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Anclao en París

This is a hymn to Buenos Aires in the tradition of Mi Buenos Aires querido, Adiós Buenos Aires, and others, as well as an evocation of Paris as a place of exile and cultural validation in tango history. Gardel, of French origin himself, sang it; so, decades later, has Adriana Varela in a memorable version. John and Renée recited the verses in English and Spanish at Arte Cafe, with Gardel's version in the background. DJ was María Valentina, and Buenos Aires' María Elena Ybarra taught an opening class.

Anclao en París (1931)
Letra de Enrique Cadícamo
Música de Guillermo Barbieri

At Anchor in Paris (1931)
Lyrics by Enrique Cadícamo, trans. J. Osburn
Music by Guillermo Barbieri

Tirado por la vida de errante bohemio
Estoy, Buenos Aires, anclao en París.
Curtido de males, bandeado de apremios,
Te evoco desde este lejano país.
Contemplo la nieve que cae blandamente
Desde mi ventana que da al bulevar.
Las luces rojizas, con tonos murientes,
Parecen pupilas de extraños mirar...

Given to the life of a bohemian wanderer,
I have, Buenos Aires, dropped anchor in Paris.
Toughened by misfortune, by necessity a drifter,
I call your image to mind from this faraway place.
And now as I contemplate the blandly falling snow
From my window that opens on the boulevard,
The red lights of the district, with their dying glow,
Widen like the pupils of a stranger’s regard…
¡Lejano Buenos Aires, que linda has de estar...!
Ya van para diez años
Que me viste zarpar.
Aquí, en este Montmartre,
Faubourg sentimental,
Yo siento que el recuerdo
Me clava su puñal...

My distant Buenos Aires, how lovely you must be…!
It has been ten years now
Since you saw me go to sea.
And here, in this affectionate
Burg they call Montmartre,
The memory feels to me somehow
Like a stab in the heart…
¡Cómo habrá cambiado tu calle Corrientes,
Suipacha, Esmeralda, tu mismo arrabal...!
Alguien me ha contado que está floreciente
Y un juego de calles se da en diagonal...
¡No sabés las ganas que tengo de verte!
Aquí estoy parado, sin plata y sin fe...
¡Quién sabe una noche me encane la Muerte
Y chau, Buenos Aires, no te vuelvo a ver...
How different your streets must be today, Corrientes,
Suipacha, Esmeralda, and I guess the old hood!
I heard from someone how it’s grown, all the many changes,
The diagonal streets that’ll take you wherever you would…
There’s no way you can know how much I want to see you!
But here I am, penniless, and faithless, and stuck…
Who knows but that one dark night this life to me will bid adieu,
To see you again, Buenos Aires, no such luck…

Listen to the Carlos Gardel and Adriana Varela interpretations, below:


This is an imagistic tango whose lines spread out like memory itself. Its poetics are both temporally and geographically expansive, the present moment constituting a new memory as an old one pours in and the future is contemplated. A personality is evoked, and a lifestyle, each existing in time, both passing and persistent. What of that I have managed to evoke will be for the reader to say.
—John Osburn