Saturday, August 21, 2010

My grandfather, Edmundo Carvalho Cardoso with his parents and siblings.

Here he is with my mother, his older child.

With some of his grandchildren. I´m the baby in my middle brother´s arms.

A birthday celebration. You can see me there with my arms on his shoulder.

Those Things - Part II

Some years later, around eleven years old, taking advantage of my brother´s absence and, as usual, breaking into his room to snoop around, I came across an edition of Sherlock Holmes stories and started reading them one after the other. My brother lent me then his Agatha Christie collection, but my passion for Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple would come much later, in my adolescence, when, curiously, Holmes didn´t seem that perfect, after all. Another great lesson: readers are constantly mutating beings.
Talking about passions makes me recall my forbidden ones. Like the one that started the day my father got home with an edition of Papillon by Henri Charrière. I was twelve years old. For about two days the only possible way to talk to him was during meals. He was completely absorbed by that book, and I was completely fascinated by the image of my dad reading a book whose cover reminded me of a butterfly. He was absolutely unplugged from the outside world.
During another routine incursion into one of my brothers´ bedroom, I was able to locate and capture the book and, of course, read it after everyone had gone to bed. The realism and cruelty of the story really shook me up. That other one in the pages of the book showed me suffering and isolation in a way I had never seen before. I had never even thought about it. Raw, cruel, miserable reality. No glamour, no sophistication, no mystery. I´m not sure whether I should have read that book, but again, meeting certain books are like meeting certain people: there´s not a right place or time, they just happen. And then we wonder whether we would have grown to be who we are if they hadn´t.
When comparing books and people, I can´t help but think of one of the greatest times I had in my life from reading a book. That was when I shared The Mists of Avalon with my grandfather.
Edmundo Carvalho Cardoso, a retired civil servant, was one of the most interesting people I´ve ever met. Conversations and discussions with him were always very exciting.
One day, grandpa told me he was reading The Mists of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley, and that he was very impressed by the way the author approached the Arthurian legends. As the Portuguese translation was a series of four books, he said he was going to lend me them as he finished reading each book, so we could discuss them. Among all the people surrounding my grandfather, he had chosen me to be his reading partner. I was in Heaven! As our reading advanced, we shared our impressions about the story. Grandfather told me about the Arthurian legends he had heard since childhood, and about his great interest in the stories of the British Isles. Some time ago, a distant cousin told me my grandfather´s name, Edmundo, had been chosen by our great grandfather after the character Edmond Dantes in The Count of Monte Cristo. That was when I, in my late thirties, read for the first time what is today considered juvenile fiction. I was certainly searching for a part of my beloved grandfather in those pages. Unexpectedly, I also found Papillon in Dantes.
Time and duty occupy a minor position in this huge web of meaning that reading represents to me. It does not really matter if I should read or should have read a certain book or author that the academic world considers of extreme importance. The essential factor of being a reader to me is how much of myself I´ll find or discover in what I read. The more I feel connected with my surroundings, the greater will be this universe I carry within myself. It´s a two-way road. And because of that, I´ll be able to promote returns, rescues, transformations, and reconciliations in my life.
In Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, Strange manages to get into a mirror and in it he finds countless ways connected by bridges, all of them leading to the magical world, where time and space are relative. My bridges don´t have a certain time or a place to be built. In fact some of them are halfway done already, I just have to finish them. The important is to be sure that they are and will always be crossed by my desires, dreams, anxieties, questions, aspirations and memories. You know, those things.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Those Things - Part I

This is an article I wrote for a book about "life stories and books", a friend ( and I edited some time ago. This is actually the translation I made and it was posted at Redroom before. Since I´m among friends, I´ll post it here, too:

Those things

“You´re past the age of suffering
for those things.”

Oh, so there´s a right age to suffer or not to suffer any longer for those, those things?

Things should only happen to make us suffer at the right age of suffering?

Or we shouldn´t suffer for things that make us suffer because they came in late, and this is a quiet time ?

And if I´m past the age of suffering, is it because I´m dead, and dead is the age of not feeling things, those things?
Carlos Drummond de Andrade Those Things (my translation)

I learned to read when I was five years old. My earliest memories are being read at and having around me storybooks, comic books, and a record player, where I could listen to recorded stories. I´m the youngest child of three, and the only girl. My parents and my brothers , who were teenagers when I was a little kid, were always trying to find things to keep me entertained in my own company: I was also the only little kid in the neighborhood . Oddly enough, I never felt lonely. My maternal grandfather, Edmundo, was also a regular in our house. He would come in with a pack of candy and a comic book, just for me – with sugar and love.
Despite being given the appropriate reading material for my age, I was often drawn to what wasn´t so obviously available to me, what was in other people´s shelves or drawers: my brothers´, more specifically.
I don´t remember which was the first book I read that I wasn´t supposed to, or it wasn´t expected of me to be interested in, but I do remember the time I found Tarzan. That was my father´s ‘fault’
Mozart Lhullier was born in the Lhullier family´s Summer house in Pelotas, Southern Brazil, in 1925. My grandfather Alfredo was a businessman, and my grandmother Antonia, just like every other well-to-do woman in the beginning of the twentieth century, was a housewife. The fondest memories my father has ever mentioned were feeling the freedom of the countryside and his mother´s cheerfulness. From his childhood, he always felt that the only way to be himself was to be close to what formed his essence: trees, animals and streams. Thousands of stories about adventures in faraway lands as well as in our own backyard were part of my childhood . Thanks to my father, for years I believed there was a wild cat behind a leafy bush in our country home. A black jaguar or onça, as we say in Brazil, would guard our kitchen at night, and an albino gorilla would come to my rescue if I ever needed some help with my conflicts at school. Maybe those were the reasons why, when my mother passed away, and I was 7 years old, I turned to a book I found in my brothers´ bedroom: Tarzan of the Apes. The possibility of affection within a seemingly hostile environment was an idea that attracted me very much. Edgar Rice Burroughs, with his adventure story of an orphaned boy raised by apes, and that boy growing up to be strong and confident, provided me with the consolation I needed at that time…
But of course there was also Pollyanna which my oldest cousin highly recommended to me. I used to observe her reading it and found it the coolest thing when she sighed and sometimes cried because of the story. My top goals then , at that time, became the possibility of meeting a wild cat , and also reading Pollyanna and shedding some tears. I never met a wild cat in our backyard, and I confess that Pollyanna irritated me to the point that I wanted her to die. I didn´t shed a single tear, but somehow I saw a little bit of myself there, and it made me think, despite being so young, that I would have to be in charge of my own life from then on. Maybe there I learned my first big lesson from reading : that other one I meet in the pages of books is also a part of myself.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

" Your sacred space is where you can find yourself again and again." [Joseph Campbell]