“The Pathway of Snails” by Ivar Corceiro


Photo: “Snails on the road”, uploaded from Google 

Translation (from Ivar Corceiro’s original version in Portuguese “O Caminho dos Caracóis”) by Cláudia de Sousa Dias

Coming from the underground station of Sofiska Sveta Gora towards the building where I work at, a wound of concrete rips a path along some fields where plants are spreading in a chaotic, random way. As the tube passes by, spewing anonymous workers, one can see people walking along that wound, queuing, like isolated elephant herds.

I am, sometimes, one of those elephants: I always stare at the ground, trying not to step any one of these snails which struggle to flee from the dawn’s wetness. But not everyone is that careful, and that’s why one can hear the cracking of a shell once in a while. This trip usually lasts about twelve minutes, during which I’m chatting to the ones I miss most, within an inner silence, that belongs to no one but me and them.

Any time you buy a one way ticket to another country, you’re not simply travelling trough the distance, but also, and mainly, through ourselves. I’m now much more aware of myself than I was two months ago. I am now aware of how I react to solitude and to the “saudade”. I know now how to face that occasional hostility that sometimes comes out from a stranger and how to warm up in the kindness of someone else’s smile – I know now how I grieve without crying or how to smile without laughing; and I know most of all, who are the ones that constitute that part of me that remained in Portugal.

In a way, our body is as vital as energy and this is why chatting on my phone or through “messenger” can not erase the “saudade”. It helps, but it can make it vanish. The body here belongs to other people. Voices, gestures and smells always belong to others, because Bulgaria is still a country where people are other. The others.

When I once was a child, long ago, when I could never imagine myself one day moving to Bulgaria, I used to play that bottle cap game, with other children from my neighbourhood, in the backyard of an isolated building at Aveiro, in a very similar concrete path to this one where I am now passing by. By that time, João had once started to crush some snails whilst singing some tune I can’t remember. I hit him. And he hit me back. I’ve never seen him again, yet I still now he does not belong to that group of “others” that I’m referring to here. He belongs to those I call “mine”, and this is the first time I have this absurd feeling of belonging to a homeland.

I will also feel it towards Bulgaria, sooner or later. I perceived it from the instant I received a phone call from a stranger offering me a room when I was more economically vulnerable. I realised it with the first time a woman held me in her arms in one of those central parks of the town and also in the smile of the lady clerk of the Ministry of Interior, who helped me in filling the forms of the Immigration Services.

When you’re alone, every sign of kindness is a gold nugget that you find, and no matter how tiny it is, you can never forget it. I think about all this in a the morning, whilst avoiding one more snail to whom I wish luck with the treading of the elephants that keep walking after me. We are all so small and it is so easy to be crushed that in the end one should bear in mind that this is what really unites us all.

Final Note from the Author: I have no internet but in my phone and that’s the reason why I haven’t written more often in this blog It is not easy to type. I’ll try to do it more frequently.

Find the original post in Portuguese here:



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