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O Magazine

Days Go by Slowly in Portugal

Stories of a Tiny Life: Time slots full of cross-references or mirrors in which to look at oneself, inside or as a footnote.



In twelve days I will publish my first novel. I can’t stop thinking about it. I can’t stop projecting how everything will be. I keep on imagining again and again the book on bookshops’ shelves with my name on the cover and the spine. I imagine the presentation in Madrid, full of critics and curious people. I fantasise with praising reviews and with interviews in newspapers. That is the uncertainty that swells me and eats me up at the same time. However, despite these expectations, for weeks I’ve been unable to find any sense in all of this. All the coherence I found a week ago to devote my time exclusively to writing has become diluted. I think that the creation of that first story has taken it away. Why writing? I can’t find any serious answer. Yesterday I told all this to my editor. He said that it was normal; that we all go through this. I’m scared. Argentinian Rodolfo Rabanal tried to explain it in his diaries: “My first novel is nothing more than an object of mine put out in the world for anyone to come close to it and judge it.”


It is a room too big. It should have been a living room or a dining room. I thought about yesterday as soon as I entered it: the architect in front of the flat’s final blueprint, not being able to find a serious justification for a room of that size. Now I contemplate your body under the sheets. Your hair too. I thought you were pretending to be asleep, but your breathing is too regular, too perfect. Outside, the sun has already risen. I close my eyes. I imagine both of us living in this room and this country. By the wardrobe there would be an electric cook. We would clean up in washbowls full of lukewarm water and would use chamber pots. We would be two beings with no other horizon than creating and cultivate ourselves.


Harriet Burden, the protagonist of Siri Hustvedt’s The Blazing World, devoted the last years of her life to exhibiting her work through young male artists she used as masks. She was trying to gain recognition as a female creator in the New York cultural world of the end of the 20th century, which she considered male chauvinistic. I think I should do the same with my first novel, but with a well-known writer. With David Trueba or Manuel Rivas, for instance. Critics would praise it and sales would be excellent. After a year, we would reveal the sham and I would proclaim myself the defendant of the oppressed talent of new writers in Spain before the malevolent publishing world. This fantasy could be a good serious reason to continue writing.

_Immediate future

You will wake up in a few minutes. You will look at me and smile. I will kiss you. In half an hour, you will come out of the bathroom with your hair wet wound up in a towel. We will have breakfast at the terrace of the bar downstairs, in front of the beach. You will be wearing your blue dress and the wind will shake it while you spread butter on your toast. A man and a dog will walk in the sand. The dog will run and the waves will be big. We will promise to be back in the summer to be able to swim in the sea. We will promise to be together forever because we found each other.

_Faraway future

In The Corrections, North-American Jonathan Franzen describes the life of the Lamberts, a wealthy family, to which apparently nothing happens except the passing of time. Franzen displays in the novel an asphyxiating intimate ambience in which love ends up being a key element for all the characters: be it as an ingredient that make them feel more alive, be it as a gag that strangles them.

I know this will not happen. That time will take it away. That days will go by quickly again. That our uncontrollable desire of being together will be diluted, that we will no longer be lovers, that I will not wait for you to come and have dinner because them I will be able to watch football on the telly. I know we will have two children. And that their names will be the ones you choose. I know we will argue about the colours of the walls and that I will not listen to you when you talk to me. Also because I will not want to go back to Portugal on holiday, never mind your parents have a house here. I know all of this and I hate myself for knowing it. But I know all this and I am convinced. That it will be you who will give me serious reasons to continue writing. That it will be you and no one else whom I will want to contemplate as soon as I wake up.

Photographs by Antonio Xoubanova, taken from his book Un universo pequeño.

HH:MM:SS – Days Go by Slowly in Portugal – O Production Company
HH:MM:SS – Days Go by Slowly in Portugal – O Production Company
HH:MM:SS – Days Go by Slowly in Portugal – O Production Company
HH:MM:SS – Days Go by Slowly in Portugal – O Production Company
HH:MM:SS – Days Go by Slowly in Portugal – O Production Company

Instilled readings:

Rodolfo Rabanal. La vida escrita. Buenos Aires: Seix Barral, Grupo Editorial Planeta, 2014.
Siri Hustvedt. El mundo deslumbrante. Barcelona: Editorial Anagrama, 2014.
Jonathan Franzen. Las correcciones. Barcelona: Editorial Salamandra, 2012.
Le Mans. Al bulevar. Elefant Records, 2005.