Elective Affinities


"After taking three huge, dark plastic binliners out to the street, he showered and prepared what he'd chosen as his reward – he actually put his yellow canvas folding chair out in the balcony and took a bottle of his favourite beer outside, a Mexican Dos Equis, part of a present that Jorge Alonso, the owner of an Irish pub in the Foz district, had given him – a dozen of those things – early in the spring. He popped it open and spent a second admiring the drink through the dark green bottle, before pouring it into a glass, because he knew having a beer is an uncalculated risk, a reckless act and an affront – first, you should remind yourself of the long tradition of brewing, years spent perfecting its fermentation, imagining the exact time the drink should be chilled before served." (A Sky Too Blue) "Alonso had put on his coat and walked down the stairs at the bar, leaving him alone to order a classic beer that was vaguely bitter, but only vaguely – a reddish brew. 'Reds have always been a part of my personal history,' he might say. Sinful redheads, wild redheads, troubled redheads, the obsessive redhead who walks across the stage looking to stir up a storm, the redhead in the movies and the redhead in the books. He wasn't sure if that was always the case: he'd met angelical redheads. And he enjoyed red beers, brews that sent off hints of caramel and made droplets of water roll down the outside of the glass." (The Sea in Casablanca) "All of that crossed his mind as he drank a Bush Ambrée, in its round, wide glass, the beer he saved for when he went to Bonaparte alone, enjoying its sweet finish, its chilled core, the trace of caramel lost between ancient fermentations." (Far From Manaus)


"That Brazilian, the lawyer, he left you a message, boss. And what does the message say, Isaltino? That he'll meet you at Bonaparte, in the Foz district. Bonaparte is my bar I know, but I've known you for years, boss. Apparently he's already... found out, boss. Must be because he's from Brazil." (A Capital Crime) "How long had he known this pub? How long had he sat at the bar in Bonaparte, at all sorts of hours in the night, after twilight, by the sea in the Foz district? How long had he known the owner, Jorge Alonso? How many times had Alonso helped him to the the door and gestured with an outstretched arm to where he'd parked the car, next to the strip of grass that ran through the middle of Brasil street?" (Far From Manaus) "In the evening, Bar Bonaparte was more than a quiet, tepid refuge when days grew hot; Jaime Ramos had spent most of his single years there, haunted by regrets, safe under what he felt to be the wisdom of Jorge Alonso, a discreet and understanding pub manager who'd bought the bar in the seventies from Sean O'Gradey, an Irishman who'd spent his life working in the Port wine trade, growing neither rich nor poor before retiring back to Dublin." (A Taste for Imperfection)


"Jaime Ramos took off his shoes, using his left foot to kick off his right shoe and his right heel to push off his left. Then he reached out for his cigars and picked a Gloria Cubana from Miami, a perfect knockoff of the Cuban Medaille d'Or, as mature as the very sun that shines on the Florida Keys. He played with it along his fingers, rolled it over nice and slow, imprinting the veins of the outermost leaves on his skin, until the rolled tobacco became an extension of his body, he surrendered to it as if it were a need, more than a need, an urge that gripped some part of his body." (A Crime in the Exhibition) "He opened the box and removed a cigar, a Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure No. 2. He'd had a light lunch, he hadn't smoked yet and he knew that, at least for a while, he'd have to smoke when no one was looking, like a man growing old before those who'll stay behind, healthy and eternal, minding their health and their eternity. The Epicure No. 2 defined what was and what wasn't a double corona, and he appreciated its volume, its humidity, its memory, its frailty, its soft oily wrapping that took him back to another time, another place, a place where the sun shone and night fell softly. He let half the match before he lit it. The first puff spoke to him. He listened to that deep, ethereal voice that carried a trace of sugar as it floated across the narrow balcony, he breathed in the faint scent of bark that still held onto a shadow of the land it came from. Finally, a note of cocoa and moist earth sailed around him. And he waited for something to happen while he was in that shelter." (The Sea in Casablanca) "During those moments, Jaime Ramos felt a comforting, bourgeois, tender stillness, instilled by the food and the scents that floated in from the restaurant's kitchen, by a woman's fingers searching for his, and by the yellowish smoke, mature and perfect, that contrasted with the bitter and belligerent taste of his regular cigars with dark wrappings, seventy eight euros for a box of twenty five Estrela robustos." (Far From Manaus) "But Jaime Ramos liked cigars that were too humid, mature, bitter tobacco with dark wrapping, He only smoked three or four habanos a month, after special dinners. His stock of Ramon Allones fluctuated a lot throughout the year, and when he found less than ten churchills in the box he usually kept in the pantry, in the dark, with a handmade humidor he'd brought with him from Mexico, he made up an excuse to go to Vigo, to El Mundo dei Puro, Ultramarinos SA. He chose them carefully, but he didn't prolong the event." (Far From Manaus)


"Some institutions should be beyond reproach. I don't mean God, Country and all that bullshit. No. John Ford, on the other hand... I don't take kindly to that kind of criticism against John Ford." (The Two Waters in the Sea) "And there was a collection of videos that were slowly being surpassed and replaced by DVDs, Fort Apache, Rio Bravo, a record collection he only listened to a couple of times a year, Augustín Lara, José Alfredo Jiménez, Ary Barroso, Ruben Blades, books that had survived every single suicide attempt, which were close to nothing in comparison with the thousands of tomes in Rosa's library." (Far From Manaus)

Cubillas and Boleros

"Isaltino de Jesus was there during that phase, he tried to convince him that it was time to get rid of assorted old memories, photos hanging on the wall, including a photo of Cubillas, signed by the Peruvian player himself, two empty bottles (a bottle of D. Pepe sherry and a bottle of Mexican beer he'd brought back from a trip), a box of Cuaba cigars and another of Trinidad cigars, the sleeve of an old record that used to play boleros by Agustín Lara and Cuco Sánchez, collected in honour of old songs such as himself, among other ancient trinkets, such as notes that had been hanging on the wall, football and movie tickets." (A Capital Crime) "The huge portrait of Cubillas had been carried along from office to office (a poster from a 1973 copy of Norte Desportivo), until its corners had been buried in sticky tape, but that was the picture that had followed inspector Jaime Ramos throughout all stages of his career, more so than the certificates from specialist training courses and commendations, which he kept in drawers as evidence of small transgressions committed to save his skin and his job." (The Sea in Casablanca) "Jaime Ramos turned around to face the bare wall at his side, as if it were the same wall from which Teofilo Cubillas had smiled down on him for years, and if he wasn't on that wall, he'd be on another one, in his old office, but there he'd be, Teofilo Cubillas, like a reminder of years gone by, of transfers to new offices, of his climb up the ranks. The poster had lost some of its colour, it was now a blue, white and gray blot hanging on the wall, Cubillas, his arms in the air, smiling after he'd scored a goal. Inspector Jaime Ramos could remember several other goals, but that one was enough, it was the only one he'd carried along from office to office, from room to room, from inquest to inquest, from summer to the start of every winter, and for the longest time people whispered, oh, he was sure of it, they whispered, 'there goes inspector Ramos with Cubillas's goal." (Far From Manaus)


"Beira is on the south bank, you know? In Beira they have roasts, simple stews, and soup, all sorts of soup to melt away the cold. And those flavours I don't like, the taste of almonds on the banks of the river Côa, where the ground is drier, sadder in the summer. In the Douro region, on the north bank of the river, you have a different perspective, you see the vineyards stretching down towards the water, as if they're searching for something in the river. You'll find that until you reach Pinhão, after you cross the Tua. Beyond that point, it all starts to look samey, I know. But that's precisely where you start finding the food I like. And that's where you're from. That's the point. That is the point. You should stand by a place, even if it has nothing going for it, and then you should make a couple of strong arguments for it. Like I just did." (The Two Waters in the Sea) "Rosa was asleep. Everything had gone quiet when the car rolled across the bridge over the Douro river and past the first village, first Foz do Sabor, then Pocinho, followed by the lights shining high atop the xyst cliffs on the other side, Lousa, Santo Amaro, Mós, Foz Côa. The smell of vineyards rose sweetly from deep in the valleys, goodbye wasteland, dovecotes on the hills, scraps of pinkish sky, heat waves that lingered after nightfall. Lookout points. Abandoned, ruined chapels." (Far From Manaus)


"He stripped down methodically. He started by taking off his jacket and hanging it on the hook just inside the door. Already sitting down on the edge of his bed, he proceeded to kick off his shoes. He removed the t-shirt he usually slept in, pulled off his trousers, rose slightly to get rid of his underwear, peeled off his socks and arranged them neatly next to his shoes, without taking the Cogiva away from his lips, where it burned slowly as if it were the only living presence in that place, since he felt he wasn't a part of life, a part of anyone's day, a part of anyone's story." (A Sky Too Blue)

Detective Jaime Ramos by Francisco José Viegas