At the start of this novel, Violeta has accidentally driven off the road during a storm. Her car rolled down an embankment, and now she’s hanging upside down:
[…] the rain beats down on the car roof with a noise that should scare me, it thickens the car windows, doubles them, thousands of burst drops against the glass, watery webs torn apart by the wind, gusts of wind reaching speeds of up to, I defy the stormy night,
I drive through the darkness
my hand blindly seeking a voice that will calm the storm, lightning, a trace of light from the beginning, in the beginning there was only light, in the beginning there was only light and we were already blinded forever,Translation from Portuguese by Ángel Gurría-Quintana
This is what Violeta’s narration is like: fragmented, no full stops, frequent interjections, and often repeated phrases. It’s a superb translation by Gurría-Quintara, that throws you into the chaos of Violeta’s mind as she thinks over her life, looping back again and again.
Violeta sells hair-removal products: she describes body hair as her enemy (partly because she’s ill at ease with her own body). On the particular day of her accident, Violeta had sold her deceased parents’ home, which didn’t go down well with her daughter Dora. As Violeta’s recollections go further back, we gain more context for her relationship with Dora, and see how her parents ended up on the wrong side of Portugal’s Carnation Revolution.
By novel’s end, Violeta is facing up to the inevitable, and we’ve borne witness to a multifaceted view of her character and life. Cardoso’s telling makes Violeta seem a whole person to us, good points and bad.
Published by MacLehose Press.
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