Posted in English

More About Djaimilia Pereira de Almeida

While I was reading As Telefones Someone asked me if I was enjoying the book because the author “is pretty militant” which surprised me because I don’t really get that from the books at all. There’s one racist incident I remember from Marremoto, but I don’t really get strong militant vibes. Obviously, by writing about people in the margins of society like Boa Morte da Silva, I guess there’s an implied criticism of the system as a whole there, but I don’t think it’s any more than an author should feel for the subjects of her books. And what’s literature for if not to show us a different perspective on life?

I tried watching an interview with her to see if I could understand what he meant. Here she is on RTP2, drinking coffee with José Navarro de Andrade and talking about Maremoto. My first impression as that she just comes across as just a writer wanting to talk about her book. OK, she admits the dreadful crime of not having read O Ano Da Morte de Ricardo Reis by José Saramago, but she doesn’t say anything I’d describe as “militant”. Interestingly, (if I’m understanding correctly) the interviewer tries, at around the eleven minute mark, to get her to admit that the inconsistencies in the biography of the main character are because she is trying to make him a pastiche, representative of all African immigrants in Lisbon, to which she says, no, the protagonist is just writing his own story in the form of a letter to his daughter and he isn’t always a reliable or coherent narrator. QA lot of his personality comes from a real person she knows and yes, it’s messy, but that’s how life is sometimes.

I’m not sure where the idea that she is militant comes from. She seems very empathetic – to the point of avoiding any attempt to educate the reader because she feels like it gets in the way of the protagonist’s own voice.

She quotes Peter Geach, husband of Elizabeth Anscombe, in the closing minutes. I can’t find the quote online but it’s something like “It’s possible for a man to lose his one chance while he is still young, and live to be old, feeling happy and at ease in the world but in the eyes of God, be dead”. That’s heavy stuff, man, but it’s Christian ethics, not Marxism, feminism, CRT or whatever. So I’m at a loss to know where this “militant” thing has come from, unless she was more of a firebrand in her youth.

Posted in Portuguese

As Telefones – Djaimilia Pereira de Almeida

Today’s post is a review of “As Telefones*” by Djaimilia Pereira de Almeida.

Este livro deu-me água pela barba**. É fino mas o vocabulário é difícil. Mas, apesar de ser uma leitura desafiante, não fiquei aborrecido porque a autora, Djaimilia Pereira de Almeida, sabe escrever. As frases fluem bem e há momentos de humor, tal como a conversa entre a mãe e a filha na qual a mãe explica que espíritos malignos começam a voar às três de manhã. Afirma que estes espíritos entram pelas janelas abertas e “aproveitam-se das mulheres que dormem sem cuecas”. Acrescenta que essas mulheres dão à luz (ou seja dão à escuridão) bebés que elas amamentam no mundo dos espíritos como amantes do diabo. Quando se acordam nem sequer percebem que já não são elas mesmas, mas estão a viver uma vida paralela no mundo das trevas. Sim senhora.

As telefones de Djaimilia Pereira de Almeida
As Telefones

Mas além destas opiniões malucas da velha, há uma sensação comovente perante a relação entre mãe e filha que se conduz na série de conversas por telemóvel e pessoal.

* Wait, what? Telefone is a masculine word so why isn’t it Os Telefones. I asked about this on reddit r/Portuguese and nobody was very sure, not having read the book, but the popular theory (best explained by u/Uyth) was that it was “Uma Alcunha” – a kind of nickname, usually based on some physical characteristic of a person (think “Blackbeard” in English). Why would that be? Well, sometimes you’ll see a placename like “O Arco do Bandeira” where the article doesn’t match the noun. In this example, Bandeira means flag and it is a feminine word. The reason for the mismatch is because Bandeira isn’t a word as such, it’s someone’s name – a businessman named Pires Bandeira had the arch built in the Baixa Pombalina district and it is still named after him today. If the person has an alcunha, it works the same way. Say if someone has been given a nickname which is a feminine word (say “carica”), but they are male. He would be called “o carica” – the feminine word gets a masculine article because of who the name is attached to. So in the title of the book, maybe the Djaimilia Pereira de Almeida is referring to these women as The Telephones because the book is about their long-distance conversations – and that’s why she used “As” in place of “Os”. Best guess. It isn’t spelled out in the book, but that’s what it seems like.

**Não costumo usar barba mas demorei tanto por causa de olhar no dicionário tantas vezes que a minha barba cresceu e já pareço Moisés.