Image: Jenny Olsson


Commentary on the novel by Marcelo Ridenti

“In the context of Marxism, the connection between literature and society is not an audacity, it is an obligation” (Roberto Schwarz).

Intellectuals of academic origin, sometimes, when they make their passage to the territory of art, amaze, with their knowledge, the letters by producing works that have a bolder thematic repertoire, because, perhaps, as a symptom of the daily profession, they lead to textual production literary not only as an exercise in style, but, in addition, they also reposition it as a project of invention.

Marcelo Ridenti, professor of sociology at Unicamp, known for his studies on the social history of the left in Brazil, made his debut in literature with the novel Arrigo (Boitempo), and, in addition, produced a novelty in the national literary scene, which has shown little affection for audacious works. Thoughtful or not, Arrigo is one of the rare Brazilian dialectical novels of the XNUMXst century.

This peculiar characteristic of the final result of presentation of Arrigo for readers, which seems to be essential for its interpretation and fruition, it is not perceived as an intellectual stubbornness in repeating the knowledge of science in art. Marcelo Ridenti composes the novel with imaginative mastery and if the dialectical format transpires in the text as an artistic gain, it is not because it is a mere professorial experimentation of its possibilities. Well, what is at stake is that Marcelo Ridenti is a sophisticated author of fiction, and his professor's erudition is at the service and command of an artist's pen, despite the technical knowledge of a scientist, present throughout the novel, delighting us in reading in addition to the fun of fantasy entertainment, but also for the ability to teach about lesser known historical themes, in which the author transits so well.

It is curious that the most important dialectical novels of the XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries in the country are structured as “memories”, and Arrigo, if it does not have this pretension in the title, it is architected, in the strategic narrative mode, also as a fiction of memories.

It was Antonio Candido who played Memorias de um sargento de milicias (1854), by Manuel Antônio de Almeida, in his essay “Dialética da malandragem”, as a novel that operates the dialectic between order and disorder. Without making a pastiche of the philosophical and sociological tradition of dialectics, our critic plotted an original critique of this novel that explained the contradictions of the XNUMXth century itself, especially in the urban environment of Rio de Janeiro, based on the encounter of dialectics in the literary structure of the novel, "in the law of his intrigue".

And, without fuss, he identified in the main character, Leonardinho, the figure of the trickster, who, despite not being rogue like in the European tradition, represented, in his own way, a mode of urban social traffic, a ginga in life, proper to the social classes. social conditions that were remedied in the Brazilian capital system at the time. Through Antonio Candido's dialectical essay, which inaugurated here a materialist critique that departed from the literary work to reach a context, we understand how Manuel Antônio de Almeida's novel, elaborated in fictional form, illustrated the social reality of the Brazilian urban environment of your time. Antonio Candido's critical text implied the novel at the same time that it explained Brazil.

When Oswald de Andrade, in the experimentation proper to modernism, wrote Sentimental memories of João Miramar (1924), wrote the first dialectical novel of the XNUMXth century. Because there was almost an imposture in narrating the life of the bourgeois character from São Paulo, heir to the coffee culture, through a literary form that was absolutely averse to classic bourgeois narratives. A mixture of genres, which ranged from poems to journalistic articles, among others, appeared in brief fragments, the chapters, and operated the dialectic between the literary form of composition and the life of the traditional bourgeois in an extremely unusual way, proper to the aspirations of revolution. art of modernism.

It was a novel that also explained the contradictions of an era and that contained, in the internal format of its difficult and revolutionary structure, the very essence of its main character's bourgeois decadence. A book that captured the passage of Brazilian social and political reality from coffee culture in transition to a modern Brazil. So, of course, it was a fiction that had an obligation to be less well-behaved.

Marcelo Ridenti, a scholar of the theoretical and revolutionary history of the left in Brazil, famously had to deal with dialectics, a theme dear to Marxist traditions, in his academic life. But, without being a thesis book, obviously, Arrigo is realized as a dialectical literary work through an intricate and efficient way, which, without being boring, even allows the sociologist to rescue the historical process of the leftist struggles in Brazil as the material ground through which the theme unfolds over time. throughout the novel.

On a visit to the apartment of comrade Arrigo, the main character who is composed of fantasy and real historicity and who lends the novel its title, the narrator ends up being stuck at home and decides, as in a storytelling in flashback, finish an old project: to narrate the adventures and misadventures of Arrigo, the old leftist militant who participated, in several different ways, in almost all the struggles and revolts that took place in the XNUMXth century in the country and abroad.

Arrigo lies inert in a rocking chair, perhaps alive or perhaps dead, a reproduction of a Delacroix canvas ornaments the room, Liberty leading the people, the entrance door to the residence is stuck and, all this, produces in the narrator more than the desire to tell a little about Arrigo's life, but the perfect opportunity to organize the memories of a singular character, who he admired as much as piqued his curiosity.

Well, Arrigo would have participated, in the logic of an anonymous supporting role in history, from the general strike of 1917, in São Paulo, to the episodes of the tragic manifestation of conservative and right-wing thought at the beginning of the 1935st century in Brazilian politics and society. The character would have been a historical witness and a hopeful combatant in the communist attempt of 1964, in the international brigades in Spain, in the French resistance during the Second World War, in the confrontation of Getúlio's dictatorship, in the fight against the military dictatorship established here from from XNUMX.

But, in the construction of the character Arrigo, which can well be thought of as a tribute to a real personality of our most combative Brazilianness, comrade Apolônio de Carvalho, what seems to draw attention is not, in any way, a proposition in which he be a symbol of anything. Perhaps, the most used figure of speech to characterize Arrigo is not his metaphorical perspective, but rather his metonymic breadth.

There were and there are many “Arrigos” in this country. Lots of unknown people who fought hopefully against the forms of oppression so characteristic of capitalism in underdevelopment. Arrigo, the individual character of whom the story is told, is the fictional representation of a collective, the many comrades who passionately participated in the same disease: a desire for freedom and a sense of equality among men.

This dialectic between the personal and the collective, which in the inventive composition of the specific character expresses the whole set of comrades forgotten by history, organizes a way of telling memories in which revolutionary passions, family life, the logic of work and even the More specific loving affections are transformed, despite manifesting themselves as private memories, in the movement of the collective life experience of the anonymous swallowed up by capital. And without being a symbolic character of anything, which we can easily find in many novels, Arrigo is a character of synthesis, in which in the individual path we can find the cadence of the history of a collectivity.

And this is how, from the individual and personal subjectivity of a single man, Arrigo, through his memoirs, we move on to the objectivity of the social history of Brazil, especially the leftist struggles, and the dialectic proposes the construction of the particular to the universal. This is one of the modes of construction of the novel by which Professor Marcelo Ridenti re-proposes the technical memory of a social scientist as an inventive formal elaboration of a fiction writer. In the rhythm of this artistic work, we move from literature to social reality, and not the other way around.

 The history of dialectics in human thought is long, full of conceptualizations and twists and turns, and it is not a closed and exhausted term, ready for use. An elusive concept that starts there with Aristotle, is treated as a fallacy in Kant, is a logical and ontological explanation of the world in Hegel, and turned inside out by Marx, conforms both the relationship of ideas with the materiality of things, a scientific method and the very path of the development of history. In art, of course, it has other modes of appearance and more authorial ways of reverberating because it springs, in works, from human fantasy, from the inventiveness of bringing a subjective imaginary to the eyes of third parties.

However, if there are two more permanent characteristics in the tradition of this concept, without a doubt, they orbit around the idea of ​​opposition, sometimes contradiction, and the relationship between the particular and the universal.

Marcelo Ridenti's novel follows the history of Brazil, shows the movement of oppositions at play in politics, society and culture in the XNUMXth century, a material narrative of our history, but it is proposed as a dialectical work not because it explains our country's itinerary through the opposition between the revolutionary forces and the oppressive forces that took place here, but rather for transforming “history” into “story” and providing the formal aspect of the text with the back-and-forth compass that explains and stuns us.

And without demonstrating for sure if it is the Brazilian context that produced the man Arrigo, or if it is the Arrigos of the country that make up and make our history possible, Marcelo Ridenti plays with the relationship between the particular and the universal by proposing the memories of a character as excuse and reason to discuss the nation's memories.

The inert Arrigo, perhaps alive, perhaps dead, thus becomes one of the most potent findings in the book. If our story is not over yet, which is certain, the inertia of the character, which we believe will not be resolved unequivocally until the end of the work, can point both to the eclipse of revolutionary passions, a pessimistic view against those who fight against power, as for a glimmer of hope that our fighting heroes have not yet died.

The best thing, in this case, is to hope that Arrigo is just resting, in the well-deserved drowsiness of someone who has achieved a lot, but who is ready to get up from the rocking chair if an emergency call is needed.

*Rodrigo Suzuki Cintra He is a professor at the Faculty of Law of Universidade Paulista (Unip).


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

the earth is round exists thanks to our readers and supporters.
Help us keep this idea going.

See this link for all articles


  • About artificial ignoranceEugenio Bucci 15/06/2024 By EUGÊNIO BUCCI: Today, ignorance is not an uninhabited house, devoid of ideas, but a building full of disjointed nonsense, a goo of heavy density that occupies every space
  • Franz Kafka, libertarian spiritFranz Kafka, libertarian spirit 13/06/2024 By MICHAEL LÖWY: Notes on the occasion of the centenary of the death of the Czech writer
  • The society of dead historyclassroom similar to the one in usp history 16/06/2024 By ANTONIO SIMPLICIO DE ALMEIDA NETO: The subject of history was inserted into a generic area called Applied Human and Social Sciences and, finally, disappeared into the curricular drain
  • Impasses and solutions for the political momentjose dirceu 12/06/2024 By JOSÉ DIRCEU: The development program must be the basis of a political commitment from the democratic front
  • Strengthen PROIFESclassroom 54mf 15/06/2024 By GIL VICENTE REIS DE FIGUEIREDO: The attempt to cancel PROIFES and, at the same time, turn a blind eye to the errors of ANDES management is a disservice to the construction of a new representation scenario
  • Introduction to “Capital” by Karl Marxred triangular culture 02/06/2024 By ELEUTÉRIO FS PRADO: Commentary on the book by Michael Heinrich
  • Hélio Pellegrino, 100 years oldHelio Pellegrino 14/06/2024 By FERNANDA CANAVÊZ & FERNANDA PACHECO-FERREIRA: In the vast elaboration of the psychoanalyst and writer, there is still an aspect little explored: the class struggle in psychoanalysis
  • Volodymyr Zelensky's trapstar wars 15/06/2024 By HUGO DIONÍSIO: Whether Zelensky gets his glass full – the US entry into the war – or his glass half full – Europe’s entry into the war – either solution is devastating for our lives
  • The strike at federal Universities and Institutescorridor glazing 01/06/2024 By ROBERTO LEHER: The government disconnects from its effective social base by removing those who fought against Jair Bolsonaro from the political table
  • PEC-65: independence or patrimonialism in the Central Bank?Campos Neto Trojan Horse 17/06/2024 By PEDRO PAULO ZAHLUTH BASTOS: What Roberto Campos Neto proposes is the constitutional amendment of free lunch for the future elite of the Central Bank