On a day like today (January 13, 1941), James Joyce died at the age of 58 in Switzerland. This author, who also lived much of his experience on Earth as an expat, made me wonder if I will reach the same age due to my impatience with the course taken by human life, one-eyed by the recurring reading mistakes and ill-spoken by a lot of competent jerks.
Fortunately, some nonsense verbiage still disguises the genius of his works, whose stories paved with Dublin scenery serve as a guide for me not to get lost among foreign paths. Even without sufficient cognition to decipher maps, permeated by belles lettres and marginalia references, I decide to open my book to the world. As broken as an umbrella in a five-minute storm or as protected as the arse of a drunk sleeping on a train seat, we are not afraid of missing the next stop.
Although I have not been so long out of my home country as Joyce, I still carry the weight of greater identification with Ireland than with a medieval Brazil, whose oceanic proportion made me develop a trauma of never having learned how to swim. Legend has it that while you live there you float, always waiting for a lighthouse, a myth, a gust of wind in the breath of a saint, a guide dog, anything that makes us go through this dystopian moment as if we didn’t hold our mastery. Even those who stand against the tide lack oars firm enough to persist in this struggle. Macunaíma sends his regards! I have been so sorry for the lack of memory of my people that I sometimes put myself in the shoes of the daughter of a father with Alzheimer’s, having to explain everything that happens over and over, hoping to finally be understood.
Missing? They say we should not neglect our ancestry, so I try to believe in past incarnations. I have an inexplicable attraction to the Celtic lands since I was a child, when I dared to question how such a small island could be so fertile in culture, music and poetry. However, it is precisely through these origins erected in the famine that an identity subsists, despite all the colonising restrictions. By producing art on a large scale, whether by catharsis at the time of pain or pure gift of soul, Éire becomes a warrior, an incomparable Gaelic goddess!
Blessed is also the light of my Ceara, as well as that of the whole Brazilian Northeast, whose bravery I associate a lot with the boldness of Ireland, although the beauty of my sea runs through a harsher soil. I was born in Fortaleza, a city that preserves at the meaning of its name a great truth, a Fortress. As Euclides da Cunha, in Os Sertões, his epic of the Portuguese language, writes well: “The sertanejo, or man of the backlands, is above all else a strong individual” Let there be Vida e Morte Severina to properly translate an image of a migrant. There is enough baggage to leave behind without, at the same time, letting it go.
We are out of time. But what god would have the heart to write a bible in less than 24 hours? Homer? No. Men are so lacking in macrocosms that they are deceived by the impossibility of creating magnificences in detail. Except Leopold Bloom, destined for the tragedy of being a modern Ulysses. There are those who handle the streams of consciousness so well that they do not allow beginners in their literature. And it is precisely in it that I learned to dive deeper without the cold outside lashing my fair skin full of black, Latin, indigenous blood, alien of any definition that could fit me in. So I’m out.
Paola Benevides, a woman of Letters, Arts, inner & outer journeys. She was born in Fortaleza, Ceará, Brazil, where got a degree in Letters (Portuguese and Literature) and a Postgraduate Specialisation in Translation (English Applied Linguistics). Due to her intense connection with different Cultures, she joined choirs and reading groups, leading independent bands as a singer-songwriter, producing literary events, also performing visual experiments. Paola taught in Brazilian universities and has been writing several poems and stories from self-publishing to international journals, awarded magazines, books and websites, entertaining while educating with synesthetic abilities. Co-founder of Logos Language Services and Diaspora Magazine. Living in Dublin, Ireland, since 2016.
[These chronicle and art were published in our first printed issue • “Connections Brazil & Ireland” • in Dec 2020]
Art by Renato da Cunha Melo.