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Tear a man away from his peace, his silence, his routine of cutting a slice of meat or taking a sip of ordinary wine on an extraordinary day, raise his criminal face stigmatized by who knows what habits, leave his body exposed inside-out in visceral nudity, a new buffoon fondled by the scourge of bruising caresses, chase the simian tail in his coccyx, chop off his ankles and in a burst of laughter split his capric skull, block his scintillating and ubiquitous eyes, root out his generating mass of ideas, conflicts, and sometimes feelings, amputate his sex and offer half to each one of the two mouths that stare at him with obscene grins, and from the ashes of his bones consumed by an unjust holocaust no vestiges are allowed, neither in the air, nor on the land, nor in the water, nor in the fire that precipitated them, nor in the remembrance of the one whose bones made these ashes. But then where to disperse them, where, if beyond the infinite there is another much bigger infinite? Thoughts? A speech made enthusiastically by the half drunk who suddenly recuperates his clearheadedness? He wouldn’t know how to articulate it. Only the surge of feelings as a reaction to what he had heard, and the figure of Nani in front of him, at the head of the table opposite him, the glass of wine held by tremulous and wrinkled hands, the head of an old woman connected to black shoulders of silk, her wrinkles stirred by a ravenous decrepitude , her rumpled complexion in the half shadows of candles and the dim lights of the wall fixtures, her greedy fixation upon the amount of wine allowed. It is Nani who becomes the object of Nehemiah’s, Nehemiah Goldenberg’s gaze, while the others go on chatting as if nothing there had changed, and it is in Nani that he tries to catch a glimmer of support, some approval, if there is approval, a response, if one is forthcoming. It is Nani, remote, doting, alien to any logic whatsoever, fixated on the wine, seeking unconsciously to revive Samuel Rawet Christmas without Christ 58 samuel rawet emotions, to warm nerves of buried dreams, but yet still dominating the table completely; it is in Nani that he wants to catch her total hatred, without subterfuges, within the truthfulness of her dementia. From what is now being said and from what will soon be said, he will not retain one word. His intention is the opposite. To retrace everything. To restore the sentences he heard the instant they were pronounced, and to reweigh them within their static context, without the usual connectives, without the purpose of communication. It is in Nani that he seeks to stop time, to stop it until it becomes immobile, so that, once inertia is surmounted, he will be able to invert the flow of time. Never to go against the current, but to contain its impetus, to subdue it, and to turn its course upstream. They were talking about Jews during that Christmas supper when Nehemiah, at first feeling constrained, was overcome by his sudden awareness of being the intruder invited there by his friend, and even more brusquely came the other conclusion: there was the whole universe, the others and he, experiencing the same clichés and the same unsolvable contradiction. Only Nani had asked for more wine. Nani, Ana Castanheira de Miranda Campos, with her seventy-five years of physical energy ruling over her ten subjects at that far end of the dining room of a modern residence, with its gray and blue walls, its motley easy chairs, its anatomical benches, its ameba-like vases, its immense picture window with its low sill overlooking the bay at Urca, the mountainous crests and the reflection in the calm waters of the bay, and the contrast between the meter-and-a-half pine tree, already divested of the holiday gifts, and a baroque Christ halfway up the wide mural on the wall facing Nehemiah, in back of Nani. They were talking about Jews during that Christmas supper, near the multicolored pine tree and facing the Christ eternalized in the spasm of his last terrestrial pain. And there they were to Nehemiah’s left: Albino Fontoura, Nani’s son-in-law, importer and representative of various state industries; Lenita, a brunette sportswoman of seventeen, green inconsequential eyes, daughter of Albino; another son, already married, Luís...


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