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Como dos extraños

After John's recitation in English of this plaintive tango, María Graña's version was played for the crowd. It is more a canción than a dance tune (the lyricist's father, Pascual Contursi, was credited with inventing the tango song with Mi noche triste), but several couples took to their feet in Esquina de Falucho at Café Argentino in Brooklyn. There were two sets of live music by Javier Sánchez (bandoneón) and Marizio Najt (keyboard).

Como dos extraños (1940)
Letra de José María Contursi
Música de Pedro Laurenz

Like Two Strangers (1940)
Lyrics by José María Contursi, trans. J. Osburn
Music by Pedro Laurenz
Me acobardó la soledad
Y el miedo enorme de morir lejos de ti...
¡Qué ganas tuve de llorar
Sintiendo junto a mí
La burla de la realidad!
Y el corazón me suplicó
Que te buscara y que le diera tu querer...
Me lo pedía el corazón
Y entonces te busqué
Creyéndote mi salvación...

It’s being alone that daunted me…
The looming fear that I might die so far apart from you...
How, oh how, I wanted to cry,
Feeling myself subjected to
The mocking cruelty of reality!
I obeyed no less than the heart’s demand
That I seek you out and give you back your love…
I did the bidding of the heart
Believing if I found you
You would keep me from falling apart…

Y ahora que estoy frente a ti
Parecemos, ya ves, dos extraños...
Lección que por fin aprendí:
¡Cómo cambian las cosas los años!
Angustia de saber muertas ya
La ilusión y la fe...
Perdón si me ves lagrimear...
¡Los recuerdos me han hecho mal!

Now that we’re face to face I apprehend
That we, don’t you see, are as two strangers…
The lesson I learned in the end:
How the years as they pass really do change things.
The anguish of knowing that love will die
If faith and hope already have…
I didn’t mean for you to see me cry…
It’s the memories have made me ill!
Palideció la luz del sol
Al escucharte fríamente conversar…
Fue tan distinto nuestro amor
Y duele comprobar
Que todo, todo terminó.
¡Qué gran error volverte a ver
Para llevarme destrozado el corazón!
Son mil fantasmas, al volver
Burlándose de mí,
Las horas de ese muerto ayer…

The sun’s own light dimmed and went pallid
On hearing the coldness of your words and sighs…
Our love was unlike any other
And it hurt to realize
That it all—all of it ended.
How rash it was to see you this way,
Presenting me on a platter a heart destroyed!
The deadly hours of yesterday
Are a thousand phantoms
Come to taunt me again today…
Listen to María Graña sing Como dos extraños here:


This is a subtle lyric whose meanings multiply on successive encounters. It tells a story and captures a moment of personal crisis and deep realization. As usual, I set out to reflect the lines and rhyme schemes, I hope without taking too much license along the way.
—John Osburn