The longevity of Spartacus

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By WALNICE NOGUEIRA GALVÃO*

From the book Spartacus from Howard Fast to the film directed by Stanley Kubrick and starring Kirk Douglas

For someone who lived two thousand years ago and left behind only wisps of allusions in Latin texts, Spartacus, the leader of a rare slave revolt in Antiquity, shows signs of unrepentant vitality.

His well-deserved recognition as a libertarian icon has a lot to do with this. Even counting Haiti and certain anti-colonialist uprisings, plus Palmares and other quilombos, there are not that many successful slave insurrections in all of history – despite the fact that they were annihilated with iron and fire. And with the reinforcement of many crucifixions, this infamous death sentence was Rome's favorite torture.

A happy meeting took place between Spartacus and a communist as stubborn as he was reckless, the American Howard Fast (1914-2003), winner of the Stalin Peace Prize. Just look at the title he gave to his autobiography: Being red. He would only abdicate his loyalty after the 1956th Congress of the Communist Party, which denounced Stalin's crimes, in 1951. A victim of McCarthyism at the beginning of the Cold War, he refused to denounce his comrades and was sentenced to three months in prison for contempt. There he began to write the story of Spartacus, published by himself in XNUMX, because, due to the witch hunt, no publisher had the manliness to finance it.

Disgraceful behavior was so numerous at this time that Lillian Hellman would title her memoir The time of scoundrels. She experienced all of this from within, as her companion Dashiel Hammett, a renowned author of detective novels such as The Maltese Falcon e Red harvest, was one of those who recalcitred and enjoyed jail. He is the creator of detective Sam Spade, played by Humphrey Bogart on screen.

The book Spartacus tells the romanticized biography of the gladiator slave who challenged the Roman Empire for many years, managing to spread the insurrection and defeating, according to contemporary chroniclers, nine legions, from 71 BC onwards. W.

Howard Fast was a prolific author of best-sellers, of no greater importance, but which sold a lot. His list of titles is endless, as he wrote novels, short stories, historical books, manuals and even detective stories. In these, he used pseudonyms, calling himself EV Cunningham in two winning series, one with women's names and the other with Beverly Hills detective Masao Masuto. He did everything in life and was a screenwriter for TV mini-series.

Another happy meeting took place with Aram Khachaturian, a Russian composer of Armenian origin. Only in the Soviet Union could a ballet, as beautiful as this, emerge in honor of the unsubmissive slave, a proletarian hero. The ballet premiered in 1954, won the Lenin Prize and had great success, appearing in repertoires across the planet. As a highlight, it was danced among us by the Bolshoi at the Ibirapuera Gymnasium, in São Paulo. Your adage, Beautiful romantic melody that brings to life the protagonist's loves, ended up becoming an independent song, recorded by countless artists in different arrangements and languages.

Luckily, Hollywood actor Kirk Douglas fell in love with Spartacus and kept the flame of the slave saga alive, which he would carry on and produce in the cinema, playing the protagonist himself. In the book of memories I am Spartacus, the actor says he made a point of hiring screenwriter Dalton Trumbo. The film is from 1960.

Another auspicious meeting took place with Stanley Kubrick, who was barely beginning his brilliant career. One of the greatest directors cinema has ever had, he created landmark works such as Dr. Fantastic, A Clockwork Orange, The Shining, 2001 – A Space Odyssey, Lolita etc. The film was a hit at the box office and is still being replayed to this day. The script, as we have seen, was given to a famous Hollywood writer, also on the blacklist, Dalton Trumbo, a member of the Group of Ten, made up of directors and screenwriters who refused to inform on colleagues. For this, he served 11 months in prison. He would write a number of scripts under false names. And he would win an Oscar under a pseudonym, which he couldn't receive in person, of course. He preferred to live in Mexico and remain patient until he was rehabilitated.

The film received four Oscars and several other awards such as Golden Globe, Bafta etc.

And so Spartacus began to survive.

*Walnice Nogueira Galvão Professor Emeritus at FFLCH at USP. She is the author, among other books, of reading and rereading (Sesc\Ouro over Blue). [amzn.to/3ZboOZj]


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