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Natália Timerman



Translated by Georgia Cooper




DAD,


This is a letter that asks questions. It asks, first and foremost, if you can hear me. This letter is also exhausted, searching for hope, searching for your presence in the world again. Searching for your embrace – your strength – the same strength that compelled you to go and see Roda viva[1] at the Teatro Oficina on the day you were discharged from the hospital, when we found out your cancer had returned.

You wouldn’t believe what’s going on these days, Dad. The other day, I donated more money than I could really afford to the Teatro Oficina because it was as if you were making the transfer. Everything’s at a standstill; the hunger artist is no longer just the name of a Kafka story. But you probably would believe it, you were an infectious diseases specialist. How I wish I could call you and ask if what I felt the other day was COVID, or to tell you that Jorge has learned how to write his name, and how funny his handwriting is.


You left us in March 2019, a few days before you turned 66. We lived through your death, and what came before it, with sadness and love; a sadness and love that renewed one another’s power. When one grew, so did the other. I grieved your death; I still ache. But even though I miss you every day – and it’s weird to say this – I’m glad it happened when it did. Because we were able to be by your side, say goodbye, sing along with you, listen closely to your last wishes. We were able to hear you breathing and see you smiling until the end.


People die so much these days, Dad, so many so that death has become commonplace. Three thousand deaths in Brazil, just Brazil, just yesterday. Three thousand families who lost someone from afar, without the chance to hold the hands of the one they lost, like we did with you.


Every. Day.


Last week I was watching a show with Eder and it said that in 40 years, ETA killed more than 800 people. That’s so little compared to how many people are dying every day in Brazil from coronavirus. In Bolsonaro’s Brazil. They’re dying from Bolsonaro’s Brazil, from coronavirus. It’s a horrible disease, you know, but the idiot who misgoverns us has managed to get us on the opposite path from the rest of the world.


We all knew that it would be awful, didn’t we, Dad. But there was happiness, before. There was hope when we went together to vote in the second round of elections right after your bone marrow transplant had been successful. You were weak, but happy to have survived; during the first round, you were hospitalised in that isolation ward so that no virus or bacteria could get to you whilst your immune system was unable to defend itself. Those words seemed so specialised back then: isolation, virus, immune system.


It had been successful, and the fact that you were able to go and vote in the second round seemed promising. But life doesn’t follow the script we want it to.


Bolsonaro won the election.


The lymphoma came back, less than two months later. You were under its grip when we made our last trip with you, your last New Year’s; you had already begun to feel the pain again, although we found it hard to believe.


We’re living in the age of the impossible, Dad. How I wish everything was different; that you could cradle me in your embrace, an embrace that existed in a world that doesn’t kill so many people every day because of utter stupidity.

If I close my eyes, I can imagine you going up the ramp at Teatro Oficina and everyone singing ‘Cordão’: Enquanto eu puder cantar, Enquanto eu puder sorrir. [2]


Na.



[1] Roda Viva (1967) was singer-songwriter Chico Buarque’s first play. An ‘exuberant and violent satire on the show-biz ethic’ but also ‘vibrantly, colourfully anti-establishment’, it became a symbol of resistance against Brazil’s military dictatorship (James Woodall, A Simple Brazilian Song: Journeys Through the Rio Sound (London: Abacus, 1997), p. 11.

[2] Cordão means “‘chain’, a word used for a formation of dancers in a Carnival procession. [In Chico’s song] he links the idea of a Carnival cordão with an image of being ‘chained’ up, held back, censored. In the song, he sets himself free”, Woodall, A Simple Brazilian Song: Journeys Through the Rio Sound, p. 73.

 

Natália was born and lives in São Paulo, Brazil. She’s a writer and graduated in psychiatry from the Universidade Federal de São Paulo. She has an MA in Psychology and a PhD in literature from the University of São Paulo. She wrote Desterros – histórias de um hospital-prisão (Elefante, 2017, based on the eight years she spent working at the Centro Hospitalar do Sistema Penitenciário), the short story collection Rachaduras (Quelônio, 2019, shortlisted for the Prêmio Jabuti), and the novel Copo Vazio (Todavia).


Georgia studies French and Portuguese at the University of Oxford. She has just returned from Brazil, where she spent time teaching English in an NGO based in Rio. She is currently working on a dissertation comparing two feminist texts from the Lusophone world, exploring her interest in female authorship.



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