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Now they are the Americans. And those of us who live in the other Americas, who are we?” Mirrors touches on curious and fascinating facts, including early European culture’s aversion to water. The entry “Cursed Water” tells us that “… except in baptism, bathing was avoided because it felt good and invited sin. In the tribunals of the Holy Inquisition, frequent bathing was proof of Mohammedan heresy. When Christianity was imposed on Spain as the only truth, the crown ordered the many public baths left by the Muslims razed, because they were sources of perdition. … The elegant Sun King of France, the first man to wear high heels, bathed only once between 1647 and 1711. And that time it was on doctor’s orders:’ Galeano offers other lighthearted entries with comic titles, but always with a tinge of irony. Mark Fried, who translated Galeano’s last several books, does a good job of conveying Galeano’s sparse style, his directness and his conversational tone, while maintaining the musicality of the original. These stories could be told at a campfire or read out loud to adults at bedtime, one or two at a time, letting them linger. The blog of the American Literary Translators Association reports that instead of making multiple passes at the text, Fried reads the source multiple times until he can hear it in his head. Then he translates. The method seems to bear fruit. While certain of these historical figures and facts may be well known to some readers, and while others may feel that Galeano is preaching to the choir, the author’s unexpected angles and concluding twists keep readers hooked. It’s the writer’s way of linking the past with the present, them with us, the political and the personal, the global and the local. It’s storytelling with a conscience that transforms Galeano’s truths into art. Poet and literary translator Liliana Valenzuela’s most recent translation is Habia una vez una quinceaiiera: De nina a mujer en EE.UU., a nonfiction book by Julia Alvarez. Valenzuela lives in Austin. PREVIEW St., Austin, through Sept. 3. 26 THE TEXAS OBSERVER AUGUST 21, 2009