I've been watching Tribal Wives in the evenings, this BBC series in which English women feeling that "something is missing" are sent to spend a month among any kind of tribal people, in Gabon or elsewhere. And as they departed with a problem, after a month they return without it.
It's nearly a month I'm here.
Gammel is the Dutch, or Danish, or generally Germanic word that I've been using to name my problem. It could be substituted by the simple word "shabby" in English, but I find "gammel" more expressive, more adapted to the essence of my problem. I've made a test, by the way. It says I know around 37 000 English words, more than an average native speaker. It might be true, I presume. My problems with English are mostly bad habits, missing articles, hesitation in tenses, double negations... Curiously, I'm perfect in Portuguese now, as I came after a big break in using this language. My pronunciation irritates me by its total immersion. I speak with hysterical, high-pitched intonation of a real Portuguese freguesa.
Portugal irritates me, because everything is gammel. The seats in the metro are so dirty that I expressly look for a recently substituted ones to dare to sit down. I believe it's organic, it's a kind of microscopic black mildew growing everywhere, on the walls, in all the nooks and crannies. There is heat and sufficient humidity. I always bring old clothes to Portugal, the ones I don't use any more. They serve my total immersion here.
But I write about all these things, because I discover they belong to what Jung would call my Shadow. The gammel things around me irritate me, because they secretly correspond to the gammel inside me. And as the month passes by, as I go on doing all the hard work of a tribal wife, the gammel inside me goes cracking. Like an English woman in Gabon, I can see and experience how much gammel man can stand. And I grow up to a great liberation.
Perhaps when I come back, I will manage to get rid of my gammel things. Not only shabby clothes, they are falling down of me like autumn leaves at each of my travels (one thing is incredible: how on earth I still do possess such a vast assortment of shabby clothes at home?! sometimes I doubt they make sex and multiply when I'm not looking). But also shabby books, shabby ideas. I've many old Portuguese books at home, filling all nooks and crannies like black lichen. Old books that were old already in my time, the ones I used to buy for 100 escudos from a street book pedlar. I used to gather anything Portuguese, and I thought that what I was doing was specialising. All these gammel papers form a bulk that weights heavily upon my intellectual destiny. This is the hidden reason why I projected to make this history of the Portuguese literature, to have an excuse to dig through all this and hopefully, to get rid.
I wish I had a library at home, a collection, with nothing but valuable things, good books and good ideas. I wish I had this collection reflecting me, and I wish I got rid of the gammel in my intellectual world. I wish I could unlearn the gammel I ingested in all these years. And believe me, to get rid is more difficult than to accumulate. My art is like sculpture in marble, essentially it consists in getting rid.
I've been to my Portuguese bank this morning, to ask why I still didn't receive the debit card I'd requested. They told me the cards are late, because they run short of the plastic to make them.
Now I'm in the library, reading African books about man-eating lions, and I can't stop laughing. Among all gammel things man may run short of, the plastic to make banking cards is certainly the least essential.