Sérgio Rodrigues – The Stapfnunsk report: A Decent Man

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[private]The witness Olaf Stapfnunsk, born in Stockholm, naturalised Brazilian, 48 years of age, owner of a private gym, resident of … street in the city of …, after swearing by the Law, stated that: by 9am on Thursday 7th October this year, he had arrived at his gym, located on … street, and went straight up to the office, where he couldn’t help noticing the absence of Totó, his subordinate, full name Alceu Gouveia Nunes, who should have been there by then; this fact made him swear angrily in Swedish (subba was the word he swore, deemed untranslatable by the witness) and, in fury over Totó’s lack of professionalism, grab the phone and get on alone with the scheduled morning task of the month, namely, telemarketing to the neighbourhood; let it be stated that this telemarketing work consisted of offering prospective clients a week’s worth of free gym access, work that he, the witness, did not enjoy doing at all, yet had already done on a few occasions, due to Totó’s unreliability; and so for the next hour, until 10am, the witness spoke with five potential customers, of whom two showed interest in his offer and two gave a blunt no; the fifth customer (chronologically the second, as it were) said neither yes nor no, only remained silent until the silence seemed to be broken by a thud, and did not hang up, so he waited for a few seconds, saying a couple of hellos and not getting any response, then rang off and went on to the next call; having finished the last one, he then proceeded to the gym floor to work out a little and to supervise the overall functioning of his business; only a few hours later, already hungry and intending to go out for lunch, did the witness go back to his office to look something up and there, on skimming through a news portal, learned of the famous writer Ettore Luxemburgo’s death by heart failure, that morning; the piece the witness read said the man had just been found stiff on the floor beside his bed, wearing pyjamas, phone in hand; not being a man of letters, he had frankly never heard of the famous writer until that moment, but recognised the name of one of the potential customers he had called that morning; and yes, the witness is positive about the name, the foreign flavour of Ettore and Luxemburgo together being, mnemonically, a killer; reading on, he then scanned a piece of news about the just-awarded Nobel Prize for Literature and (though not a man of letters, as already stated) was amused to learn that the institution that granted the famous prize was known as the Swedish Academy, Academia Sueca, just like his gym, and found himself absurdly torn between feelings of gratitude and resentment toward those countrymen – gratitude for their free advertising of his trademark, resentment for their being such a bunch of copycats; however, the witness declares he soon abandoned such wayward thinking because it dawned on him, suddenly and with sharp clarity, what it was that had happened that morning in the late writer Ettore Luxemburgo’s bedroom, ie, the fact that the phone had rung and the writer heard a voice speaking Portuguese with a heavy Nordic accent say, “Mr. Ettore Luxemburgo? You won the Swedish Academy’s prize!”; the same line used, it is true, for all five calls; but no, he does not feel guilty at all, rather deems it a matter of fate, as he is sure the honorable judge will see it too; in any case, his sense of human decency would never allow him to keep his story from the authorities, for he knows he did, although unintentionally, cause a man’s death; and if anything can console him at such a sombre realisation, it is to think that Ettore Luxemburgo died happy in his mistake, albeit at the expense of becoming a joke for eternity.[/private]

Written & translated by Sérgio Rodrigues.
Sérgio Rodrigues,fiction writer, literary critic and journalist, is the author of six books of various genres: novels, short stories and non-fiction. He blogs about literature and language issues for Veja.com, the online version of the largest weekly magazine in Latin America.

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