Friday, November 25, 2011


9. Casa do Alentejo

Tabucchi's narrator in the novel, Requiem, goes to the Casa do Alentejo an hour or two before the hour set for the "date" he has made with his deceased partner, Isabel, via his best friend, Tadeus, also deceased.

When he arrives he is greeted by the manager of the place who tells him that it's for members only, but that he has been bored and alone all day and would like to invite him to play billiards to pass the time, a game which ends up in a wager over a difficult shot, with the object being a bottle of port from 1952, as well as an internal wager made by the narrator: If he makes the shot, Isabel will appear, and if he misses it, he will never see her again.

He makes the shot, the bell at the entrance rings, and it is Isabel. In the novel that's as far as the re-encounter goes. (In the Tanner film we actually get to see Isabel and watch them dance in the Arab-style patio.) After all, Isabel is just one of the time-killing encounters during the day, as the narrator waits to see if Pessoa will appear on the dock at midnight.

At this moment, my Alentejo-style soup, an "a├žorde" arrives: bread, cilantro, garlic, olive oil and a poached egg. Hopefully it will keep me from falling into the pit of a raging cold that seems to be ubiquitous here, where it's damp and they don't heat the buildings and everyone is sneezing and desperate, to the point that before I sat down at my table in the elegantly old-fashioned restaurant, complete with wood-paneled walls up to about 4 feet hight and the best examples of Portugese tile murals to the ceiling showing daily life in the rural Alentejo of more than 100 years ago, my right hand beat another woman's right hand to the radiator in the fireplace by about 10 seconds. It was cold.

I am not even close to understanding this lack of heating, given that the presence of fireplaces and radiators indicates that it was not always the case here. Perhaps, in hallucinatory Lisbon, this is what they are employing as an austerity measure to save themselves from the scowls and jowls of Angela Merkel within the Eurozone? I doubt that in Germany they are doing without heat. Who knows?

Perhaps it's just easier to blame it on the bossa nova, or on the dreadfully squeaking horror film front door that sets my teeth on edge as I pass through it, leaving.

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