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PART OF THE Halloween ISSUE

‘Among the old furniture, the trunks, and always the same warmish air capturing the rays of sun as they filter through the skylight.’

New Edinburgh-based publisher Charco Press specialise in translating South American authors into English. This eerie, meditative novel by Richard Romero, narrated by a shy young boy who seems to be very good at lying about the truth, echoes the tradition of sinister rooms in literature such as Dr Jekyll’s laboratory.

Extract from The President’s Room
By Ricardo Romero
Translated by Charlotte Coombe
Published by Charco Press

The house isn’t big, but it’s not small either compared to the rest of the houses on the block. It has two floors, three if you count the attic, a storage room up on the roof terrace where nobody goes apart from me. The rest of the family call it the loft, but I prefer to call it the attic. I didn’t decide this on a whim. It’s something I’ve thought about a lot, up there in the attic, among the old furniture, the trunks, and always the same warmish air capturing the rays of sun as they filter through the skylight and the frosted glass of the door. Rays of sun, skylight, frosted glass. When I’m there, I’m able to think ‘I’m in the attic’, but I find it impossible to think ‘I’m in the loft’. Not everything can be thought. Why should everything have to be thinkable?

On the first floor of the house are the bedrooms. My parents’ room, my older brother’s room and the one I share with my younger brother. There are two large bathrooms that seem much older than the rest of the house, as if they’ve always been there, floating at the height of the first floor, waiting for my family to come and build the house around them. The bathtubs, the taps and the medicine cabinet are majestic; the porcelain, mirror and brass are yellowing in the corners with stains that aren’t stains, because you can get rid of a stain but you can’t get rid of these. I can’t imagine the tap in our bathroom sink without that pale, discoloured cloud underneath it, or the mirror of the medicine cabinet in my parents’ bathroom without the black spots on the left-hand side. However, what really makes these bathrooms feel old, as if they’re of an earlier time, are the tiles covering the walls right up to the ceiling. What is it that makes those tiles so old? I don’t know. I only know that they’re impossible to count. No, that’s not all I know. I also know that although the bathrooms seem the same, like twins, they’re not.

And then there’s the ground floor, which is the same size as the first but seems bigger. It only seems it, though: I know they’re really the same size. And yet, even though I know this, every now and again I feel the need to compare corners and angles, to see how the walls of one floor and another are the same. Or rather: are aligned. The walls of the ground floor and those of the first floor are aligned. However, the ground floor seems bigger.

On the ground floor are the kitchen, the dining room, the living room and the study my father shares with my older brother. There’s another, smaller bathroom, squeezed in between the kitchen and the staircase. There’s a small cleaning cupboard. There’s an entrance hall leading to the front door.

And of course, at the front of the house on the left, looking out over the garden, is the president’s room.


The President’s Room by Richard Romero, translated by Charlotte Coombe, is out now published by Charco Press priced £8.99.

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