The Oranges of France Junior

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By AFRANIO CATANI*

Comment on the book of short stories “The same oranges”

January 10, 1989 was a terrible day: an accident on the Belo Horizonte road – João Monlevade claimed the life, aged 52, of Oswaldo França Júnior (1936-1989) – he who joined the Air Force at 17 and had a career abruptly interrupted by the military coup of 1964.

Oswaldo França Júnior, from this trauma, began to write to survive. His writing career was successful: he received awards, had books translated to Germany, the United States, France, Czechoslovakia and the then Soviet Union. There were 14 books between 1965 and 1989, of which Jorge, a Brazilian (1967) was adapted for cinema directed by Paulo Thiago (1988).

I confess that I had not read anything by Oswaldo França Júnior until November 2021, when my friend Alessandro de Lima Francisco, who has just been appointed director of the program abroad College International de Philosophie from Paris, presented me with the micro stories of The same oranges, bringing together 62 narratives. After the summary, as if it were an epigraph, the first of them appears, which justifies, in my opinion, the title of the small volume: “Those who walk through the field and see two oranges ripe and the same, how can they know that one is good? and another is bad? Just by putting them in your mouth?”

The set of stories is dedicated to people's daily lives, simple stories, reporting pain, anguish, limitations, fear, loneliness. They are uneven but precious and many of them magnificent. I transcribe 4 of them below.

 

Waiting

“The closest person I know is my wife. I go to bed with her, we eat at the same table, we change clothes in the same room, and my children are her children. I work on the street and she only goes out with me. The closest person I know is my wife. She lives in one world and I live in another. The language I speak she does not speak, and she lives with me and is the mistress of my house”.

 

five sunny days

“For five days they left me in the sun. They didn't give me water and kept waiting for me to dehydrate. But they couldn't because the woman I have brought me saliva in her mouth. I, who had already given up on loving deeply, was saved by the saliva that this dear woman brought me to her lips. They left me five days in the sun and for five days I was burned and scared. But the woman I have saved me. She saved me with the sweet saliva of her mouth”.

 

the suburban men

“Those who live in the suburbs work downtown and get paid at the end of the day. In the morning, when they arrive at the square, they see on the wooden stalls the fresh and large fish that the trucks brought in at dawn. But in the morning they still haven't worked and they don't have any money. And they spend the day thinking about the fresh, large fish laid out on the wooden stalls. In the afternoon, they return with money and, when they approach the stalls, they smell the stench: the fish have been out in the sun all day and have spoiled. Men from the suburbs, then, take things to their families instead of fresh fish.”

 

myriads

“Around me fly little animals that are always colliding with my body. They are so small and fly with so much energy that with each collision they cross me side by side. And I feel a constant crossing of these little animals inside me. My body acquires small holes until the day it decomposes. On that day, the little animals will start to collide with each other, and in a short time there will only be my spirit without a body and without the discomfort of these constant collisions”.

 

Disconcerting, unexpected, brusque, cutting, the stories rarely exceed one page. Pleasant and captivating reading, which can also be found in some of the mini-writings, such as, among others, “The Theft of the Sun”, “I Didn’t Know Him”, “The Idol Hunter”, “ The blind donkey”, “The name”, “The crosses of the way”, “The haraquiri”.

*Afranio Catani he is a retired full professor at the Faculty of Education at USP and is currently a senior professor at the same institution. Visiting professor at the Faculty of Education at UERJ, Duque de Caxias campus.

 

Reference


Oswaldo France Junior. The same oranges: short stories. Rio de Janeiro, New Frontier, 2a. ed. 1996, 96 pages.

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