The Inevitable Weakness of the Flesh

Hans Hofmann, Combinable Wall I and II, 1961
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By DANIEL BRAZIL*

Commentary on Wilson Gorj's Newly Released Book

One of the most provocative dares in contemporary literature is to jump the fence that separates fiction from reality, mixing narrative techniques that involve self-fiction, documentary reporting and first-person testimony. Sometimes it carries autobiographical traits, other times it is disguised by an omniscient narrator, and not infrequently the plot is exposed to the reader in anonymous letters, wills, recordings or even a conversation at the bar.

It takes a lot of skill to manage all these features without looking like a pastiche of famous works. There are several renowned authors who make use of these tricks, and even the Nobel Prize in 2022 awarded the Frenchwoman Annie Ernaux, whose work is marked by self-fiction. That is, no one is being transgressive by practicing a genre that has become a hallmark of this century. From Marguerite Duras to Lobo Antunes, from Cristóvão Tezza to Ricardo Lísias or Rita Carelli, the lives of authors are increasingly intertwined with their works, not forgetting to leave the door to fiction half-open.

And that is where the great difficulty lies: being creative in an increasingly congested field. Sometimes the way out is to look for an original language, although this too is a thorny path. A good argument is half the battle, and the time when the theorists of the new Roman they bet their chips on a story with no beginning or end. In the post-everything era, all cards are on the table, and the literary game can make use of any resource, even consecrated ones.

Wilson Gorj's recently released novel, The Inevitable Weakness of the Flesh, plays – seriously – with this jump-the-fence between genres. A short prologue reveals two friends at the bar, one of whom is writing a novel “with strong autobiographical traits”. Soon we enter part 1, narrated in third person. A linear, lean and well-resolved story that goes straight to the point: a man receives news of the death of his absent father, with whom he never had any contact.

The mother, who always isolated and protected him, is ending her days in an asylum, with Alzheimer's. Her father left a farm with an inheritance, and he is going to see the property, in the interior of São Paulo. Their four-year marriage is experiencing a moment of instability, with the woman wanting to have a child. The trip fosters new relationships, with the caretaker and his family, wife and daughter, his father's second wife, whom he never met in person, and even an ocelot that tries several times to steal a chicken from his backyard. It is the inevitable weakness of the flesh which, in the case of human beings, is understood as the temptation to carnal sin.

The plot is realistic and devoid of judgements, as it takes on wild contours. Before it looks like the plot of a global soap opera, a surprise: after 114 pages, a second part narrated in first person appears, giving a stylistic turn and assuming a confessional tone. We barely recover from the fence and, 30 pages later, an astonishing epilogue appears (or “an afterword in the form of an epilogue”) that confuses everything and sends us back to the prologue, as it is narrated by an editor.

Is it all true? Is it all a lie? Wilson Gorj, editor in real life, author of ingenious short stories (Dragons Bedtime Stories, 2012), debut in the long narrative (but not much, just over 150 pages) showing that he has a lot of bottle to sell. His writing is easy, apparently simple, but it contains pitfalls that enchant us when they are skillfully revealed.

The only author mentioned in the plot - and has an important role in the plot! – is Milan Kundera, and two parts of the book have epigraphs by the Czech author. It is clear that the title The Inevitable Weakness of the Flesh is an anthropophagic appropriation of The unbearable lightness of being. Without wanting to compare himself, Wilson Gorj leans on the shoulders of the giant to create a very original work, which will certainly tie a knot in the heads of his readers.

* Daniel Brazil is a writer, author of the novel suit of kings (Penalux), screenwriter and TV director, music and literary critic.

Reference


Wilson Gorj. The Inevitable Weakness of the Flesh. São Paulo, Penalux 2023, 162 pages (https://amzn.to/47y9gTa).


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