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Ricardo Fonseca Mota



Author's picture by © Gi da Conceição





DENIAL OF THE NIGHT – NOTES


Translated by Agnes Fanning





1. I was the victim of a cunning and unjust indictment. Protesting one’s innocence is the fate of the condemned – the most evil of men becomes outraged before the jury and is overcome with remorse in front of the scaffold. I handed myself in with contempt, without pawning away my dignity.


2. It was the oligarchs who levelled one of the gravest charges against me, devious mortification. I was slow to understand.


3. “I declare you, sir, powerless under the force of law”, was how they made the agenda of my alienation public. They summonsed me without intermediaries – no soldier, no enforcer of violence, no technocrat. I wasn’t made to appear before an executioner or a father. No shackles, no whipping, no dungeon, it was ordinary people who invited me to go back home. They say stepping outside is forbidden, but I’m not supposed to call this a punishment. I’m safe here.


4. We are fools to depend upon the society of our fellow-men. Wretched as we are, powerless as we are, they will not aid us; we shall die alone. Blaise Pascal.[1]


5. Despite being the same house, the same comfortable surroundings, the same vices, never a home. The same windows, a maze of mirrors through which I see myself reflected infinitely, creating a mosaic that shows my bestialized face.


6. The shock waves of exile are like the ripples of a pebble across a mirror of water.


7. At first, I fell ill with isolation. A wall too weak to separate me from the other prisoners, but strong enough to keep me from escaping. I sank to the bottom of this punishment. Long-distance lobotomy.


8. Having gone beyond the point of death by solitude, I approached a far greater abyss. My definition of ruin hadn’t considered this inferno.


9. A cell. A coffin. A book on top of a dressing table.


10. I gave in to temptation. To reading.


11. Locked in a dungeon with a shark that never sleeps. Shadows, voices, worries, wishes. The presences guarantee a final descent into madness. A book is full of people poised to attack. It makes no difference whether I actually see the individuals printed into it. Their influence is felt by simply believing in them. The weight of the truth surpasses that of reality. In opposition to the latter, the truth is neither volatile nor multifaceted. It is tactile, monumental, endowed with faith, confined to my own limitations.


12. These presences emerge from the book, they occupy the space.


13. In the end, the empty prison was a trick. My exile isn’t being locked up. My family appears, as do figures from the past, the shadow of the future, the velocity – feral predators ruled by uncertainty.


14. My torment is being condemned to a crowd. The worst punishment inflicted on humanity is our inability to be alone.


15. The despair of never being able to feel absence again.


16. When presence is not the antidote to solitude, but the theft of presence, the denial of our own darkness.


17. How long? I’d bear it for a thousand years if I knew. Doubt’s firm grasp demands that I drown myself urgently in the river Lethe.


18. I feel sick: I want to run away from myself and everyone else: only the wild interests me and awakens, from deep within me, dreams, scents and ferocity … I want to know what is stopping me from killing now. Raúl Brandão


19. Extinction of the sacred.


[1] From William Finlayson Trotter’s published translation of Pensées, by Blaise Pascal.



 


Ricardo has a degree in Psychology from the University of Coimbra and is an author, clinical therapist and cultural promotor. His debut novel, Fredo, was awarded the Prémio Literário Revelação Agustina Bessa-Luís in 2015, longlisted for the Oceanos – Prémio de Literatura em Lingua Portuguesa in 2017, and translated and published in Bulgaria. He represented Portugal at the17th edition of the European First Novel Festival, in Budapest. As aves não têm céu is his second novel. Other works include a play, called Germana, a begónia (2019), and In descontinuidades, a collection of poetry published under the pseudonym Ricardo Agnes (2008).


Agnes studied Spanish and Portuguese at the University of Oxford and will begin an MPhil this year, also at Oxford, focusing on Latin American literature, namely works by Clarice Lispector and Jorge Luis Borges. Having grown up between England and Argentina, she has always been fascinated by languages and the role translation plays in influencing how literature is read, especially in Spanish-language and Lusophone writing.

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