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In this room – crammed full of desks and papers, where enviable clerks divide among themselves the world’s common sense, focusing with clear ideas, despite the noise and the stifling weather, self-assured in expressing their opinions about the problems that distress modern man (a species which you, with age-old fatigue, perhaps feel rather excluded from) – stop everything you are doing, in sight of all around you, with the expression of a quiet and dangerous lunatic, make only the calmest of gestures, as calm as those made by the most serious of the clerks, wave a big “ciao” to the tasks of the day, like someone who is saying goodbye to life, and a little later, surprise with your presence at such an unusual hour those who are at home, busy cleaning the cupboards, a task that until now you were unaware of. It is convenient not to answer the interrogative eyes, letting the intense expectation install itself for a while. But do not take it too far, and go up to the bedroom without delay, freeing there your feet of shoes and socks, undressing as if getting rid of the importance of things, stripping to minimal garments, or none at all, but without offending decency (your own decency of course), and accepting, all the while, as a good provisional truth, all the changes in your behaviour. Afterwards, like a hesitant bather, appear naked on the springboard of the landing and walk two steps as if preparing to dive, silencing once and for all the muffled outbreak of comment down there. Don’t go in for grand gestures. Go down, without hurry, step by step, tolerating the amazement (poor them!) of the pitiful relatives who cover their mouths with their hands, squeezed together at the foot of the stairs. Pass between them without speaking, wander around the house as if strolling along a deserted beach (but always with that same expression of a madman who has not yet reached the edge) and next approach, with care and tenderness, the hammock languidly curved among the plants on the roof terrace. Abandon yourself to it, just like those who abandon themselves to life, and dive in deep: pull the edges of the hammock right up over your eyes, push with your foot (it doesn’t matter what you push against), enjoy the fantasy of being rocked by the world.
Raduan Nassar was born of Lebanese parents in 1935, in a small town in the state of São Paulo. His first, prize-winning novel Lavoura arcaica (“Archaic Land”) appeared in 1975. Having worked in trading, agriculture and journalism, Nassar now is devoted to his farm and keeps his distance from the fashions and groups of the literary fraternity. Nassar’s slim oeuvre is regarded as one of the best and best-kept secrets in Brazilian contemporary literature.
Kate Pemberton has published stories in The Time Out Book of London Short Stories, Volume 2, and in Ambit magazine. When not focusing on looking after her two-year-old daughter, she writes, copy-edits and teaches creative writing to children and English to Brazilians. Monica and Kate published other short stories by Raduan Nassar in translation in Ambit 157, which marked his first ever publication in English.
Monica Almeida formerly lectured in Translation Theory and Practise at the University of Brasilia. She has just moved back to Brazil from South Africa and runs the company Oi, Active Living.