cover image The Words That Remain

The Words That Remain

Stênio Gardel, trans. from the Portuguese by Bruna Dantas Lobato. New Vessel, $16.95 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-1-954404-12-0

Brazilian writer Gardel’s auspicious debut finds a 71-year-old illiterate man holding onto an old, unread letter from his childhood friend and first love. Raimundo won’t let anyone else see the letter, which was sent to him by his lover, Cicero, after Cicero’s father discovered them having sex at 17. Raimundo wanted to live with Cicero, but never had the chance. In flashbacks, Gardel delves into Raimundo’s early shame over his sexuality and illiteracy, and chronicles how Raimundo was beaten by his father and kicked out of the house after he and Cicero were caught. He finds work with truckers, including Alex, whom he dances with and who takes him to a porn theater. Raimundo’s story is contrasted with that of his courageous uncle Dalberto, who was killed by Raimundo’s grandfather after Dalberto told him he was gay. When Raimundo attacks his trans friend Suzzanný, he knows that his actions stem from fear: “Fear is in my spine, it is what holds me up, and I am using it to hurt others,” he narrates. Raimundo’s feelings of shame, anger, and self-loathing are palpable as he examines his troubled past. This wistful novel introduces a worthy new voice. (Jan.)