CHAPTER 2 – Change in Command, by Inês Pedrosa

©António Olaio, Going from red to Blue, versão 2 https://antonioolaio.com/


Translated by Victor Meadowcroft

Edited by Paul Crick

“A biblical silence fell over the cave; still stunned by the sudden change, some saw their lives moving backwards, while others were unsure of how best to move forwards and sweet-talk the new Sultana of this den of knowledge.”

“We sure do!” Rogério was quick to proclaim, exultantly. “I bet this piece of equipment holds the final solution to the grand project we’ve had the honour of working on under your distinguished leadership, Professor!”

A black mass of bats emerged from the back of the cave, flittering in circles, as though protesting such an unctuous statement. The scientists took fright scientifically – that is, ducking down and covering their heads with their hands. A weedy guy with round-framed glasses touched his scalp and announced, excitedly:

“Hey! I just collected a fresh sample on my head!”

Ignoring this scatological interruption, Ricardo acknowledged the panegyric:

“Exactly, my good man. For a start, with this piece of equipment the phenomenon we just witnessed would not have happened nor would our presence be detected. Now, on to the machine!”

Tossing back her wavy hair, Cacilda marched up to the Professor and stated:

“Sure. But from now on, I’ll do the talking.”

“What?”

“Yes. As you know, this piece of equipment was my invention. I’ve got my official recommendation right here. From now on, leadership of this project belongs to me … Rick.”

So saying, Cacilda undid the zipper at her chest and pulled out a document, which she threw down on the table.

Ricardo picked up the paperwork with trembling fingers, and Lúcia smiled faintly, as if muffling the joyful pop of a champagne bottle.

“So be it. You don’t deserve me. It’s because of things like this that nothing ever moves forward in this country. Everything’s contaminated,” mumbled the Professor, leaving the room.

Rogério began babbling obsequiously:

“My dear Professor, would you like help switching on the device? Or would you rather I brought you some coffee or water first? You must be tired.”

“Good idea. Bring me a coffee. Lúcia, come here. I’m counting on you to be my right arm. At last we’ll get some results. This cave is going to be the start of a new world.”

“I hope so, because the old one was beginning to reek, Professor Cacilda. Thank you for your confidence. Let me introduce you to the team.”

“No, Lúcia, I’d rather they each introduced themselves. Introductions should be personal; you can tell a lot about a person from how they explain what they do. In general, the more rhetoric, the less science. And we haven’t any time to lose. Where has that ‘final solution’ guy got to with my coffee – he’s been gone ages.”

A biblical silence fell over the cave; still stunned by the sudden change, some saw their lives moving backwards, while others were unsure of how best to move forwards and sweet-talk the new Sultana of this den of knowledge.

In the office next door, as he emptied out his drawers and stuffed papers into his briefcase, Ricardo muttered:

“Ah, but things won’t stay like this! That cow will pay! I’ll go to the minister! He belongs to my lodge, and she doesn’t know that! These girls all want to be very modern, all this equality, all this freedom, but they can’t stand a guy with a bit of grit, who doesn’t depend on them.”

At that point, a young woman with tied-up hair and swollen eyes peered through the door of his expropriated office, and asked, in a sob:

“Professor, if you no longer need me, may I go?”

“Ricardo. People call me Ricardo, Teresa. And I’m coming with you.”


Read the original chapter in Portuguese


Inês Pedrosa has published 25 books, including Nas Tuas Mãos (winner of the Prémio Máxima de Literatura), Fazes-me Falta, A Eternidade e o Desejo (shortlisted for the Prémio Portugal Telecom) and Os Íntimos (winner of the Prémio Máxima de Literatura). Her books have been published in the U.S.A., Germany, Brazil, Croatia, Spain and Italy. She was manager of the Casa Fernando Pessoa from 2008 to 2014, and appears on the television programme O Último Apaga a Luz (RTP3) and the radio programme A Páginas Tantas (Antena 1). She is the author of the radio programme Um Homem, Uma Mulher (Antena 1). In 2017, she started a publishing house called Sibila Publicações. O Processo Violeta is her last novel.

©Alfredo Cunha

Victor Meadowcroft grew up at the foot of the Sintra Mountains in Portugal and translates from Portuguese and Spanish. He is a graduate of the University of East Anglia’s MA in Literary Translation programme and, with Margaret Jull Costa, has co-translated stories by Agustina Bessa-Luís, a pillar of 20th century Portuguese literature, which appeared in Take Six: Six Portuguese Women Writers. He has also worked alongside Amanda Hopkinson on translations of stories by Hélia Correia, Teolinda Gersão, Mário de Carvalho, Orlanda Amarílis and José Rodrigues Miguéis, for an anthology called Lisbon Tales, published by OUP in 2019.


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