From Reading Room/8:


The Angels
Teolinda Gersão Translated by Margaret Jull Costa

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            From the bag containing his clothes, my grandfather told me to take out a china cat, a mirror, and a glass box in the shape of a half moon. They had belonged to my grandmother, he said, and now they were a present to my mother and to me. My mother didn't even say thank you, but I blushed with pleasure because I wasn't used to receiving presents.
            The first had been the almanac. I became more and more interested in the pictures and I looked and looked at them until I knew them by heart. Some of them had letters underneath, and my grandfather would point at these with his finger. The letters said the same thing as the pictures.  So, for example, if the picture showed Belarmino's dog, the letters underneath said: Belarmino's dog. You could look either at the pictures or the letters, but I preferred the pictures.
            One day, I looked at a picture, then at the letters underneath, then back at the picture. And when I looked at the letters again, they had joined together to form clumps. Each clump was a thing, one clump was a dog, another clump was a house. I went bright red with surprise and felt almost breathless. My grandfather laughed, and I realized that now there was no going back: I couldn't look at the letters without reading what they said. It was the same with everything, labels on bottles, boxes of matches, sardine tins, shop signs, the names of streets on walls. I went on to read odd bits of the almanac. I felt curious and fascinated, even when I didn't understand what it meant.

 

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