A relic of love

Edvard Munch, Vampire, 1895


Unpublished chronicle discovered by researcher Alexandre Juliete Rosa[I]

Bastos Tigre

         He was really old! He was already well beyond his sixties… For almost fifty years his life was just an idea… In the beginning, in the early years, there were struggles and obstacles; then, the serenity of the thought that one is already master, and naturally expands in the work, marking each page, each paragraph, each line... A great life, says Alfredo de Vigny, is a thought of youth realized in old age mature… I had done that…

         But what turns had he had to take, to achieve his goal, fully, with all autonomy and independence...

         He analyzed himself and his life, there, among his books, on a sad August morning.

         Foggy morning. The contours of the mountains were not visible and the nearby houses dissolved in the indecision of that flaky environment; however, he saw his past with his desires and his struggles, all very clearly.

         His childhood and adolescence were the same as everyone else's. Colleges, colleagues, exams – everything on the same scale as any other. After the age of twenty, those domestic misfortunes, the humiliation of asking, the need to keep quiet about opinions, to have opinions that I didn't have... But, as I suffered, I became better, more human, more capable of understanding others, of forgiving and more even brave! How did this transformation come about in him: he was shy, an enemy of all violence? He did not know! He was like Marcus Aurelius, the pious friend of all the men of his “Thoughts”, who, by the chance of life, made general and victorious…

         Then, he remembered the reproductions of the bas-reliefs that adorn the Arc de Triomphe of this stoic Emperor... He should look at his victories with the same pity with which he looked, from the top of his horse, at the barbarians who asked him for forgiveness...

         The great historian and sociologist, on that foggy morning, remembered his victories with annoyance, and, had it not been for the need to obtain means of communicating his thoughts, which were great, he would have been ashamed of his triumph...

         He had this as a superior mission, a priestly duty; it was necessary to remove yet another obstacle to perfect understanding between men; and, knowing how, he had to do it, through the art of writing, using, apparently, the most different and opposite means to his temperament, to impiety even.

         Poor man, knowing the audacity of his thought that would soon hurt the most honest scholar who could help his career, he had to become popular, draw attention to himself, masking all this with the purpose of carrying out futile actions, 'the little ones pieces of intelligence', so that the general public, from here and there, would get used to it, getting used to its apparent banalities, so that, when the great work came, it would also seek it and the editors would not refuse to take the risks to publish it.

          There were ten to twenty years of pretense, pretense of ignorance and habits, of vices and virtues, of abilities and inabilities. Meanwhile, he, the real one, marched on the flank, studied, meditated. All the arduous sciences, all the special research, all the foggy theories, he read, reread and assimilated.

         The most sagacious critic would not discover in the small brochures that he published, from time to time, the market, these purposes and these readings.

         One or another friend or comrade, however, could guess this thought in his mind, but none of them expected him to carry it out except in the more or less fragmentary way he was doing it.

         Of all the nonsense of the literati and their minions he clothed himself; of all his little truths, he tried to show that he had ambition; but none of that he wanted, none of that kept his spirits up in disputes and vernacular disputes.

         Popularity itself was not its end; His aim was to publish the costly work, dreamed of in his early twenties, when the pains of the world came to him and he saw men and things better.

         Sure he could do it, he gave himself body and soul to her. It wasn't just reading and studying that he needed; they were also trips, inquiries ,, reproductions through graphic arts – all very expensive and patient work.

         He had done it and it was over. The volumes were there and everyone had already said goodbye to the amazement with which they received the first one. His mission in life was complete.

         I no longer had a close relative; The friends were there and there, in different positions, but already very different from what they once were.

         Only in the world, with the ceremonious relationships of his job, did life not weigh heavily on him, despite his almost total isolation. He had done his duty; he had done what a boy had dreamed of, without flattery, without baseness and without diminishing his high thoughts. Galileo, this time, had not defeated Juliano.

         Rich, considered, having been able to pass through all positions, he had obtained many things that he did not want, but he felt a small lack, that of a companion, man or woman, to remember in him or her the sacred enthusiasms and the dark discouragements of his first years of mental activity.

         Maybe he would die already, maybe he would still live a long time – but who would keep those books, those notes, those intimate papers?

         His heir, a niece, no longer bore her own name, but that of her father, her brother-in-law; and the children there. Mother and children seemed to have nothing serious on their minds and only remembered him to adorn themselves with kinship, as if they were wearing a pin or an expensive cameo.

         When they came to his house, they didn't even spare a friendly glance at his books, some of which his father had given him as a child, before he could understand them; and he had understood them, loved them, studied them with benefit...

         He remembered looking for his most intimate and oldest papers. Things from almost forty years ago that I hadn’t touched in over thirty…

         He immediately found the pack, some strips, with some diary notes:

'Today, October 14, 18… I went to the house of T., a young and famous poet. He read me a story in verse. I didn't feel the substance of poetry; It's all appearance, rich rhymes, enjambments and I don't know what else. He is himself: very kind, very pleasant, but incapable of deep and broad feelings. The work is the man, but by a man who cannot interest anyone.'

         He didn't continue reading the page of the unfinished diary and opened a notebook in which there was everything: expense notes, comrades' addresses, book recommendations, etc. She found, in the middle of all this, this note:

         'Talking to ACM a few days ago, in his room, I don't know for what purpose, he told me:

         – Science, Malvino, demonstrates this…

         – Have you, I replied, ever thought about demonstrating the certainty of science?

         He, almost cutting me off, objected:

         – You come with your paradoxes.'

         In that same notebook, he also came across the following, bizarrely titled:

         'My decalogue. I'm not interested in any woman; not coveting money; avoid socializing with the powerful, less than those I value; no longer attend any higher education; etc., etc.'

         He closed his notebook, vexed by these inanities of his early youth; He was about to restore the bundle of papers and tie it up again, when a large closed and sealed envelope, with something bulky inside caught his attention. He broke the seal, opened the envelope and revealed a flower, a withered rose, with this label tied to the peduncle: 'This rose was given to me by H., on Christmas afternoon of 18…'

         He put his 'curiosity' on the table and thought:

         - Who was?

         He strained his memory, recalled physiognomies, facts, public and private from those times and of which he had been a witness...

         He asked himself again:

         – Who was the H of that rose?

         He hadn't written his entire name, nor was the presence of that relic capable of stimulating his memory to the point of making him remember it at that time.

         - Who was?

         I absolutely didn't know anymore.

Lima Barreto (1881-1922) was a journalist and writer. Author, among other books, of Sad end of Policarpo Quaresma.


[I] This is an unpublished chronicle by Lima Barreto, never published in a book. I found her in the humorous newspaper Don Quixote, whose idealization and direction came from his friend Bastos Tigre, to whom the chronicle is dedicated. This is a very important text. In addition to being a true intellectual and literary testament, it touches on extremely delicate subjects for the author: loneliness (even though he is an extremely sociable boy) and the idea of ​​Love.

Lima Barreto did not marry, never dated. The few references we find about relationships with women usually talk about quick encounters or passages in houses of prostitution. Obviously the text has a fictional outline: the man the chronicler profiles is sixty years old... he was a great historian and sociologist...

Anyone who knows a little about Lima Barreto's biography and work, the way they interpenetrate, will be able, without much effort, to recognize this man, fully aware that he was not a loser in life, as many people came to say about him. It could be that there was a lack of great love in your life, or at least it didn't materialize.

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