‘My God,’ I thought, completely absorbed by my role as astronaut stranded on a hostile planet, ‘I’ll never get inside this implacable city. It’s too big, too alien.’ I don’t think I’ll ever forget my ride in that car whose destination I’d forgotten or which at least had stopped mattering to me. I have to say the therapy did work over the long run, and it was perhaps at that moment when it began to work. It was also exactly then that I began to love Rio, falling flat on top of the hard nucleus of disconsolation it hides: that mixture, that inhumanity, probably transforms it into the most terribly human city in the world. Of course, I ended up living there for two years. Myriad times, later on, I traced that same route in both directions: on foot, on a bike, in my own car or other people’s cars, in taxis that no longer seemed headed directly to hell or limbo. Later I learned to call each neighbourhood by its own name, to recognize in each one the buildings and windows of friends, to recognize my favourite buildings, which were also friends – and there are so many beautiful buildings in Rio, the city with the most joyous architecture of the twentieth century.
more from Javier Montes at Granta here.