ISSN 2359-4101

Brazilian Literature in Translation / Literatura Brasileña en Traducción

Issue / Numero

year/año: 2012
issue/numero: # 04

The Little Deaths

Author | Autor: Wesley Peres

Translated by Ana Fletcher

What to do about these white corpuscles, rendered useless when they happen upon a body of stars disarticulating the flesh. Nearly twenty years later, it’s difficult for people to admit that that which doesn’t happen, does happen. They will always think that a plague is something foreign, that sickles cannot be blue. To those that please Him, God grants wisdom, guarantees the book He guarantees, while that book is, in itself, a guarantee: God grants wisdom, and the killing machine keeps turning, making a repetitive art of pulverizing what is beneath and, perhaps, what is above the sun. Were the inhabitants of Goiânia great and perverse sinners before the Lord? The fact was there had been a cancer in that arse-end-of-nowhere city, a blue cancer, no less. Blue; when it happened, a thick darkness covered the whole city. People couldn’t see one another, they could only see the dead, and all anybody wanted was to kill the dead. A small immense holocaust, a sacrifice consumed by fire, a smell that pleased the Lord. We are all part of a sacrifice to Him, to the unnameable scratch in the glass of our eyes. We, the inhabitants of that city, were anointed, anointed with the delicate fragrance of the rough voice of God. And with a blue cancer that inhabits the scenery of my sweetest dreams.


Since learning about the accident with the cesium I am permeated by those images of Leide and dolls and flowers and death. Ever since then I’ve been sure I will die of cancer. And this has something to do with my becoming a composer.
Goiânia. 1987, I, Felipe Werle, am 12 years old and certain I have cancer. An endless sequence of sounds. 1987 produced, in me, a continuous grinding of the teeth of the decomposing flesh. Since the age of 12, then, I live with the permanent certainty that cancer has a hold on my body. The disturbances of the body disturb the soul, which is no more than the part of the body aware of itself, or not – the part of the body that prefers ignorance.
The father of Daniel Paul Schreber, a celebrated doctor and pedagogue in nineteenth-century Germany, believed in the correction of the soul through the orthopaedic correction of the body. For this, he invented machines to re-educate the body that would, simultaneously, promote the re-education, the straightening out of the soul. Blessed be Schreber-senior, who made of Schreber-junior the most famous paranoiac in history.
Cesium-137. Amen. Which made a paranoiac out of me. Being paranoid is the best way to live in this world. Last week, in a bookshop in Goiânia, I opened a book by Llosa and I read the following sentence: ‘Even paranoiacs have enemies’. Let’s get one more use out of that: even paranoiacs have cancer. Why the hell do they talk about me, to me, as if it were impossible for me to have cancer, as if being paranoid (I’ll admit, I’m paranoid) protects anyone from cancer. Being a shark guarantees you won’t get cancer; being paranoid does not. A vaccine that turns people into sharks, and not into Paul Schreber, would immunise people against cancer. If paranoia protected people from cancer, Thomas Pynchon would be immortal; after all, any death that can be put down to natural causes has cancerous origins. 
I was a hyper-centred child, a euphemism for paranoia. I can come up with others. For example: an excess of self-awareness resulting in difficulty feeling affection towards anything other than myself. Even when I was affected by somebody (when I was young women made me feel things with no name, now I find it quite clear), the other person was phagocytised by fantasies that sprang from the thing-I. Such a concentration of the thing-I led me, very early on, to a preoccupation with death. The more self-centred I am, the more me there is to die.
Self-centredness doesn’t rule out dispersion, or nuclei that move of their own accord, or the establishment of certain configurations of memory, while others come undone. Writing might be akin to taking photographs of moments of memory. It constantly occurs to me that life is a difficult book, for me, because affections and reason select, in my case, the most barbed blocks of memory. It also occurs to me that cancer can affect your memory.
Not that memory is constructed in the way that we talk about constructing buildings, or ant farms, or strange relationships. Memory is constructed in the way that a ghost is formed from some place in the body, under the effect of something endogenous or exogenous, generally in the stomach. Once formed, the ghost haunts the dark corners of cells and turns them into cancer, which will come to know us in a sense beyond the biblical.
Since childhood then, the feeling of being somebody who is unviable – more than that, the certainty of being unviable, and there’s no way of expressing that or, better said, there’s no way of showing that, of making it present, because this right here isn’t an epic.
I had the childhood of a normal person. Normal. Normal is a good thing, I understand, it’s a weapon to deal with the world, so that the world, which will always be much stronger than you, uses some of that strength in your favour – ‘your’ in this case being ‘my’, it’s me we’re talking about.
Now, I’m 33 years old, I must have taken every test that, hypothetically, can diagnose a certain type of cancer, about forty times. Just yesterday I had a reverse endoscopy, if you know what I mean. I spend my every spare minute talking to Google, finding out what new tests are on the market. I even think, I’m convinced, that what they call death by natural causes is, in fact, cancer. Cancer is what most closely comes to defining the thing-man. The origin of the body, the origin of your my steps and of what we think we are is accidental, contingent.
Recently, I’ve dedicated my time to three things, alongside my yet-to-be-confirmed cancer: women, hating my father, music. I’m a composer. I won the Contemporary Music Biennial, last year, which allowed me to fuck more and more attractive women, as well as to hate my father with more intensity. I’ll come back to that. The better things go for me in life, the more I am controlled by the dregs of remorse for hating my father.
Music short-circuits the path that words need to affect the body. This book then, is for just that: to create escapes from said short-circuit, naming things that cause my cranium to contract.
My father is an unpleasant man. He has some virtues. His hypochondria, for example. That’s where we intersect. Our shared affective semantic territory. We also talk about football. That’s it. I, also, am an unpleasant man. But I know how to pretend, I know how to handle barbed hooks, especially when it comes to getting women into bed.
Always penniless, because women. Women demand money. I’m a disappointment to myself when I fall in love, which doubles my intercranial noises. And which makes me hate my father even more. I’ve inherited from him the repugnant nucleus that mixes up a particular emotion with a particular cunt and the one with the other, and the one with the other. I must really be an aberration, I identify the particularities of the smell of cunts. My dad is a metonymic man, and he passed that down to me, lumped on to his perception of the body as permanently rotting.
I don’t think I have liver problems. Unfortunately. I don’t drink enough for that. Much more bookish that I care to admit. Much less bookish than I care to admit. Unpleasant, but, like I said, I can play the fool enough to make a woman smile. There’s no need to fear men like me. It’s the incorruptible ones you should fear; after all, as everyone knows, theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. Arses and breasts and the space between women’s legs are enough for men like me. I could talk to God and to the Devil, but that doesn’t interest me any more.
I’ve got a way with women. That makes me distrust what I compose. I dream about women’s electroacoustics; the wet darkness and the sounds that I don’t remember afterwards, that wake me up, with or without ejaculation, and that I don’t remember afterwards.
The last piece I composed is called Forest of bones. I might still compose another, which will be called Five fractures for Ana. Angels are women who chose the night is the piece with which I won the Rio de Janeiro Biennale of Contemporary Music, in 2006. I’d very much like to know what the hell that means: Angels are women who chose the night. I read it in a poem and thought it was beautiful. I generally find things I don’t understand beautiful. 
Women, for example. I’ve got a way with them, but I don’t understand them. But I have a gift, they say. As do I – if I didn’t think as much, I wouldn’t waste my damn time with music and women – even if my gift for the latter makes me hesitant about believing in my gift for the former.
I love women. I hate music. My favourite quip. And I’m fighting against the terrible habit of composing independent clauses, of punctuating every phrase.
The worst thing about getting so many tests done: the bodily intrusion. I’m terrified of machines churning away inside my body, snooping around my entrails, not finding the traces of the cancer that is there, unleashed by the cesium, but written into my carnal contract – I am human, after all. And asking for a cure is a prayer I won’t pray. I’m an unpleasant man, which doesn’t mean I don’t have my principles.
I don’t know if, at first glance, that business with the cesium had any effects on me. It didn’t. It was inscribed in traces, in microtraces, in nanotraces that, bit by bit, would break, break the functional system of cells in the body and soul. The soul is an effect of the body, of its flattened out folds, of its biochemical, electrical, sonorous interruptions. Electroacoustics. 

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