Mechanic’s novel isn’t a write-off till he says so

Ideas

Mechanic’s novel isn’t a write-off till he says so

Just before Christmas, a young man submitted a manuscript. It was the beginning of a remarkable story

It’s the end of the year now and I think we’re all ready for a break and a rest from wrangling and saying and arguing and worrying. Not everyone gets a break and not everyone can stop worrying, but I hope you can. I would like to present you, as my final offering of the year, with a Christmas story that makes me very happy.

Like all good Christmas stories it starts unhappily and ends well, and holds out the hope that perhaps nothing is ever truly lost and that sometimes miracles happen and everyone gets what they deserve. It goes like this:

In 1953 a young Portuguese man named José submitted a novel to a publishing house in Lisbon. He was nearly 30 years and a motor mechanic, and this was the first thing he had tried to write. He had been writing it for several years, coming home to his tiny flat after days spent in the workshop, up to his elbows in grease, plying a trade he thoroughly disliked. Night after night, deep into the small hours, he sat hunched at the tiny kitchen table, tapping away with two fingers at a secondhand typewriter whose letter r didn’t work...

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