CHAPTER 10 – Insensitivity to Paradise, by Afonso Cruz

©Francisco Janes, Sem título, 2020 www./user13328769

Translated by Lucy Greaves

Edited by Rahul Bery

“Paradise should be when all pains cease. But this means then that when we have no more pain, we live in paradise! Without realising it! The fortunate and the unfortunate live in the same world and do not know it!”

Life had returned to normal three years earlier.

Teresa no longer remembered the amazement with which the global population had stepped outside, how cities had filled with song and laughter, first, then with debauchery and violence, until normality imposed itself. Normality has won all wars and unless there is a final hecatomb, something eschatologists of many religions predict, normality will be the thermal equilibrium that dominates the universe.

Teresa had fought, yet again, with Maria.

After the initial astonishment of seeing a dazzling landscape, it doesn’t take long for us to stop being amazed, and we develop tolerance in relation to what we see. The power of a turquoise sea is limited. However, if every day we are inconvenienced by something, the small acts of meanness that surround us, for example, then the idyllic scenario disappears and we are left with only our constant irritation, to which we do not become accustomed, quite the opposite in fact.

Teresa fought with Maria every day.

But it’s not just the enjoyment of the sun in a crystalline sky that is demolished by routine; the worst thing is that the whole population was now made up of survivors: untrusting, hesitant, scathing, malicious and cynical.

There wasn’t a single day Teresa and Maria didn’t fight several times.

We grow accustomed to love but never to continual, everyday spite.

Teresa laid her book down on the table where she was sitting on the esplanade. She put on her sunglasses because the light was irritating her and started reading again, without paying much attention. Behind her, she heard a voice that was familiar; it reminded her of someone, but she couldn’t identify it. Then suddenly, she felt a shiver, because she knew the phrase that was being spoken, had read it several times, a phrase written by a Swedish author called Gustafsson, which used to hang – in a golden frame – above the door to professor Ricardo’s office: “Paradise should be when all pains cease. But this means then that when we have no more pain, we live in paradise! Without realising it!

The fortunate and the unfortunate live in the same world and do not know it!”

Teresa dropped her book and turned around.

Ricardo was there, standing next to her. Teresa remained silent for a few seconds trying to work out what was going on.

“Don’t make that face. It’s one of the advantages of the omnipresence of death,” said Ricardo, “we can hide among the dead, among statistics, leave the stage as a corpse and begin life again from zero. A chaotic global tragedy gives us a second chance, a resurrection.”

Teresa tried to say something, but all she managed was a shy stutter.

“I will die a second time. I think this time will be the definitive time, hence my coming to find you again. A few days ago, I finished a project which I had been working on for several years, and which I wanted to share with you. It all has to do with the insensitivity to paradise: we have to give people a new reason to rejoice, but for that they need another night. We must return to pain in order to admire the light.”

And having said that, he kissed her on the lips. Then he moved away with a smile.

Teresa would find out three days later that she was infected with a new virus, more persistent and without cure or treatment.

Night had returned.

Read the original chapter in Portuguese

Afonso Cruz (1971) is a writer and illustrator. Since 2008, the year he began writing, he has published more than thirty books, including novels, plays, works of non-fiction, essays and picture books. He’s a regular contributor to newspapers and magazines. His work has been translated into 20 languages. Prizes and awards: Prémio Literário Maria Rosa Colaço, Grande Prémio de Conto Camilo Castelo Branco, European Union Prize for Literature, Prémio Autores para Melhor Ficção Narrativa SPA, Prémio Fernando Namora, Prémio da Fundação Nacional do Livro Infantil e Juvenil do Brasil (FNLIJ), Grande Prémio de Literatura de Viagens Maria Ondina Braga / Associação Portuguesa de Escritores and Prémio Nacional de Ilustração.

Lucy Greaves is a literary translator and bike mechanic who lives in Bristol, UK. She enjoys the poetry of bicycles and the mechanics of language equally. 

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