The Smallest Man in the World

By Jean Wyllys
Translated by John Keene

Less than two years ago, Ana Clara met a dwarf at that same spot in Avenida Sete de Setembro, near the entrance to Politeama. The first encounters were a mere coincidence. She was passing by in a car, he was trying his luck at a game of jogo do bicho. But after the day that Ana Clara decided to look at him, the encounters ceased being coincidences. The dwarf started waiting for her at that spot, on that exact weekday and at that hour. And Ana Clara, perhaps out of curiosity in the face of difference, did not modify her routine. Moreover, she insisted on looking for that one, whom she considered the smallest man in the world. Ana Clara thought at various points about having a conversation with a psychoanalyst about this fact, but she ceased being embarrassed. In terms of telling her husband, the owner of a network of video rental stores, she never got around to considering it. She kept inside all her doubts concerning those quick meetings, always at 10 a.m. on Wednesdays, when she would make her way to the Centro Histórico for research. “There are so many people who look at dwarves with fear, so why then did that one decide to take note of me?” she asked herself. Without a doubt, the dwarf was accustomed to fear, scorn and mockery from bigger people. But what led him to find himself planted on Avenida Sete every Wednesday was the very sentiment that humans have called “passion.” Or could it be that dwarves are prohibited from feeling passionate towards another human being who is not a dwarf?

Aiming to put a stop to those meetings, on one particular Wednesday Ana Clara changed the routine. She spent the morning in her home, in Pituba, and only at a late hour made her way to the Pelourinho. The dwarf, of course, was not to be found on his bench playing jogo do bicho. Ana Clara felt a strange sensation, a mixture of frustration, emptiness, and regret. The dwarf had stayed in the spot until 2 p.m., with his eyes turned towards every car that passed. On the evening of that same day, Ana Clara decided to drop by the office of her husband, in time to go directly back home. Before entering his office, and having already passed his secretary, Ana heard her husband say into the telephone: “In addition to the young gals, I also have some excellent stuff with a dwarf … He is a dwarf, with a huge tool … Of course, I guarantee that he’ll be a success … There’re three tapes, you can drop by tomorrow.” By the end of the conversation Ana Clara had already entered the room, in an uproar: “I don’t believe that you’re marketing porn films with dwarves! My God, what type of man are you, Mário? Where is your respect for human beings, your sense of misfortune? You don’t have the right to treat dwarves as if they were an aberration …” The husband argued that he was providing employment for dwarves, who in general did not find a place in this society, which privileged the beautiful image. “As a porn film actor, he earns almost pop-star-level attention, look,” he added, showing the cover of one of the films in which the lead was visible. Astonished, Ana Clara grew silent. She had just recognized, in the picture on the cover, the dwarf from Avenida Sete.


Jean Wyllys is a journalist, activist, member of Brazil’s Congress representing Rio de Janeiro, and the author of several books, including the award-winning collection Aflitos, from which these stories are drawn. A native of Alagoinhas, Bahia, he is the second openly gay Brazilian federal legislator.

John R. Keene is the author of Annotations , Seismosis , with artist Christopher Stackhouse, and the collection Counternarratives. He is the translator of Brazilian author Hilda Hilst’s novel Letters from a Seducer. He teaches at Rutgers University-Newark.