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Frederico Pedreira

frederico-pedreira

Frederico Pedreira was born in 1983. He has published six books of poetry, two novels, a collection of short stories and a book of essays. After pursuing a master’s degree at Royal Holloway, University of London, where he wrote extensively on Joyce, Beckett and John Cassavetes, Pedreira returned to Portugal to become a journalist, translator and bookseller. Since then, he has lived in Italy and France, won an academic scholarship and did a PhD in literary theory at the University of Lisbon. In 2016, a book based on his dissertation was awarded the INCM/Vasco Graça Moura Prize for best essay in humanities. Throughout the years, his books have been acclaimed by the Portuguese press. He has recently finished writing a long essay dealing with the notions of intimacy and theatricality in poetry and the visual arts, drawing on a long and often overlooked tradition of Portuguese poets of the second half of the 20th century and beyond. Pedreira has translated collections of poetry by W. B. Yeats and Louise Glück, books of essays by Chesterton and Orwell, and novels by Dickens, Swift, Wells, Hardy, Banville and Woolf. His interests include philosophy of language, literary criticism, perception, scepticism, the philosophers Wittgenstein and Stanley Cavell, and the art critic Michael Fried.

 

  • EUPL Year: 
    2021
  • EUPL Country: 

Winning Book

A Lição do Sonâmbulo (The Sleepwalker Lesson)

A boy obsessed with losing weight spends his endless summer holidays at his grandparents’ home – the iconic ‘green house’ where his father and six uncles once lived, leaving behind a treasure of objects and memories. With his brother, he incessantly watches a videotape of the 1990 European Cup Final between AC Milan and SL Benfica while, unnoticed, the family dog suffers an epileptic attack. In the hot summer nights, the boy gazes, dreaming, at 1980s posters advertising tobacco brands and of famous racing drivers like Fittipaldi and Prost. There is an immense library in the green house, once the property of his great-grandfather, who in his lifetime became somewhat close to the famous Portuguese writer Fernando Pessoa. Abandoning his obsession with football, the boy focuses on the dusty spines of endless rows of books, questioning the choices of his ancestor, whom he saw only once or twice when he was in a state of decrepitude. A journey of self-discovery begins, starting with the boy’s cherished travels with his mother – to the United States, Tunisia and Brazil – and ending with a conflicted period of existential self-doubt in the stuffy room of a college dormitory. The boy becomes a young adult who – surrounded by not so sane aspiring students from all over the world – feels he shouldn’t have left his country and comes to loathe the idea of being a ‘citizen of the world’. However, there is a new friend and a new family waiting for him. Will that be enough to make sense of his past and its link to his chosen future?

a-licao-do-sonambulo

Publishing House

Organisation: 
Companhia das Ilhas

Excerpt

LINGUAGEM

Não me recordo de  ter  sido  verdadeiramente  infeliz em casa dos meus avós. Julgo que essas temporadas da infância e do início da adolescência não seriam susceptíveis de infelicidade, até porque era quase sempre Verão e eu era então muito novo. Sendo a família do lado do meu pai nume- rosa, era raro, para não dizer inédito, o dia em que eu lá esti- vesse, nesses abençoados três meses de férias, e não visse a casa cheia de rostos conhecidos, presenças transitórias que cumprimentavam o meu avô, sentado na poltrona que desde sempre designara para si do lado esquerdo da sala, junto a uma das muitas estantes de livros que lá havia, e a minha avó, sempre numa azáfama, tanto no quarto dos brinquedos a passar a ferro como a deslizar entre a cozinha e a sala de jantar, de manhã e ao início da tarde, a esfregar a alcatifa verde já nessa altura muito coçada, ou então a cirandar com talheres e copos de um vidro com uma tonalidade opaca cor-de-laranja. Nesses meses, eu vivia satisfeito, e digo-o sem as habituais reticências a que tantas vezes nos obriga o cinismo da idade adulta, e uma parte substancial dessa satis- fação era resultante de um acesso quase ilimitado durante o dia ao quintal da casa dos meus avós, onde passava horas intermináveis a jogar futebol, a correr ou a praticar umas lutas com o meu irmão que deviam às mais rudes noções do karaté, do sumo e da luta livre.

Nas tardes  tórridas  desses  verões  no  quintal  da  casa de Benfica, no Bairro de Santa Cruz, era habitual tanto eu como os meus primos (ainda em número reduzido nessa época) azucrinarmos a cabeça da minha avó (era a palavra que ela usava, no seu desespero contido face ao nosso zero em comportamento) com as  sucessivas  garrafas  de  água que despejávamos sobre as cabeças uns dos outros para nos refrescarmos, uma tarefa cuja realização se impunha como bastante inútil no momento em que eu e o meu irmão, na altura bastante gordos, nos púnhamos a correr no quintal, à torreira do sol (como o pai gostava de dizer, sacudindo as palavras para o ar num tom que tanto tinha de perplexo como de irritado), sempre com o inabalável objectivo de perdermos peso. Note-se, porém, que as nossas corridas no quintal não primavam pela diversão ou por algo que não desembocasse directamente na mais pura obsessão; é que não corríamos pelo quintal, antes ficávamos no mesmo sítio e corríamos a uma velocidade que, sem ser moderada, nos deixava a malha das t-shirts encharcada passados breves minutos. Isto diante do olhar desistente e saturado da minha avó, que, temendo que apanhássemos uma congestão ou uma insolação, não deixava de vigiar-nos junto à soleira da porta da cozinha que dava para o quintal, tirando de vez em quando os óculos para nos mostrar que o seu desespero era sério, consciente de que dos seus olhos vítreos rolavam plúmbeas lágrimas que lhe abriam sulcos acinzentados nas faces. Tudo isto aconteceu muito antes do advento dos telemóveis, um engenho  que teria facilitado muito as tentativas de apressada comunicação da minha avó com o meu pai nessas férias de Verão, e bem sei que teria igualmente poupado as muitas frases balbuciadas quando telefonava para o escritório e tinha de passar pelo filtro infalível da voz arrastada e bonacheirona do Sr. Prates, que muito gostava de dar a conhecer à senhora o seu imenso gosto por voltar a falar com ela, embora nas férias de Verão falassem praticamente todos  os  dias,  e  de  lhe  perguntar por todos os membros da família O., que não eram poucos, mesmo já nessa altura, antes de esgotar a minha avó pelo cansaço da simpatia, obrigando-a a balbuciar um derradeiro e vencido “obrigado” antes de passar a chamada para o ouvido invariavelmente ocupado do pai, já com outro telefone, o da sua secretária, preso no garrote da mão suada.

O escritório do meu avô era uma fonte de mistérios e de pequenas surpresas aos meus olhos de criança excessiva- mente curiosa. Não sei, de facto, se a curiosidade é passível de ser excessiva, deixando de ser uma benfazeja qualidade para se transformar num terrível estorvo durante a vida adulta. De qualquer modo, olhando para trás, eu nem era capaz de atribuir um nome ao estado de encantamento embrutecido em que não raras vezes me achava mergulhado, de dar um nome à minha débil e bajuladora curiosidade, de tal forma eu a sentia em mim como o mais natural dos reflexos, principal- mente em certas manhãs e em certos fins de tarde das férias de Verão, quando, saindo o meu avô para ir comprar o jornal (o Diário de Notícias — nunca o vi a comprar outro) ou o pão para o pequeno-almoço dele e da minha avó ou para o lanche dos primos, dos tios e das tias que apareciam lá em casa com a naturalidade de uma esperada lufada de ar fresco, dizia eu que essa curiosidade vinha à tona sobretudo nas ocasiões em que o escritório do meu avô ficava temporariamente desabi- tado (o “castelo”, conforme era prática comum chamar a esse espaço no meio da família, do mesmo modo que designavam a cadeira acolchoada e já muito coçada como o “trono” do meu avô) e eu procurava destramente tornar os meus passos mais leves do que o ar (lembrava-me sempre da recomen- dação dos “pezinhos de lã” que ouvira nos meus primeiros anos de escolaridade e que nessa altura já eram o começo da minha primeira miragem privada), esforçava-me inutilmente por abrir em silêncio o trinco da porta, que fazia ranger a sua lingueta metálica, e sem fechar a porta atrás de mim (nunca teria ousado fazê-lo, nessa idade ou noutra) tentava uns curtos passos no interior encerado do escritório e ficava embasba- cado a olhar em redor. A minha surpresa não se prendia com um ou outro objecto novo que eu nunca tivesse visto pousado à beira de uma das estantes ou no meio da doida profusão de papéis, jornais antigos e bugigangas várias que ocupavam por inteiro a superfície da mesa de trabalho do meu avô. Talvez fosse o cheiro intenso que irrompia pelas minhas narinas e que na altura me parecia uma bizarra mistura, tanto repe- lente como cativante, de óleo, gasolina, sebo e canela, enove- lando-se na camada espessa de pó que quase proibia a entrada ao meu irmão, então gravemente asmático, e cobria as foto- grafias toscamente penduradas em duas paredes, nas quais conspiravam em silêncio os rostos ora baços ora reluzentes de netos e netas, filhos e filhas, cobrindo também os livros de engenharia e de mecânica, intermináveis colecções de obras que tanto tinham de eruditas como de manual de instruções, no meio das quais havia um ou outro intruso em forma de livro com ambições estritamente literárias.

Era assim, o escritório do meu avô, mutável à menor tenta- tiva de descrição, pois tudo o que aí eu pudesse encontrar era sujeito às deficiências do espírito algo indolente, embora inclinado para a tal curiosidade, que então se formava em mim, cheio de um repositório de pequenas e flagrantes igno- râncias, de estéreis desvios do olhar que turvavam irremedia- velmente a minha percepção da realidade. Uma vez, cheguei a escrever num tom afectado e presumidamente original que o escritório do meu avô parecia ter sido regado com gaso- lina, e, na verdade, até hoje não se tornou excessivo o meu arrependimento por tê-lo descrito com essas palavras coman- dadas pela pressa do coração.

Por vezes, encontrando-se o  meu  irmão  ausente  da casa de Benfica por alguma razão (sendo mais velho, arran- java — ou arranjavam por ele — outros modos de justificar a deliciosa inutilidade das horas de Verão), eu jantava com os meus avós na sala (quando havia mais gente, pelo menos cinco parentes em casa, era obrigatório ocuparmos a mesa de mogno da sala de jantar), com o som alto da televisão e os sucessivos flashes da telenovela mesmo à nossa frente, e quando passavam alguns minutos do término do episódio diário eu subia as escadas para me ir deitar. Geralmente, não precisava de me despedir da minha avó, pois sabia que, pelas onze, onze e meia da noite, seria a vez de ela se ir deitar, o que nunca acontecia sem que viesse primeiro dar um jeito à aspereza dos lençóis da minha cama ou sem dizer algumas palavras de circunstância, não necessariamente dirigidas a mim (embora ela julgasse que só a santinha sobre a estante do corredor conseguia ouvi-la), que eu tomava como um sinal infalível de que havia chegado a hora de eu lhe fazer um pouco de companhia às escuras no quarto de casal, com a minha avó já deitada e a sua mão enrugada que eu embru- lhava na minha, ao mesmo tempo que ela deixava escorrer numa voz casquinada os últimos queixumes do dia, tão natu- rais para a azáfama em que rodavam por vezes perras as suas horas diurnas, antes de me mandar para a cama, pois sabia que a qualquer momento seria a vez de o meu avô subir as escadas e preparar-se para se deitar. Quando o avô subia essas malfadadas escadas em que anos antes o pai dele, mais um espectro do que outra coisa, tantas vezes tropeçara até à queda final (pois só muito mais tarde é que um dos meus tios teve a óbvia ideia de colocar um corrimão), na maior parte das vezes passava já da meia-noite, e à medida que fui cres- cendo, andando à boleia de uma pretensa maturidade que tanto o pai como o meu irmão procuravam inculcar em mim à força de uma máscara de masculinidade que se servia de molhos picantes e de valentes goladas de água das pedras e de sumo de tomate, de Verão para Verão foi-se-me tornando familiar a mancha agigantada que a sombra do meu avô dese- nhava na parede que flanqueava o meu quarto e só terminava no grande clarão da luz eléctrica que brotava do escritório dele assim que levava o dedo certo ao interruptor.

Translated Excerpt

LANGUAGE

I don’t recall having been truly unhappy in my grandparents’ house. I suppose those sojourns during my childhood and early adolescence weren’t susceptible to unhappiness, especially since it was almost always summer, and I was so young back then. As my father’s side of the family is large, there was hardly a day, or should I say, it was unheard of not to see the house full of familiar faces during those three blessed months of holidays.  The transient visitors would greet my grandfather, sitting in the armchair that he had designated as his own on the left side of the living room, next to one of the many bookcases there, and my grandmother bustling about, either ironing in the toy room as if sliding between the kitchen and the dining room, in the morning and early afternoon, scrubbing the green carpet that was already quite shabby at the time, or sifting with cutlery and glass cups that had an opaque orange hue. I lived satisfied during those months, and I say this without the habitual reluctance that so often forces upon us the cynicism of adult age, and a substantial part of that satisfaction was the result of an almost unlimited access to the backyard of my grandparents’ house, where I would spend countless hours playing football, running or practising some fighting moves with my brother that were nothing more than mere notions of karate, sumo and wrestling.

In the scorching afternoons of those summers in the backyard of the house in Benfica, in the Santa Cruz neighbourhood, it was common for me and my cousins (still a small number at the time) to pester my grandmother's head (that is the word she would use in her restrained despair about our shameful behaviour) with our bottles of water that we would repeatedly spill on each other's heads to cool off. This was an almost impossible task that proved to be quite useless when my brother and I, at the time quite fat, would start running around in the backyard, under the blazing sun (as my father liked to say, agitating words into the air in a tone that was just as much bewildered as it was annoyed), always with the unflinching goal of losing weight. Note, however, that our running in the backyard did not stand out for being fun or for something that did not directly lead to the purest obsession; it’s that we didn’t run around the backyard, rather we would stay in one spot and run at a speed that couldn't be called a moderate pace but would leave the fabric of our t-shirts drenched after a few minutes. We did this before the resigned and displeased gaze of my grandmother, fearful that we would get really congested or suffer heat stroke. She’d keep an eye on us from the kitchen door sill leading into the backyard, taking her glasses off from time to time to show us that her despair was serious, conscious of the leaden tears that opened greyish grooves on her face as they rolled from her glassy eyes. All of this happened long before the advent of mobile phones, a device that would have greatly facilitated the rushed attempts of communication between my grandmother and my father during those summer holidays, and I am well aware that it would have equally spared the many babbling phrases when she called the office and had to go through the infallible filter of the slurred and easy-going voice of Mr. Prates, who really enjoyed letting the lady know that it was an immense pleasure to speak to her again, even though during the summer holidays they spoke practically every day, and after asking her about all of the O. family members, who were quite a few even back then, before exhausting my grandmother with the fatigue of kindness, forcing her to mumble a final and defeated “thank you” before the call was put through to the invariably busy ear of my father, already on another phone, the one on his desk, stuck to the garrotte of his sweaty hand.

My grandfather's office was a source of mysteries and small surprises to the eyes of an excessively curious child. I don't know for a fact if curiosity is susceptible to being excessive, ceasing to be a beneficent quality to transform itself into a terrible nuisance in adult life.  In any manner, looking back, I couldn't even ascribe a noun to the state of besotted enchantment which I often found myself immersed in, to give a noun to my feeble and grovelling curiosity, to such an extent that I felt it in me as the most natural of reflexes, particularly on certain mornings and certain late afternoons during those summer holidays, when, my grandfather left to go buy the newspaper (the Diário de Notícias  — I never saw him buy a different one) or the bread for his and my grandmother's breakfast or for my cousins’ afternoon snack, from the uncles and aunts that would show up at the house with the naturalness of an expected breath of fresh air. I was saying that that curiosity would come out especially on those occasions in which my grandfather's study was temporarily uninhabited (the “castle”, as that space was commonly called within the family, in the same way that they designated the cushioned and very worn chair as my grandfather's “throne”) and I cunningly looked for ways to make my footsteps lighter than air (It always reminded me of the suggestion of “tiptoeing around” that I had heard in my first years of schooling and which at that time already marked the beginning of my first private mirage). I would make useless efforts to open the door lock in silence, which made its metallic latch squeak, and without closing the door behind me (I would never have dared to do it, at that age or any other) I would attempt to take short steps inside that closed study and I would be dumbfounded as I looked around. My astonishment was not related to one or two new objects that I had never seen placed on the edge of one of the bookcases or in the middle of the insane proliferation of papers, old newspapers and several trinkets that occupied the entire surface of my grandfather's work desk. Perhaps it was the intense scent that burst into my nostrils and which at the time seemed to be a bizarre mixture of oil, gasoline, tallow and cinnamon, both repellent and captivating, rolling into the thick layer of dust that almost prohibited my brother from entering, as he suffered from severe asthma back then, and covered the photographs coarsely hanging on two walls, in which the matte or glossy faces of grandchildren and children conspired in silence, also covering the books on engineering and mechanics, an endless collection of works that served as being both erudite and as instruction manuals, in the middle of which there were one or two intruders in the form of a book that had strictly literary ambitions.   

This was my grandfather's study, mutable at the slightest attempt at description, since everything that I could find there was subject to the failures of a somewhat indolent spirit, although inclined towards such curiosity, which was taking shape in me, full of a repository of a small and blatant ignorance, of futile deviations of a gaze that irremediably clouded my perception of reality. Once, I actually wrote in a presumably original and affected tone that my grandfather's study seemed to be doused with gasoline, and, in fact, until today my regret has not become excessive for having described it with those words commanded by the haste of the heart.

Occasionally, when my brother found himself absent from the house in Benfica for some reason  (being older, he would always find — or they would find for him — other ways of justifying the delicious uselessness of the summer hours), I would have dinner with my grandparents in the living room (when there were more people, at least five relatives at home, it was mandatory to occupy the mahogany table in the dining room), with the high volume of the television and the successive flashes of the soap opera right in front of us, and a few minutes after the daily episode had finished  I would go up the stairs to go to bed. Generally, I wouldn't have to say goodnight to my grandmother, because I knew that, around eleven, eleven thirty, it would be her turn to go to bed, which never happened without her first coming to fix the rough and prickly sheets on my bed or without her saying a few chance words, not necessarily addressed to me (although she assumed that only the little saint on the bookshelf in the corridor could hear her). This I took as an infallible sign that the time had come for me to keep her company in the dark of the master bedroom, with my grandmother already lying down and her wrinkled hand wrapped up in mine, at the same time that she would let the last grumbles of the day flow from a snickering voice, so natural for the bustle that sometimes made the passing of the hours arduous, before sending me off to bed, for she knew that at any moment it would be my grandfather's turn to climb the stairs and get ready for bed. When grandfather climbed those wretched stairs on which in previous years his father, more of a spectre than anything else, had so often tripped over until his final fall (for it was only much later that one of my uncles had the obvious idea of putting in a railing), most of the time it was already after midnight, and as I got older, riding piggyback on an alleged maturity that both my father and brother tried to instil in me by force ofa mask of masculinity that helped itself to spicy sauces and gulped down sparkling water and tomato juice, from summer to summer I became familiarized with that gigantic stain that my grandfather's shadow drew on the wall that flanked my room and only ended in the big flash of the electric light that sprouted from his study as soon as he put his right finger to the light switch.

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