Signs Preceding the End of the World

by

Yuri Herrera

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Verse (“Jarchar”) Term Analysis

Yuri Herrera adapts the medieval term jarcha to form the verb jarchar, which is translated as “verse” in English. A jarcha (commonly spelled kharja in English) was the verse that ended a longer poem—the word’s Arabic root literally means “exit,” and hence Herrera uses the invented word jarchar when his protagonist Makina exits a location or conversation. Jarchas were usually written in a different voice from the rest of the poem—often a female one—and are historically significant because they were often written in Mozarabic, a hybrid, transitional language between Arabic and contemporary Spanish. Both of these features point to Makina’s role as a powerful cultural mediator whose abilities are informed by gender. The translator of this English edition, Lisa Dillman, chose to use “verse” in place of jarchar because it preserves the original reference to poetry, and points to verbs like “transverse, reverse, converse.”

Verse (“Jarchar”) Quotes in Signs Preceding the End of the World

The Signs Preceding the End of the World quotes below are all either spoken by Verse (“Jarchar”) or refer to Verse (“Jarchar”). For each quote, you can also see the other terms and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Immigration, Myth, and Identity Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the And Other Stories edition of Signs Preceding the End of the World published in 2015.
Chapter 4 Quotes

When she reached the top of the saddle between the two mountains it began to snow. Makina had never seen snow before and the first thing that struck her as she stopped to watch the weightless crystals raining down was that something was burning. One came to perch on her eyelashes; it looked like a stack of crosses or the map of a palace, a solid and intricate marvel at any rate, and when it dissolved a few seconds later she wondered how it was that some things in the world—some countries, some people—could seem eternal when everything was actually like that miniature ice palace: one-of-a-kind, precious, fragile. She felt a sudden stab of disappointment but also a slight subsiding of the fear that had been building since she’d versed from home.

Related Characters: Makina
Page Number: 55
Explanation and Analysis:

The city was an edgy arrangement of cement particles and yellow paint. Signs prohibiting things thronged the streets, leading citizens to see themselves as ever protected, safe, friendly, innocent, proud, and intermittently bewildered, blithe, and buoyant; salt of the only earth worth knowing. They flourished in supermarkets, cornucopias where you could have more than everyone else or something different or a newer brand or a loaf of bread a little bigger than everyone else’s. Makina just dented cans and sniffed bottles and thought it best to verse, and it was when she saw the anglogaggle at the self-checkouts that she noticed how miserable they looked in front of those little digital screens, and the way they nearly-nearly jumped every time the machine went bleep! at each item. And how on versing out to the street they sought to make amends for their momentary one-up by becoming wooden again so as not to offend anyone.

Related Characters: Makina, Mr. Aitch’s Driver
Page Number: 56-7
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 6 Quotes

Scum, she heard as she climbed the eighth hill from which, she was sure, she’d catch sight other brother. You lookin to get what you deserve, you scum? She opened her eyes. A huge redheaded anglo who stank of tobacco was staring at her. Makina knew the bastard was just itching to kick her or fuck her and got slowly to her feet without taking her eyes off him, because when you turn your back in fear is when you’re at the greatest risk of getting your ass kicked; she opened the door and versed.

Related Characters: Makina
Page Number: 73
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 9 Quotes

Over the door was a sign that said Verse. She tried to remember how to say verse in any of her tongues but couldn’t. This was the only word that came to her lips. Verse.

Related Characters: Makina, Chucho
Page Number: 105
Explanation and Analysis:
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Verse (“Jarchar”) Term Timeline in Signs Preceding the End of the World

The timeline below shows where the term Verse (“Jarchar”) appears in Signs Preceding the End of the World. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: The Earth
Immigration, Myth, and Identity Theme Icon
Family, Heritage, and Sense of Self Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
...silence. Knowing she is not supposed to be with Mr. Double-U, Makina thanks him and “verse[s]” (or leaves). (full context)
Immigration, Myth, and Identity Theme Icon
Family, Heritage, and Sense of Self Theme Icon
...her that “there will be people to take care of everything you require” and she verses. “In the  mirrored hall” on her way out, she thinks about Q’s efficient, poised manner:... (full context)
Chapter 2: The Water Crossing
Immigration, Myth, and Identity Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
...Makina’s departure, but she tells him they will “talk when [she] get[s] back” and he verses “with the weariness of a man who knows he’s being played and can’t do a... (full context)
Immigration, Myth, and Identity Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
...scruffy, you know?” Makina compliments her and the woman thanks her, returns the lipstick, and verses. (full context)
Chapter 6: The Place Where Flags Wave
Immigration, Myth, and Identity Theme Icon
Racism, Inequality, and Social Change Theme Icon
...the house’s old occupants have “moved. To another continent.” Convinced “she wouldn’t be able to verse from this one last dead end,” Makina fantasizes about committing suicide and going to hell. ... (full context)
Chapter 7: The Place Where People’s Hearts Are Eaten
Immigration, Myth, and Identity Theme Icon
Family, Heritage, and Sense of Self Theme Icon
...her brother had been, although she soon sees the resemblance and recognizes her error. They verse outside and “walk awhile in silence.” He asks about her search for him and about... (full context)
Chapter 9: The Obsidian Place with No Windows or Holes for the Smoke
Immigration, Myth, and Identity Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
...“a handsome old woman.” Before entering, Makina sees a sign above the door that reads “Verse” and realizes she cannot remember the equivalent word in “any of her tongues.” The old... (full context)