosch. She asks Bosch to confirm that the story was about a friend of his who had been a member of the Communist Party. Bosch explains that his friend, who was sympathetic to the Dominican cause, left the party because of “a lack of integrity” that the man felt was a source of personal shame, or, as Bosch described it, “the mark of having been a communist” (Fernández Olmos 1982, 168). Because there is no direct mention of the Communist Party, Lifshey argues (2008, 450), the story remains open-ended, “fully in keeping with the ambiguities that lace the text from its start.” Ultimately, Lifshey determines that the open-ended conclusion, the unknown country, and the unknown men from the unnamed party make the story “a text of incoherent and indeterminable import,” which he suggests “is perhaps the most subtle and yet powerful challenge (to Trujillo) that can be crafted” (Lifshey 2008, 452). Within the context of the Cold War and the role that chance played as a direct counter to Soviet-style totalitarianism, all three of these interpretations may be correct. Closely linked to ideas of freedom and self-determination, chance, ambiguity, and indeterminacy all “underscore the naturalness of American democratic freedom” as much as render communism as “an unnatural ideology fitted imperfectly onto objective reality” (Belletto 2012, 16, 19). Thus, for pro-United States democratic forces, the tale offers a clear condemnation of Soviet communism as well as “an acute challenge to the centralized imposition of any orthodoxy whatsoever” (Lifshey 2008, 452).
The Politics of Translation
In “The ‘Death’ of the Author: The Limits of the Translator’s Invisibility,” Rosemary Arroyo contends that in contemporary theory, translation is no longer considered transparent or impartial. Rather, translation is a “form of meaning production” in which the translator’s ideology creates “certain forms of relationships between original and translation, between what is foreign and what is domestic” (Arroyo 1997, 31). Andre Lefevere further elaborates when he argues that the “translator’s ideology” is a product of the “poetics dominant in the receiving literature of the time the translation is made” (1992, 41). The fact that there are two distinct translations of “La mancha indeleble” complicates the interwoven roles of ideology, poetics, and politics. There are three copies of the Gorrell translation in Martin’s papers: one with no notations and two others with distinct handwritten comments. Of these two, one is more a matter of copyediting; changing “that” to “which,” adding or deleting commas. The third copy, however, has a few substantial edits and something has been crossed out in the upper right-hand corner, perhaps a name or additional suggestions.22 There is, meanwhile, only one copy of the Shlaudeman translation in Martin’s papers. Along with a few corrections, which appear in the final version that the Saturday Evening Post published, Shlaudeman’s translation includes a handwritten “OK” followed by Bosch’s initials at the bottom of the first page.23
Neither Juan L. Gorrell nor Harry Shlaudeman had expertise in translation or the theories of translation. Both were, however, Foreign Service officers at different stages of their careers who had, by the time they arrived in Santo Domingo, spent considerable time in Latin America. Gorrell had entered the service in 1939 and had worked at a variety of posts in Latin America and Canada before joining the staff at the US Embassy in Santo Domingo. He had been embassy first secretary during the Eisenhower administration in Guatemala and was involved in monitoring the “fragile electoral coalition” of President Miguel Ydígoras Fuentes’s presidency (Streeter 2001, 86). Shlaudeman began his career in 1954 and had served two two-year terms in Colombia and another three years in Sofia, Bulgaria (1959–1962) before becoming Martin’s chargé d’affaires in 1962.24
Gorrell, however, did have far more experience in translating between Spanish and English, most notably during his time in Ecuador. Along with the photographer and filmmaker André Roosevelt, he published a series of photographs in 1940 detailing the daily lives of Ecuadorians titled Haven. Gorrell wrote the foreword, and the limited edition included three hundred copies in English and one hundred that included a “comprehensive index in Spanish.”25 He also met and worked closely with the anthropologist Elsie Clews Parsons in 1940 on her research into the life and customs of the first peoples in Otavalo, Ecuador. When the final volume, Peguche, Canton of Otavalo, Province of Imbabura, Ecuador; A Study of Andean Indians, was published by the University of Chicago Press in 1945, Parsons thanked Gorrell in the preface for his “careful translations” of the peoples’ “inadequate or dialectical Spanish” (Parsons 1945, v).26
Perhaps Gorrell’s more extensive contact with the cultural and linguistic differences between Latin American and American experience made him more acutely aware of what Homi Bhabha (1994) calls the “performative practices” at work in translation. In place of giving voice to the “original” meaning, the cultural translation is directed toward creating understanding in the second, translated, language. The notion of “performance,” although still tied to Lefevere’s recognition of the double movement of ideology and poetics, acts as a kind of disrupter of meaning, even when intended to overturn “the transparent assumptions of cultural supremacy” (Bhabha 1994, 228–229). For Gorrell, a translation that would be “more effective with an American audience today” meant that he had to reject “the rhythm of the original, as well as to the meaning of the words,” because “it came out sounding like second-hand Poe.” In place of what he felt was a stifling periodization of the piece into something like “The Pit and the Pendulum,” he adopted “the colloquial rhythm of a distraught modern college student, telling his troubles to a friend,” thereby, in Gorrell’s understanding, preserving the immediacy of the “allegory.”27
There are two clear examples of edits in which the literary language Gorrell employed is rewritten in much more matter-of-fact terms. In one instance, he translates the sentence “Parecía que no había distancia entre la vida que había dejado atrás, del otro lado de la puerta, y la que iba a iniciar en ese momento” with an equally long “Between the life I had left back on the other side of the door and the one I was going to begin on in a minute, it seemed no way at all” (Bosch 1979, 153).28 The edited copy of the Gorrell translation replaces “Between” with an adjectival clause at the end, making the sense of time and suspense more primary than in Gorrell’s original: “It seemed no way at all from the life I had left behind on the other side of the door to this one I was going to begin in a minute.” Another, shorter example, occurs when the edited Gorrell copy replaces “That voice wasn’t bossy” with “The voice wasn’t commanding,” again suggesting a much more direct translation of the original “autoritaria” (Bosch 1979, 153). So, too, the tone and style of speech of the narrator, as Gorrell suggests in his letter to Martin, does echo the language of a young college student, replete with terms like “swank,” “snicker,” and “sprang like a flash,” none of which survive in the final Saturday Evening Post publication.29
Harry Shlaudeman’s advantage may have come from his close relationship with Martin in the Dominican Republic. In his memoir, Martin notes that after the election, the problems with convincing conservative Dominicans and US officials continued concerning his (Bosch’s) allegiance, or lack of allegiance, to communism. Shlaudeman, Martin notes, “told me Bosch was losing his own political party supporters,” due in part to his unwillingness to publically condemn communism (Martin 1986, 236). In my August 2013 phone interview, Shlaudeman explained that Martin asked him to do a “literal translation so that he (Bosch) could compare the two” because they found Gorrell’s to be a “fairly complicated” version.30 Like Martin, Shlaudeman too was a Cold War warrior who, as the distrust toward Bosch grew in May 1962, produced a report for Martin to “trace out every rumor of a Castro/Communist in the entire Bosch government” (Martin 1966, 456).31 Thus, although Gorrell and Shlaudeman shared similar political outlooks in terms of the United States’ role in the Cold War, Shlaudeman’s close alliance with Martin and Bosch would have created a deeper understanding of the importance of quelling any suggestion of communist sympathies within the Bosch presidency.
The translation is distinct from that of Gorrell. The choice of titles is the first indication of the shift from literary to literal. Shlaudeman’s “The Indelible Stain” is a direct translation of the original title, while Gorrell’s lengthier title, “The Stain That Won’t Wash Out,” because it reads as more matter-of-fact, seems much less sinister.32 So, too, while Gorrell tried to adopt an American tone, through his more colloquial translation, Shlaudeman’s tone and style closely follow the original Spanish: “risa burlona” is now “mocking laugh” rather than Gorrell’s “snicker”; in place of “swank,” Shlaudeman translates “lujoso” as simply “luxurious”; and “en verdad” in the Shlaudeman version is simply “in truth,” not the emphatic “all right” that Gorrell had chosen. “Parecía que no había distancia entre la vida que había dejado atrás, del otro lado de la puerta, y la que iba a iniciar en ese momento” is revised in the edited Gorrell as “It seemed no way at all from the life I had left behind on the other side of the door to this one I was going to begin in a minute”; this is very similar to Shlaudeman’s interpretation, which preserves the same time progression as well as tone: “It seemed that there was no distance between the life that I had left behind on the other side of the door and the one I was now about to begin” (Bosch 1963, 78). The effect is a more muted narrator, speaking in a staccato-like tone that conveys panic and uncertainty. Ultimately, Shlaudeman’s interpretation gives the impression of an evil and terrifying reality far beyond that created by Gorrell’s bumbling college student. The pronounced shift in tone, the heightened sense of imminent peril, even the Poe-esque ambiance restored in Shlaudeman’s version mirrors the conventional Western view of communism in which Cold War idealism, through the use of metaphor, promotes the fear of the Soviet state as a “hostile and threatening enemy” (Ivie 1990, 75).33
Shlaudeman’s version also is performative, yet he restores the importance of the meaning to the original rather than the translation thus disrupting the double movement of ideology and poetics. The shift in register from that of a young college student to an unknown, fearful protagonist illustrates what Bhabha calls the “complementarity of language as communication,” which exists along a continuum “caused by the differential systems of social and cultural signification” (Bhabha 1994, 227). So, too, the explanation of why Bosch, and Martin, would prefer this second, more literal and less literary interpretation also exists along this continuum of complementarity wherein a single source, the story in Spanish, can come to represent two radically opposed ideological views.
Pedro L. San Miguel, in The Imagined Island, argues that Bosch’s oeuvre should not be divided into fiction versus political writings. Rather, the entirety of Bosch’s work consists of “narrations” of an “imagined community” that contain a “counterpoint” between the “utopian expression of the nation … [and] images of the nation (or antination) to be replaced” (San Miguel 2005, 102). This understanding of Bosch’s work and political philosophy differs radically from the stark dichotomies of Cold War discourse. As the last fictional story Bosch wrote, “La mancha” becomes an important transition along yet another continuum of Bosch’s vision for the future of his country unfettered by Cold War rhetoric. In a 1977 interview with Bruno Rosario Candelier, Bosch makes his clearest statement on the importance of “La mancha” as a rejection of the restrictions of the Cold War dichotomy between democracy and communism. He describes the story as “one of a political nature” (Candelier 2000, 76). Although he again says the protagonist was based on someone he knew who became “anticommunist” because he feared reprisals from Trujillo, he goes on to say that he, Bosch, “never was a communist, I never was anticommunist” (Candelier 2000, 76), As if to highlight the continued incommensurability between his more fluid political approach and the rigidity of Cold War discourse, he tells Candelier that an American reporter for the Caracas Journal in 1961 asked Bosch if the PRD was anticommunist, Bosch, replied, “I did not believe in anticommunism” which, he said, confused and alarmed the reporter (Candelier 2000, 76).34
In her April 12, 1963, letter to Bosch, Dorothy Olding requested a short introduction to help contextualize the story in terms of “where and under what circumstances you wrote the story, geographically and politically.”35 In the introduction that prefaces the published story, Bosch explains that he wrote it in exile in Venezuela in 1960. He emphasizes that this is the only story he ever dictated to his wife and that the setting was most likely, in his mind, a café in Rome. The importance of the story, however, was to reflect his “fear of regimentation—the absence of freedom to think, to create, to believe.” At that, he says, he will stop, leaving the reader “to understand what I have refrained from saying” (Bosch 1963, 78). Sadly, by the time the Saturday Evening Post published the English translation of the story on November 16, 1963, Bosch’s seven-month presidency was over.36
For Bosch, the ambiguous ending is central and is a clear example of Bhabha’s interstitial spaces where minority discourses, in this case a Spanish text translated into the dominant language of the receiving audience, create “agency” through “incommensurable positions” and, in the process, perhaps, a “poetics of the interstitial community” (Bhabha 1994, 231). The refusal to cast the story’s conclusion in terms of us versus them, the United States versus the Soviet Union, reflects Bosch’s political stance in which totalitarian philosophy was an assault on this more nuanced, fluid relationship between politics, power, and literature.37
Returning to Lifshey’s reading of “La mancha” as a challenge to the trujillato and, by extension, a controlling system, the role of chance, ambiguity, and even indeterminacy again, reflects the more open, less rigid ideology of American democracy, championed by Cold War discourse (Belletto 2012, 11–14). So too, the indeterminacy of the end of the story as translated by Shlaudeman, free of Gorrell’s more literary, less disturbing tone, restores the idea that Bosch is rejecting what Steven Belletto (2012, 21) describes as the “historical determinism posited by dialectical materialism.” Martin’s understanding of the story as anticommunist, then, is correct within the ideological framework of Cold War discourse. However, Bosch’s view that any political system offered by the United States or the Soviet Union was incommensurate with Dominican reality is also present.
At the conclusion of Overtaken, Martin reflects once again on the failure of the Dominican Republic. He realizes that “dedication and good intentions were not enough,” but, he asks, “What is?” (Martin 1966, 742). His inability to answer, he says, is troubling, “for it involves the question of meaning, and someone like myself, unfortunately, is deeply troubled by absence of meaning.” No matter how he tries to understand what happened, there are he says, the “awful incalculables” that he was unable to see or control throughout his time in the Dominican Republic (Martin 1966, 742). Thus, although Martin had believed that “everything in my past life had prepared me for this job—my reporting, my writing, my work in politics” (1986, 240), ultimately he was too enmeshed in the tangle of the Cold War dialectic to understand how there could even be another political option for the Dominican people or their future.