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107 the art of walking in the streets of rio de janeiro augusto, the walker, whose real name is epifânio, lives in a space above a women’s hat shop on Sete de Setembro, downtown , and he walks the streets all day and part of the night. He believes that by walking he thinks better, finds solutions to his problems; solvitur ambulando, he tells himself. In the days when he worked for the water and sewerage department, he thought of giving up everything to live off writing. But João, a friend who had published a book of poetry and another of short stories and was writingasix-hundred-pagenovel,toldhimthatatruewritershouldn’tlive off what he wrote, it was obscene, you couldn’t serve art and Mammon at the same time, therefore it was better for Epifânio to earn his daily bread at the water and sewerage department and write at night. His friend was married to a woman who suffered from bad kidneys, was the father of an asthmatic child, his mentally defective mother-in-law lived with them, and even so he met his obligations to literature. Augusto would go home and find he was unable to rid himself of the problems of the water and sewerage department; a large city uses a lot of water and produces a lot of In a word, the state of immorality was general. Clergy, nobility and the common people were all perverted. joaquim manuel de macedo, A Walk Through the Streets of Rio de Janeiro (1862–63) 108 | Rubem Fonseca excrement.Joãosaidtherewasapricetopayfortheartisticideal—poverty, drunkenness, insanity, the scorn of fools, affronts from the envious, lack of understanding from friends, loneliness, failure. And he proved he was rightbydyingfrom asickness causedby fatigueandsadness, beforecompleting his six-hundred-page novel. Which his widow threw in the trash along with other old papers. João’s failure did not dishearten Epifânio. When he won a prize in one of the city’s many lotteries, he resigned from the water and sewerage department to dedicate himself to the task of writing, and adopted the name Augusto. Now he is a writer and a walker. Thus, when he isn’t writing—or teaching whores to read—he walks the streets. Day and night he walks the streets of Rio de Janeiro. At exactly three a.m., when Haydn’s Mit dem Paukenschlag sounds on his Casio Melody, Augusto returns from his walks to the empty upstairs apartment where he lives, and sits down, after feeding the rats, in front of the small table occupied almost entirely by the enormous notebook with lined pages where he writes his book, under the large skylight through whicharayoflightentersfromthestreet,mixedwithmoonlightonnights when there is a full moon. In his walks through the city’s downtown, since he began writing the book, Augusto looks attentively at all there is to be seen—facades, roofs, doors, windows, posters stuck on walls, commercial signs, whether luminous or not, holes in the sidewalk, garbage cans, sewer drains, the ground he steps on, birds drinking water from puddles, vehicles, and especially people. Another day he went into the theater-temple of Pastor Raimundo. He found the theater-temple by chance; the doctor at the Institute had told him that a problem in the macula of his retina demanded treatment with vitamin E in combination with selenium and had sent him imprecisely to a pharmacy that prepared the substance, on Senador Dantas Street, somewhere near the intersection with Alcindo Guanabara. Upon leaving the pharmacy, and after walking a little, he passed the door of the movie theater, read the small poster that said church of jesus savior of souls from 8 to 11 daily and went in without knowing why. 109 | The Art of Walking in the Streets of Rio de Janeiro Every morning, from eight to eleven, every day of the week, the theater is occupied by the Church of Jesus Savior of Souls. Starting at two in the afternoon it shows pornographic films. At night, after the last show, the manager puts the posters with naked women and indecorous publicity slogans away in a storage area next to the bathroom. To the church’s pastor, Raimundo, as well as the faithful—some forty people, most of them elderly women and young people with health problems—the theater ’s usual program is unimportant; all films are in some way sinful, and none of the church’s believers ever go to the movies, because of an express prohibition from...


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