top of page

"Third World Unbendable Man" by Jane Camoleze

My previous expectations regarding the hereafter were closer to worms than to bareass comrades. Amazingly enough, Death was not it, and Her elevator didn´t serve all floors, hence I went straight down. Though I find it useless to dwell on the fact that I´d never been a man of beliefs, such unexpected displacement rendered me a bit resentful indeed, as integrity is not a synonym for faith, but truth be told, I´ve always had a preference for warm weather. While I have to admit it gets awfully hot in here, there´s not much to worry about – apart from the no-wiggling rule. I call it simple living, amigos, quite different from life above. And while on the subject, I suspect my ticket to hell was not only bought last minute but also by accident; so, apropos my fate, be a good listener in order to be a good judge: Upon my mandatory retirement I yielded to public life, becoming – among a handful of others – Lord Assistant of a town very dear to me. Politics, you see. Was I acquainted back then with its heavy burdens? No, and if I were given a chance to go back in time, what I´d do I cannot tell. Bottom line, it all came down to choosing my battles.

That a day would come when illiterate men no longer inhabited this planet I could only dream of; though with powers so limited, the south village – five villages lazily named after their location formed our cross-shaped city – known for growing bananas by men unable to spell ‘bananas’, was where I was aiming. As you might expect, one has no enemies among those provided with rice, gods, and potatoes, still decades can go by without much change, and a rock remains a rock. By no means did I intend to reinvent the wheel; I simply wanted to take education beyond classroom walls. Throughout my career I can assure you, Gentlemen, it barely reached the gates. I was aware of resistance to my plans, but the day I took office I made my point crystal clear: ‘Then – mark my words! – whether or not we find means, we will send those villagers books. If not food and books, nor medicine and books, then books and books.’

That such ambition had its fair share of compromising came as no surprise, as it often required a blind hand to sign here and there, and though my motto had never been ‘the end justifies the means’, I was duty-bound to stick to my ideals. Within a year my rather modest project had drawn a lot of attention to itself, slightly putting us on the map nationwide. Though winning approval had never been on the agenda, only when the clapping was over I realized I had no objections to it; still, knowing such pioneering endeavors would definitely make history I kept on signing, managing, and delegating. Such was the simplicity of life I wondered whether happiness lay somehow in planning itself, but regardless, at that point there was no stopping me, no.

From time to time, lovely counselors urged me to reallocate part of the books budget to this and that; on such occasions, a framed article on the wall headlined ‘Third World Unbendable Man’ would reassure me, and once alone, however silly I felt, I must confess I´d always wink back at my picture. With each passing month, increasing knocking on my door along with some quite alarmed faces tried to keep me from focusing, at times begging ‘Sir, please’, at times admonishing ‘Sir, I insist.’ Insist! That very word gave new momentum to my plans: if not threats nor violence – modern times had particular setbacks to heroism – then interruption, goddamn interruption, was this soldier up against. Sophisticated as my mind was, yet discretely prone to comedy, on the door of my office a note read: ‘Knock, knock. Who´s there? Your former boss’. Oh, wit. Some got it, some didn´t; I equally despised all, as ludicrous reports on banana crop losses were now slipping under my door, never to an end! Intimidation had never been my modus operandi, yet unable to control my state of anger, I was on the verge of yelling at every single person who crossed my path had not a thud on the door made me swallow my distress. Opposition, you see. By then I´d become so inured to political shenanigans I was actually curious to see what those conniving pigs had come up with, since rumors about forceful measures had been going around the office.

What was my surprise, Gentlemen, to find out that my office was no longer cozy enough, therefore I was taken to the police station – and while the whole situation made me feel acutely embarrassed, the real shock was yet to come. I´ll spare you the gruesome details. Suffice it to say, piles of bodies – ranging in age from newborns to the elderly – had been recently found all over the south village. As for me, upon being accused of their murder, I could but reply ‘Let me remind you, gentlemen, that never in the village have I set foot.' Having a hard time to disguise their state of agitation, my accusers left me to my own conjectures. At that point my best guess was the riots have erupted, rioters have been violently suppressed, and the police needed a scapegoat... but me? Well, I´d never expected I´d live to witness revolution, still one is capable of changing the world under the influence of great fiction. Lack of evidence did not prevent them – pigs – from holding me accountable, so I was told to publicly beg the Lord for forgiveness or else, to which I replied ‘Which Lord? I beg of you more,’, to which they replied ‘Give them something to believe’, to which I replied ‘I have.’ Making history more often than not meant going to hell, yet on their leaving my cell I entreated ‘Let not my death be closure!’ But it wasn´t until later that my fate was sealed, as a tiny note left under my pillow read: ‘They´ve been eating it, sir. The books.’

Jane Camoleze is a fiction writer. Her work has appeared in trampset. She lives in São Paulo.


bottom of page