How to brush your teeth in a fire

Raquel Jones, lick your teeth, 2021


Commentary on Marcílio Godoi's book

The cover and unusual title flirt with surrealism, at first glance. Reading the 43 short stories in the volume, however, will expand the aesthetic and formal possibilities, not fitting into a specific genre. There are denser texts, which place the reader in front of the dilemmas and anxieties of human beings, and others that are more rarefied, which require the sensitivity of someone who knows how to appreciate the beauty of clouds.

This is the book How to brush your teeth in a fire, by Marcílio Godoi. Each story is the name of a character (Carmen, Renata, Augusto, Wesley, etc.), who may have concrete roots and abstract attitudes, or vice versa. A woman who has one foot bigger than the other. A man who writes gongoric epitaphs. Another one who loses things. The woman pierced by arrows. The young woman who takes her father's ashes for a bike ride.

Some references to real characters gain prominence in the ghostly landscape. The short story Getúlio refers to Getúlio Vargas, but has a surprising narrator. Snooker ace Carne Frita is the main character of a story. The narrator whose father turns into a tree certainly refers to Guimarães Rosa. It is likely that other characters, who seem to us to be products of pure fiction, are part of the author's personal gallery. It doesn't matter.

We are in front of a mosaic of portraits, or sketches of portraits, stitched together using the refined language of Marcílio Godoi. Master in literary criticism and doctor of letters, the polygrapher from Minas Gerais has published novels (Etelvine), children's literature and poetry. He never uses the brutality of actions or descriptive crudity, so popular with some contemporary fiction writers, to compose his narratives.

He prefers poetic language, dotted with metonymies and unusual images, and delights in unusual words and hints of extravagant humor. It drinks from the source of popular expressions, distorts clichés and invents meanings. There is something Cortezarian permeating the reading.

In the end, we are not sure whether we are reading a collection of poetic chronicles, a set of biographical sketches or speculations about the tortuous paths of madness that, to a greater or lesser extent, affects all of humanity. The variety of rhythms, changes in tone and alternations of language contribute to the polyphonic result of the volume. And the most surprising thing is that this stylistic indeterminacy seems to be something very planned and well executed, including the cover, which is also the author's creation. Something for someone who has mastered the narrative craft and knows where they want to go.

* Daniel Brazil is a writer, author of the novel suit of kings (Penallux), screenwriter and TV director, music and literary critic.


Marcílio Godoi. How to brush your teeth in a fire. São Paulo, Patuá, 2023, 218 pages. []

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

See this link for all articles


  • Reasons for the end of the strike at Federal Universitiesbenches 16/05/2024 By TADEU ALENCAR ARRAIS: The Federal Government's new proposal announced on May 15 deserves debate on whether or not to continue the strike
  • How to lie with statisticschair 51 18/05/2024 By AQUILES MELO: The numbers presented by the federal government to education employees on strike confuse more than they explain, thus demonstrating a lack of interest in resolving the problem
  • “Multipolarity” and the chronic decline of the WestJose Luis Fiori 17/05/2024 By JOSÉ LUÍS FIORI: The defense of multipolarity will increasingly be the banner of countries and peoples that are currently rising up against the global military imperium exercised by the West
  • The strike at universities and federal institutes does not…path time 17/05/2024 By GRAÇA DRUCK & LUIZ FILGUEIRAS: The left-wing and democratic forces need to get out of passivity, as if waiting for Lula and his government, as well as the STF, to resolve the political impasses
  • The Caramel horsecaramel horse 15/05/2024 By LEONARDO BOFF: We must admit that we have not respected the rights of nature and its intrinsic value, nor have we controlled our voracity to devastate it
  • Fake freedom and the Marquis de SadeEugenio Bucci 18/05/2024 By EUGÊNIO BUCCI: Fake freedom, sadistic freedom, which in essence is the denial of all freedom, is leading Brazil to total shipwreck
  • The operational universityMarilena Chauí 2 13/05/2024 By MARILENA CHAUI: The operational university, in university terms, is the highest expression of neoliberalism
  • SUS, 36 years old – consolidation and uncertaintiesPaulo Capel Narvai 15/05/2024 By PAULO CAPEL NARVAI: SUS was not the “stillbirth” that many predicted. Almost four decades later, the SUS is institutionally consolidated and has developed a notable process of republican governance
  • From Hermann Cohen to Hannah Arendtsail boat culture 18/05/2024 By ARI MARCELO SOLON: Commentary on Miguel Vatter’s book
  • Environmental denialism and the flooding of Porto AlegrePorto Alegre airport flooded 14/05/2024 By CARLOS ATÍLIO TODESCHINI: Porto Alegre has the best flood protection system in Brazil. It is considered a “Dutch mini-system”. Why did this system fail in its function of preventing the city from being flooded?