Mario Sabino is editor-in-chief of Brazil's weekly news magazine Veja, and author of the novel The Day I Killed My Father and the story collections The Anti-Narcissus and The Mouth of Truth, due for release in Brazil in March 2009.

A mouth full of pearly truth

He had been a father without teeth. Without teeth to sink any deep marks of paternal proscription into him (stand-in parents would do this); without teeth to grin at him in expressions of warmth (for which there is no surrogate). But without teeth, above all, because he had been minerally devoid of them since his youth. His thirty-two pearly whites (which lived on in a portrait) had been pulled from his arches, one by one – with a rude set of pliers – to contain an infectious disease. From his canines to his incisors, from his molars to his premolars, his mouth was left hollow, a slit of orphaned gums mocking the beauty that was soon to flee him. How handsome his father had been as a young man! A gallant, said the aunts, with movie-star looks, the cliché emphasized in his Mediterranean features. But the disease unuttered among the family (periodontitis, most probably) had assailed him, and thus his original dentition had gone. He had no choice but to use the removable kind.

Substitute sets of teeth are required to be perfect imitations. Firm bites are demanded, broad, anti-Gioconda smiles expected. Not the case with his father's prosthesis. Poor fitting, not enough glue é or else slippery gums é affirmed the fact that they were man-made. And from time to time the dentures would project out of his fleshy mouth, whiter still against his olive complexion. There wasn't an orthodontist around who could properly secure them é although there is some doubt as to whether he had truly consulted that many. Because, together with the loss of his teeth, he now suffered from the family curse of depression and neurosis. It was impossible to tell if there was a cause-effect relationship between his dental extinction and the flourishing of his psychological maladies. Whatever it was, judging from the circumstances there appeared to be a link. If not determinant, complementary.

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Translated by Alison Entrekin.



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