Strong as death

Igshaan Adams, 2016
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By MÁRIO BAGGIO*

Commentary on the recently released book by Otto Leopoldo Winck

I speak for myself: Strong as death, by Otto Leopoldo Winck, is one of the most impressive novels I've read in years. For the plot and its conduct, for the sophisticated language (which pretends to be simple), for the ingenious structure that goes back and forth in time without any harm to understanding, for the characters full of truth, for the dialogues full of verisimilitude, for the reflections it provokes, for the relevance of the theme, the richness of the vocabulary, the erudition of the author, the outcome that could not be more impactful. A book I would like to have written, if I had Otto Winck's talent.

Already in the opening the novel shows what it came from, in explicit reference to To metamorphose, by Franz Kafka:

“When Rosalia Klossosky woke up one morning, after restless dreams – and what dreams, my God! –, She noticed that there was a slightly pink stain on the palm of each hand. Under the light of the kerosene lamp, she observed, intrigued, those strange signs.”

There are three major axes in the structure of Strong as death:

(i) We are in the rural area of ​​a small town in the interior of Paraná, within a family of Polish immigrants, religious, humble and illiterate people, farmers. Mr Boleslau and Dona Florentina do not know what is happening to their teenage daughter, who, without any explanation, begins to leak blood in some places on her hands and in the rib region: these are the “wounds of Christ”. Rosália is “stigmatized”, almost a holy girl. Priests and doctors are called, without being able to decipher the mystery.

The news spreads and the pilgrimages begin: people come from all over in search of a miracle, a cure for illnesses, a better life, etc. Cash donations, in the name of goodwill and religious spirit, begin to be made by pilgrims to the owners of the house, the parents of the “saint”. The seed of fanaticism was planted.

(I open parentheses: at a certain point in the reading, I remembered The Muckers, a 1979 Brazilian film, directed by Jorge Bodanzky and Wolf Gauer, which deals with religious fanaticism among German immigrants in the 1870s, also in the rural area of ​​a city in the interior of Rio Grande do Sul. It was a Christian sect led by Jacobina Mentz Mauer , who, followers believed, was the reincarnation of Jesus Christ. I close parentheses.)

(ii) Much later, Rosália, now married to Felício and mother of three children, lives in an MST settlement, here called “Movimento”, and participates in the founding of Nova Canaã, occupation of an unproductive farm and the starting point of the reform dreamed of agrarian land.

(iii) Father Hugo, in an acute crisis of faith and vocation. On Christmas Eve, after celebrating Midnight Mass, he says goodbye to his parishioners and gives free rein to the doubts he has about the Divine and His designs. He is openly a supporter of Liberation Theology and the existence of Base Ecclesiastical Communities and does not hide his option for the poor, echoing the position of Dom Pedro Casaldáliga, Bishop of Araguaia.

Intercutting the narrative axes, theological and philosophical reflections on Kenosis, a Christian theory about the “emptying” of Christ, according to which He stripped himself (emptying himself) of His power and glory to become human and submit to sacrifice in this condition.

The three axes will converge, with great impact, in the final third of the book through the skillful writing of the author, who knew how to balance time, space and events, maintaining curiosity and interest. I won't say it, but I guarantee it: the outcome is surprising, shocking, and will leave the reader torn apart.

In my opinion, Strong as death, by Otto Leopoldo Winck, is one of the great books of this year of grace 2024.

*Mário Baggio is a journalist and writer. Author, among other books, of Life is a very short word (Penallux).

Reference


Otto Leopoldo Winck. Strong as death. São Paulo, Editora aboio, 2023, 256 pages. [https://amzn.to/3Wno0Ry]


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