Remember What You Did?
António Lobo Antunes—
My mother was their first cousin, meaning the first cousin of the father, not of the black son who was never his son though he treated him as a son and the black treated him as his father, the cousin of my mother brought him back from the war in Angola, five or six years old, I was still not born, I appeared afterward and remember my stepfather answering, when I asked him about his cousin’s reason for having returned with a child perhaps happier there in the backcountry where he found him, that almost all the soldiers came back with mementos, a mask, a wooden doll, an ear in a bottle of alcohol, a boy, one arm less, silences in the middle of conversations where they wandered far away remaining over there, and the idea came to me that in the distance shots and screams were almost heard, my stepfather did not end up in Africa because of his clubfoot but neighbors here from the village did and were different from him, evasive, abrupt, almost all strange that he heard plenty of complaints from the women, these men sitting on a stone in the middle of the garden looking for who knows what or listening to the leaves of trees I didn’t know, one instead of fending off the dog with a boot cut its head off with a hoe
and he stood next to the animal’s corpse not looking at it, smoking, when the cigarette finished I had the impression that he lingered a while smoking his fingers, his niece left his lunch nearby without him touching the pan, it was the relatives, at night, who secretly took care of his land and the guy at home drinking or in a silent rage against I don’t know what enemy, some ended up in the well or strung up from a beam of the chicken coop swaying slowly, one foot with a shoe, the other without, and the chickens pecking the shoe with brisk movements, I’m the one who looks after the tomb of my mother’s cousin in the little cemetery next to the first hill of the mountain since she passed away, with so many pine trees whispering slowly, the slope above and birds and bushes in the sun, so gentle, so calm, that one comes to envy the dead, and there they are both, the white father and his black son, beyond two or three other relatives so much older that I don’t know who they could have been
(I hope they also hear the pines and the bushes or, at least, the wind at night, scraping, scraping)
like those reduced to blurry photographs
(when had they lived?)
with broken frames, hanging from a nail, crooked on the walls, old creatures no one pays attention to
(maybe they are what I hear at night complaining about not being able to become earth)
just as no one remembers anymore what happened ten years ago at the time of the pig killing, when the black son murdered his white father with a knife still covered with the animal’s blood, not another knife, the same knife and the same knife seemed to me for him another, very old knife, I was going to swear there was a very old knife in his head, the black son screaming at the white father
—Remember what you did, remember what you did?
trying to trap his legs afterward with the rope they trapped the pig with until the men, in a storm of kicks and shoves, pushed him, grabbed him, lay him out on the ground, broke his bones, crushed the nape of his neck with the axe, stabbed his throat, his chest, his mouth, his belly, left him next to his white father under the pig, almost without blood, that groaned until the final drop fell in the bucket and the three remained alone in the cellar while suddenly March was beating the frames of the open window.
From Until Stones Become Lighter Than Water by António Lobo Antunes. Translated by Jeff Love. Published by Yale University Press in 2019. Reproduced with permission.
António Lobo Antunes is the author of more than thirty books, including Fado Alexandrino, The Inquisitors’ Manual, and The Splendor of Portugal. Jeff Love is research professor of German and Russian at Clemson University.