Translation by Christopher Schindler

Twelve: Manaus


     Juca das Neves was not in.  An old caboclo woman said to him:

     “He's at the Mercantile.”

     “Where's that?” Ribamar asked.

     The woman was startled.  How could there be anyone who didn't know where the Novelty Mercantile was, the famous store of Manaus?  But she replied:

     “There on the corner, on the Eduardo Ribeiro.”


     Ribamar descended the Rua Barroso.  He took the 24 de Maio through the shade of the mango trees that had been there for many years.  They were huge mango trees that provided a broad shade of clear green and which would be cut down fifty years later.


     Without father or mother, no relatives that he knew of - not even any friend nor anyone in this world - Ribamar went down the Rua 24 de Maio.  But instead of feeling alone, he felt light and open to the many possibilities of the city.  Everything inside of him said that he had set foot on that ground to emerge winner.

     One day, Maria Caxinauá said to him:

     “You should go to Manaus now ...”

     He did not say anything, but he knew she was right.  There was nothing more at Manixi and the Palácio where he was living was in ruins.  Maria Caxinauá recommended that he look up Ivete and Juca das Neves.  Within a week Ribamar left.


     But he was surprised by the nice street, as Manaus was lovely.  Quiet, deep in the stagnation of the economic crisis, forgotten, abandoned, but solemn.  The big and beautiful mansions, the air of art nouveau supremacy - Manaus was a kind of ghost town, a neglected mini-metropolis, beaten by the clarity of a splendidly brilliant sun  Its shine trickled along the calcite pebbles of the sidewalks.

     Ribamar proceeded slowly, he passed by the chapel of Saint Rita - a place so very sacred, which no longer exists.  The street was deserted.  All the houses had the windows and door shut.  But it was a lovely place, clean.  It recalled Paris.

     He felt happy as is it was the beginning of his conquest.  Manaus in decay seemed to him something he could reanimate and that he would love.

     The last of the employees of the Novelty Mercantile left the city to try his luck in São Paulo, so the job was his.  The Mercantile, however, was nearly going out of business.  Ribamar would receive little, would work as a porter, sales clerk, secretary in exchange for room and board.

     That same night after dinner, the boss chatted with him.  Ribamar told him his life's story, how he did not know his father, how his brother and uncle Genaro has died in the attack of the Numa.  And told him more.  Talked about Rio Jantiatuba, the Pixuna plantation, the Alfredo.  Of the Rio Eriu, the Rio Gregorio, of Mu, of the Arrependida Slough, the Leonel Rivulet, the Tejo, the Breu, the Corumbam Bayou, the magnificent, the Hudson, the Pixuna Slough, the Moa, the Numa Slough, the little Juruá, the Ouro Preto Slough, the Paraná das Minas, the Amônea.  He lingered over talking about the Numa Slough, Hell's Bayou, the Pixuna and the tapper agents of the Ramos.

     Juca das Neves rambled on about his illnesses and his misfortune.