“It’s from Valentine!”

Lucio Fontana, “Spatial Concept”, 1968


Text by Valentim Facioli, from 1998, on an unpublished chronicle by Machado de Assis

At the beginning of August (probably) 1998, a fax arrived at the newspaper presenting a possible “scoop”. Imail, as Valentim Facioli joked, it was still new, and a lot of things reached newsrooms like that. But it was no ordinary fax: it came from the interior of São Paulo, area code 18, and announced that a text by Machado de Assis in News Gazette had, until then, escaped the attention of so many researchers, almost 90 years after the writer's death.

I gave special attention to the case, greater than what my role as editor of Ilustrada, the cultural section of the Folha de S. Paulo, and convinced my editor at the time, Sérgio Dávila, current editorial director of Sheet, then move on with the story. I commissioned a young editor to investigate it, interview the researcher and find someone of the caliber of Roberto Schwarz or John Gledson, the names of Machadians most heard in those times, to endorse the discovery.

Leonardo Cruz, who is currently at the newspaper The state of Sao Paulo, did the work and, probably recommended by Roberto Schwarz, arrived at Valentim Facioli, who I didn't know who he was. The explanation for the disappearance was good (the chronicle was published on a different page), and the “expert” agreed to write a text corroborating the discovery.

We published the story on August 22nd, in one of the coolest editions of my time in office: a report, the republication of Machado's text (in reduced font, to fit everything), the explanation of what the newspaper was News Gazette in the 19th century and the text “É de Machado! A typical 'snap bullet'!”

Luckily for the editors, the 1998 elections, like the 1885 elections, would take place on the 4th (October in 1998, January in 1885), which resulted in a headline on the newspaper's front page signed by Machado de Assis.

Valentim Facioli, who liked to play with coincidences and puns, noted that the researcher responsible for the discovery, Daniela Mantarro Callipo, “works in Assisi, coincidentally”: “This even smacks of spells from the strange bibliomaniac of Posthumous Memoirs, in which it is predicted that, after 70 years of oblivion, the memories of Brás Cubas, a 'unique example', would be rediscovered 'by chance, in a second-hand bookstore'.” The strangeness of this text points to the “defuntinho”, the book A strange deceased, which Valentim would publish by Nankin in 2002.

Shortly before, in 2001, I would meet, without remembering what I said above, Valentim in a room belonging to the Euclidiana Week organization, in São José do Rio Pardo. There began an intellectual and emotional connection that ended on March 22, 2024, with the death of my doctoral advisor, at the age of 82, a figure admired by so many others who crossed paths with him in his career.

I could spend hours playing with coincidences, which were nothing mystical for me or him, but which, in some way, also organize our ideas, as Machado de Assis knew very well. The most impressive thing, for me, is that, in 2019, I would help Valentim Facioli to edit, also for Nankin, the Chimes from Dr. Semana, 1.500 pages of unpublished books by Machado de Assis, originally published in Magazine of the Week with the costume signature of Dr. Semana. The collection, organization, notes and confirmation of authorship were the result of the meticulous work of another researcher from Assis, professor Sílvia Maria Azevedo. It was up to me to help Valentim Facioli use the computer to do the final revision, take care of the layout and guidance for creating the book cover for the two volumes of the book.

Rereading, a week after Valentim Facioli's death, the 1998 text about Machado de Assis, I realize how the way he wrote was marked by the joy of identifying in the work itself, a researcher he did not know and had not guided , the methodological quality that allowed us to affirm with such certainty that the text was by Machado – a very Valentine-esque “way”, present in all the conversations we had, from the mildest to the most complicated. On the other hand, he did not base his analysis on his own trajectory, but on arguments based on a rigorous reading of the text and context: this is how he always proceeded.

I stop here and leave you with Valentim and Machado.

It's from Machado! A typical 'snap bullet'!

With one month to go until the 90th anniversary of the death of old Machadão (pardon the intimacy!), here we have a magnificent chronicle recently exhumed from the News Gazette by Daniela Mantarro Callipo, who works in Assis, coincidentally.

This even smacks of the spells of the strange bibliomaniac of Posthumous Memoirs, in which it is predicted that, after 70 years of oblivion, the memories of Brás Cubas, a “unique example”, would be rediscovered “by chance, in a second-hand bookstore”.

In 1991, Haroldo Maranhão discovered the short story “Terpsichore”, which had appeared in 1886 also in News Gazette, and published it in the newspaper The Globe, from Rio de Janeiro. This story was published in a beautiful book by the publisher Boitempo, from São Paulo, in 1996, with a preface by Davi Arrigucci Jr.

The present chronicle, signed by Lélio, seems to have escaped previous research, which can be seen, due to the delay in its circulation, as a “prize” for current readers of Machado de Assis, in these 90 years since his death. It's a consolation.

This chronicle bears enormous structural similarity with Machado's practice in this journalistic genre, especially with the other “Balas de Estalo” already peacefully identified and republished in the works of Machado de Assis.

The tone of the text is, without a doubt, one of fine irony, but not only that, because it amounts to mild but determined satire; in fact, he finds in the words of an old and, of course, illiterate black man (“philosopher without books”) the “practical, tangible, safe, sublime formula, the bottom of the bottom, the substance of substances” to solve the electoral problem.” of that year of calamities”, in the slave Empire.

It seems, however, that the most Machadian of the chronicle's structural aspects are the narrator's denials and tricks. Then things seem unmistakable. The narrator, obviously fictional, assumes a main stance, which is that of “advisor” mixed with “doctor, and is also an enlightened, attentive and patriotic newspaper reader, who seeks “public peace” and wants to avoid the “electoral beating ”. And he doesn't forget to talk to the reader.

This mixture seems to form, in any case, a type, not always very different, from countless other types of narrator/character of the “Pop Bullets”. It also seems that this type of mixed narrator (or fickle, in Roberto Schwarz's reading), being unreliable at all, justifies himself at the same time as he also discredits himself, in the disparate matter with which he searches for the “single and true medicine” that he offers to their “fellow citizens”.

Thus, he uses a small episode of the border dispute with Argentina (which, “if it is true, I ignore”) and extracts from it a malicious relationship between republic and empire, as well as, by another analogy, between “penaches and emoluments”. , relativizing everything to insinuate that Mr. Fulano and Mr. Sicrano, candidates, do not have any significant differences between them, as voters can carry the flags of both, “one in their hand, the other in their pocket”.

In short, liberals and conservatives would, in fact, be from the “same church”, as the old black man clarifies “arantado”, but sibilantly.

This is a very well-known (and thematized) statement by Machado de Assis, for example in Esau and Jacob.

I believe that one can also attest to Machado's authorship of the text (barring a dribble of genius) through the elegant, precise language and the syntax between vernacularization and a certain “Brazilianization” of pronominal placement, for example.

What also stands out is the use, which I believe is rare, of the term “consequently”, instead of consequently, which also appears in the last chapter of the Posthumous Memoirs, the famous “Das Negativas”.

Finally, it is worth noting the use of the journalistic hook to capture the reader's attention, with the promised remedy only revealed at the end. And, furthermore, the electoral reform (or remedy), thematized in the short story “Serenissima República”, also deserves another playful and satirical chronicle by the same Lélio, on January 9th, right after the elections, as well as countless references to everyday politicking in most chronicles of Pop Bullets.

Pop bullets

Read below the full chronicle by Machado de Assis, updated in its spelling, published under the authorship of Lélio, in the “Balas de Estalo” section, on page 3 of News Gazette January 1, 1885.

It looks like it smells like char. The separate papers say that there is fear of an electoral clash now on the 4th. If you want me to speak to you with my heart in my hands, I don't believe in such a thing; but, lest it be said that, through negligence, I left my fellow citizens without some salutary instructions, I will give them a remedy that I consider unique and true.

You must remember that the News Gazette A few days ago, he transcribed from a German newspaper, on the River Plate, a letter from an Argentine commissioner reporting on the procedure he took in the disputed territory on the Brazilian border. The commissioner found a Brazilian official there, exercising I don't know what authority in the town, dismissed him and immediately appointed him mayor of the republic. Both acts were accepted without resistance and the flags were changed without protest.

This case (if it is true, which I do not know) brings with it, not only the solution to the issue of limits, but also the electoral remedy that I propose.

As for the first, just send a Brazilian commissioner there in six months, who will replace our countryman in his previous position. Six months later, the Argentines sent another commissioner and did the same; and, once the actions of both parties are repeated, every six months we will eliminate any hint of scruple from our countryman's conscience: he will imagine that he is complying with an international agreement. He will then only change one thing, the acclamation: “– My children, justice is avenged, long live the republic!”, “– My children, restored to the empire, long live the emperor!”. Other than that, there will be no change. Penacho and emoluments.

There is no feather without emoluments for the voter, but public peace is reason enough for a similar procedure. Therefore, I advise the voter to divide the cheers, some for Mr. Fulano, and others for Mr. Sicrano, carry two flags, one in your hand, the other in your pocket. It's not easy to manage them, saving and withdrawing them, now one, now another, but you can do a little rehearsal as a family. Once trained, you will see that not only do they escape the mess, but they can even find hours of recreation in it, something rare in this year of calamities.

Or, if things seem difficult and ineffective, accept the formula of an old black man, a gardener at the Glória church. I don't know if you know that I vote in that section. On the day of the first ballot, while waiting for my turn, I walked in the corridor that goes from the sacristy to the font, and has windows overlooking the garden. In one of these, I saw an old black man stretched out along the sill, with a short white beard, calm, with his eyes half closed. I approached him and asked him if it was for Mr. So-and-so or Mr. Sicrano, candidates. He answered me, bewildered:

– I'm from the church, yes, sir.

Profound philosopher! Practical philosopher! While one shouts: “Penacho and emoluments!” – rude and too frank formula; – another: “Long live Mr. So and so and long live Mr. Sicrano!”, useful but contradictory formula, you, my good old man, my obscure gardener, you, philosopher without books, have found the practical, tangible, safe, sublime formula, the bottom of bottoms, the substance of substances, which is to stay always in church.


*Haroldo Ceravolo Sereza, journalist and editor, he has a doctorate in Brazilian literature from USP. Author, among other books, of Thirty-odd books on the table: critiques and reviews (Rachel's Office).

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