Thursday, November 5, 2015

4. The Harshest of Duties

José Dias loved superlatives. They were a way of lending a monumental air to his ideas; when he didn't have any, the superlatives served only to prolong his expression.

He got up to fetch the backgammon set, which was further into the house. I flattened myself against the wall and watched him go past with his starched, white trousers, trouserstraps, jacket and patent cravat. He was one of the last people to use trouserstraps in Rio de Janeiro, perhaps the world. He wore his trousers short so that they were stretched tight. The black satin cravat, with a steel hoop inside, immobilised his neck, which was the fashion at the time. His printed-cotton jacket, lightweight and made for indoor use, looked like a formal dress coat on him. He was thin, pinched, balding; about fifty-five years of age. He got up with his usual slow step -- not with the slowness of the lazy, but with a calculated, deliberate slowness, a complete syllogism, the major premise before the minor, the minor premise before the conclusion. The harshest of duties!

Chapter 4 in the original Portuguese.

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