Published by Europa Editions
Publication date: May 3rd 2016
Armando is a seventy-year-old highly esteemed psychiatrist in São Paulo and the narrator of Sergio Y. He is writing because of a patient he had many years ago—a seventeen-year-old boy who came to see him for several months but abruptly ended their sessions without explanation after returning from vacation in New York City. The boy’s name is Sergio and through a chance encounter with his mother a few years later, Armando learns that he now lives in NYC, has become a chef and will soon be opening his own restaurant. It is shocking, a few weeks later, to learn from the newspaper that Sergio has been murdered. Armando attends the funeral in São Paulo and as he leaves
Suddenly, I had the impression that my hands were stained with blood. I felt blood on my palms, nails, and in-between my fingers.
This unease persists and Armando becomes obsessed with Sergio’s death. Through contacts in NYC he tries to gain more information about what happened to the young man, only to learn there is no record of a Sergio Yacoubian dying, only a Sandra Yacoubian. This knowledge throws Armando into a personal and professional crisis. How could Sergio have been troubled by such a vital issue and never have mentioned it once in therapy? The boy had talked of being unhappy and of having felt that way for most of his life, but he never elaborated nor did he seem unduly depressed. Now, beyond the death of a former patient, Armando begins to question his own value and ability to help his patients.
Author Alexandre Vidal Porto writes Sergio Y. with the clinical detachment one would expect from a doctor’s report. Porto uses this emotional distance to outline the story but within Armando’s notes it becomes clear that he is struggling with how he missed the single most important piece of Sergio’s identity and sadness. It isn’t until he goes to NYC and meets with the therapist who worked with Sergio prior to his transition that he learns that Sergio credited Armando with having given him the means to seek happiness as his true self.
It’s hard to say that a novel that contains the murder of a character is one of hope, but that is exactly what Porto conveys in Sergio Y. Is there sadness because Sandra is killed? Of course. But had she found great happiness in shedding a false identity that caused her pain? Yes. Sergio Y. is a slim novel, written with simple prose but Porto’s message is one of depth. He goes beyond the page and to what is in the heart, reconciling what we hope to do in life with what we have done.
By expanding my medical knowledge I could become a better human being. I thought that was the way out: the doctor in me had to save the person in me.