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Plot[ edit ] The action takes place on some unspecified date in the s during the season of Lent. The City of Buenos Aires has been isolated by floods. Pounding their pulpits, the preachers thunder that the Day of Judgement is nigh; that God is angry with the wickedness of man — and, more especially, with the heretical unitarios adherents of the proscribed Unitario political party.
Eventually the floods abate but not before the city has run out of beef. The government gives orders that 50 bullocks are to be slaughtered, ostensibly to provide beef for children and the sick for otherwise meat is forbidden to Catholics during Lent. The reader is given to understand that the meat is really intended for privileged persons including Rosas himself and his corrupt clergy.
Presiding there is the sinister Judge of the Slaughter Yard. By order of Rosas the Judge enjoys absolute power over this collection of debased humanity. Forty-nine bullocks are slaughtered, flayed and quartered with axes. One more animal remains. But there is a suspicion that he may be no bullock, but a bull — though bulls are not allowed in the slaughter yard.
A horseman lassoes him but owing to an accident the taut lasso decapitates a child. The animal escapes and heads off to the city, pursued by a crowd, which, incidentally, tramples a passing Englishman. The "bullock" is then cut open and proves after all to possess an enormous pair of retracted testicles — much to the amusement of the crowd, which by now has forgotten the decapitated boy. At this point the chief protagonist, who is never named but is a man of about 25, enters the scene.
The crowd immediately spots that he is a unitario supporter of the proscribed political party. It is not explained why the protagonist has chosen to ride about Buenos Aires dressed in this illegal, indeed reckless manner. Egged on by the crowd, Matasiete throws him from his horse, seizes him by the necktie and holds a dagger to his throat.
At that point the slaughter yard Judge rides up and orders that the protagonist be taken to his shed, which is also a rudimentary courtroom. In this room is a massive table never without glasses of grog and playing cards "unless to make room for the executions and tortures of the Federalist thugs of the slaughter yard". After the crowd has shouted threats and ribald insults the Judge orders everyone to shut up and sit down. There then transpires an angry dialogue between on the one hand the Judge and taunting crowd and on the other the defiant, brave but rather high-minded protagonist.
The Judge and the crowd speak in direct, colloquial street Spanish but, curiously, the protagonist, even when insulting them, uses correct literary language, addressing them in the third person. The protagonist is violently stretched out on the torture-table and he develops paroxysms of uncontrollable rage, demanding to have his throat cut rather than submit to this indignity. After a terrible struggle the young man bursts a blood vessel and dies on the spot. The Judge comments: "Poor devil; we only wanted to amuse ourselves, but he took it too seriously.
Owing in part to its brevity — a mere 6, or so words — it may be the most studied school text in all Latin American literature. It is certainly known and acclaimed beyond the borders of Argentina. Writing and publication[ edit ] Traditional view[ edit ] It is usually said[ by whom?
The Slaughter Yard