Excerpts selected by the author of the newly released novel

I present to the readers of the site the earth is round brief excerpts from my debut novel, Arrigo (Boitempo). I revisit through fiction one hundred years of the history of the Brazilian left, plotted in the trajectory of Arrigo and his companions in the country and in exile, in a mixture of realism and fantasy.

1917 - A mouse

Who ever killed a mouse? You can trap him in a mousetrap and throw him in the tank to drown him. Also douse it with fuel and set its tail on fire, then release it to run like hell towards its death. Some children enjoyed themselves in this way, taking out on the mouse the humiliations and suffering they went through in the factory and at home; or perhaps it was sheer unwarranted meanness. Better a cat, less disgusting animal.

More enjoyable: crushing the mouse with your foot, cornering it against the wall. Squeeze hard enough so he doesn't run away, without slaughtering him right away. Then slowly squeeze, feel your bones slowly break under the shoe, one crack at a time, amid the grunts of despair, until blood oozes from every orifice, soft flesh under the shoe, with technique, to avoid the dirt of the guts on the sole.

Soldiers were once children, they remain humiliated, now under the uniform and with the weapons that distinguish them from the people from below their origins, freed to put the dick on them. Delight was evident on the policeman's face, whose boot slowly pressed the Arrigo boy's chest to the ground in that cold July night.

1924 – Uprising in São Paulo

It was in this atmosphere of celebration and revolution, real or imaginary, enraptured by the drink of the gods, that Arrigo took Carmen's hands and pulled her to him at the foot of the stairs, kissing her for the first time. Then the second, the third and many more, uncertain as a drunk. Carmen didn't even think about screaming or calling anyone. She was enchanted with Arrigo, his fine manners, his good looks, his lustful gaze. She had never entered a house as big and beautiful as his, in such an upscale neighborhood, not even when she was called to help in the kitchen or to work cleaning other dwellings. She soon realized that the boy was fiery, but inexperienced, and the feeling of being a teacher gave her pleasure. What a student! She learned quickly.

Arrigo never forgot the days they spent together in the occupied house, before his father returned to take it back and put an end to the party, furious above all over the robbery of the cellar.

To the loser, the bananas

Arrigo recalled the episode of his visit to Machado de Assis many years later, when he was used in the campaign to free the former secretary, arrested after the 1964 coup. Veteran Astrojildo Pereira was no longer a powerful communist, just a man who loved writer, like so many others in the government at the time – military personnel, businessmen and judges, as well as intellectuals who gave an air of cultural respectability to the military regime. Just as the episode was used by Arrigo to get rid of his father's punishment, it also served to help the lawyers get the communist out of jail.

Arrigo imagined Machado smiling at all this, not bothering to adjust his pince-nez in the darkness of the tomb. It had become the point of consensus between Arrigo himself, his father, Astrojildo, Lino and even military coup plotters. He became the object of love for rivals, such as Flora, disputed by Pedro and Paulo. Esau and Jacob in a single person, who was not herself.

It should be said, for the sake of truth, that Arrigo and Lino never spread the news of the case – not only out of solidarity with the secretary, but also because they themselves were Machado and had a price on their heads. Arrigo was still in the party, Lino had already been expelled. Punishment would come for everyone. They would be out of the association before the beginning of what the people of São Paulo like to call the Revolution of 1932.

Astrojildo, in his forties, faced some problems with the police, but was soon released. He had the good sense to marry the young Inês, eldest daughter of Everardo, who, cautiously, had not introduced her to Arrigo. The couple retired to the bosom of the family business of producing and distributing bananas in Rio Bonito, in the interior of Rio de Janeiro, where the former secretary had a lot of time to study the work of Machado de Assis and other literary themes. The democratization after the Estado Novo would mark his return to the party as a historic founder who would never again influence the direction of the organization.

In the bastilles of Bernardes

Doctor Vital managed to transfer Arrigo from the prison on Ilha Grande. From then on, the young man made a tour of other prisons in Rio where he had already been. He spent some time in the House of Detention, where he recovered his health and lived with many political prisoners accused of belonging to the Alliance or the party, some of whom he knew. A collective organized the daily life of the prisoners. The biggest annoyance was the attack of bedbugs, fought hard, without success. In the cells and in the space known as Praça Vermelha, educational courses and samba circles were held, from chess games to spiritist sessions. The inmates improvised a nightly news program, read aloud in the fashion of radio broadcasts. It was Radio Libertadora broadcasting news, including international news, such as the situation in the Spanish civil war. I remembered the days in the Maria Zélia prison.

As soon as he got used to the collective, Arrigo was transferred to the House of Correction, another old acquaintance and from which he would leave quickly. With the end of the state of war, the new Minister of Justice gave in to pressure and released hundreds of political prisoners without a formal process, Arrigo among them. Doutor Vital advised the client to leave the country as soon as possible, anticipating the implementation of an open dictatorship, which in fact would come in November, after the closure of Congress and the beginning of the Estado Novo.

Wounded Arrigo in the Spanish Civil War

One night, Carmella came silently into his room, just after he had turned out the light. Arrigo straightened to show off the wounds and change the bandage, but she didn't light up the room. When he started to say something, she saw in the dim light the figure touching his lips with his forefinger, asking for silence. Discreetly, she lay down beside her. Surprised, without feeling forced, he laid a hand on her shoulder spontaneously and wanted to say something. This time he felt his finger on her mouth, it wasn't time for conversation. Moment to reciprocate, it would not be sacrifice. Her body spoke for her. Using the same language, the boy didn't utter a word either, pleasure in giving pleasure. He too was speechless the following night when Marcella, her sister, visited him. Mysteries of Desire.

Before, during and after the patient's recovery, they prayed in front of a miniature copy of a Bernini sculpture known as the The Ecstasy of Santa Teresa, in which she appears faint, with her mouth half open before the angel and his golden arrow. The inspiration was in the autobiography of the saint, bedside reading of the two. Teresa revealed the divine pleasure felt in having her heart and viscera penetrated by the angel's spear that set her on fire, the sweetness of an excessive pain that made her moan and which she did not want to get rid of. Convergence of the physical with the spiritual, heaven on earth by the blessed arrow. Arrigo, an angel that divine providence had placed in the sisters' backyard so that they would have the grace to experience the ecstasy of Saint Teresa of Ávila.

They took turns day and night treating the patient and themselves. They let the bodies understand each other; they don't need words to reach divine joy. Little verbalized. Arrigo wasn't even sure they were called Carmella and Marcella, although they introduced themselves that way. He noticed the affection for the treatment and the quality of the food, but they didn't sit down with him to share it. They never clarified why they helped him, how he got there or when he would leave. Nor did he dare to ask. An atheist in the hands of God.

Running away from Nazism

The last wave they were able to protect left France at the end of September 1940. The group of Jews was prevented from entering their territory by the Spanish police and had to return to French soil. Arrigo called Derville; Luna activated her secret contacts across the border. The joint efforts were successful, and the group entered Spain the next day, later fleeing troubled Europe, many to the United States.

Two events clouded the success of the operation. First, one of the fugitives mysteriously turned up dead at the hotel where the group was directed after being refused entry. Apparently, he committed suicide because he could not bear the idea of ​​being captured by French accomplices of the Nazis, who would hand him over to the Gestapo. Derville told Arrigo that he was an important German Jewish intellectual, a friend of his, who was living in Paris and had decided to flee in the face of persecution of Jews and Marxists.

The death attracted the attention of the police, who ended up discovering Arrigo and Luna's secret activities. Both were alerted by a companion whose brother worked at the small town's police station. They fled by car towards Marseilles, where they were expected by madame and her husband, who had moved there after the capture of Paris by the Germans. From then on, Arrigo assumed the codename Marcel. Luna was left with what she had already chosen since she buried Doroteia.

Nightmare in Portbou

About a month before the suicide that would force him to leave Portbou, Arrigo had a nightmare that troubled him for several days. Sometimes it was repeated. He walked alone in an unknown city, along a deserted street that ended in a dead end, rocked by a hot wind. He entered the only house with open doors. He knocked, no answer. He went into the office at the end of the corridor, where a gray-haired man was working at his desk, his back to him. Arrigo looked at the bullet-pocked wall, alongside pictures of Jewish families and Russian revolutionaries posing for posterity.

Images yellowed by time. He got close to one of the photos, he looked like someone he knew, from Dona Imma's time. As he tried to focus on the image, a man jumped on him armed with a metal pick, a mountaineer's tool. He defended himself, they grappled, then the man fled, leaving him pickaxe in hand. Arrigo looked around and saw the grizzled old man still on his back, his skull now split, babbling for help, a pool of blood all around. People entered the room, accusing him of murder. A boy helped the old man, supporting him in his arms, allowing him to see the victim's face. It was Lino, who turned to his friend and repeated: “Assassin!” In desperation, Arrigo shouted that he was innocent, the pickaxe was not his. Looking down, he saw his own blood-soaked hands. He tried to run away, screaming, but many arms wouldn't let him leave the place, until he woke up next to Luna, sleeping peacefully.

The ladder and the wall (guerrilla's nightmare)

Arrigo dreamed that he was climbing a long wooden ladder, the kind you see in films about the Middle Ages, used by warriors to invade castles. He wasn't sure why he was climbing the steps, but he knew it was urgent. At first he thought the object was to enter the castle, then the feeling prevailed that he was escaping the confinement of its walls, the top of which he had to reach.

At the end of the climb, he looked down to a height of a hundred feet or more. Vertigo. Companions followed behind, pressing to follow the path. There was no going back, and there were still a few feet left to reach the goal. He would have to jump high, small jump, but one mistake would lead to a fatal fall. He began to feel the ladder sway with the movement of those following him. His body shook with chills. Soldiers approached the top of the wall. Undecided, Arrigo froze, clinging to the wobbly ladder that could fall at any moment. He woke up in despair, hugging the bars of his cell.

In the basements of the military dictatorship

Sima had already heard rumors about the use of animals in torture sessions. They even used snakes and alligators, especially with female bodies. He never imagined this could happen to her. Before a session, she was forced to dance naked, to the delight of some policemen, who immediately put a hood over her head, then a rope around her neck, tied to her hands behind her naked body, so that, if she moved to defend her intimacy, hang yourself.

The agent known by the code name of Gegê lovingly kept cockroaches in a box, each one named after a soap opera actress: Glória, Regina, Eva, Dina, Yoná. He attached thin strings to their carcasses, each one in a different color, green, blue, yellow, white, to better identify the creatures and also manipulate their movements, a delicate task, accomplished with dexterity and ease. He wasn't a man just for the brute work of bumps and knocks. He cared about what he did, he was professional. And sensitive, a jailer said that his colleague took the tamed insects to show his wife and children. His dream was to work with a platypus.

Gegê admired the ability of cockroaches to survive slippers and other adversities. His experiments proved their resistance to more than half an hour under water, in a short time they are even able to regenerate torn off paws, they can go weeks without eating and they can endure more than a month without their heads. In turn, separated from the rest of the body, the head can stay alive and move its antennae for hours. That was what whispered in Sima's ears while his colleagues gave the girl shocks and he prepared his pets to go into action.

Sima shivered when the guy invited the cockroaches to play on his bare skin in the torment room. She endured, disgusted, but shuddered at the sight of a cage full of rats. Noticing the weakness, first the torturer gently placed a mouse for a walk in search of a hiding place in the cavities of the girl's body. A past that returned in the exile's nightmares and delusions.

*Marcelo Ridenti is a full professor of sociology at Unicamp. Author, among other books, of The Secret of the American Ladies (unesp).


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

The launch will take place on February 28, 2023, Tuesday, at 19 pm, at the Megafauna bookstore in the Copan building, Avenida Ipiranga, 200, Loja 53, in a conversation between the author and Marisa Lajolo and Marcos Napolitano.

In Rio de Janeiro, Arrigo will be released on March 22, Wednesday, at 19 pm at the Travessa de Botafogo bookstore, at Rua Voluntários da Pátria, 97, in a conversation between the author and Helena Celestino and Daniel Aarão Reis.

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