“Misericordia” by Lídia Jorge: the progress of the night

For a year, from April 2019 to April 2020, Maria Alberta Nuñes Amado, an almost century-old woman, widow of Edgar de Paula, recounts her life at the Hotel Paradis. A comfortable residence in which a pool of 70 elderly people is constantly renewed according to “departures” and arrivals.

Like a seismograph, his monologue is a reflection of his inner life, his memories and his concerns, but also of his sensitive and attentive interactions with the other residents or the nursing staff of the establishment.

It is there, in room 210 of sector B of the Hotel Paradis, from her bed or in her wheelchair, that the old woman documents, suffers a little and comments on her daily life. With his humor still firm, his pride intact, and sometimes also with his ferocity.

And when the corridor is no longer enough to serve as a horizon for her, she dives back into her thoughts. Great Atlas of the Worldnow destroyed, to which his sometimes failing memory tries to cling. A relic as much as an open window. Doña Maria Alberta can be obsessed for days with the idea of ​​remembering “in which country the city of Baku was located”, whose name still flashes above the blue-green of the map.

In 2019, Lídia Jorge (The wind whistling through the cranes, The memorable ones), born in the Algarve in 1946, provided Doña Maria Alberta, her own mother, with a tape recorder so that she could keep a diary of a year in the residence where she lived. Almost forty hours of audio archives, transcribed by the writer in the form of this long and dense monologue, served as the basis for Misericordiaits 12e title translated into French.

Despite her forced immobility, Doña Alberta seems to have retained her lucidity and vitality intact. She also still has her whole head — most of the time. Lively and curious, she never stops herself from reacting, multiplying mood swings, sending barbs to one or the other. Without acrimony or despair. Even if, she notes, “there is nothing left that is only mine, neither my body nor my mind”.

Faced with the passage of time, behind the scenes of the residence for the elderly, it seems to him that his life is “always full of invigorating events”. Joy, which can take all kinds of forms – like the music brought by a former pianist and new resident – ​​is a concrete being “which extends along the walls”.

Between the visits of her daughter, a writer, who, according to her, is too interested in the small and weak in her books, in those that no one sees, the old woman nevertheless takes a kindly look at the ballet of the staff who take care of she, Igor, Ali, Salomé or Habib, often migrants, often also poorly paid.

Until the echoes of a new virus reach him, causing the doors of the residence to close and men in astronaut costumes to appear. Without her knowing it, it is also the night that advances towards her, bearing a new face. Slowly but surely, like a tide that will wash away everything.


★★★ 1/2

Lídia Jorge, translated by Elisabeth Montero Rodrigues, Métailié, Paris, 2023, 416 pages

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