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Translation: The Other, The Same


Daniel Alarcón: Welcome to Radio Ambulante, from NPR. I’m Daniel Alarcón. Since we’re now part of NPR, we want to go back to some of our favorite stories to share them with our new audience.

Today’s episode is about these two men:

Eduardo Bechara: My name is Eduardo Bechara

Eduardo Bechara: My name is Eduardo Bechara

Two Eduardos, and of course, to have namesakes is very normal. We all have a lot of them. In this case, the two Eduardos share much more than their name and last name, they are united by a series of unbelievable coincidences.

Here’s Camila Segura.

Camila Segura: It’s about two Eduardo Bechara’s – one Colombian and one Argentinean – but the story doesn’t start with them but with a woman –the sister of the Argentinean.

Astrid Bechara: My name is Astrid Bechara, I am 47 years old, and I was born in the city of Dean Funes, in the province of Córdoba, Argentina.

Camila Segura: One day Astrid went to search the Internet to see what would come up about her brother. He’s mostly known for his music, even though he always had a desire to be a writer…

Astrid Bechara: …and I find a blog for “Eduardo Bechara: the Writer” with a photo of my brother right up front…and I thought, “Well, look how organized he is, even created a blog…”And then I started reading and realized it was about a Colombian writer, from Bogota, with the same name…

Camila Segura: Two writers with the same name…an interesting coincidence, yes, but even stranger were their striking resemblance…

Astrid Bechara: They had the same mole in the left cheek, the earlobe, they didn’t have an earlobe…details like that…and especially the way they carried their beard…

Camila Segura: Astrid told her brother about it, of course. But at the time, he didn’t pay much attention to it…This is how Eduardo tells it, Astrid’s brother:

Eduardo Bechara B: I am used to my family exaggerating a lot, we are very dramatic, and it’s one of our traits…

Astrid Bechara: And that’s how, four to five months passed until I finally decided to write to Eduardo.

Astrid Bechara: On May 8th of 2008…

Dear Eduardo,

My name is Astrid Bechara, I’m from Argentina and we may coincide at some point in our genealogical tree. The reason I am writing to you is that I have a 32 year old brother whose name is Eduardo Bechara, like you…[EBN reading at the same time]

Eduardo Bechara N: Eduardo Bechara, like you…It’s incredible how much you resemble each other and the type of life you’ve both lived. He’s also a writer and a musician….

Camila Segura: This is the Colombian Eduardo. When he received this email he was in Philadelphia studying Creative Writing.

Eduardo Bechara N: let’s say I found it…amusing. So later I replied to her message in a simple way, just saying, “Tell him to write to me”

Camila Segura: A little later and after much insistence, Astrid was able to convince her brother to contact his namesake…

Eduardo Bechara B: May 30, 2008: Eduardo, I am definitely feeling privileged, meaning: not everyone has the possibility of coming into an epistolary electronic contact with their alter ego. I hope you know it does not bother me, so when I lax down here, you could use the exquisite phonetic my name produces, and that you could use it to find lovers, money, etc… [Eduardo Bechara N. reading at the same time]

Eduardo Bechara N: Yes, it’s unjust but it’s the truth; it’s a lot easier to be successful with the name of Eduardo Bechara. It may seem crazy, but I have, even thought everyone should have this name, even the ladies.

Eduardo Bechara B and Eduardo Bechara N: If you want, let’s join forces and conquer the world…

Eduardo Bechara B: …only if you agree. I’ll await your reply. Ormines…anyways. Hugs, Eduardo Bechara – Sometimes I have the feeling that the one with the alter ego it’s me.

Camila Segura: After this initial email, many more emails came…and later, long telephone conversations. They became friends. Until one day, they decided to meet…It was July of 2009. The Argentinean was living in Brazil and the Colombian one took 4 planes to meet his namesake…

Eduardo Bechara N: Then, well, when we arrived at Itacaré, we parked in front of the posada, Eduardo was at the table, when he saw us, he came out and stood in front of me and I said: “It’s crazy but here I am!”

Eduardo Bechara B: And I said, “I can’t believe it!” “The truth is…it’s nice of you to come…” and so…

Eduardo Bechara N: And I said, “The thing is, I always keep my promises”, and then he said: “In Argentina just for that, you would be a celebrity”.

Camila Segura: Meeting face to face they realized how strikingly similar (physically) they were…

Eduardo Bechara N: We sat at the table and I started noticing him…and thinking, “Okay, so that’s how people see me, that’s how I look to people when I am in front of them…”

Eduardo Bechara B: I thought we looked similar… He had the look of a crazy man, kind of how I look when I am mad, but in reality that was just the beginning of noticing similarities…not the face of a crazy man but rather an evil look, that’s really what I mean…

Eduardo Bechara N: I noticed gestures and facial expressions identical to those of my uncle Omar. I felt him very familiar, as if the Syrian-Lebanese heritage was still there and we both shared it…

Camila Segura: We both even had a brother named Daniel. But maybe the strangest of all was finding out they had already been connected, even before they met. [Music] It was through a French woman, named Valeria. The Argentinean Eduardo had met her in a taxi, years before, when he lived in Cairo with his first wife. The thing is, in Cairo the taxis are shared, but this wasn’t the first time they met…

Eduardo Bechara B: It was love at first sight, because I thought she was such a beautiful woman and she kind of defied all that environment of prohibition in a country totally religious. And well, we agreed something was happening between us, in those 20 minutes of the taxi ride, so we exchanged emails…

Camila Segura: From this encounter in the taxi, started an epistolary relationship between Valeria and Argentinean Eduardo Bechara. They wrote emails to each other, many emails…

Eduardo Bechara B: Until one day she sent me an email that said “The bullfighter’s girlfriend”, a whole story, a semi essay about love and the despair it produces, no that’s not true, it was about losing your love, and she mentioned she was a writer also…when I read “the bullfighter’s girlfriend” I didn’t understand what she meant but I figured when people are flirting with each other they say all kinds of crazy things, right? [laughs] and all in an effort to try and hit the soul of the other, do you understand?…I answered that of course, I would be her bullfighter, I would take care of her and do all kinds of epic tasks, about love and being in love and in the end I didn’t even know what I was talking about but I wanted to be with her…

Camila Segura: This epistolary relationship — only epistolary because they never saw each other in person again – would cost the Argentinean Eduardo his marriage. Years later, when he was in Itacaré, he started researching more about the Colombian who was coming to visit him…and he realized that phrase Valerie had used in an email had not come out of nowhere, but was a reference of the Colombian Eduardo…

Eduardo Bechara N: “The bullfighter’s girlfriend” was his first novel…so he told me, “Look, our story was tied from long ago…”

Eduardo Bechara B: Then when I realized that, it all made sense, the token hit me, as we say in Argentina, the story started having a different dimension, another dimension….

Camila Segura: The Colombian Eduardo stayed in Itacaré for two weeks, and that’s when they really started sharing their interest for literature. They exchanged texts and even wrote a novel together. In 2011, an Argentinean editorial published them. They planned a tour, each one with their own book. First they toured Argentina and then, in May of 2011 they toured Colombia. That’s when finally the Argentinean met Álvaro, the father of his namesake. This meeting especially touched him. His sister Astrid explains to us why…

Astrid Bechara: My father died twenty years ago, when my brother was 14 or 15 years old. He was angry because he was going through adolescence at a military school, far from his family in a tough sort of boarding school.

Camila Segura: One weekend, when Eduardo came home from the military academy where he was interned he had a strong argument with his father. Eduardo left the house furious and when he came back…

Eduardo Bechara B:  When I came back something weird was going on, there was an ambulance at the front of my house. I opened the door and when I opened it…just like that…I saw everything, I saw my father dead, that’s what happened…so…well, nobody deserves to lose his dad before making up…

Astrid Bechara: Deep down my brother always wondered: “why did I argue with my father?”, “Why couldn’t I be calmer?”, “Why didn’t I say goodbye…?”

Camila Segura: Maybe this is the reason why Argentinean Eduardo grew so close to Álvaro. The feeling was mutual and very natural. They spoke on the phone a lot. For Argentinean Eduardo it was like having another opportunity to get close to his own father. And for Álvaro, it was like having another son. For the former, the lives of these two Eduardos were…

Eduardo Bechara N: Joined in an indissoluble form. And my dad would get excited, he would make me tell the story to his friends and his eyes would shine, very touched with the story. He would get so excited…and hoped to meet Eduardo. Only…it’s just incredible how life is…

Camila Segura: Days before Eduardo came to Colombia, Álvaro became gravely ill and they had to put him in a clinic. From there, Álvaro told his son:

Eduardo Bechara N: Listen, I need, I need you to send Eduardo an email and tell him I won’t be able to wait for him, tell him to call me, I want to speak with him…

Eduardo Bechara B: He said, “I won’t be able to…Edu:” he said, “I won’t be able to wait for you”…but then he said, “I leave you all my affection, all my love of a father through Eduardo and my family”.

Astrid Bechara: “I want to say goodbye to you, I want you to know you are also my son, I am very proud of you. You are my son, I feel like you are my son”, obviously [laugh] “stay very close with Eduardo, love each other…” A goodbye message, kind of like the goodbye he didn’t have with our own father.

Eduardo Bechara B: It was a very dramatic moment because in reality he relived all the memories and feelings he had when he lost our father, which was a traumatic experience…

Astrid Bechara: And so, in that moment, after hanging the phone up, my brother called me crying and I said, “What’s wrong?”, and he couldn’t talk, he couldn’t talk with all the crying, that’s how shocked he was, very emotional…

Eduardo Bechara N: Yes, it was very dramatic and of course the next day he died, obviously…

Astrid Bechara: … and that made them even closer.

Camila Segura:  In spite of it all, the tour in Argentina and Colombia was very successful.

News: “Who hasn’t fantasized once about having a double somewhere in the world?”

News: “…they knit stories outside of a paper…not only they shared their love for writing, they have more in common that a great physical resemblance and their name: Eduardo Bechara”

News: “The story of two writers, who are not only homonyms but share a striking resemblance…”

Camila Segura: In April of this year, they had a second tour. They called it “The other, the same” –like the Borges poems’. And the press gave them another name.

News: “Now let’s go inside an unusual, unprecedented and absolutely disturbing story of the cosmic brothers…”

Eduardo Bechara B: They made us look more like acrobats than writers…The problem with the press is once they define you with their own name it becomes, I would say, negative in the end because nobody will remember you as a writer but more as the cosmic brothers, like in a circus…

Camila Segura: And in reality it had to happen: someone would ask them if there was or wasn’t a real kinship. In one of these interviews, in an Argentinean program called “Chiche Live”, they were proposed to get a DNA test to confirm if they were “cosmic brothers” or “biological brothers”…

Eduardo Bechara B: “Tomorrow…”he said, “watch out for [laughter] doctor Penachino who will do the DNA test on the boys…” by then it was too late, we had already agreed to do it. Then we realized…we said to ourselves “well…”

News:  “Accompanied by cameras from 70-20-13 Eduardo Bechara Bacarat and Eduardo Bechara Navratilova were minutes away from taking the DNA test which would determine if their families had any connection…”

Eduardo Bechara N: They told us to go to our room, then came in saying we were brothers, and “The Brothers” Here are the brothers…” And I said, “Listen, what brothers are you talking about…?” Then I said, “No…” “Fine, cut, cut…” and left with the cameraman, came back in with a microphone in his hand saying “the brothers here are the brothers…’

Eduardo Bechara B: “…they want to know if you are brothers. The brothers want to know if they are brothers…”

Eduardo Bechara N: That’s when Eduardo said, “Look, No, no, no, no! We are not brothers! How do you want us to explain that to you? Look, you are going to put…”

Camila Segura: Let’s explain it like this: For many people, the ties we build with others are the longest lasting. Only in this case, this closeness was built between two men who share the same name, the same face, the same interests, and you could even say, the same girlfriend. And without being biological brothers, you could say they share the same father.

Eduardo Bechara B: And I supposed this metaphor of another, the same, we are not but we are, also serves to make us realize there is no need for a genetic coincidence or just a mere coincidence, right? Is it sanguinary, to be able to consider someone else as your brother. You can decide who your brother is.

Camila Segura: And there isn’t a DNA test that can explain it.

Daniel Alarcón: The most recent book from the Argentinian Eduardo is called “Cafeína”. The Colombian Eduardo has been traveling for the last 4 years in the Southern Cone, in a project he calls “In Search of Poets”. Right now he’s in Paraguay. The idea of the project came up to the Argentinian Eduardo in a conversation between the two Eduardos in a coffee shop in Dean Funes in 2010.

According to the DNA test they are not brothers.

This story was edited by Martina Castro and by me, Daniel Alarcón, with sound design by our intern Andrés Azpiri. Thanks to the producer Sonica in Bogotá, for lending us their studios.

The rest of Radio Ambulante includes Silvia Viñas, Luis Trelles,

Elsa Liliana Ulloa, Barbara Sawhill, Caro Rolando, Melissa Montalvo, Désirée Bayonet, Ryan Sweikert, Luis Fernando Vargas, and David Trujillo. Andrea Betanzos is our intern. Carolina Guerrero is the CEO.

 

Radio Ambulante tells stories of Latin America. To listen to more visit our web page radioambulante.org. I’m Daniel Alarcón. Thanks for listening.

 

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