By Fernanda Torres. Translated from the Portuguese by Nina Arazoza.
In November of 2013, the director Fernando Meirelles (City of God), asked me to write a story for a project about old age that he was developing in partnership with the editor of Companhia das Letras [the Brazilian publishing house] for a television series.
I kept regular columns in newspapers and magazines, and I had already created movie scripts and adopted novels for the stage, but the closest I had ever come to a big literary project was a long essay about the experience of spending three months living with an indigenous tribe in Xingu National Park in order to film a movie directed by Ruy Guerra.
The TV show was never made, but the short story became the first chapter of The End.
The idea that the moment before death is the culmination of extreme old age served as the inspiration for the interior monologue of the last two minutes of Álvaro’s life, an octogenarian in Copacabana who dies when he’s run over in front of the building he lives in.
Álvaro had four friends: Ciro, Sílvio, Neto, and Ribeiro. I decided to kill all of them with the same precision. I first proposed a book to Companhia das Letras that was just the five funeral confessions. When I was already working on the second-to-last death, the editor Luiz Schwarcz proposed that I write a few chapters in the third person.
My training as an actress, of embodying a character, contributed to the development of the different voices. The third person narration I drew from literature. I interspersed the soliloquies with omniscient narration as a result of the protagonists’ actions in the lives of their wives, children, and relatives.
Thus, without having it planned from the start, the kaleidoscopic structure of the novel was born so that the principal scenes are revisited from different points of view. It’s the result of working together with editors Luiz Schwarcz, Flávio Moura, and Otávio Costa, with whom I developed a relationship that was very similar to the ones that I’ve experienced with many theater directors I’ve worked with.
The fact that the characters are mature, macho men, very different from me, freed me of confessional writing. I wanted to write about the tragedy of middle-class Rio, people devoid of revolutionary impulses or artistic whims. I grew up a devotee of the playwright Nelson Rodrigues, the author who knew, like no other, how to endow the mediocrity of the Brazilian middle class with tragic and comedic density.
My heroes without greatness are the offspring of Nelson.