Alejandro Zambra on Daniel Galera
GRANTA 121: BEST OF YOUNG BRAZILIAN NOVELISTS
Introduced by previous Best of Young Novelists
Daniel Galera was born in São Paulo but has spent most of his life in Porto Alegre. He co-founded the publishing house Livros do Mal, which then published his collection of stories Dentes guardados (2001) and his novel Até o dia em que o cão morreu (2003). His second novel, Mãos de cavalo (2006), has been published in Argentina, Italy, France and Portugal and is forthcoming in the UK. Cordilheira (2008) won the Brazilian National Library’s Machado de Assis Prize. In 2010, he wrote the graphic novel Cachalote with illustrator Rafael Coutinho. ‘Apnoea’ (‘Apneia’) is part of a novel in progress. Here, as part of an ongoing series on the twenty authors from The Best of Young Brazilian Novelists issue – which was first published in Portuguese by Objectiva – Daniel Galera is introduced by previous Best of Young Spanish-Language Novelist, Alejandro Zambra.
It’s hard to introduce Daniel Galera’s tale without resorting to adjectives that are more likely to arouse distrust than interest. So I’ll do it anyway: ‘Apnoea’ is an astonishing, surprising text written with enormous skill and fluidity, with a self-possessed awareness of rhythm and meaning in dialogue, with precision, and also (and above all) with wisdom. To write this story in this way, you have to have walked more than once – with love and objectivity – the long road that separates parents and children. – Alejandro Zambra, Best of Young Spanish-Language Novelists, 2010. Translated by Alfred Mac Adam.
He sees a bulbous nose with shiny pores, like the skin of a tangerine. A strangely adolescent mouth between the chin and cheeks that are covered in fine wrinkles, skin sagging a little. A trim beard. Large ears with even larger ear lobes, as if their own weight were stretching them out. Irises the colour of watered-down coffee in the middle of lascivious, laconic eyes. Three deep, horizontal furrows on his forehead. Yellowing teeth. An abundance of blonde hair breaking as a single wave on his head and flowing to the base of his neck. His eyes run over all four quadrants of the face in the interval between breaths and he can swear that he has never seen this person before in his life, but he knows that it is his dad because no one else lives in this house on this farm in Viamão and because lying on the right side of the man sitting in the armchair is the bluish dog who has been with his dad for years.
Why that face?
His dad gives the faintest hint of a smile. It’s an old joke and has a set response.
The same one as always.
Now he notices his dad’s clothes, the tailored dark grey trousers and the blue shirt soaked in sweat at the armpits and around his bulging stomach, the sleeves rolled up to the elbows, the sandals that he seems to wear against his will, as if only the heat stopped him from wearing leather shoes, and also the bottle of French cognac and the revolver on the little table beside his reclining chair.
Translated by Stefan Tobler.