Hermengarda, the cockroach



On his psychedelic journey through the Land of Santa Cruz

My friend Hermengard von Niemand is spending a few days here in the country. She's tall, thin, dresses like a late hippie and curious beyond belief. It landed right on the day the letter from economists Edmar Bacha, Pedro Malan and Arminio Fraga was published, in which the distinguished last-minute supporters warned the future government about the so-called 200 billion annual ceiling overflow.

Prussian in bearing and nosy by nature, she would see me (more than hear her, as she only speaks a half dozen words in Portuguese) rant over the phone about the absurdity: 'But the unspeakable spent 800 billion in four years and no one chirped, now they leave shooting because of 200”. Nosy, cheerful and cheap, she can be lazy with words, but she's pretty smart with numbers, because she came ready to shop.

It poked me:“Achthundert Milliarden? Zweihunder? Eight hundred billion? Two hundred?

I hung up the phone and told him more or less what it was about. Hermengarda (with the “a”, we Brazilianize the old name) knows nothing about economics and even less about Brazil, but she was intrigued. In her infallible Germanic way, four times two hundred she was exactly eight hundred.

And so began my hard, though pleasant and frustrating, journey to try to explain the unexplainable to him.

Born in Berlin, my guest did not understand the turmoil I was trying to clarify. It didn't make sense. It sounded like a lunatic's reasoning. Pure pyro. Which only made his snooping even more acute. She snooped non-stop, with those simple and imperious questions, and the natural perplexity of any person foreign to Brazilian atavisms.

It is worth mentioning that, in addition to arithmetic, Hermengarda had learned a bit of logic at school, such as the elementary notion of sophistry. When I tried to sneak away by pretexting that her doubts referred to very complex issues, such as the Mutant Theory of Pedaling or the Paralogical Reverse Logic of Shop (business is all), topics far beyond my miserable background, she didn't even care. She was not discouraged. She even got worse. She insisted:So what?" And?

As an unsuspecting disciple of William of Ockham, the medieval Franciscan philosopher who wore glasses on the sly and chose the “razor” as a metaphor for clear and satisfying reasoning, Hermengarda thinks the simplest explanation is the best. And he didn't give me a break. And it didn't give me peace. To try to get out of the snooker (because one day was not enough for her to introject coronelismo, hoe and financial gymkhana), she did a mean thing. I quibbled. I claimed that the Portuguese language has untranslatable words. For example, for example, sophism here does not mean a misleading argument, but a deliberate and varnished trickery that sticks as eternal and universal truth.

But I got it wrong. “Das ist dasselbe" longing"? No, Hermengarda, it's not like nostalgia. It is another untranslatable jabuticaba, less romantic and more toxic. Then she wanted me to summarize the contents of the letter. Aside from the absence of the elementary 4 x 200 = 800, it stuck with a passage: “Why noble yearning for social responsibility (sic carta)? Why noble, and not legitimate, urgent, pressing, inalienable?

"Sind sie Aristokraten“? wanted to know about the signatories. “Exactly“, I agreed, the three are from the nobility, barons of finance, given their noble accent, as in the pronunciation of the expression party-omnibus, bus is very chinfrim. (Ah, I escaped getting into the long and weary history of native patrimonialism.)

As she came from Kreuzberg and lived through the Angela Merkel years, although she is left-wing, from the left, the next day he was astonished to learn that a good part of the Brazilian left is devoted to Vladimir Putin and supports the invasion of Ukraine. Yes, a good part of the Brazilian left unreservedly admires Vladimir Vladimirovich, the kleptocrat who poisons opponents. “Is that possible? Wahrheit oder Scherz?“. But is it possible? True or are you kidding me?

True, Hermengarda, here is a portion (of) Die Linke believes that the white-leonic (and sadistic) troops that invaded Ukraine still belong to the valiant Red Army. And that the fall of Kyev would be a reenactment of the heroic resistance of Stalingrad in World War II.

"But… (now she frowns suspiciously) der Kommunismus ist kaputt! " I do not understand”. But…communism is over, it's gone, I don't understand anything!

He started looking at me crookedly. If it weren't for my commitment as a hostess, and the homemade food, I think Hermengarda was about to move to the first hotel in the neighborhood, frightened by what I said and suspicious that I'm a pathological liar who could freak out at any minute.

But it stayed. Brazil is a psychedelic trip. And she continues to ask, she doesn't conform, my misunderstood and cheap Hermengarda.

It will get worse. More and more strange news and facts will come every day. What about the secret budget then? This is a jabuticaba tree in bloom: untranslatable, inconceivable, indecipherable, unfathomable. I have to prepare.

*Marilia Pacheco Fiorillo is a retired professor at the USP School of Communications and Arts (ECA-USP). She is the author, among other books, of O Deus Exiled: Brief History of a Heresy (Brazilian Civilization).

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