Letter to Henrique de Senna Fernandes

Epistolarium (12)

Aurelio Porfiri

Dear Sir,

I was delighted to read your books and novels. You are certainly one of the few talented writers in the history of Macau. I read your articles about the beginning of cinemas in Macau and I can really feel the flavor of decades and decades ago.

But the novel that most struck my attention was a novel where you were speaking about Rua da Felicidade, a street that today is just a nice location for tourists but many many years ago was a place where pretty ladies received men to give them pleasures. I did not say pleasure, but pleasures because these girls were there not only to please the men’s needs but also to sing and play for them, laugh with them and more. They were sort of Geisha. Now, I am not the one who should be a defendant of the “oldest job on earth” but I have to say that your novel and description of that time was charming and give us a more authentic Macau then the fake opulence of today’s casinos. That Macau of Portuguese merchants, sing-song girls, priests and fishermen, sin and redemption was a metaphor of what every life is, a travel that holds not promises but attempts. Dostoyevsky says it very well in The Brothers Karamazov: “Man cannot commit a sin so great as to exhaust the infinite love of God”. Yes, we are always going to heaven backwards, as Cardinal Newman used to say.  That Macau that you described, a Macau no longer existing, still can resonate with its own authenticity.  Still Dostoyevsky can offer help: “Believe that God loves you as you cannot conceive; that he loves you with your sin, in your sin.” What a beautiful image! The American writer Ambrose Bierce has a nice line when he says that “One thing that civilization certainly has not done is to make us intelligent enough to understand that the contrary of a virtue is not necessarily a vice” (A Cynic Look at Life). If God loves us in our sins, I can imagine he would look with indulgence on the weakness of the men and women of Rua da Felicidade, yesterday and today. I am not saying that a sin is not a sin, indeed a sin becomes less sinful when you know that is something wrong. Why is that? Because if you know that is right and wrong, you still know that there is an entity that can be accounted for moral decisions. Even if you are sinful, when you know and recognize that you are, God is still in your radar. Certainly it would be better not to be sinful, but we are weak and God knows this, because he has created us.

Rua da Felicidade … how many times passing there I think about your novel and look at those red houses, now empty and just there for the selfies of unsuspecting tourists.  I think about your novel and then in my mind think about sin, redemption, mercy and grace. I think about that “good fight” that is Christian existence, divided between the dust and the crown.

Aurelius scripsit

Featured image: Carmo Correia in Revista Macau

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