ni Italo Calvino, salin ni Tilde Acuña
May isang bayan kung saan kawatan silang lahat.
Sa gabi, umaalis ang bawat isa sa kanilang tahanan. Dala ang kanilang mga susing nakakapagbukas ng anumang kandado at ang kanilang mga mapapanglaw na lampara, inaakyat-bahay nila ang kapitbahay. Kargado silang babalik pagsapit ng bukang-liwayway, upang malamang may nanloob din sa kanila.
Masayang namumuhay ang lahat, walang nagugulangan, dahil nangungulimbat ang bawat isa sa kapwa at ang kapwang iyon sa isa pang kapwa, tuluy-tuloy hanggang manakawan ng huling tao ang nauna. Di-maiwasan ang pandaraya sa kumersyo, sa bahagi man ng namimili o ng nagbebenta. Organisasyong kriminal ang gobyernong nangungurakot sa nasasakupan at ang nasasakupan naman ay interesado lamang sa pangagantso sa gobyerno. Kaya banayad ang daloy ng buhay dahil walang mayaman at walang mahirap.
Isang araw, di namin alam, nangyari na lamang na dumating ang isang taong matapat upang manirahan sa lugar. Sa gabi, imbis na lumabas nang bitbit ang sako at lampara, nanatili siya sa bahay para mag-yosi at magbasa ng mga nobela.
Nang dumating ang mga kawatan, nakita nilang may nakasinding bumbilya kaya hindi sila pumasok.
Matagal nagkaganito: hanggang maobliga silang ipaliwanag sa kanya na kahit pa gusto niyang mabuhay nang walang ginagawa, hindi ito dahilan upang pigilan ang ibang taong gumawa ng mga bagay-bagay. Sa bawat gabing nanatili siya sa bahay, isang pamilya ang walang kakainin sa susunod na araw.
Ang taong matapat ay nahirapang tumutol sa ganoong pangangatwiran. Lumabas na siya sa pagsapit ng dilim, at bumalik sa pagkagat ng liwanag, subalit hindi siya nagnakaw. Tapat siya, at wala nang magagawa ang sinuman. Tinungo niya ang tulay at pinanood ang pagdaloy ng tubig sa ibaba. Nang umuwi siya, nalaman niyang siya'y nilooban.
Kulang-kulang isang linggo ang lumipas nang mapagtanto ng taong matapat na mahirap pa siya sa daga, at wala nang laman ang kanyang sikmura at ang kanyang tahanan. Pero hindi ito gaanong naging problema, dahil kasalanan niya ito; hindi, ang problema ay ang kanyang ugaling gumulo sa mga bagay-bagay. Dahil hinayaan niyang siya'y manakawan, nang hindi naman siya nagnanakaw sa ibang tao; kaya parating may umuuwi nang madaling araw sa tahanan nilang wala man lamang nagalaw: ang bahay na siya dapat ang nandambong. Kaya ang kinalabasan tuloy, naging mas mayaman sa iba ang mga hindi nananakawan at ayaw na nilang magnakaw. Mas naging masahol pa ang sitwasyon dahil ang mga manloloob sa bahay ng taong matapat ay walang nakukulimbat dahil wala itong laman; kaya lalo silang naghirap.
Samantala, ang mga yumaman ay tumulad sa nakaugalian ng taong matapat at tinutungo na rin nila ang tulay at pinapanood ang pagdaloy ng tubig sa ibaba. Lalong tumindi ang kalituhan dahil ibig nitong sabihin, marami ang yumayaman at maraming iba pa ang naghihirap.
Ngayon, naintindihan ng mayayamang kung gabi-gabi silang tutungo sa tulay, di maglalaon ay maghihirap din sila . At naisip nila: 'Bayaran na lang natin ang mahihirap para manloob para sa atin.' Gumawa sila ng mga kontrata, mga nakatakdang pasahod, mga porsyento: malamang, kawatan pa rin silang lahat, at tinatangka pa ring gantsuhin ang isa't isa. Pero, tulad ng inasahang mangyayari, yumaman ang mayayaman at humirap nang humirap ang mahihirap.
Ang ilan sa mayayaman ay yumaman nang sobra hanggang hindi na nila kailangang manloob o umarkila ng manloloob para manatiling mayaman. Pero kung tumigil sila sa pagnanakaw, maghihirap sila dahil ninanakawan pa rin sila ng mahihirap. Kaya binayaran nila ang pinakamahihirap sa mahihirap upang bantayan ang kanilang ari-arian laban sa iba pang mahihirap, at nangahulugan iyon ng pagtatatag ng pulisya at ng piitan.
Kaya kaunting panahon lamang ang lumipas matapos dumating ang taong matapat, at hindi na pinag-uusapan ang tungkol sa pandarambong at pagiging biktima ng mga nandarambong, kundi ang tungkol na lamang sa mayaman at mahirap; pero lahat sila ay kawatan pa rin.
Ang natatanging taong matapat ay iyon lamang nasa simula, at namatay siya nang dahil sa kagutuman.
The Black Sheep by Italo Calvino
There was a country where they were all thieves.
At night everybody would leave home with skeleton keys and shaded lanterns and go and burgle a neighbour’s house. They’d get back at dawn, loaded, to find their own house had been robbed.
So everybody lived happily together, nobody lost out, since each stole from the other, and that other from another again, and so on and on until you got to a last person who stole from the first. Trade in the country inevitably involved cheating on the parts both of buyer and seller. The government was a criminal organization that stole from its subjects, and the subjects for their part were only interested in defrauding the government. Thus life went on smoothly, nobody was rich and nobody was poor.
One day, how we don’t know, it so happened that an honest man came to live in the place. At night, instead of going out with his sack and his lantern, he stayed home to smoke and read novels.
The thieves came, saw the light on and didn’t go in.
This went on for a while: then they were obliged to explain to him that even if he wanted to live without doing anything, it was no reason to stop others from doing things. Every night he spent at home meant a family would have nothing to eat the following day.
The honest man could hardly object to such reasoning. He took to going out in the evening and coming back the following morning like they did, but he didn’t steal. He was honest, there was nothing you could do about it. He went as far as the bridge and watched the water flow by beneath. When he got home he found he had been robbed.
In less than a week the honest man found himself penniless, he had nothing to eat and his house was empty. But this was hardly a problem, since it was his own fault; no, the problem was that his behaviour upset everything else. Because he let the others steal everything he had without stealing anything from anybody; so there was always someone who got home at dawn to find their house untouched: the house he should have robbed. In any event after a while the ones who weren’t being robbed found themselves richer than the others and didn’t want to steal any more. To make matters worse, the ones who came to steal from the honest man’s house found it was always empty; so they became poor.
Meanwhile, the ones who had become rich got into the honest man’s habit of going to the bridge at night to watch the water flow by beneath. This increased the confusion because it meant lots of others became rich and lots of others became poor.
Now, the rich people saw that if they went to the bridge every night they’d soon be poor. And they thought: ‘Let’s pay some of the poor to go and rob for us.’ They made contracts, fixed salaries, percentages: they were still thieves of course, and they still tried to swindle each other. But, as tends to happen, the rich got richer and richer and the poor got poorer and poorer.
Some of the rich people got so rich that they didn’t need to steal or have others steal for them so as to stay rich. But if they stopped stealing they would get poor because the poor stole from them. So they paid the very poorest of the poor to defend their property from the other poor, and that meant setting up a police force and building prisons.
So it was that only a few years after the appearance of the honest man, people no longer spoke of robbing and being robbed, but only of the rich and the poor; but they were still all thieves.
The only honest man had been the one at the beginning, and he died in very short order, of hunger.