Chronicles of an End

Charlie Millar, Untitled, Undated


Commentary on the book by Daniela Picchai

I've known Daniela Picchai, who has a master's and doctorate in semiotics, is a university researcher and professor, for some time now – more precisely, since she was three or four days old, the daughter of a dear friend who passed away just over three years, She wrote several short stories, chronicles, essays and poems in several magazines of art, communication and philosophy. Chronicles of an End it is his first book…of chronicles, 26 in total.

Although undated, most of them were written after 2019, covering flashes of the daily life of a citizen-writer who transits in eminently urban spaces. Irony, good humor, a certain melancholy and reflective refinement set the tone in Daniela Picchai's chronicles. On the back cover you can read that the book is about Brazil, about the collapse and decay of the country, about the ruin of a dreamed world; but it's also about waking up, missing you, escaping. Anyway, “it's about the ridiculous, the tacky, about being able to create (…) experiment, make mistakes, try again, fall, and find the words on the ground (…) finally, it's about the chaos in us”.

“O sal” discusses this villain, responsible for hypertension, kidney problems and many others; “Eliminate salt for a better life”, proclaim some wellness magazines. But for esotericists, salt is a fundamental element, “which eliminates non-physical impurities from a physical body. Some mystics suggest taking a salt bath a week, but, mind you, without getting your head wet.” But, what about Iemanjá? “If it's a salt bath on the body, it's the sea” (p. 11-12).

In “Dear letter”, the letter writer is an envelope, which promises her that “our end will not be in a shoebox, amid the mold of a closet” (p. 14). “Num sei” attacks the “horror exposed with the name of Messiah” and the four years of retrogression (p. 18-19), while “the smell of the body” (p. 20-21) contaminates the whole house. Metaphor? Perhaps.

The bills arrive, the activities at the advertising agency become scarce and there she goes, from one day to the next, answering an invitation to teach in the MBA at a private college. Invitation made, date set and explanations, programs, information required (“The class”). And we arrive at the “First class” (p. 25-26), in a postgraduate course in a class with sixty students (wow!), in an institution where dialogue was not the strong point. Disappointment.

“The bear family” talks about the trajectory of a tea towel; in “The first colony” daniela ponders that “there are those who say that colony means the possession of a territory by someone from outside, they also say that it can be for exploration or settlement, but, as we are in Brazil, the colony has also become a vacation , rest, leisure. And, as always, for the few” (p. 31).

“Mr. Tokuda ”(p. 37-38) is the man who fixes everything in the neighborhood and, after years, his house and he disappear: “Mr. Tokuda became a building ”. There is “The trick” and the frustration resulting from the cancellation of a project that involved a lot of unpaid work (p. 41-43), the impossibility of fully enjoying the holidays, so necessary for an “autonomous professional” like her ( p. 44-46) and “O Brasil das caravelas” (p. 49-52), where the official story is contested, represented by the painting by Oscar Pereira da Silva, present in the school books of several generations of Brazilian men and women, recording the Landing of Cabral (or would it be The Discovery of Brazil?).

“The theft” (p. 53-54) has as its theme the small daily thefts that we all suffer when we work, buy something, live. “Perhaps exploitation and theft are not words that are far from each other, perhaps they are even synonymous, and it is in this logic of the metropolis and control that people get used to small daily thefts, even though they know they shouldn't”.

“Smile, you're being filmed” (p. 57-59) combats the ubiquitous cameras, which are the result of fear. “Fear is so present that they seem to forget that, in the logic of capital, part of those who rob us are the residents of luxury buildings who carry the cameras”. “A farra”, written in January 2021, is the chronicle of a losing fight against “the small and noisy blood thieves” (p. 60), better known as mosquitoes. Anything goes against them: citronella candles, plug repellents and even the infamous electroshock racket. Nothing worked: “I ended the day serving as a feast for the mosquitoes” (p. 61).

The last chronicle, “We pretend we don't know”, constitutes a certain x-ray of the difficult times faced, in particular, by citizens of the urban middle classes, in order to survive: “For money, we pretend not to see the joke macho, the absence with the daughter, the desire for the day to end. We pretend we don't see the boat we're on, the company we work for, the sulky face of those who pay our salary. For money, we pretend to understand, pretend to be happy, pretend to agree (…) To get on with life, we pretend not to see the loves passing by, the lazy husband, the upset friend. we pretend not to see the armaments neighbor, the fascist aunt, the tyrant family. Trying to get on with life, we pretend not to see the dry skin, the badly cut nail, the growing belly and the heavy heart” (p. 64).

More could be said about these Chronicles of an End. However, I understand that I have already said enough to arouse the curiosity – or perhaps the anguish – of anyone interested in confronting the well-aimed darts thrown by Daniela Picchai, who handles them with an almost imperceptible smile, as if declaiming/reciting, for example by Vinicius de Moraes, in “Samba da Bênção”: “Life is not a joke, friend/Life is the art of meeting/Although there is so much disagreement in life…” Saravá!

*Afranio Catani is a retired senior professor at the Faculty of Education at USP. He is currently a visiting professor at the Faculty of Education at UERJ, Duque de Caxias campus..


Daniela Picchai. Chronicles of an End. Sao Paulo, Urutau, 2023

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