11 April


Two ways to get out of the news: religion and mathematics.

There are more, of course.

A line from Breton: “the act of love and the act of poetry are not compatible with reading a newspaper out loud.”

In these days incompatibilities have increased.

But yes, two ways to get out of the news: religion and mathematics.

A 20th-century mathematician, Edward Kasner, asked his nephew “to think up a name for a number with a hundred zeros”.

The kid gave it the name: Googol.

A googol is a 1 followed by a hundred zeros.

It is the unit of measurement of an enormous number.

7 thousand googol, for example.

The name Google came from there.

It was a typing error.

It is not infinity, but almost.

The last zero always comes after the place that you reach at a gallop at the speed of light.

Gogol is also the name of a great Russian writer.

I imagine the unit of measurement using the name of the Russian writer.

Two Gogol, 7.3 Gogol.

Nevsky Prospect is the main avenue in Saint Petersburg and in many of Gogol’s books.

Nevsky Prospect these days is really frightened.

You no longer go out onto Nevsky Prospect to be seen and admired for the dresses or suits you’re wearing.

You go out quickly to go fetch only whatever is urgent.

Being admired or envied by others is not urgent.

Fear does not have a unit of measurement.

It is not measured in metres or kilograms.

Maybe fear also doesn’t have a zero that is the last one.

Maybe fear is a googol substance but without an end.

Spain is starting to distribute masks on public transport.

“The sun cooked the man / And geography determined events”. Raul Bopp, Brazil.

There is fear in the Brazilian favelas and the criminal mafias are trying to control that fear, using threats.

Fear x Fear x Fear x Fear

Sunny today. Tomorrow also sunny, say the forecasts.

But then rain. Monday, rain, Tuesday, rain, Wednesday, rain,

Thursday, rain, Friday, rain and Saturday, rain.

After that it’s not shown on the screen.

The days that aren’t shown on the screen are outside the future.

The Swedish prime minister feels “they haven’t done enough”.

“Health workers dance to relieve stress.”

In Greece, a refugee was forced to pay a fine for having gone out without authorization.

On Lesbos, Moria, on her way back to the camp from hospital.

She wasn’t carrying an authorization document, and nor had she sent an official text message to ask to go out.

The fines for refugees are taken out of the allowances they receive.

They say the fine is 150 Euro.

The allowance goes up to 550 Euro a month.

Some fines have also been handed out to homeless people.

Reason: “for unnecessary or purposeless travel”.

But those fines weren’t paid, of course. After the protests.

My Greek friend, Athena, says everybody is dreaming about purposeless travel.

One of the most valuable of goods these days – in Greece and on Nevsky Prospect and in other places: purposeless travel.

A new currency: I’ll swap one piece of purposeless travel for ten travels with concrete objectives.

Classical music coming from my neighbour.

Thinking about useful music and useless music.

What could that be, useless music and purposeless music?

A speech at a university some time back, Obama.

“Let me be as clear as I can be: in politics and in life, ignorance is not a virtue.

That’s not keeping it real or telling it like it is. That’s not challenging political correctness. That’s just not knowing what you’re talking about.”

It’s not cool to not know what you’re talking about.”

The students laugh.

I try to see which university it was, but I can’t find it.

Roma’s wound is licked by Jeri, a clandestine collaboration.

It is impossible for a wound to heal if there are companions worshipping that wound.

Not paying attention to the thing that hurts. A quick lesson.

Manu Chao is a joy that is also quick and daily, guitar.

The sound of vocalises in the room next-door.

Once again, the image of Wittgenstein moving his watch away from him to start to pray.

Praying is what happens between one moment and the next moment.

He did not say this, but he could have done.

The muteness that places itself between one word and the next.

Easter Sunday.

Anyone who has a watch, let them put it down on the desk.

There are some meetings it is impossible to arrive late for.

There will be no need: not for a watch or for haste.

Paco Ibáñez and another guitar: “Words for Julia”.

A friend sends me a series of messages:

Something else I’ve been noticing, she says.

Is that I’ve lost my sense of smell.

I think it’s stopped being necessary, she says.

I tell her it’s a dangerous symptom.

No, she replies, I’m healthy.

Without any stimulus, the sense of smell gets lazy, she explains. That’s what it is.

There is nobody to smell, she says.

This Easter, I hope to recover my sense of smell, she says also.

And then she says that sometimes she goes to the flowerpots to smell the earth.


Translated from the Portuguese by Daniel Hahn. By arrangement with the literary agency Mertin Witt. With thanks to Paulo Horta.