ISSN 2359-4101

Brazilian Literature in Translation / Literatura Brasileña en Traducción

Issue / Numero

year/año: 2012
issue/numero: # 03

Lis in My Heart – A book that asks forgiveness

Author | Autor: Jorge Miguel Marinho

Translated by Robert Brian Taylor | Illustrated by Gustavo Piqueira

“This book takes nothing from no one.”
- C. L.

- - -I am searching, searching. Searching like Clarice Lispector
searched when she urgently needed to write and threw
words in life like someone who throws bait on hooks hoping
to catch what is still not understood. This has probably
already happened to you, and it is happening to me now, because I don’t know how
to start the story. We start scribbling on a sheet of paper, throwing out names at
random, baiting and scratching at life, trying to catch what is inside words: emotions.
I am now experiencing this drama, not knowing how to start this story, which
could result in great joy. Why not? It’s because I promised to write the story of
Marco César, my friend, and I can save or condemn the young man.
He is my friend, that’s it, and it gets much more serious. He committed a
crime and he asked me to write this book thinking the words could save him

or condemn him, with forgiveness. Marco César knows that forgiveness can

condemn a person even more because guilt is not swept away with punishment,

and the crime remains loose and heavy like unyielding pain, a transgression of

our own account, a sentence and even voluntary condemnation. But I want him

to be forgiven, and Marco César does too.

If you ask me whether he is guilty or innocent, I still cannot answer – I only

know that this book has become a mission. The desire to save a friend cannot

be explained; it is commitment without reason. But I don’t want pity, not I nor

he – pity harms us both and it can be a worse crime. I only ask that you read this

story with relaxed attention, without being up in arms, in a gesture of delivery

before judgment, something like stepping in unchartered territory and gradually

discovering the layout of the land with the soles of your feet.

Marco César is about 17; it is hard to be precise: he is so young in body, yet

old in accidents of the heart. With that touch of malice we all have when love is

wounded, he hurt those dead and alive, that’s what he did. But he is my friend and I

ask his forgiveness. If he deserves to be forgiven, I cannot say. I will find out little by

little after a painstaking and probably very grueling investigation. I could suddenly

believe that the magnitude of my friend’s crime makes him a relentless criminal

and, even without argument, I will be clamoring for him to be forgiven.

What matters is he repented, confessed all to me and begged me to write

his story in an extremely courageous act, baring all. That cannot be denied or

forgotten. Not by me or you. He wants to bare all. He wants everyone here to know

his life inside and out, to read his story and then to decide whether he is innocent

or not. Marco César even said he expects to be forgiven, and that forgiveness could

come as a hallelujah. That’s right, he said a hallelujah and I understood why.

Who knows, maybe you will sing a hallelujah at the end; a hallelujah that Clarice

Lispector hoped someone would sing to her after reading one of her stories and

give her a hand, as if that gesture was everything expected from joy; a hallelujah

that swept the very words from the book leaving life very clean; a hallelujah that in

the end said: “I understand. What you wrote is me and that is why I forgive you so.”

That is where the idea for the book came from, and I accepted it.

With regard to Clarice Lispector, a writer who will be present in every cry

found in this book, I hope you like her like one enjoys a good discovery, or a joy that

is so joyful it makes you cry. She was one of the victims of my friend’s crime – and

precisely because she is a housewife who wrote stories and who always reminds

me of a woman who finds herself in the kitchen, a woman who reveals herself

scouring pans, like one who grinds a stone with cotton, precisely for that reason,

my mission must be painstaking. Yes, believe me; I will suffer every word because

trying to defend my friend already includes capital punishment.

Patience, patience on my part and on yours. I am going to allow the words to

just flow, to happen at their own will. That is how I began to write these lines, and

that is how I intend to proceed.

For now, all that is left for me as the defense attorney for my friend, Marco

César, is to recall the words of the victim herself, Clarice Lispector, who is the most

violated party in this entire story - so it seems to me now. That is why I speak so

much of her. I am going to try and extract the words she left us in so many books;

a forgiveness that springs from loving malice, if that exists. Regardless, it is not

impossible for the victim to end up defending her very hangman; everything is so

unpredictable, and I must take the chance.

Marco César, who swears he acted in self-defense of emotion, even though

moved by simple impressions – it must be said – also believes in the author’s message

is his major argument, almost an alibi for whoever was present at the moment of the

crime without actually being there. I am trying to say there was a homicide, but it

was life, chance, a deceptive appearance of things that caused the violence. It was as

if Marco César felt assaulted or threatened and had to defend himself from someone

who suddenly appears, gun in hand, from out of the dark shadows of life or from

the darkness itself that exists within each of us. He believed he was in danger and,

indeed, none of this happened. That’s it; that is how it all came down. I have no other

way out. I must believe in what he showed me. And, to say the only truth, nothing

is certain here. Everything is left to chance. It is the story that confesses, and we are

the ones who condemn or acquit. May the judgment of Marco César now begin,

with the confession of Clarice Lispector, which so far is nothing more than an outcry.

“When you finish this book, cry a hallelujah for me.”

“Thus: that was me one day…”


I first met Marco César about three years ago, more or less, maybe a little

more. Good friendships are outpouring and give meaning to our lives. It is almost

as if one never existed before or after.

But it was not immediate. We gradually became friends, and in silence, which is

the best code of accomplices, of great pals, of companions. Friends in every sense

of the word is what we became, as if the right hand touched the left and the two

calmly supported each other, almost without censure; as if the two surrendered

to a strong embrace that always gave me the impression of a caress and safety,

precisely the feeling of happy eternity. I never knew to which of us the left or the

right hand belonged, and that doesn’t matter.

I saw Marco César for the first time at one of those meetings we writers have

at schools out of the need for spontaneous, fragile and unarmed words, almost

virgin words that make us understand what we write and which we never truly

master - in short, it was one of those meetings with students that provide us with

that attention and interest Clarice Lispector so desired.

I didn’t get anything from Marco César who was seated right in front and

scribbling on a sheet of paper with a disgust that approached aggression – at least,

that is what I felt on top of my 50 years and 20 books published with praise and

dissatisfaction. I could have felt humiliated by him, but I didn’t want to. I preferred

to move armed with the cruelty of one invited to be in the center and who can

choose their victim. I pointed my finger at Marco César and asked:

- You, answer me: why do people write?

Without looking me in the eyes, he replied with a violence of the kind

demonstrated by those who don’t want to talk or have nothing to say.

- I don’t know.

I insisted.

- Of course you do!

And he concluded his participation leaving the room and saying:

- Of course I don’t.

I was a little angry and as he left the anger increased, almost becoming ire. I

wanted to throw words at the young man’s most fragile part, but I gave up. I didn’t

know anything about him. But there was something about him that irritated and

moved me. Today I know it was the dignity of silence.

As I was leaving, before getting into the car, he was there waiting for me:

almost tall and a little bent over, curly hair, eyes confronting mine and almost the

entire rest of his body turning inwards. He was direct and did not excuse himself.

- You asked me what I didn’t know and that was uncool on your part, because

no one knows why they write. I don’t know, but it is not impossible that people

write stories just because they don’t have stories to live. That doesn’t make much

of a difference – what matters in this little chat of ours is that you wanted to screw

me in front of the others and now it is my turn.

He took a long pause and then hit the nail on the head.

- What is there inside of me that makes me full of fear and not be very thrilled

about living?

I wanted the dignity of silence, which was his attribute, for me, and I answered.

- I don’t know…

And he insisted emphatically as if he were at the center of a unique happening.

- Of course you do; look at me.

We stared at each other for a long time and with some discomfort. At this

first encounter, we were already two forces who wanted and didn’t want to battle

each other. He resolved this first mismatch – in practice, Marco César was always

quicker than I.

- Alright… I am going to read your books and then I will look you up, “sir”, to

tell you what exists within your words.

I noticed that he had called me “sir” without any respect, but rather to push

me away and entice me to a man to man fight, a body to body battle that did not

go beyond a challenge, like baiting two dogs who in reality do not want to bite

each other. He did not say goodbye, did not bid farewell. He just turned his back

and slowly walked towards his most intimate place: solitude.

That is how Marco César was one day, the day he seemed to ask “what was

there in his guts that made him a being”. Perhaps Clarice Lispector could answer,

trying to say that living is like making life a crossing over a virgin field, free of all

prejudice. I didn’t remember.

He left lightly and sneakily, almost looking back, but without fully turning his

head. He waved to his friends, lifting his head which was always drooping, and even

approached one or another girl, but that was all. With a slightly bitten lip and tearladen

eyes, Marco César’s face did not bear the least expectation of an encounter

although what he most wanted was to experience belonging. He didn’t believe he

was deserving of anyone’s love. He was hungry and ashamed of imagining himself

happy in the arms of a woman and, always hidden under a second skin, he was by

nature completely alone. I realized that immediately, and then I confirmed it and in

a few words he also confessed this to me.

Over time, things changed, and we became sort of like accomplices playing on

the same team of existence, sometimes fighting side by side in this every day war

called existence. However, at first contact, he seemed stupid and timid to me, free to

say whatever he thought or felt, a little arrogant, like someone who speaks sloppily,

almost spitting out his words, even a little indecent in the way he scratched his

underarms and raised his pants, completely afraid of the simple fact of breathing or

seeing himself face to face with a caged bird or a half dizzy bird ready to fly.

He was like a hen rehearsing an egg, a hen taking notice of life with trepidation –

that was my first impression. That’s it: the fright is what moved him; the fright was his

way of being. Near soundless fright, just the echo of a scream drawn like an open mouth,

wide open to the world without any certainty of a motive or of someone for living.

But he was searching, Marco César was already searching. He didn’t know

precisely what for, but he was searching – you can believe that.

“Do you still want me as your friend?”


There are friendships that arise from brief contact, as if the two friends had

already known each other without ever having met. My encounter with Marco César

was like that, even on that first day when I felt my vanity as a visiting writer had

been assaulted and he felt despised by the words coming from me. We admitted

to that over time, both laughing like old pals who laugh until feeling the joy of tears.

But first we began accumulating endearments and small challenges.

He made the first move. I don’t know how, but he found my phone number

and was direct when he called.

- It’s me.

- Me who?

- Marco César.

- Marco César? Marco César from where? Ah...

- I’ve read some of your books and I didn’t quite understand - writers have a

habit of complicating things.

- That wasn’t the intention. Says Mário de Andrade; have you read him?

- Very little…

- It doesn’t matter. He says the following. ‘No one writes for himself except for

a monster with pride. We write to be loved, to attract, to enchant.’ In the end, we

write to be understood and to understand the world better, which seems not to

have occurred in our case. That’s a shame…

- But I understood one thing you say, or I think I did, because I have felt that

way. It’s when you write about friendship, it’s… it’s… it’s awesome…

- That’s great; it’s really good when we are able to share a feeling or an idea

with someone.

- There is a moment when you say…, let me see here, I have the book right

here, here it is: ‘In a friend, you plant a moon; you forget a diary; you rest all your

dreams and you stay, out of exactness.’ I don’t understand much about poetry, but

I think I felt that, I really do. You truly believe in this stuff you write.

- I think I write to believe…

- Well, I don’t want to bore you with poetry and philosophizing about stuff I

don’t even know happens…

- You… you could…

- See you around.

He hung up. Marco César was a master at hanging up. I thought of my children

calling other writers and wanting to understand what they felt so intensely and

were unable to explain. I looked for Tiago in his room. He wasn’t there. Anaí, my

youngest daughter, was traveling, probably in search of affection so similar to the

restlessness felt by Marco César. It was not impossible for her at that moment to

be reaching the edges of adolescence which almost always head towards the most

touchable part of passion.

I thought that, when they arrived, I would boastfully tell them someone had

called me to say my books were at least able to outline friendship and they would

be proud of me. I must have been a little embarrassed and completely vain, vain

enough to simply write.

I began to talk more often with Marco César. I used to enjoy and still enjoy

talking with these youths always in search of something. Indeed, I end up feeling

younger and life seems to momentarily not recognize the passing of time, of death,

of the certainty of an end.

- Are you doing anything important now? he asked over the phone.

- No. I was wondering why trees die standing, I answered from my end, without

reservation, a little to stir up an experience of equals.

- But there are so many more important things to think about, he challenged me.

- Like what? I cruelly returned the riddle to him.

- I don’t know. Why men die standing, you know? he was defeating me

without winning.

- Let’s go for coffee, Marco César was treading on ground, making the world real.

- Yes, let’s, I accepted, unable to understand what made two such different

men two impossibly close people.

Without notice, something he never did – he was scrupulous by nature and by

option – one day Marco César came over, pale and saying nothing, not even to my

wife, who he barely greeted. He sat, took a letter from his pocket and handed me

the following written words:

“I am complicated, with hardly anything to give. At times, I don’t even know if

I exist, scared to death of existing. I truly wanted to feel like I belong to something

in this lousy life, and the only thing I have at this moment is you and a few pages

from your books which I skip over searching for a strange sentence that was already

inside of me. Sometimes I feel you are from outside this world, a bore, a pain in the

ass. Other time I don’t, really, I feel like you take me seriously and, when I’m sad, really

down, I think about you a lot. So, here it is: do you still want me as your friend?”

I was never so certain that a friend is one hand calmly resting on the other and

little by little knowing all. We shook hands, and like medieval knights, we became

friends with all the honors. We drank wine, spoke about ourselves and the world,

remained in silence without discomfort.

I imagined a book that spoke of the virtues of friendship. I gave up – it was

much better to be friends with a friend who had the daring and the courage to

offer a friendship that was truly right there, in such a small space, in a room, and

that suddenly became the most exact image of an enormous country.

“Freedom is little; what I want still has no name.”


The girl Marco César was waiting for still had no name. Indeed, she still did

not exist in the flesh for him, and it is best to not get ahead of ourselves. I prefer

to show you Marco César like this, through instants, the story opening and being

told like a spiral flight, no straight lines. And later, very soon, maybe on the next

page of this book, you will meet the girl he imagined seeing, and the other girls

who were beautiful and ugly, happy and sad, and most importantly, real. He even

felt an attraction, although momentary, scratching his underarms, raising his pants,

putting himself in an attack position and not moving. Not out of fear this time; it

was too much reality. Marco César was stubborn and, even when always heading

towards something that could only be people, he insisted on walking straight by,

always heading in another direction. Maybe that’s why he was lost for so long,

turning corners that were apparently known without noticing some detail that, at

times, holds great revelations. Or maybe not; that’s something else we don’t know.

But it is very possible that, if anyone asked him what he was looking for as he

walked about aimlessly, he would probably tell himself, in the best manner possible,

something Clarice wrote and which provides the name for this chapter, which has

nothing more to say: “What I want has no name.”

As for me, I am going to continue writing the story of Marco César, my friend,

trying to find what I still don’t know.

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