Monday, January 4, 2016

the last book I ever read (Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan, excerpt thirteen)

from Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan:

Jardim, for all is beauty, was a melancholy and fractious place. There were family feuds. There was a bearded woman, mentally impaired, always barefoot. In her youth she had been, I was told, sexually abused by men and boys. One night she fell off the cliff near the point, landing on the rocks in a sitting position, dead. Some people thought she had jumped. There was a young woman, bright and frustrated with village life, who angrily rebuked me for walking on the shore, under the cliffs, to Ponta Pequena. Her brother, she said, had been killed by falling rocks on that path. A cheap homemade sugarcane rum known as aguardente took a toll on the village, particularly on unemployed men.

The only really prosperous family seemed to be the Vasconcellos. They were the traditional overlords of Jardim. The family’s members all lived in Funchal now, or Lisbon, but they had run the place for centuries. All of Madeira had been divided up and handed out, complete with serfs and slaves, to factions and individuals on the lower half of the Portuguese crown’s long list of toadies. Old Jardimeiros remembered when villagers were required to carry priests and rich people up and down the mountains in hammocks. This was before the road was built down from Prazeres, in 1968. There had been a fat priest whose visits were particularly dreaded. And the island’s history only got darker the farther back you looked.

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