Dom Casmurro Chapter 117


By then Escobar had left Andaraí and bought a house in Flamengo; I saw it there the other day when I took it into my head to find out whether all my former feelings were dead or merely sleeping. I can’t say for sure, because in deep sleep the living and the dead are indistinguishable except for their breathing. I was breathing – a little – but it may have been the effect of the choppy sea. However that may be, I passed by, lit a cigar, and when I came to I discovered I was in Catete. I had walked up the Rua da Princesa, an old street … Old streets! Old houses! Old legs! We were all old and, needless to add, old in the bad sense of old and done with.

It is an old house, but nothing has been changed. I don’t even know whether it still has the same number, and I shan’t say what it is so that people won’t go there to dig up the story. Not that Escobar still lives there or is even still alive; he died shortly afterwards in a manner I shall describe. While he was alive, being so close, it was as though we had a single house: I lived in his, he in mine, and the stretch of beach between Glória and Flamengo was like a private footpath for our own exclusive use. It reminded me of the two houses in Matacavalos and their dividing wall.

One of our historians, I think it was João de Barros, put some wise words into the mouth of a barbarian king when the Portuguese asked permission to build a fortress in his territory. The king declared that good friends should live apart from each other, not close by, so as not to become enraged like the waves of the sea, which were beating furiously on the cliff they could see from where they were. May the ghost of the writer forgive me if I express my doubts that the king said any such thing or that it is true anyway. Most likely the writer himself invented the phrase to embellish his text, because it sounds fine, it really does sound fine. I accept that the waves were beating on the rocks, which has been their habit since the days of Ulysses and before. But that the comparison is admissible, oh no. Of course there are enemies who live near to each other but so do the closest of friends. And the writer forgot the saying (unless it came after his time): out of sight, out of mind. We could not have been closer to each other. Our wives lived in each other’s houses, and we spent our evenings here or there, talking, playing cards or gazing at the sea. The two children spent their days either in Glória or in Flamengo.

When I mentioned that the same thing could happen to them as happened to Capitu and me, everyone agreed, and Sancha added that they even looked alike.

‘No, it’s because Ezequiel likes to imitate other people,’ I explained.

Escobar agreed with me and suggested that children who are much together end up looking like each other. I gave a nod, as I do in matters where I am not sure one way or the other. It could be. What was certain was that they were fond of each other and might well end up getting married. But they didn’t end up getting married.