Now they were starting. Finality ran through the train, an exhalation. There were thuds, hoots, whistles, and the shrieks of late arrivals. From a megaphone, announcements were incomprehensible in American and Japanese. Before the train had moved at all, the platform faces receded into the expression of those who remain.
Leith sat by a window, his body submissively chugging as they got under way. He would presently see that rain continued to fall on the charred suburbs of Tokyo, raising, even within the train, a spectral odour of cinders. Meanwhile, he was examining a photograph of his father. Aldred Leith was holding a book in his right hand – not reading, but looking at a likeness of his father on the back cover.
It was one of those pictures, the author at his desk. In an enactment of momentary interruption, the man was half-turned to the camera, left elbow on blotter, right hand splayed over knee. Features fine and lined, light eyes, one eyelid drooping. A taut mouth. Forehead full, full crop of longish white hair. The torso broad but spare; the clothes unaffected, old and good. As a boy, Leith had wondered how his father could always have good clothes so seldom renewed – a seeming impossibility, like having a perpetual two days' growth of beard.
The expression, not calm but contained, was unrevealing. Siding with the man, the furniture supplied few clues: a secretary of dark wood was fitted in its top section with pigeonholes and small closed drawers. This desk had been so much part of the climate of family life, indivisible from his father's moods – and even appearing, to the child, to generate them – that the son had never until now inspected it with adult eyes. For that measure of detachment, a global conflict had been required, a wartime absence, a voyage across the world, a long walk through Asia; a wet morning and strange train.
Shirley Hazzard nasceu na Austrália em 1931. Hoje é cidadã americana. Além de ficção, escreveu ensaios. Recebeu o National Book Critics Circle Award em 1980 pelo romance The Transit of Venus.
O fragmento acima é retirado do seu romance mais recente, The Great Fire. Publicado em 2003, recebeu o National Book Award nesse ano e integrou a lista de finalistas do Orange Prize de 2004. É um livro extraordinário, num inglês clássico, profundo, inteligente, um daqueles livros que nos fazem crescer. É ainda uma história de amor belíssima. É o meu livro do ano de 2004.
Fica como a minha prenda para todos. Com o desejo de que 2005 seja um ano feliz.