Crimes in Doramundo

Image: Elyeser Szturm

By Afrânio Catani*

For several months in the 1970s, I read the magazine This is. There was a space of few lines dedicated to the arts, signed by Geraldo Ferraz (1905-1979). I had no idea who it was. In men's magazines published by Editora Abril, comments by Geraldo Galvão Ferraz appeared. As the space of This is he was small, naively I imagined that it was the same person, with the abbreviated name – although the styles presented marked differences. In pre-internet times, I found out that Geraldo Ferraz was a former journalist, socialist, art critic, writer, militant, and that he had Patrícia Galvão (1910-1962) as a companion, Pagu. They were Galvão Ferraz's parents… I got more excited and started to read more carefully what Geraldão wrote.

Born in Campos Novos do Paranapanema, in the south of the State of São Paulo, he worked in typography since he was young and began revising books and newspapers, until in 1927 he joined the Night Diary, sponsored by Plínio Barreto, a well-known journalist at the time. In addition to being a reporter, he was involved in the dissemination of modernist ideas and became secretary of the Anthropophagy Journal in its second phase, in 1929, living closely with Oswald de Andrade, Raul Bopp, Tarsila do Amaral and Pagu. In 1933-34 he ran the anti-integralist, anti-fascist and anti-Nazi political newspaper The Free Man, with Mario Pedrosa. But a little before that, Assis Chateaubriand placed him in the direction of the Afternoon Mail, his initial position in journalism. Afterwards, important works in the Afternoon Sheet and The Tribune, from Santos.

Still in the 1930s, he was engaged in the creation of salons and in movements linked to the visual arts in São Paulo. In 1942 he went to Rio de Janeiro, working in the Diary of Night and as editorial secretary of The newspaper. With Pagu, in 1945, he published The Famous Magazine, having launched, with Mário Pedrosa, Pagu, Hilcar Leite and Eduardo Moniz the newspaper Socialist Vanguard (1945-1948). Returning to São Paulo, he moved to Santos, acting as secretary The Tribune, since 1954, writing editorials on the international context – in particular about Latin America – and signing articles in the “Caderno de Cultura” on literature and the arts. At the same time, he intensified his activity as an art critic, participating in selection and award juries, in addition to being a member of the international jury of São Paulo Biennials.

Geraldo was, for fifteen years (1956-1971), art critic of The State of S. Paul, founder of the Union of Professional Journalists of the State of São Paulo and author of, among others, in addition to doramundo (1956) After Everything (1983), Km 63: 9 contos unequal (1979) Retrospective. Figures, Roots and Problems of Contemporary Art (1975), a study on the engraver Lívio Abramo (1955), by Warchavchik, Introduction to Modern Architecture in Brazil (1925 to 1940), Wega liberates in art (1954-1974), about the work of the painter and designer Wega Nery Gomes Pinto (1912-2007), with whom he lived in recent years.

In 1978, when Geraldo was still alive, I watched doramundo, adaptation for the cinema directed by João Batista de Andrade, having as authors of the script, in its different versions, Batista himself, Vladimir Herzog and David José. The film, starring Armando Bogus, Antônio Fagundes, Irene Ravache, Rolando Boldrin, Sérgio Hingst, Celso Frateschi, Oswaldo Campozana, Rodrigo Santiago, received the award for best film at the Gramado Festival that year, in the midst of the military dictatorship.

The copy I leaf through corresponds to the third edition (Improvements, 1975), with a precious preface by Adolfo Casais Monteiro, written in September 1958, for the second edition. It was bought and read on the same day, September 13, 1981, in fourteen or fifteen hours. It was never opened again, until on October 11, 2018 I went with the family, on a rainy morning, to Paranapiacaba, where the action takes place, although it is not clearly mentioned – the city in the novel is called Cordilheira, “certainly in the interior from São Paulo, given the references to nearby places, such as Amparo and Jundiaí (...) The small town is located on a hill, opposite a railway station. There are many railway workers in the approximately one hundred houses that are piled up on the slope” (Mussa, 2014). On the way back from the trip I started to reread doramundo.

A kind of release, inserted in the edition of Melhoramentos, points out that 1956 was a memorable year for Brazilian literature, with the appearance of good novels: Grande Hinterland Paths, by João Guimarães Rosa; The Appointment, by Fernando Sabino; Vila dos Confins, by Mário Palmério, in addition, of course, to doramundo.

Rereading the book and part of the critical fortune that surrounds it, it is no exaggeration to consider it extremely original, very well written and one of the best detective novels I have read. It opens with a dedication-poem-epigraph to Pagu, talking about the “immortal delicacy in the wilds of sorrow” and the “long journey that today allows me, in humility and respect for this transitory stone, to open this inscription, the homage, which you should and should and shall”.

Violence and passion, a non-linear account of events in the course of the text, with voices alternating and narrators succeeding one another; conversation or event that occurs in a given passage will appear integrated in the pages ahead. Casais Monteiro wrote, in the preface, that “if the story is there, that is, if there is, without a doubt, a plot, the truth is that it is not told, but, so to speak, reconstituted, recomposed, thus becoming the succession of events. events of secondary importance. And so, from the very beginning, the atmosphere becomes more significant than the story; Geraldo Ferraz's goal was not to narrate – but to build; it is not descriptive, but architectural” (p. 12-13).

Leda Botton (2014) points out that doramundo it was inspired by real events that occurred in 1937 and 1938, and the writing process involved a series of scattered fragments collected on trips that Geraldo made due to his work as a journalist. The book was supposed to be a short novelized report, “an attempt at a failed report or a failed novel”. On the last page, the author reveals that he started writing the novel in São Paulo (December / 1952) and concluded it in Praia Grande (October / 1955).

The history of doramundo is relatively simple: in the fictional Cordillera, practically the entire population was made up of employees of the railway company, which transported people and cargo from the port of Santos, on the coast, to the interior of São Paulo, and vice versa. “Cordillera was the meeting place and the obligatory passage since the time the iron train, squeaking fire wheels. It lay at the mouth of the cable funnel over other wheels grinding, iron against iron. (...) Despite the proximity of the Great Power Plant, Cordillera had only one public lighting, that of the stars. This facilitated many crimes” (p. 21-22).

What crimes? Several successive and strange murders that begin to occur suddenly, all with the same characteristic: the victims are always single men who, after having their heads crushed by a blow with an iron bar, have their bodies abandoned on the train tracks, with the intention of disguising the evidence and making homicides mistaken for accidents.

However, soon the ruse is unveiled and the company that operates the railroad, fearing negative repercussions of events through the press, requests discreet action from the authorities, receiving a delegate, police officers and a secret agent. They discover nothing, although all residents know that the killers are married men, taking revenge on single men who sleep with their women. But nobody says anything: “Cordillera is a yellow cow” (p. 151); “Oh giant yellow cow. Oh cowcaracu! (...) Whoever speaks first eats all…” (p. 169).

The delegate, Dr. Guizot, begins to investigate and torture those he deems suspicious, creating an unbearable climate of terror. Mussa highlights the dry, dense, heavy atmosphere, with everything being dark in the novel: “there is the smog permanent, coal, iron, oil, night”, the narrative being all fragmented, without chronological rigor. Almost everything is known and nothing is revealed in this situation of opposition between love and sex. Seeking to circumvent the problem, the company “imports” three prostitutes, the “flowers”, reducing murders to almost zero. The “flowers” ​​serve singles and married people, triggering the anger of part of the population, which burns down houses and expels sex workers.

The action of the police, torturing and assaulting the inhabitants in search of the criminals, did not differ much from the common practices of the Estado Novo (1937-1945), a time when part of the events took place in reality. The version of João Batista de Andrade for the cinema, in turn, can be associated, or metaphorized, with the climate prevailing in the dictatorship (1964-1985) resulting from the military coup of 1964, in which arbitrariness set the tone in several of its dimensions. Guizot's violence is accentuated after the murder of Rolando Matos, a spy working for the company, in yet another nocturnal ambush. Nothing is revealed. Again, “Yellow cow!”

The novel's title, artificially naive, originates from the junction of the names of two essential characters, Teodora (Dora) and Raimundo (Mundo), who at the end of the first chapter (p. 33), amidst the nebulous environment, involving crime , coal, night, already hints at the real possibility of love between them. In Mussa's words, the originality of Ferraz's work emerges, showing that “in a detective novel, the murderer is not always the true object of the investigation”.

With the love between the adulteress Dora and the single Mundo there is the expectation of breaking the cycle of crimes, as they intend to flee Cordillera. But Mundo is found dying on the tracks, after being hit. Rescued by companions and supported by the company, he leaves the town in serious condition, accompanied by Dora. They hoped to get out of there and have children. However, “at the end of the last lines we will continue without the expected access to their history” (Botton, 2014, p. 13).

This simple story, in the hands of Geraldo Ferraz, achieves sophisticated language, presenting the fusion of interior monologues and dialogues, with the narration always changing time. For Casais Monteiro, the author's style “unifies description, dialogue, analysis, in such a way that we cannot distinguish them” (p. 14).

Some gems from doramundo: “the train arriving puffing in iron fire wheel rail, freighter yes, so late. Fixation abscess. Only fire will save” (p. 32-33); “Singles need a woman. Many married people are already tired. And women like young, reckless people…” (p. 37); “To stay there waiting for the five o'clock train is guampudo that killed” (p. 59); [It was the investigator Alferes who suggested] “You have to ask the woman things. Brute men like that with a hard hand doesn't say. They don't feel anything. The woman soon cries and gives the job” (p. 63); “The pause of brutality opened in an icy shiver for seconds stretching endlessly” (p.201); “It takes longer than expected, everything always takes as long as expected” (p. 201); “Long eyes roll appealing over the steel wires left on the ground, firm screws in the tracks of sleepers, so evident these hardnesses in the twilight, plunged in the curve” (p. 202); “On the rails running against the cutting cold winds, between mosses and edges, the hand goes, over a handful of palpitating, loving, anchored life” (p. 203).

Em Km 63: 9 uneven tales, published a few months before his death, Geraldo Ferraz is still relatively harsh with the product of his work, classifying the stories as “irregular, uneven, invented, sometimes mortared in true passages of place and time, they diverge, some in the background , others in the form (...) There were those that came from the journalistic chronicle, from the everyday conversation, expanding into disparate stories (...) Self-criticism is not intended here, but a necessary justification, given the sheer number of pages; after all, if there is inequality, nothing to explain, there is inequality because there really is” ( Ferraz, Justification and gratitude, p. 4).

Perhaps doramundo it does not reach the level of quality that the filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni would like to establish, as he advocates in one of his unfilmed stories: “'Give me new endings', Chekhov once said, 'and I reinvent literature'”; but it comes pretty close.

*Afrânio Catani is a retired professor at the Faculty of Education at USP and visiting professor at UFF.


ANTONIONI, Michelangelo. So just to be together. In: ________. The dangerous thread of things and other stories (trans.: Raffaella de Filippis). Rio de Janeiro: Nova Fronteira, 1990, p. 153-154 (

BOTTON, Leda. The sinuous elasticity of lines: on the conflict of form in doramundo (1956), by Geraldo Ferraz. Memento – Journal of Language, Culture and Discourse, Master in Letters – UNINCOR, v. 9, no. 1, p. 1-14, Jan. – Jun. 2018.

CASAIS MONTEIRO, Adolfo. Preface. In: FERRAZ, Geraldo. doramundo. São Paulo: Improvements, 3rd. ed., 1975, p. 9-18 (

FERRAZ, Geraldo. doramundo. São Paulo: Improvements, 3rd. ed., 1975 (

FERRAZ, Geraldo. Justifications and thanks. In: __________. Km 63: 9 uneven tales. São Paulo: Ática, 1979, p. 4.

MUSSA, Alberto. doramundo. Draft. Issue 175, October>. Accessed on: 03.10.2019.

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