CHAPTER 32 – The Writing Entity and Blade Runner, by Isabel Rio Novo

©Pedro Chorão, s/t, acrílico sobre tela, 130x162cm

Translated by Gilla Evans

Edited by Andrew McDougall

“And deeper than anything, the dream of changing the world, of healing humanity, which brought those creatures together around an exquisite invention, wasn’t that in the end just a metaphor for the task of writing?” 

It was at this point that the writing Entity stopped writing. A glance at the word-count tool showed almost twenty thousand words had already been completed. This had begun as a distraction, a way of escaping the uncertainties of the times. It was an attempt to withdraw from reality, taking a leap into a hypothetical future, amusing ourselves with erotic digressions, interspersed with moments of reflection, but the narrative always came back to our own story. What other reason could there be to persist with this tale of scientists obsessed with curing a sickness than to escape the fear and anguish of our days? We were going round in circles, even when it felt otherwise. And perhaps that’s how it always was.

The prodigious machine. The cyborg that wanted to become a human. The cave and the bats. The people afraid of sunlight. You had only to cast an eye over the bookshelves of the study, crammed with gothic novels, sci-fi and philosophy books, to see that it was a reinvention of the myths that populated the imagination. How many times had we seen these images in horror movies: the knife plunged into the young woman’s chest, the bodiless arm gliding along the floor?

And let’s be honest, weren’t so many of our own inclinations reflected in the very form of the manuscript? The fragments of poetry, the digressive passages, the dystopian adventures, the temptation of musicality, the raw nerve? Certain narrative tics, such as leaps in time or a propensity to address the reader? Even small details, small shadows in the text, seemed to speak to us. Were we splitting ourselves into different pen names, like Pessoa?

And deeper than anything, the dream of changing the world, of healing humanity, which brought those creatures together around an exquisite invention, wasn’t that in the end just a metaphor for the task of writing? Writing in order to poke around in wounds, to mend, to heal, if not with a cure, with forgetting?

She smiled. The writing Entity was not so naive that this had escaped its notice in the course of writing twenty thousand words.

She got up from her chair and walked over to the balcony window. The calm, quiet street, washed by the recent downpour. A tree shaken by the wind, scattering petals that stuck to the wet ground. Somewhere, invisible, the insidious virus of our days working away in efficient silence. And always, instilled by fear, a low but insistent voice demanding we consider our odds. And the confidence to settle in despite it all, like the splashes of light which the sun, now peeking through the clouds, was dispersing around the small courtyard.

Of course Teresa existed. And so did Cacilda, and Ricardo, and Reboredo, and the others. But they existed in us, through us, which did not mean they did not exist outside of us.

She looked back at the desk. The computer’s black screen was also resting from the effort of writing. Stopping the story would always be an option. Beginning another. Or even giving ourselves over to the strict necessities of survival. Protecting our family, providing food, cleaning. But wouldn’t killing off Teresa and the others also be collaborating with death? She remembered another film from her life, the one in which an android trained to kill and accustomed to hating humans, sensing his time was running out, decides to spare the injured human lying at his feet, just because the ending of any life seems to him, at that moment, unbearable. The writing Entity too was suddenly filled with tenderness for all those incoherent, fragile, vicious, sensitive and arrogant characters moving between a dark cavern and an enclosed apartment.

So, the writing Entity sat down at the desk and, with a broad sweep of the mouse, released the screen from its blackness, took a deep breath to pick up the thread of the story and replaced her fingers on the keyboard.

Read the original chapter in Portuguese

Isabel Rio Novo (Porto 1972) graduated in comparative literature and has an MA in History of Portuguese Culture. She teaches creative writing, literary studies, history, aesthetics and cinema, and has produced several academic publications on these subjects. Her works include O Diabo Tranquilo (2004), a fantastic narrative based on the poems of Daniel Maia-Pinto Rodrigues, Histórias com Santos (2014), a short story collection, and the novels Rio do Esquecimento (2016, shortlisted for the Prémio LeYa and longlisted for the Prémio Oceanos), Madalena (winner of the Prémio Literário João Gaspar Simões) and A Febre das Almas Sensíveis (2018, shortlisted for the Prémio LeYa). In 2018, she was awarded a bursary for literary creation from DGLAB to write her fourth novel, Rua de Paris em Dia de Chuva, to be published soon. In 2019, she published O Poço e a Estrada, a biography of the Portuguese writer Agustina Bessa-Luís.

Gilla Evans is a translator, weaver and poet living in Cornwall, UK. Her translation work, from Spanish, French and Portuguese, is mainly in the arts, for museums, galleries and magazines. Major projects in Portuguese include the Museum With No Frontiers collection Discover Islamic Art and the memoirs of a Brazilian doctor. Her poetry has been published in The Rialto and Atlanta Review.

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