THE LETTER FROM THE HUNCHBACK TO THE LOCKSMITH

9:30 p.m. on Rua da Galeria in front of nº 9

… If our life were an eternal being at the window, if we just stayed there like some floating immobile smoke, always staring at the same moment of a painful twilight on the curve of the mountains. If only we stayed beyond that forever!

                                                                                       Livro do Desassossego por Bernardo Soares. Vol.I. Fernando Pessoa

Maria José is the female voice that is heard the longest in the Pessoan universe. It is the metaphor of his “soul at the window” … The female voice of the Letter from the Hunchback to the Locksmith, as he calls it … Pessoa’s self-diagnosed “incapacity for action” condemns him to stand at the window of life, like the hunchback of the letter, fantasizing about impossible loves …

                                                                                  Pessoa por Conhecer – Textos para um Novo Mapa . Teresa Rita Lopes

The actress Susana Nunes gives voice to the very unhappy Maria José, while Argenis Nunes plays on the accordion happy songs that counteract with the deep sadness of the hunchback who fell in love with the locksmith.

This is a first approach of  a project where the voice of Maria José, literary personality of Fernando Pessoa, echoes Clarice Lispector’s Macabea (Hour pof the Star), for the next edition of the Birthday Party for Álvaro de Campos.

Susana Nunes, 1978, Lisbon.

Master in Theater – Art of the Actor by the University of Évora. Professional actress since 2004, worked with ACTA, ArQuente, BAAL 17, Alma d’Arame, Myllyteatteri (FN). Co-founder of AL-MaSRAH Theater. She integrated the creative nucleus of the Ruins Project. Develps solo performances such as: ANGST, The Hysterical Discourse from Peter Handke’s “Self-Accusation”; the Ding by Jacques Lacan and Le Bouc, by Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s “The Man Seen From the Outside”. Since 2016, it has been part of Companhia do Chapitô.

 

Argenis Nunes

had his first contact with the accordion at the age of 12, in the Office of Coordinator of Artistic Expression, based in Funchal, where he was part of the DSEAM Accordion Orchestra for 4 years. In 2001 he won 3rd place in the National Accordion Championship of Alcobaça. Since then he has participated in several projects: “DD Peartree”, “Rila Foles”, solo accordionist in the hotels. Just like in Caldas da Rainha in the group “Mal de Vinhos”. Currently in Tavira with the new projects “Poetas Cantados” and “Aueike”.

 

Tela Leão

Actress, screenwriter, director and cultural programmer. Education in music at the São Paulo Music Institute, and composition with Joachim Keullreuter. She studied architecture at FAU at USP. She worked in Portugal for the first time as an actress of the Automobile Cemetery, staged by Vitor Garcia, in 71. At Expo 98, she was responsible for the cultural programme of the Participating Countries. Responsible for Portuguese cultural participation in the Expos in Hanover and Zaragoza. Wrote and staged Conbta-me Outros Fados (with Pedro Ramos), Villa-Lobos in Movement, Love and Fear, Children of God’s Fire. She is the creator and coordinator of the Birthday Party for Álvaro de Campos.

 

Senhor António,

You, Senhor, must never see this letter, nor shall I see it again because I have tuberculosis, but I want to write to you even though you won’t know about it, because if I don’t write it I will suffocate.

You don’t know who I am, that is, you do know, but not really. You have seen me at the window when you pass on the way to the workshop and I watch you because I wait for you to arrive and I know what the time is that you arrive. You must always have thought as unimportant the hunchback on the first floor of the yellow house, but I think of nothing except you. I know that you have a lover, who is that beautiful tall blonde girl; I envy her, but I have no jealousy concerning you, because I have no right to have anything, not even jealousy. I like you because I like you, and it pains me that I am not another woman, with another body and another shape, able to go to the street and talk with you, even though you have never given me any cause for doing such a thing, but I would like to know you and talk to you.

You are everything that has been worthwhile in my illness and I am grateful even if you don’t know it. I could never have anyone who would  like me in the way that  people who have bodies that can be liked are liked, but I have the right to like someone without that person liking me, and I have the right to weep, something no one can be denied.

I would like to die after the first time I spoke to you but I would never have the courage to speak to you or any means of doing so. I would like you to know that I like you very much, but I fear that, if you knew, it wouldn’t matter to you and I’m sad to know that this is absolutely true above everything, so I’m not going to try to find out.

I was born a hunchback and people have always laughed at me. They say that all hunchbacks are evil, but I have never wanted bad for anyone. In any case I am sick, and because of my illness I have never had much courage to become very angry. I am nineteen years old and I have never known for what reason I have reached such an age, ill as I am, and with no one to pity me except for the fact that I’m hunchbacked, which doesn’t count, not even to pity me for the fact that it is my soul that hurts, not my body, because a hunched back causes no pain.

I would even like to know what your life is like with your lady friend, because, as it is a life I can never have – and now what I have is less even than life – I would like to know everything.

I apologise for writing so much without knowing you, but you are not going to read this, and even if you read it you would not know that it is to do with you and you wouldn’t think it important in any case, but I would like you to think that it’s sad to be hunchbacked and to live always alone at the window, and to have a mother and sisters who like me but without anyone else liking me, and that’s natural because it’s the family, and who else would love a doll with bones the wrong way round like I am, as I’ve already heard people say.

There was one day when you came to the workshop and a cat got caught up in a fight with a dog, here in front of my window, and we were all watching and you stopped by Manuel das Barbas, at the corner by his barber’s shop, and then you looked towards me, towards the window, and you saw me laughing and you also laughed towards me, and this was the only time that you were alone with me, so to speak, something I could never have hoped for.

So many times, you can’t imagine, I have been waiting for something else to happen in the street when you were passing by and I could once more see you watching and perhaps you would look towards me and I could look towards you and see your eyes looking straight towards mine.

But I can achieve nothing I want, I was born like this, and I even have to be on a platform to enable me to be at the height of the window. I spend the whole day looking at pictures and fashion magazines that I borrow from my mother, and I am always thinking about something else, so much so that when they ask me about what that skirt was like or who was in that portrait when it was the Queen of England, I’m sometimes ashamed at not knowing, because I was looking at things that can’t be, things that I can’t allow to enter my mind and bring me happiness because then I’ll want to cry anyway.

Then they all excuse me and think I’m crazy, but they don’t judge me stupid, because no one thinks that, and I end up not feeling bad about any of it, for in this way I don’t have to explain why it is that I was distracted.

I still remember that day when you passed by on a Sunday wearing the light blue suit. Well, it wasn’t light blue, but rather a serge that was lighter than the usual dark blue. You appeared like the day itself which was lovely and I’ve never envied everybody as much as I did on that day. But I had no envy of your lady friend, even if you were not going to meet her but to meet another woman, because I think of no one except you, and it was for this reason that I envied everybody, which I don’t understand but the certain thing is that it’s true.

It’s not because I’m a hunchback that I am always at the window, but besides this I also have a kind of rheumatism in my legs and I can’t move, and so it’s as though I was paralysed, and that’s a nuisance for everyone here in the house and I feel that everybody is having to put up with me and accept me, in a way you can’t imagine. At times I feel so full of despair that I could throw myself out of the window to the ground below, but what figure would I be falling from the window? Anyone who saw me fall would laugh and the window is too low for me to die, but it would be a nuisance for other people, and I see myself lying in the street like a monkey, with my legs in the air and my hump emerging from my blouse and everybody wanting to be sorry for me but feeling disgust at the same time or laughing at my fall, because people are how they are and not how they want to be.

(…) – and finally why am I writing to you if I am not going to send this letter?

You, Senhor, someone who gets around, do not know the burden of being someone who is nobody. I am at the window the whole day and I see everyone getting around and having a way of life and enjoying themselves and talking to this person and that, and it appears that I am a vase with a withered plant in it that waits here at the window to be removed.

You can’t imagine, because you are handsome and you have good health, what it is like for someone to be born who is not someone, and who sees in newspapers what people do, and some are ministers and travel about visiting all places, and others are part of social life and get married and have baptisms and are sick and doctors perform operations on them, and others leave for their own houses in different places, and others steal and others complain and some commit great crimes and there are signed articles by others and portraits and announcements with the names of the men  who are going to buy the latest fashions from abroad, and you cannot imagine what all this is like for someone such as me , like a rag left on the window-sill for cleaning the round marks left by the vases when the paint is wet because of the water.

If you knew all this you would be able, every now and then, to bid me farewell from the street, and I would like to be able to ask you to do this, because you can’t imagine, maybe I won’t live much longer, I have little time left to live, but I would go more happily to wherever it is one goes to if I knew that you occasionally wished me a good day.

Margarida the seamstress says that she once spoke to you, she spoke awkwardly with you because you said something disrespectful to her in the street here at the side, and this time I was really jealous, I tell you this because I don’t want to lie to you, I felt jealous because someone saying something disrespectful to a person means that person is a woman, and I am neither woman nor man, because nobody thinks that I am anything except a species of person who is here filling the empty window space and irritating all who come to me, for Christ’s sake.

António (it is the same name as yours, but what a difference!), António from the automobile workshop once said to my father that everybody should produce something, and if they didn’t they had no right to live, those that don’t work don’t eat, and it isn’t right that some people don’t work. And I thought what do I do in the world, I do nothing except be in the window with everyone going around, without being paralysed, and having ways of meeting people they like, and later I could freely produce whatever was needed and I could enjoy it.

Goodbye, Senhor António, I have only days to live and I write this letter only to keep it close to my breast as if it were a letter that you have written to me rather than one I’m writing to you. I wish you all the happiness that you could desire and that you will never know about me so you don’t have to laugh at me because I know that I can’t expect more.

I love you with all my soul and all my life.

There you have it and I’m full of tears.