Brazilian Literature in Translation / Literatura Brasileña en Traducción

Issue / Numero

year/año: 01
issue/numero: #01

The volume of the Silence

Author | Autor: João Anzanello Carrascoza

Translated by Renato Rezende


She stepped lightly onto the front lawn of her house to water the plants just as I was walking by. The afternoon sun filled her face and lingered there as if it had found the perfect frame, and the euphoria of the birds, sensing the oncoming evening, took hold of my consciousness. If this would be like all the other times, I would gaze quickly at her as I passed, and in this brief glimpse, she would invade my mind like a cutting stone. But after she had disappeared from sight and been replaced by the row of eucalyptus trees in front of me, behold, the desire to return to give myself over to the exquisite fullness of her shadow would fall over me like a tree, my resignation as sharp as an axe. But the lock inside me had suddenly sprung open, my legs turned to move me in a different direction, and where before I was used to catching sight of her through the fence's barbed wire gaps, now I could see her between fence posts waiting for someone to cross them. It didn't matter if my calculations were right or wrong; the only option open to me was to attack – not like Attila, for I was far from being a Hun – and I confess I felt divided between what I had been my whole life and what I was embarking upon at that new moment. I needed to be, then, the man who invaded her front garden to blossom at her feet, although I knew nothing about her other than what I had learned from the stolen glances every afternoon on my way home from the brickyard, her presence a sign showing that the machine blades of the world turned regardless of whether I existed or not. As I moved closer, her fresh watered grass dampened the bottom of my trousers, the green waves curled by my eyes, and though she was fresh and within reach of my lips I said nothing, but simply took her in as one looks at a whole life. As I was continued walking towards the door, which fairly beckoned me to cross, I heard the gentle slap of her sandals behind me and knew that she was following the wind of my windmills. Like Ulysses, my body knew that house more than it knew my mind, and I was carried up the staircase to the chosen room where the sunlight was carelessly filtered through the window. I lay down on the bed and awaited her, knowing that if she followed me here for the first and only time, I would enter her forever.

He came along the dirt road, the same road that surrounds my lawn and follows the row of eucalyptuses, and despite knowing nothing of his life, I knew, as certain as every day is born from the womb of a night, that he came from the brickyard. Not because his hands and face were dirty, but because I could see every afternoon when he passed that he had mud on him as he moved, and it was this humanity that attracted me. I was watering the lawn and didn't find the change in his direction strange. I felt like a plant waiting for water, and suddenly the weather front was moving in my direction. All around me, the silence flowed in drops, engulfed by the song of birds returning to their nests in excited anticipation of the darkness that would settle on us soon. I kept watering and pretended not to notice the change in his route, but at the same time, like a tree experiencing the wind and, despite its rigid and inert trunk, feeling its branches moving, my entire being was stirring and my muted siren desire bobbed to the surface and dived down again. He left the road and came closer on my wet grass and I could feel what the earth felt after each one of his steps, could feel his resolute courage and, if the moment was like quicksand for both of us, he was the first one to step in it. And I think, or rather saw, that he veered in the direction of my door. The still living, crawling sun tried biting his heels but the hem of his trousers protected him like the shadow of Achilles. Without checking if there was anybody with me inside the house and before he climbed the stairs in front of me and lay down on the bed, he stopped and looked intensely at me, his green eyes carving me in half as if he had molded my clay body his whole life. I walked after him, my sandals following the footsteps he spread in my own land, and when I lay on top of him, I disappeared from myself like a person leaving her own skin, and threw myself aside like a garment in order to never cease being the other person I had become.

Amores mínimos (Record, 2011)
  Nominated to Portugal Telecom Prize
  Translation: Marcos Fernando Vescovi Pera


We wake up at seven in the morning and start making the bed, stretching the linen, and fixing the quilt. We shower in silence, still feeling sleepy, and we don't want to talk. It would be a good time to make love, but we don't feel like it. We brew the coffee, we heat the milk, we eat bread and butter, we read the newspaper's headlines. We read the headlines and leave the newspaper aside, with the firm conviction of resuming reading at evening. We know we won't, but we keep this illusion alive. If it is raining, we say that it is raining and the traffic is shitty and it is impossible to live in this city. If it is sunny, we complain about the heat, the thirst, and the blinding light. We always make some comment about the weather. We small talk. We have nothing to say, but we can't keep quiet. When we meet someone, we party, we recall the good times, and we feel something comforting that yet we can't precisely define. We are not always sincere in these occasions. We unfold Ariadne's thread. We roll it back into a ball. When someone scores a goal, we shout goal. We get neither happy nor sad. We live in a twilight zone. We don't want to die and we don't want to live. And we work. We work. We work. At noon they set us free for lunch and we should be back at two. We swallow the food; we are in a hurry. We go out for groceries, browse magazines, visit the bank. There are banks still. So we comment last day's tragedies, the last technological novelty, the broadcast speech of Mr. President of the Republic. We struggle to learn all innovations. We know that who is not updated is at risk of dying while still alive, of being forgotten. We can't afford ignoring what is known by everyone. Our voices mingle. We strongly feel that our words don't belong to us. We have been losing our memory for years. Yet, this fact has not damaged us. On the contrary, amnesia has protected us from feeling guilty and regretful. For sure someone has taken our best recollections. But what one can do with recollections? At night, when the sky is most mysterious, when life reveals its secrets, we silently snug in front of the TV. Usually, we don't watch anything. We turn it on only because we can't stand our solitude. We are afraid of bringing in new subjects. We never go beyond what is allowed. Sometimes one of us farts. We smile. It's a code. We are alive, after all. In the cold weather, we wrap ourselves in blankets and attempt to find one or another star amidst the fog. It is a beautiful sight. But we are tired of beautiful sights. The truth is that we are tired of everything. We can't fall asleep in windy nights. We hug each other. Not exactly out of love, but out of habit. We cough. We pant. We change positions; we make noise between sheets. We need to communicate to each other that we can't sleep. We are unable to fall asleep. Dreams are a burden. We are unable to count sheep. We no longer know how to count. There are millions of things to do. We wake up. Thousands of activities. Thousands of different alternatives. The city has a hundred and fifty movie theaters, ninety theater halls, eight hundred restaurants, a zoo, museums, nightclubs, bars. But we don't need to go to any of them. Anyhow, the world comes to us. We can't escape. We got used to war and peace. We need to renovate the house, to change the furniture, to buy a new car. Then we need to renovate the house, to change the furniture, to buy a new car. If we want to be different, we must be equal. If we want to be equal, we must be different. And we are funny, in spite of all. To cook, to drink wine, to be under the rain—many things amuse us. We laugh. We laugh for suffering such simple pains. And, as we laugh, we cry. We are amazingly strong. We are outrageously frail. We are too lyrical. We are too poor. When an acquaintance has a birthday we sing happy birthday. We are loved and hated. We cheat. We are cheated. We argue. We break up. We make up. We are ashamed of our nudity, of our bellies, of our baldness, of our clothes. When we are home, we want to go elsewhere. When we are elsewhere, we want to return home. We like to travel, but our travels are confined to getting ready. Yes, getting ready is idyllic. At the very moment we jump into the car and hit the road or climb into an airplane the trip ends. Problems arrive, one after another. And they follow us. Uncertainties exasperate us. We are not sure in what to believe: psychoanalysis, astrology, oriental sects, the Third Wave, the imminent end of a nuclear war, Nostradamus' prophecies, the new Catholic Church. We kill God. We resurrect God. We kill God again. We resurrect him once more. At every minute they feed us more data, more information. We no longer remember who Hitler was. For a second, we climb to the hall of fame. We are interviewed by newspapers, invited to write a book, to make a CD. In every corner they talk about us. We become idols of a new generation. A generation that lasts hours. And then we are forgotten. Suddenly, once again we climb to the hall of fame. We are interviewed by newspapers, invited to write a book, to make a CD. In every corner they talked about us. We become idols of a new generation. A generation that lasts hours. And then we are forgotten. We are forgotten in the same way that we forget the price of rice and last week's pain. We keep living; we keep dying. We always have ready excuses, one for each occasion. We ask for help with every glance, but almost everyone is blind. We are victims and innocent. In the streets, we meet people we know. People who everyday pass the very same places we pass. We never greet each other; we never exchange a word. But we keep complicity. And we feel abandoned when one of these people disappears for a day. They are our security. We know the city quite well. We get into the car, we close our eyes and we drive. We know how long each green light lasts. We know all about the traffic. We know all avenues that change the direction of the traffic flow. We are tired of the sameness of these changes. We ask questions. They answer. They ask us questions. We answer. True or false, it doesn't matter. When spring comes, we say it's springtime. And we visit museums. We don't know much of modern art. Nor of post-modern art. We rely on the opinion of the critics. We disagree with the opinion of the critics. We don't give a shit for the opinion of the critics. We point the gun at the head. Attention: we point the gun at the head. We don't shoot. We are not cowards. We still have a drop of courage. We pass through long corridors. Suddenly—forsaken—we hug. Now and then we kiss. We nearly forgot how to kiss. We unlearned many lessons. Feeling clumsy and awkward, we prefer the dark. We make love without joy. We are not prepared for joy. We have no time for friends. We have no time. On Sundays, we eat spaghetti with chicken. It is the best day of the week. We eat and drink and sleep. Then we eat and drink and sleep. In certain moments, we are overwhelmed by a sudden happiness. Then we sing. Out of tune. But we sing. Happiness doesn't last very long. In any case, we sing. We even get to the point of dancing. Yes, we dance through the living room, slowly. We are not as agile for dancing as before. But we dance. Soon, very soon, we will have a son. And we will teach him all that we know.

O volume do silêncio (Cosac Naify, 2006)
Jabuti Prize
Translation: Renato Rezende

Sign of these times

The couple stopped in the middle of the way to rest. They were both tired of fleeing and took shelter in a cowshed near an empty road. Soon the woman felt the first warnings. It was a providential stop; the most appropriate time and place for the birth of the child.
  That night, under the intense light of a star, the woman intensely suffered the pains of delivery. It was late at night when, between her muffled moans, they heard a strange wail.
  Perplexed, they looked at the newborn baby. But they were careful not to repeat the same mistake. They picked some leftover pieces of wood that was laid around and choose two of them, preparing the ritual. They were fast. The husband, a carpenter, had a lot of practice.
  They crucified the boy on the spot. Then they gathered the animals and resumed the trip.

Amores mínimos (Record, 2011)
Nominated to Portugal Telecom Prize
Translation: Renato Rezende

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