The Invisible Passage

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By DANIEL BRAZIL*

Commentary on the book of short stories by Chico Lopes

Chico Lopes is a prolific writer, with several titles published. A renowned short story writer, he has also experimented with novels, poetry, chronicles and literary and cinematographic criticism, in addition to translating classics such as Henry James and Hawthorne.

A curious fact of his biography is the fact that he was born and lived in small towns in the interior, such as Novo Horizonte, Brotas or Poços de Caldas. This did not prevent him from accumulating a cosmopolitan knowledge, mainly reflected in his critical activity. On the other hand, he is a determinant of the universe where his characters asphyxiated through narrow horizons, dark streets, decadent bars and a certain pessimism in relation to life.

Chico has already confessed, in an interview, that his literature talks about losers, marginalized people. Even if he lived in a megalopolis, it is very likely that the focus would be the same, as this is an aesthetic and philosophical posture in relation to the world that has already yielded several classics of world literature.

Chico Lopes' writing does not use modern tricks, does not depend on electronic devices, is not made for quick and disposable consumption. In his short stories, since he published his first book, he delves into the most tortuous paths of the human soul, treading ground where the sordid and the sublime can germinate side by side. He read the Russians, the French, he read Machado and Graciliano, and distilled from these masters the essence that animates his narratives.

The Invisible Passage (Original Orange, 2019) brings together eight short stories, the last being almost a novel, with 46 pages. Dense and tense stories, where the underlying violence sometimes explodes in a bloody way, whether through uncontrollable jealousy, silent revolt against fate or institutional brutality.

A superb example of the latter situation is the admirable tale White Christmas, where a man is chased by two policemen for the “abominable” gesture of having urinated on a tree. The consequences of this act reach unusual proportions, in an anguishing crescendo that is second to none of the best suspense writers, with a highly impactful outcome that rivals the best moments of Rubem Fonseca.

In this, as in other stories, there is also something of Kafka. The aim is not just to distract the reader with a good story, but to unsettle him, in a more existential sense. The characters are oppressed by circumstances, fear, anguish, abandonment, and it is in the exploration of these situations that Chico Lopes' literature grows, occupying an essential niche in the panorama of contemporary Brazilian literature.

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

Reference

Chico Lopes. The Invisible Passage. Editora Orange Original, 2019 (https://amzn.to/3QHuesu).

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