Tuesday, April 29

Who is Raimundo Silva?

Raimundo Silva seems to be a man who is hiding from himself. This is what I see in his flight from the phone on page 49 and his subsequent walk around Lisbon. He never lets his thoughts get very self-reflective, instead ruminating on the “childish” way the woman in the cafĂ© eats the crumbs of her pastry, pondering over the discreetness of waiters or how the Japanese and American tourists feel about the architectural marvels of Lisbon (53-7). (But wait, is it Raimundo or the narrator who occupies his thoughts this way? Both, because they are one and the same—see below!)

The fact that he dyes his hair is another indicator that Senhor Silva is hiding from himself, especially the way he goes about it, “lock[ing] himself in...he did it in secret, which, as he ought to know, was no secret to anyone, and he would certainly have died of shame were he ever to be discovered carrying out what he himself considered a depressing operation” (90). This points to some essential part of his nature, as he seems to be both totally non-self-aware and at the same time in denial about the fact that he’s getting older and that he’s alone, as we see on page 81 when Leonard Cohen reminds him that he’s alone and that he is missing out on life: “[w]hy won’t you listen to me, lonely man...now [Leonard Cohen] could sing, and sing he did, he sang of things only someone who has lived can sing of...someone who has loved” which causes Raimundo to cry in his darkened apartment.

I’ve been thinking that the reason there are no quotation marks around the dialogue in this story are because the dialogue all seems to be occurring within Raimundo’s memory. Obviously I am right, as on page 96 Dr. Maria Sara asks Raimundo to write his own version of The History of the Siege of Lisbon “in which the crusaders do not help the Portuguese.” The book we are now reading is obviously that same book authored by Raimundo. I love metafiction!

It looks as though this eventual romance with Dr. Maria Sara will make Senhor Silva look back on his life with more penetration than he exhibits currently. Though I think some things are starting to dawn on him, as he says on page 100: “could it be that Dr Maria Sara simply wants to see how far he is capable of going down the path of madness...perhaps one of the symptoms is this impression of alienation, as if this were not my home and this place and these things meant nothing to me[.]” Here we have Raimundo already associating Dr. Maria Sara with the idea that this lonely bachelor life is not the only possible life for him. He also brings in the idea of madness, a word which authors and poets have long equated with both romantic love and divine insight. I can’t wait to see where this goes!