Still Born by Guadalupe Nettel Rosalind Harvey

Still Born by Guadalupe Nettel Rosalind Harvey

Author:Guadalupe Nettel, Rosalind Harvey [Guadalupe Nettel, Rosalind Harvey]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Tags: international booker
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Published: 2023-01-07T15:15:59+00:00


One day the geneticist’s office rang to let them know that Inés’ test results were at last ready. They went over there that same afternoon. The place looked more like a laboratory than a doctor’s consulting room. There were images on the walls, long tables, freezers with samples in, and microscopes and centrifuges.

The woman was relatively young and wore a white coat and a plastic surgical cap to hold back her hair. She showed them two laminated printouts. The first was an image in blue in the shape of a misshapen X, the upper arms being shorter than the lower ones. The point where they met had been highlighted in red.

‘This is a chromosome,’ she explained. ‘The human body has twenty-three of them. Imagine it like a filing cabinet. Inside each one there are drawers, and inside these, folders with documents in. Some of them have notes attached to them, like Post-its.’

The geneticist explained that Inés’ brain condition was due to the mutation of a gene on chromosome 17. Something very small in its genetic code had changed place and caused the microlissencephaly. It was the first time anyone had seen this particular mutation, similar to syndromes that were already known about such as Miller-Dieker, the main cause of lissencephaly in the world. But what Inés had didn’t correspond entirely to that disorder.

‘This is something that’s never been seen before, something that will remain nameless until it’s properly studied and is recorded elsewhere.’

At secondary school, Alina and I had had evolution explained to us in a very similar way, probably the way the national curriculum at the time recommended. We were told that species always evolved to improve, to be fitter, more inclined to survive and to leave behind more offspring. We had been shown a table with a pyramid. The protozoans were at the base, while Homo sapiens triumphed at the top as the highest of all earthly creatures. We weren’t told then of the species that have gone extinct or mutated incomprehensibly, of the dinosaurs become chickens, for instance, the BRCA gene or other types of cancer. While the geneticist tried to convince them to continue with the tests, Alina recalled the diagram with the pyramid of evolution our biology teacher had shown us, and wondered if human beings really were at the top, and what evolving meant. She concluded that in fact, each individual’s DNA depended on chance, on the random encounter of two gametes at the moment of coitus and not on a trend towards improvement as we had been led to believe. Wouldn’t Inés have had the same chances of being born this way if, instead of Aurelio, she had selected a different father? She thought of snails, starfish and other animals that can reproduce asexually because their organisms are equipped not to need anyone to fertilize them. Unlike primates, these little creatures are born perfectly capable of surviving on their own to confront the dangers of the forest or the ocean without anyone’s help.


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