Thursday, November 24, 2011


5. A Ricardo Reis Moment

Ricardo Reis was one of Pessoa's heteronyms--a poet and physician, his biographer says he spent time in Brazil. In the 1980s, José Saramago wrote a wonderful novel, The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis, in which Reis returns to Portugal because he learns that Pessoa has died, and his first moment of awareness that Pessoa's spirit is out and about walking in Lisbon as usual occurs when a thin man wearing a hat and round spectacles passes him in the street.

This morning, it appears I had a Ricard Reis moment. I had taken a taxi to the Decorative Arts Museum on the edge of the Alfama, the old Arab quarter, and was walking back to the downtown and was about to cross a street from Rua Santo Antonio da Sé to enter a folk art shop, when I stopped to check my watch and heard soft footsteps behind me. Out of the corner of my eye I thought I saw a man shorter than myself wearing a hat, but when I turned completely around there was no one there.

So much for the power of suggestion. But if Pessoa suddenly turns up in my room, like he did in the novel, my raven will be cooked, for sure.

An ironic roasting on the day the gringos celebrate genocide by first stuffing a turkey, and then stuffing themselves.

But here in Lilsbon the sun is still out, and the general strike called for today has fizzled. Indignation isn't gathering much steam here, where reality clearly is not heartily welcomed.

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