Letters to Lula

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Lula's 580 days in prison were intertwined with memories, feelings, accusations and life stories.

Writing letters was and is a form of continuous communication in the world. This is the literature that builds partnership, human complicity and their bonds. In history, it filled dreams, questioned values ​​and conduct, encouraged the younger ones to create, guaranteed solidity and determination to the older ones. Even when their plots have been negative and very critical, the simple act of writing and waiting for a response has fostered reassurance of hands, compassion and desires towards the future.

Writing letters is a literary act and whoever writes is a writer, without that meaning pedantry. It could be the letter from the illiterate father and mother, it could be the letter from the prisoner or exile and their pressures. A letter is communion, it is a meeting. Literature, whether short stories, novels and soap operas, erudite or popular and found in books, often took the form of a letter, wanting to dialogue with people and the world. And there were many such forms of literature. The book eviction room from the adorable Carolina de Jesus wants to create communication from the immense poverty, which would have to be, unavoidably, communicated and find eyes, ears, hands, mouths capable of giving an answer. To this day, Carolina's appeal has not been completed in everyday Brazilian life, due to the barbaric inversion of values ​​that prevails in our country.

Mário de Andrade (1893-1945), our modernist genius, wrote 7000 letters. Only! He corresponded with many people, young writers, renowned intellectuals, people he lived with, men and women of a time when he believed in creating an integrated, advanced and fair Brazil. And he saw the country torn apart by economic and political elites succeeding one another in various forms of capitalism, none of them effective creators of rights and joy. The letters to Lula also echo the themes and values ​​of the letters of our greatest epistolologist.

Despite the big press ignoring it – because it doesn't know how to do anything else in these so-called “political” phenomena, what was seen in Tuca last May 31st was a literary feast. Lula's 580 days in prison were intertwined with memories, feelings, accusations and life stories. Since the act of telling is also the act of happening and the act of narrating can be a phenomenon of building new meanings in life, or even healing from pain and anguish, the literary feast was something total.

Pedro Dias de Almeida dictated a letter because he was illiterate. From Pilar do Sul, SP, April 9, 2018. From this land with a rural aspect and beauties in its trails and waterfalls, Pedro associates his story with that of the imprisoned leader. And this is the main narrative of the saying: age, coming to the Sergipe city, early widowhood, poor earnings. However, one of the daughters is studying in Curitiba due to the many advances in the ways of operating the Brazilian university during the Lula government (entrance forms, Reuni, scholarships) and which made it possible to expand the right to education for millions of people, especially the youth.

In this way, the anguish felt by Pedro links his human condition to the condition of his leader, a fact that also operates a happy memory of the conquest of rights by his daughter, which is the symbolic inversion of his life. From non-formal education to university education. Thus, this is not a capital gain and class change for Pedro. It is, indeed, the realization of a transformed destiny, even if the university course does not lead to class changes or offer modest salaries. This he does not dispute. Change operates in Pedro's heart and his narrative creates the analogy of hope in politics.

Rosa, simply Rosa, writes at dawn on November 16, 2018. He makes some theological comparisons to try to synthesize his pain at the same time that he says he has no faith in the abstract. The moment she lives brings her closer to the prophecy, because “it seems that from the depths demons were released”. However, she acknowledges that they “have always been around”. Her narrative connects the terrible condition experienced to the emotional life position of the imprisoned leader, because here and there she wants to know how he is, what he is going through, what he thinks.

He wants dialogue, even if he does not receive a formal response (since Lula was sent 25 letters while in prison) and then starts to make traditional associations of hope: battle losses, but not the war, the risks of the classes ascendants that may suffer intense disappointments, associates the terrible moment with the black, brown and poor human condition. It touches on open or reopened wounds in the new way of administering the country and guarantees that it will go to the outskirts to fight for Lula's release. By declaring himself a non-believer, however, he sticks to solidarity and hopes that many Brazilians are emanating love towards him, like waves “through the air of Brazil” and that they will serve as a balm in the time that Lula is “in the serious building in Curitiba where he was locked up in an arbitrary and cowardly way”. Comfort joins the promise of fighting for freedom.

Fabiana, who claims to be LGBT, writes a diverse narrative, whose text reflects the ethics of the publication. She both demonstrates the success of inclusion and justice policies and criticizes the PT's shifts towards liberal policies. After associating the best moments in the Lula-Haddad work, she warns of the setbacks that have occurred and has no hesitation in stating that the president's legacy is at risk and that "the future of thousands of poor black youths is threatened". She doesn't leave it for less when she writes that “as a young, working-class, LGBT person, I know what injustice is”. After seeing the working class, once again, in the direction of marginalization, Fabiana does not put faith in conciliation and points out mistakes made by the governments of President Lula and Dilma. It opens, however, the doors to new agreements with progressive sectors of the nation and ends, once again, with the “endangered legacy” due to the lack of a project of continuity in the hands of the people. At the end, “Sincerely. Strength to support yourself, Fabiana”.

Pedro, Rosa and Fabiana, components of the 25 letters to Lula, are part of the literary world of correspondence based on a central axis: the injustice of imprisonment perpetrated by the legal partiality of Lava Jato in Curitiba. As is the nature of epistolography, letters could be short, denunciatory, and full of compassion in the face of injustice. But the plots were different. These writer people, aware of the atavisms, the ruses, the scams and deceptions of Brazilian society, brought prison closer to history.

It was not only Sérgio Moro who was the executioner, but a larger wave of those who demand the poor to remain poor and who assert their ends despite their means to achieve them. Worse, with just enough to eat. The writers were of little interest in this miserable life of survival aids. The letters were intrinsically political and highlighted politicized lives, lives that apprehended the signs and phenomena of the world and learned to organize them, think about them and find solutions to them. As happened with the president trapped in his journey from the northeastern world to the union and political leadership of the country. The imprisoned president starts to compose the wrong Brazil, the Brazil of the Colony and the Empire, made contemporary, reversible. The powers are remade...if possible always!

The writers think Brazil, starting from itself, as it should be in epistolography. Even if the self is not the center of the universe of thought, it is essential to attest to the legitimacy of the letter. And this legitimacy dialogued with the wronged president. In the exchange of letters, crying, longing and anguish are worth it. But it is even more important to build awareness of the Brazilian project of justice and citizenship that has been violated and is in frank retreat. These letters are the truth of a unique correspondence in the human and political contemporaneity of Brazil.

* Luiz Roberto Alves is a senior research professor at the School of Communication and Arts at the University of São Paulo. Author, among other books, of Administering via culture: educational-cultural revolution in ex-pauliceia desvairada, 1935-1938 (Mall).



Querido Lula – Letters to a President in Prison. Maud Chirio (org). São Paulo, Boitempo, 2022, 240 pages.



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