learning labyrinths

Glauco Roddrigues, Picnic on the Grass, 1950.


Commentary on the Book of Marcus Vinicius Mazzari

This is one of those mixed-feel books that both hold great promise and cause some disappointment. Result of a free teaching thesis, learning labyrinths it shares the fragmented nature of almost all studies of literary criticism today. Very few of us still publish books conceived as organic units, in which the parts make no sense without the whole. Today's academic mode of production – which has imposed itself almost without us realizing it – leads to the collection of essays (often already published as articles), which the author, a posteriori, makes an effort to give coherence in a book.

Em learning labyrinths, however, the collection of separate texts does not affect readability; rather, it attests to the meaning of the author's concerns, and even if there are edges that have not been completely smoothed over, the eight chapters outline a common and recurrent theme.

The first discusses a basic question, namely, whether Grande Sertão: paths it is closer to the Faustian genre or the romance of formation. After analyzing the type of evil involved, as well as the conditions and result of the demonic pact, the conclusion is favorable to the formation novel. The second chapter proposes to define this genre, placing in it the Henry Green, by Gottfried Keller, and pointing to a “paradigm shift”, with “the failure of its hero”. Then there is the comparison between the Athenaeum, by Raul Pompéia, and The tribulations of the pupil Törless, by Robert Musil, in which the congruence of diagnoses of the boarding school system is shown, as well as the differences in overcoming the marks left on the protagonists.

It is also postulated that, by outlining “worlds in which the precariousness of individual autonomy is projected in the face of increasingly coercive social structures”, the novels would be, each in its own way, announcing the crimes and genocides of the XNUMXth century. The second section of the book, with shorter texts, opens with an analysis of “Na Rua do Sabão”, by Manuel Bandeira; the next chapter, the fifth, turns to Brecht's lyrics read according to the Taoist influence that values ​​changeability and gentleness; the sixth comments The castle, by Kafka; the seventh, the work of Günter Grass; and the eighth, The Sorrows of Young Werther, by Goethe, according to the hypothesis of a parallelism between the author's biography and the novel.

There is much to praise in learning labyrinths. The incessant focus on the literary phenomenon, the rigorously comparative approach (today largely in crisis), the elegant writing and the remarkable erudition make the volume something rare in the Brazilian academic production of the present. Add to this the pleasure that many readers will certainly have in seeing great Brazilian authors compared on an equal footing with the greatest German writers. But the book's greatest promise is that of valuing literature as an autonomous object – as strange as that may seem.

Because the volume becomes particularly interesting when one considers that his concern with literature itself, with coexistence with tradition and with great works, is the opposite of the practice of applying theories and fads that characterize so much of the critical production of this beginning. of century. The interpretation of canonical texts based on themselves, but taking into account their extensive critical fortune, is slower and more laborious than the rereading of unstable objects with pre-molded concepts, which facilitate the instant paper.

This does not mean, however, that learning labyrinths have no problems, such as a certain positivity in dealing with literature, which presupposes its greatness before proving it. For example, the formative novel undoubtedly emerges from the book with richer content, by incorporating the weak hero; however, this is not enough for this genre to be duly problematized, in an era that mocks formation.

Perhaps it is this solidity imputed to the literature that makes it possible to mention “the human condition” several times throughout the text as a universal and timeless constant – something that the book itself belies in its reading of the radical mutability in Brecht. And perhaps it is also what is behind an idealized representation of childhood as purity: “And could one not recognize in these images of 'adamantine transparency' the archetypal and inexhaustible source from which all literary creation committed to remembering a lost fullness comes to draw [… ] Thus, the 'idea' of a simple and active life, of autonomous existence, guided by its own laws, arises in us, in the sense of the eternal unity of being with nature and with itself – the same idea, in short, that glimpsed in the world of children”.

This positivity of the concept of literature could also explain the exaggerated concern, in the analyses, with the plot of the novels of their themes, to the detriment of formal issues. In the absence of a dive into the interiority of the works, into what is contradictory in them and what makes them more than they are, expressions such as “high artistic elaboration” sound more like invocations than demonstrations. It is curious that the text contains a quote from Adorno, in a footnote, which belies the thrust of the book: “The ideological, affirmative element in the concept of the achieved work of art finds its corrective in the fact that there are no works of art perfect. If such existed, then conciliation would indeed be possible in the midst of the unreconciled, to whose status art belongs.” By incorporating the negative into close readings and showing that great works are great due to the configuration of failure they bring, learning labyrinths could fulfill his promise.

* Fabio Akcelrud Durão he is a professor in the department of literary theory at Unicamp. Author, among other books, of Modernism and coherence; Four chapters of a negative aesthetic (Peter Lang).


Marcus Vinicius Mazzari. learning labyrinths. São Paulo, Publisher 34, 2010, 320 pages.


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