LEDA CATUNDA, Window with Frills, 1989, acrylic on synthetic leather, wood and plastic, 220x145cm


Commentary on the recently published book by Marcelo Ridenti

Literary, musical, theatrical works and films that thematize historical and political conjunctures – in which the left were active – are known in Brazilian cultural production.

Arrigo, a fictional work, recently released by Boitempo Editorial, is distinguished from all others in that it addresses the ideological confrontations, social and political struggles and democratic resistance carried out by leaders and political movements of the Brazilian lefts throughout the XNUMXth century and in the first decades of the present century. As evidenced by some of the situations experienced by the central figure of the novel, these combats sometimes even have an internationalist dimension (civil war in Spain, anti-fascist resistance in France and the Carnation Revolution in Portugal). Arrigo is not just one; on the lefts all over the world, thousands are the Arrigos.

Since he was a boy, when initiated by his anarchist uncle, Arrigo, with open heart and without hesitation, faced the challenges that life presented him with, whether political or emotional. From his youth, he became a tireless communist militant of many political battles and frequent love conquests. In Brazil and abroad, he experienced frequent defeats, frustrations and disappointments on the political and affective level, but he never let his guard down or unscathed his weapons. For him, the class struggle and conflicts on the level of affections were always open and would be incomplete. No personal or political defeat or frustration will be final. Starting over will always be possible.

The extensive and comprehensive internal historical and political scenario of the novel are the lieutenant revolts, the formation of the Brazilian Communist Party, the performance of the ANL, the Revolution of 1930, the struggle for basic reforms in the 1960s, the 1964 coup, the dictatorship military and armed struggle; briefly, the novel exposes the dilemmas and impasses experienced by the left in the period of redemocratization.

Due to the breadth of researched themes and literary quality, Arrigo, in my view, becomes one of the most relevant Brazilian political fictional works. Written by a competent analyst and discerning researcher on the intellectual production of the Brazilian left, this book, from now on, will establish itself as an essential reading of the political literature in the country.

Through clear and cultivated writing, fluent narrative, ironic and creative language, the work is thought-provoking and engaging in consistently and accurately thematizing the challenges, contradictions, anxieties, hopes and dramas faced by women and men who, in Brazil and other parts of the world, rebel against oppression, discrimination and social inequalities imposed by the bourgeois order.

Arrigo it is a novel that does not slip into pamphleteering, doctrinalism or sectarianism prevalent in certain political literature of a humanist or moralizing nature. It is critical, but, above all, committed and supportive of the struggles of men and women who do not submit to order. Men and women, however, never idealized or heroized, as their political projects are always subject to doubts, misunderstandings and uncertainties.

Perhaps the final sequences of the book – the disheartening and cruel life outcomes of several companions on the journey; the recurrent metaphors of rubble and destruction; the confinement of the narrator himself in the haunted apartment of a decaying building and the distressing and enigmatic silence of the old warrior (“alive” or “dead”?) – would be evidence, after all, of an irremediably lost battle…

Such feelings of dismay, skepticism and defeat, perhaps, are aroused in the reader; but, in my view, on the whole, Arrigo it is nonetheless a tribute to women and men whose lives and actions are fully identified with the words of the combative German communist poet: "Who fights, can lose. Those who don't fight, have already lost”.

* Gaius Navarro of Toledo he is a retired professor at Unicamp and a member of the editorial committee of the marxismo21 website. He is the author, among other books, of Iseb: Factory of ideologies(Rile up).


Marcelo Ridenti. Arrigo. São Paulo, Boitempo, 2023, 256 pages (

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