Antonia Gaeta:


Lazy ambivalences


Some days ago, I found a footnote in a book on Ancient Egypt. It read: curious! and referred to a pencil-underlined sentence in the book: The name uttered remains alive. At first, I associated this sentence with a poetic image—and then to the occult, to the relationships between the living and the dead, and to the fact that we remain alive for as long as our name keeps being uttered, or until we are no longer remembered. Like in all the fortunate encounters with the books which we have read, or at least leafed through, and which reappear at the most convenient times, words and notes in the margins trigger chain reactions, words with movement, depictions, idioms, and about-turns—the main characters in this narrative that follows the writing from one page to the other, and from one drawing to the other. 


The granary, up in Minho, was the meeting place. I was eager for the great illusionist's fables, he who cries and laughs at once. He knows all the tricks, from the simplest to the most sophisticated. A sudden flame; misfortunes which never come alone. I remain still, knowing not where I stand nor what is happening around me. The rules change every second, a washerwoman with a living doll by her side warns. But what is happening? Either a spare drop, or a dangerous lunatic. 


And the devil and the statue on the plain with the craters and the volcanic eruptions would appear too. It was a terrible night on the road, when I came across a mad alchemist who told the story of the fly and the dragon, and of the man with the rubber head. Said fly got into his eye and moved about extraordinarily, like us going to the mountain without expecting it to come to us. 


Unexpectedly, the devil and the statue jumped onto the man with the rubber head, in a deed of impossible balance. Such deed was joined by the fakir who dreamt of becoming an astronaut and going to the moon. He said to me: don't move, otherwise you'll go under the ground and sail around the island, in the company of the man with the rubber head—or worse… What's worse than that? I asked. You'll witness both the transformation of the mouse and the war dance in preparation of the trip to the moon, with the man with the rubber head, the man with the wheels on his head, and lady shadow. 


I thought it is no use running; one must leave at once… In a sad awakening, I opened my eyes, noticing the windmill, the lady who disappeared, two blind men, the confetti battle, the burning castle, the triple lady, the mysterious knight, the devil in the convent, and the hallucinations of Baron Munchausen all sinking into the deep sea. But I just wanted to water these flowers. 


I was told that I had had pharmacological hallucinations, that I needed not to panic and worry more than the usual, by associating giant seafood and octopi with the balloon car. In a hurry for buffoonery, I felt my curiosity was being punished, and I heard the cacophony, in chorus, echoing through the valleys: punished curiosity! If I were queen, the dream of an opium demon would be three feet under, in an amazing earthquake, triggered by the girl in shadow carrying a gun. What is this? Catastrophe, a wonderful league, or the end? 



Note: Short story based on the drawings in Susanne Themlitz's book Ambivalências preguiçosas (1997, 1998, 1999). Set of 104 mixed-media drawings: pencil, watercolour, Indian ink, on various types of paper, bound as a book, 30,5 x 22 x 2,8 cm. Property of Colecção Caixa Geral de Depósitos.