At Saint George's Castle, September 2006

In my opinion, loneliness is the worst of all evils. Unlike hunger, thirst and illness, which force us to take an attitude when they affect us, loneliness is often masked under an aura of virtue and renunciation.

But today I am alone because I have chosen to be alone.

This is a special day for me; I stroll through the soft European autumn, walk down a wide avenue, pass by people who talk about souls or tobacco shops. I walk through Lisbon; climb up to Saint George’s Castle, look at the Tagus and the Atlantic, and try not to think about anything.

In a short while the sun will be rising in Brazil, the bookstores will be opening, and for the very first time my new book will be held in a reader’s hand. After so many titles published, perhaps you imagine that I am used to it all. But I am not, thank God. I still feel the same excitement and enthusiasm as I did when “The Pilgrimage” was brought out 20 years ago.

I take this notebook from my pocket and begin to write; besides being enthusiastic and excited, do I also feel afraid? I stop, listen to the wind in the trees, reflect for a while, then write: “no, I am not afraid”. At this very moment I am a mixture of the mother giving birth to a baby and a father who finally accepts that his daughter is leaving home to live with her boyfriend.

“Do I think about how the reader is going to react?” I jot down in the notebook. Again I listen to the wind, and back comes the answer: of course I do! After all, I have put the best of myself there, and like anyone else I want my love to be understood. A great Dominican mystic of the 14th century known as Master Eckhart once said: “I am a man, and it is part of human nature to share this with other men.” All that I have looked at, seen and felt on my stroll from the hotel to this castle are attempts to share a little of each of our views of life. The tiles on the facades of the houses, the designs in the Cathedral of Holy Mary Major, the silence of the people at prayer, the man playing his accordion on a hilly street, alien to everything going on around him. Artisans of the past and the present, all trying to say: here is what I think, this is how I am.

Five days ago, autumn began in Europe, although the weather is still warm. But winter will be coming, the cold will probably be implacable, and the trees that at the moment are laden with leaves will sigh in sadness when they fall. They will probably say: “we’ll never be the same again”.

Just as well. Or else, what would be the point of renewal? The next leaves will have their own personality, they will belong to a new summer that is coming and that will never be the same as the summer that has passed.

Living is changing – that is the lesson that the seasons teach us. I too am changed by the new leaves of each new book. Would it be a bit arrogant to say that I do not need to prove anything else to myself? It may not be arrogant, but it is certainly foolish. Although I already have a story to tell my grandchildren, if I have ever any, whoever lives off past successes has lost the meaning of life.

I look again at the Tagus and recall some lines by Fernando Pessoa:

The Tagus takes you out into the world. No-one ever thought about what lies beyond the river in my village. The river in my village does not make you think about anything; when you stand beside it, you’re just standing beside it.

These are the last hours in which the river in my village – my new book – belongs to me alone. And I shall try to stand beside it, without thinking of anything, just looking at Lisbon, listening to the bells, the dogs, the street cries, children laughing and tourists talking. I am like a child, and I am not ashamed to be so excited. I pray to God that He keeps me like that.