The Warrior’s Song
Study strategy over the years and achieve the spirit of the warrior.
Today is victory over yourself of yesterday;
tomorrow is your victory over lesser men.
- Miyamoto Musashi
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent
about things that matter.
- Martin Luther King
Memories are timeless treasures of the heart.
- Unknown author
Period of time covered: 1970 to 1972.
start of the 70s I was living in London and feeling very fortunate to be in the most wonderful city in the world at the best of times. This was the height of the post 60s flower-power revolution or the time when the women of the western world finally achieved
the right and means to run their own lives. Though taken for granted nowadays, this privilege was attained fractionally over many years of struggle.
Left: The King’s Rd, 1967
Right: The Kings Road, London
In the 19th century laws were passed ending the practice of giving control
of wives’ wealth to their husbands. From my point of view I am happy to say that in Brazil despite the endemic Latin ‘machismo’ the family feeling is strong, therefore money has always passed on through generations and not through marriage
Furthermore also before my time, the right to vote was earned at great cost to some women who dared parade in the streets to achieve it and as well as be arrested
for their defiance. How brave! I must admit that I would never go as far as participating in any political activity. I have always preferred to remain safely apart as a strictly silent observer.
before and during my lifetime, mothers were often separated from their small children in cases of separation or divorce, very especially if they had less money or power than the fathers. I saw this happen to people I knew and it never failed to cause immense
grief to women as well as to the children involved. The truth is that the world has always been ruthless to the feelings of women, under the guise of protecting them.
So women had earn their own living, and this was mostly realised when they became formally educated, thus becoming properly prepared to be economically independent. This, qualification combined with the advent of the contraceptive
pill, finally gave women the complete control over their own bodies, which was essential in the battle to control their own lives.
My father always told me that I should never depend on anyone
so as not to become a slave. I followed his advice very carefully and have never depended on a husband, but what was really more difficult for me was to challenge my own father’s rule of working exclusively in the family business. I had been brought
up to think that to work outside the family’s enterprises was pointless, superfluous and in the long run an act of betrayal.
Consequently, in the years immediately after university, as I was
not dutifully engaged at working for the family, I struggled over how to occupy my time, considering that any work to be obtained abroad would not only be looked down upon by my family, but also be seen in my own equally warped mind as ridiculous for someone
who could be a director of a family business. So I went on studying useless things while I summoned up the courage to go back home and all this time my parents paid my way handsomely, as they had always done.
Time passed and although I tried very hard I could not face the idea of again living in Brazil, and it was only many years later that I finally got the grips with looking for a job in some office, as I thought that any other type of work was quite
beneath my inclination and my education. This naturally proved to be very difficult for someone who possessed a most ridiculous curriculum-vitae describing unending study and absolutely no work experience, but eventually I found something. And the final challenge
of this phase was to announce to my parents that I was actually working full time in London, which meant to admit that I was not after all going back to live at home.
But the truth is that women
of an independent nature always find a way of making their own choices and leading their own lives. I have heard many tales and actually met many brave women who filled me with admiration for the courage they showed in conducting their own lives, independently
from family. Regardless of how hard the path may be, strong minded women eventually succeed because we simply do not know how else to live.
In the early 70s London, I had met a number of Portuguese
people and among the first were Carlos Teixeira da Motta, who worked at the Portuguese Embassy, and his younger brother Jorge. As I had decided not to go to Brazil for the Christmas of 1970, Jorge persuaded me to go to Lisbon where I installed myself comfortably
in a hotel at Avenida Liberdade. But he insisted that this was no way to spend Christmas and without my knowing asked his friend Antonia Leitão to offer me to her parents’ home for the festivities. This apparently caused her parents some consternation,
but Tona overruled their objections and invited me to stay with her family in their enormous house in Cintra.
I had never seen a family with so many children. I think there were at least nine, perhaps
twelve, and they were all present. The days passed in a sort of organised chaos that culminated in a pleasant Catholic Christmas, which was celebrated on Christmas Eve. Noticing how my hostess’ mother, who was wheel chair bound, was often ignored by
her busy children, I made a point of talking to her as much as I could.
On the 25th, for an English Christmas, I joined the family of my friend Juanita Waring for lunch. I had already
known Juanita in London for some time but this was the first time I had met her family. Her mother Honor was then still alive, her brother Marcus was in town, and her father, the Duke of Valderano, was also there and they were all very pleasant. Marcus is
a geologist and I do not know where he was living at the time, but eventually he moved to Brazil, where he stood out as a very English looking country gentleman.
Soon after the festivities I returned
home to London, where I lived in a lovely apartment in Lowndes Square that I at first rented and then bought a number of years later. Number forty-one was a white Georgian building with columns flanking the front door, and I lived on the third floor. From
the two tall windows of my large living room I could see the magnificent trees in the square, and so observe the change of seasons. The wide back window of my bedroom opened onto a peaceful mews. This was my refuge and I spent many pleasant years living in
that tranquil apartment, which caused me to choose to live permanently in this area.
Left: Lowndes Square, London. Right: My old home in Lowndes Square.
A few months after my return from Lisbon Antonia Leitao, who was usually known as Tona, unexpectedly showed up at my door without having arranged anywhere to stay, so I naturally invited her to stay with me. She told me that she had escaped from
her parents’ home with no thought of where she would live or how to earn a living, because she had found it too depressing to live at home.
They were a prosperous family from Porto, then living
in Lisbon. As a result of her mother’s debilitated medical condition, Tona’s father created a separate life for himself outside the home, and Tona told me that she could no longer stand to live in the resulting atmosphere of despair. It struck
me how similar this was to my own life at home. I wondered if this was how most marriages ended.
The onset of World War II was during
the youth of my parents’ generation, but its effect naturally varied immensely depending on which part of the world you lived in. Portugal was then ruled by António de Oliveira Salazar, whose dislike for the ambitions of the Nazi regime was counterbalanced
by the Third Reich’s battle against the spread of communism. So in 1939 the Portuguese Government announced that, though the 600-year-old Anglo-Portuguese Alliance would remain intact, Portugal would adopt a neutral stance for the duration of the conflict.
Though under heavy pressure, Portugal succeeded in maintaining its precious neutrality despite the fact that agents and spies of both
the Allied and Axis Powers roamed freely, causing this strategic tip of the Iberian Peninsula to be nick-named a Harbour of Hope and Intrigue. It became one of the Continent's last escape routes for both rich and poor refugees from various countries, and curious
stories abound of the war activities of my friends’ parents and their relations, who were fortunate enough to live out the conflict in a land of comparative ease. One is never sure if these stories are true in their every detail or if they have been
twisted in the telling, but they do add spice and colour to those times.
The first of these stories was about the Leitão and other families to them related. In the 19th century
they made a fortune transporting slaves across the Atlantic, but when the English forbade this lucrative enterprise they turned their accumulated resources and energy to the more wholesome business of Port Wine. Having purchased extensive vineyards in the
mountainous valleys of the Douro region, in 1880 the brothers Adriano and Antonio founded the Ramos Pinto company, still known for the quality of its wine.
Almost sixty years later, just before the outbreak of the second war, Tona Leitão’s grandfather José Rosas, owner of the Ourivesaria Rosas, a jewellery concern founded in 1840, was in Germany doing business on behalf of his wife’s
Port Wine company. And in the eve of his departure back home, he posted a letter to his wife explaining why he was cutting the trip short. In this letter, which is still in the family’s possession, he said he had been advised by some well-connected German
friends who knew the owners of Mercedes-Benz to leave Germany immediately as “there was a fool by the name of Adolf who was about to start a war”.
I also heard from my Portuguese friends, though my friend Clara Fischer vehemently denies this, that her German father escaped Germany early in the war by sailing off into the North Sea with his Jewish mistress on a yacht loaded with gold and works of art.
They headed for Lisbon, where he is said to have lived for the rest of his life on the proceeds of the hoard he was able to get out of the Fatherland. I am sure this story has been much embellished for the amusement of the tellers, but there is probably some
truth in it. I never met Clara’s father, but I met her mother who was actually Portuguese and who still lived in the apartment near the Avenida Liberdade purchased by her father when he arrived in Lisbon.
Another friend of mine, connected the Portuguese crowd, Reinout, Baron Sloet tot Everlot, confirmed to me the story of how his wealthy and noble Dutch parents had
gone to Italy for their honeymoon when they heard the news that Hitler had just invaded Holland. Consequently they thought it wise not to return home and went instead to live in Lisbon. After the war, Reinout’s parents eventually returned to Holland
to care for their business interests, but their two sons, Bartol and Reinout remained in Portugal where they had been born.
was a very handsome and intelligent medical student. He was killed by lightning while disembarking from a yacht in the south of Portugal. His girlfriend of the time, a Norwegian-Brazilian, died of cancer a few months later. I still recall seeing them together
in London not too long before this double tragedy. Through the years I always had news of Reinout from our common friend Juanita Waring. He still lives in Portugal, though his relationship with Benedita which I saw bloom in my flat in Lowndes Square progressed
to marriage and the birth of three daughters. But it eventually ended badly, for which I was sorry for I have always been very fond of Reinout as he is a very gentle person.
There are also stories circulating in Lisbon about the father of Juanita Waring. She went out with Bartol, Reinout Sloet´s brother in her youth, when she was still living in Lisbon. Her father, Ronald Edward Henry Waring, later to become the Duke of
Valderano, served as a British officer during the World War II. Probably because of his family’s contacts in Italy he was posted to Rome during the Italian Campaign, as was Mario Martinez Dallarosa, the father of Joseph Eros’s, my boyfriend.
The Italian Campaign of World War II was the name given to the Allied operations in and around Italy, from 1943 to the end of the war in Europe.
The Allied Headquarters planned and commanded the invasion of Sicily in July 1943, and in September the invasion of the Italian mainland, as well as the campaign on Italian soil until the surrender of the German Armed Forces in Italy in May 1945.
In 1930 the Hungarian Count Laszlo Almasy set out to find the lost oasis of Zarzura, or the City of Brass, a mythical place mentioned
in the Arabian books known as ‘One Thousand and One Nights’. This adventurer is said to have explored an area of two million square kilometres and eventually in the remote Wadi Sura stumbled upon painted dugouts from the Stone Age, but he never
found Zarzura. There is no question that Almasy was the Nazi agent during the war. The Bedouins deferentially called him Abu Ramla, or Father of the Sand. Apparently he worked for the Brandenburg Division, a unit of the German foreign military intelligence
agency that carried out acts of sabotage behind enemy lines.
After the war the Count switched allegiances and in 1947 had to flee
across the Iron Curtain to Austria and then on to Italy under the name of Josef Grossman. From Rome he was escorted by Ronnie Waring, who was directed by his superiors in London to get Almásy onto a British aircraft. The Russian NKVD agents had surrounded
the Rome hotel were the Count was staying, so with the help of his own wife Honor, Waring artfully managed to get Almásy safely to the airport, apparently “with the Soviet thugs in hot pursuit”.
László Ede Almásy de Zsadány et Törökszentmiklós is the subject of the American film 'The English Patient', which largely distorted
the story of the desert explorer born in 1895, who eventually died in 1951 of amoebic dysentery, not during the war the film would have us believe.
The Hillsdale College in Michigan publishes each month a bulletin named Imprimis, devoted to a topic of importance. In its issue for November of 1988 it printed a piece written by Ronald Waring, Duke of Valderano, entitled Terror: The War Against the West,
in which the author mentions various known instances of terrorism in recent years and discourses on the difficulty of battling against that form of covert warfare and states, “In the Western world, terrorism is a natural product of democracy." And he
goes on to explain that:
“In the past, when Europe was ruled by crowned heads, most wars were fought for territorial gains
by small private armies which were instructed to minimise damage to property and to the local population, because it was in their interest to maintain the prosperity of the disputed territories. With the coming of democracy mass armies were raised by conscription
and hate propaganda that resulted in conflicts between civilian populations. Terrorist methods progressed to include more than acts of violence including bacteriological techniques.”
After Rome Ronald Waring was transferred to Lisbon where he continued his work for Britain, keeping an eye on the Russian presence in Angola, which resulted in his book published in 1961, entitled The War in Angola. And he later also published a biography,
The Owl and the Pussycat—The Duke and Duchess of Valderano, a tribute to his late wife Honor.
It was said in Lisbon that he
was armed to the teeth at home. Apparently on one occasion Juanita arrived with a boyfriend, and her father hearing a noise, appeared suddenly in his underwear, gun in hand. Juanita was furious with her father for frightening off her friend.
Late in his life Juanita’s father came to live with his daughter in London and I saw him a number of times when I visited Juanita. We used to
talk at length, and he told me he could not go to the Soviet Union or he would be arrested. I assured him he was not missing much! I always found him extremely charming and we always had much to talk about because of our common political views. He told me
once he was tired of living and wished to join his dead wife. “It can’t be a bad place to go” I said to him, “because babies come from there and they arrive quite happily in spite of the birth struggle”. “Point taken,”
Among the Teutonic living in London I made a friend, Stefan, Baron von Breisky, actually an Austrian, whose family
had also lived out the war in Lisbon. He surprised me by speaking the most perfect Portuguese. He later joked that when he had first looked for a job with Jewish bankers in London they had smiled approvingly, thinking that his family had spent the war in Lisbon
because they were refugees, though actually his father had been the Nazi Ambassador. I told him he should be ashamed of joking about this. Stefan’s father Hubert von Breisky, born in Vienna in 1908, was indeed Hitler’s emissary to Lisbon and he
remained there after the war.
But in the London of the 70s peace reined and there was no sign of the troubles of the past. Well-connected
or affluent young people moved around freely and roamed all over the world either to study or on holiday, or again for their first work experience. Some of us were financed by family, or by trusts or inheritance funds, such as my friend Reinout Sloet and many
One of the Germans I knew at the time, Alexander Freiherr von Spoerken, or Sacha as he was known, went to university in
California. I met Sacha through my friend Christiana Rump during one of his visits to London, and he later invited a few times to shooting parties at his father’s home outside Hamburg, even on one occasion when he was still at Berkeley. I suppose this
invitation was due to the need for an additional charming female to make up the right number at dinner, which had to be achieved. I gladly accepted as I saw these occasions as exotic experiences not to be missed, especially for someone from the distant tropics
Sacha’s father Werner behind a veneer of civility gave the impression of being a very cantankerous person. In these
shooting parties he presided over the arrangements, which consisted of walking about in the freezing countryside while they shot pheasants, and a very pleasant dinner in the evening to relax after the rigors of the day. As I understood it, this was their way
of making money out of the local fauna, as the pheasants were sold to food processers, packers and distributors.
Many Germans lost
much of their wealth as a result of the war and this is probably what makes some of them bitter and cynical. Even Sacha, who had been a nice person, later developed that awful fixed smirk I had often seen on the faces of his compatriots. I recently saw on
Facebook that he is involved in the administration of a Golf Club, which must be another way he devised to derive an income out of land not seized by the Communists. The name Freiherr, which means free-lord, is a designation used in the German speaking areas
that were originally part of the Holy Roman Empire. It denotes the third lowest rank within the nobility and it corresponds to a Baron.
Another German I knew who also lived in London in the 70s was Gustav, Prince Salm und Horstmar. He was indeed a very nice person whose name originated in the Principality of Salm-Salm, a state of the Holy Roman Empire located in the present day French Département
du Bas-Rhin, which had been originally created as a partition of Salm-Dhaun in 1574 and finally raised from a County to a Principality in 1739.
Gustav, being a younger brother was not destined to inherit the major family estates, so he came to London to work and a few years later he married Beatrice von Frankengerg und Ludwigsdorff. They had two sons and lived in a lovely house in Chelsea for a number
of years until their marriage unfortunately foundered. After this I only saw Beatrice once more with her next husband a very handsome Dutchman, Michael Goedhuis, at San Lorenzo, a restaurant in Beauchamp Place, but they are no longer together. Michael works
with oriental art and still resides mostly in London, but I had no further news of Gustav or of Beatrice.
Also through Cristiana
Rump I met Adrian de Posson Stoop, who actually never lived in London but we saw each other from time to time in different places. Adrian was a a very gentle person of whom I have only the loveliest of memories. Of Anglo-Belgian ancestry, he lived in Brussels
with his mother and grandfather, Le Baron de Posson whom I never met in person, but he was always very charming on the telephone when I rang to speak to Adrian.
Meanwhile in London I got in touch with the sister of my friend Il Conte Franz Treuberg, one of the Roman film crowd who used to gather at the via Arquimede. Princess Bianca Lowenstein, or later Bianca Rosoff, was a sculptor who asked me to pose for
her to make a mould of my head which could be cast in bronze. I agreed and as a result we spent many very pleasant afternoons in her studio in Putney across the Thames chatting away while she worked. From Bianca’s mould I had a Bronze Head cast which
became an ornament in my London home. Later on I placed a belt made of empty bullet cartridges onto this sculpture and took the photo which was to become my logo.
For non-Europeans the sheer quantity of titled people in Europe can be puzzling, but it must be remembered that countries like Germany and Italy were formed by the alliance of numerous independent fiefdoms and reigning dynasties. A title of nobility was originally
bestowed upon individuals by emperors, kings and rulers, and these status groups at first enjoyed privileges in relation to other people under the laws and customs of their respective areas.
the establishment of Republican governments all these legal privileges and immunities were officially abolished. But this did not diminish the social importance of a title of nobility, very especially among themselves or even the social elite of these countries
where such tradition existed for hundreds of years.
There were also titles of nobility in colonial Brazil bestowed by the Portuguese
crown, which, as in Europe, were outlawed with the proclamation of the First Republic in 1889. During the initial democratic period, also known as the Old-Republic, which lasted from 1889 to 1930, honorary titles of Coronel, corresponding to a Baron, were
bestowed upon powerful landed gentry of Brazil who largely controlled their regions of influence and, to an extent dominated their state’s structures to their advantage.
This Rule of the Coronels or Coronelismo of the coffee planters of São Paulo and the landed gentry of Minas Gerais with their dairy interests, became known as the politics of Café com Leite, or the Coffee with Milk system. My grandfather, whose
land holdings were situated in the west of Minas, was thus honoured with the Republican title of Coronel, and he was known in the region as the Coronel Antunes Luciania, or as Coronel Totônio.
In time, trade, commerce and industry, as well as the effects of the Great Depression, the worst economic decline in the history of the world, served to undermine the politics of domination by the Brazilian landed gentry. This process culminated in the 1930s
revolution that installed Getúlio Vargas as dictator, which moved towards a more centralised form of national government.
Forty years later, at the London home of Christina Bibiano
and Roger Middleton, and this is where I met Sylvia Martins who was then studying English in London and living in lodgings arranged by her school. We soon arranged that she could come and stay with me at the weekends and our social life bloomed.
We were all assiduous frequenters of Tramp, the fashionable haunt of the time, located at number 40 Jermyn Street, SW1. It was a membership
only night-club and restaurant. Another place we occasionally visited was Annabel’s. This was to a large extent the British aristocracy’s haunt founded in 1963 by Mark Birley and located at 44 Berkeley Square.
Furthermore, there was always an abundance of parties. The Austrian Stefan von Breisky gave excellent dinner parties, not to be missed as he cooked very well and
was very well connected. It was at one of Stefan’s parties that I first met my future husband, Edward Malamos, whom I named Hades in this book, maybe as a reference to his innate power of … what was it really?
Marc Burca, a Baron of Roman origin, specialised in cocktail parties And that is where I met a number of people also circulating in London at the time.
Marc later went to live in Marbella, but is presently back in town, where he has opened an art gallery, down at the Kings Rd, where he continues to gather crowds for cocktail parties.
Greenburg, a general practitioner with a surgery in a fashionable area, attended to the in-crowd during the day and was seen in the evenings out and about. His Belgravia neighbour Michael Alexander, owned a large and elegant house, where he gave the occasional
cocktail party. He also rented a few rooms only to elite foreigners.
Among Alexander’s tenants I befriended Louise
Foo. She was very bright and enrolled at The London School of Economics. After she finished her studies she went to work in Hong Kong where she married into an English shipping family. By an amazing coincidence Louise’s son, Edward Buttery, met my son
twenty years later while they were both working in Shanghai.
Also living at Michael Alexander’s Belgravia house for a spell
was Leopoldo di Mottola who eventually married a Brazilian from Rio de Janeiro, Noemia Osorio. The Di Mottola are also an Italian shipping family whose name originated in the town of Mottola in the region of Apulia in south-east Italy. Noemia’s sister
Marcia Osorio married a Lichfield, whose family hails from the eponymous cathedral city in Staffordshire.
Among the people
who left their mark on the 70s London international scene were two good looking sisters from Rio, Cristina and Andrea Vieira de Magalhães. Cristina married John Stevens, the future owner of Chinawhite. They eventually broke up and Cristina moved to
Los Angeles. Her sister married Guy Dellal, the son of the legendary property investor nicknamed Black Jack Dellal, a reference to his love of gambling. Andrea and Guy had a number of children who are now my son’s friends.
Eventually my Portuguese friend Antonia Leitão met her future husband Nicholas Page at my Lowndes Square flat. The Brazilian Sylvia Martins moved to New York
where she met the actor Richard Gere. They were together for a number of years, but during that time I did not see her much at all, as I am not drawn to New York.
I never met any of the Brazilian exiles who came to live in London. The revolution in Brazil passed me by almost unnoticed as I was studying in America when it happened, and later, when I went to visit my parents in Brazil, I always remained wisely aloof
from the political scene. I never wanted to get involved in politics or causes of any kind. To participate in such things you have first to belong to a community, and I never belonged wholeheartedly to anything.
When I look back I can see that I only maintained a superficial relationship with the Carioca crowd living in London. We Mineiros, mountain people known to be boringly serious and introspective, have historically only minded our
own businesses and had little in common with the coastal Cariocas known as so much lively and outgoing.
The word Carioca derives from the Tupi language and means ‘white people’s house’.
Long ago, to the civilising influence of the Portuguese, the natives of the West of Minas, the fierce Botucudos, looked down on the Tupis’ outgoing attitude and the apparent ease with which they accepted the white man in their land and helped them build
their Ocas, or houses. It is even said that the Tupis went as far as to give moonlight parties on the beach where the white man was welcome. Most disgraceful!
But not the Botocudos. These ferocious
warriors scowled frighteningly at the colonisers by stretching out their lower lips and earlobes in the hope that this would keep them away, and when it did not they hid in the forests inland and shot their arrows at the incoming whites whenever the opportunity
arose. So how could we Mineiros, who occupied the old Botocudo land, escape from their influence if their blood is likely to be amongst many of us? I, in particular, have most definitely inherited sour seriousness as I have absolutely no sense of humour, or
so my ex-husband used to say. Instead, I spend my time thinking seriously and analysing people’s minds by concentrated observation of their every word and movement. And when I am not doing that I write poems and stories. One of the results of my literary
efforts, the Warrior’s Song, was inspired by the 1000 year old poem by the Persian poet Ferdowsi, Shahnameh.
Epic of the Persian Kings
I shall not die; The seeds I’ve
sown will save
My name and reputation from the grave
And men of sense
and wisdom will proclaim,
When I have gone, my praises and my fame.
And now, my own composition:
The Warrior’s Song
I shall not be vanquished!
words I use in my struggle
Will live forever and people
Will hear my
The victory of Truth.
Hear my words, oh stranger who reads me.
I refused to be defeated. Would not
Be put down even when battle was lost.
Now my song is carried by the wind
As murmurs meant to penetrate the mind.
When you wish to see me, call. And I will
I’ll come to the place where lightning strikes.
But as the clarion fades, I’ll return
To my place of rest. Mustn’t linger abroad,
In life best remain invisible.
If wishes to tell me something, write.
Words are my weapon, infallible courier
Sees all, from which nothing is hidden
Meanings find their way between lines
For me to see and understand.
you speak to me, within the confines
Of your mind, I will answer you silently.
written words will be eternal,
Reborn each time you read them, dear readers
prized companions of the infinite.
But when I depart this world,
I’ll ask up high for liberty from worries
Of this life. The earth
at last forgotten.
That is the heaven I aspire,
Place of beauty
© ALP Gouthier, 2013.
In the 1970s while having such a lively social life in Europe, as well as my first voyages around the world, I also
went back home twice each year and spent at least a month with my parents. But I noticed how much things and people had changed from the old times of my earlier youth to the point of becoming quite unpleasant.
My mother had entered into a phase of depression and I was very concerned about her health. My brother and sister pity for her condition, could not find the strength to take firm charge of her and accused me of being harsh. As the English
say, you have to be cruel to be kind. But brother and sister did not agree with me.
My father appeared to have almost physically
shrunk. This impression was subsequently reinforced when I saw a house that he had built for himself in a beautiful and wooded corner of our sugar plantation. I only saw this house when it had already been abandoned and the jungle was rapidly taking hold.
At first I thought it must have been a most wonderful hiding place, but I was alarmed when I noticed that the height of the doors of the house was much lower than usual. And I silently connected this to my evaluation of my father’s state of mind at the
Locally called The Matinha, or The Little Woods, this densely wooded cluster is revealed unexpectedly within the extensive
and only slightly undulating hills of the sugar plantation. But when suddenly coming upon it you wonder how you never noticed it before when it is set against such open horizon. Yet it is a little secret jungle that conceals the secret caves in which stone
machetes were left long ago by ancient inhabitants.
Further exploration reveal that the area is encircled by plantations only on
the sides of the higher elevation, as in the other direction the land is encrusted with rocks and falls suddenly into a deep gap, apparently enclosed on all sides by high cliffs very difficult to access, as well as probable nests of snakes. And beyond the
furthest side of this enclosed and hidden basin, there is a wall of calcite deposits, which were excavated in the past by the refinery, though this is no longer financially viable.
This whole area and specially the rocks that pave parts of the ground, appears to be alive. The rocks slightly contract and expand with the seasons, probably due to the fact that many of them are made of petrified tree trunks, geologically still too young
to have settled. As a result, the swimming-pool that was laboriously built by damming a stream and flanked by these natural boulders cracked cyclically and leaked due to the movement of the rocks.
I saw the remains of this retreat in its magical though sinister spot, I wondered why my father had decided not to use it after all the trouble he had taken to build it. I was told that this had been the site of an attempt on my father’s life. A recent
company employee had tried to break into the house at night when my father was there. However, he was caught by the night watchmen and later confessed that he had intended to kill my father to rob all the wages he thought were kept there, but they were safely
locked in the company office.
In Brazil I was once told by Hely Ribeiro, who worked for my father, that a Federal Income Tax official wanted to speak to me, and an appointment had been made for this
purpose. On the due day, unfortunately a little late, I entered Hely’s office, where the official was waiting impatiently for me. Before I could offer my apologies I was embraced by Aurora, who uttered effusive exclamations of her gratitude to our family
for the help and support that we had extended to her throughout her life. She was an old woman who worked in one of our houses in Urucuia in a distant western corner of Minas Gerais. I had no idea what we had done to cause Aurora to be so grateful, but the
result was that she saved me. The official was expecting a wealthy, arrogant and disrespectful creature, but was suddenly faced with a kind and charitable person!
Though in the 20th century there have been no wars in the Brazil, our family lived with private forms of terror, albeit from without, yet so close as to leave us constantly burdened by a heavy weight. We may have shared some of these threats
with the rest of the country’s population, but most of them were due to our socio-economic status and our father’s noticeability.
Once I discovered a more peaceful place to live, I found the pressure of Brazil too much to bear. Each time I went there I soon longed to leave again and was much relieved when I returned to my new found sanctuary. Eventually I had to face the fact that I
could never again live my life where I had first intended to.
A man who conquers himself is greater
than one who conquers a thousand men in battle.