Language and the world in literature

Mira Schendel, 1954, tempera, plaster and wood on wood, 51.00 cm x 66.00 cm. Photographic reproduction Romulo Fialdini


About songs by Chico Buarque and Johnny Hooker

In July 2017, two songs were released on YouTube eight days apart. Let’s see the lyrics – minus two verses – of the one that came out first, on the 20th:

What will they say about us?
Your country, God and such
When they see rumors
of our love

Baby, I'm done hiding
Between looks, whispers with you
....................................... ..
....................................... ..

they will not win
nothing has to be in vain
Before this night is over
Dance with me to our song!

And floats, floats!
Nobody will be able
Want to tell us how to love

And floats, floats!
Nobody will be able
Want to tell us how to love

Between loose conversations on the floor
Your body is stiff, hard, healthy
and your smell
That still stayed in my hand

A new time has to win
So that we can flourish
And baby love love

they will not win
nothing has to be in vain
Before this night is over
Baby listen, it's our song!

And floats, floats!
Nobody will be able
Want to tell us how to love

How to love? How to love?
Nobody will be able
Want to tell us how to love

Let's now move on to the second lyrics, from a song released on July 28th, also expurgated, this one with two stanzas, the initial one (which appears twice, at the beginning of each of the two parts) and the final one:

....................................... ..

If your watchman gets excited
And take you out on the road
Just blow my name
with your perfume
to attract me

if your nights
have no end
If a heartless person makes you cry
drop a handkerchief
that I reach you

When your heart pleads
Or when your whim demands
Long woman and children
and on my knees
I will follow you

In our house
you will be queen
You will be cruel, maybe
you're going to make morning
piss me off
And I, always happier

I'll lay you down
In the bed I made
stepping on feathers
Every morning
I will wake you up

....................................... ..

If your watchman gets excited
And take you out on the road
Just blow my name
with your perfume
to attract me

between sighs
can another name
From your lips escape you
I will be jealous
even from me
In the mirror hugging you

But your lover I will always be
More than I am today
or these rhymes
I did not write
Nor has anyone ever loved

If your nights never end
If a heartless person makes you cry
drop a handkerchief
that I reach you

............................................. ..

Although very different from each other, a difference that is immediately noticeable, revealed by the tone and the linguistic variant used, these two letters have a lot in common. Both are love poems and both are linked to the same model, even if unfolded in two of its tendencies. This is the tradition inaugurated by courtly poetry that became a veritable fever in Europe between the XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries, originating in Provence and spreading throughout the continent, from Germany and Italy to Portugal, a poetry of amorous suffering, of a pain of various natures constantly enacted.

In that case, the main source of this suffering was the woman's contempt for the poor troubadour, who humiliated himself before the one who made him suffer - something clearly visible in our second letter. This model forges a vision of love that goes through the following centuries unscathed, reworked by poets such as Shakespeare and Camões and strongly contributing to the concept of love of the romantics, who had a predilection for a very visible ingredient in our first letter, which is the suffering of love. caused not by the contempt of one of the lovers, but by the clash between the true love shared between the lovers and the social prohibitions that prevent or hinder its realization.

But let's get back to our songs. In the first, the use of the cliché of misunderstood love sets the tone. Verses like “What will they say about us?” in an ironic key, “They won't win”, “Dance with me our song” and its variant “Baby, listen, it's our song”, “And your smell / That still stayed in my hand”, “A new time there will be a win / So that we can flourish”, among others, are even at the limit of authorship. They are ideas and even entire formulations so repeated that they could hardly be attributed to anyone by any scholar of the future who pored over the undefined debris of our time, as did Manuel Bandeira and Rodrigues Lapa in relation to the chilean letters, to identify who would have been the unknown author who composed this song. And this does not exclude the word “baby”, for example, which the romantics did not use, but which the tradition of the modern romantic ballad, whether connected to rock or not, derived from them, made obsessive use, an element, by the way, which, alongside the general informality, helps to set the tone that it is a lyric of our time.

Composed entirely of clichés, there is little left in it that we can identify as properly authorial. Perhaps that “Flutua”, which most suggests that it describes the free love that the lyrics extol – it is not by chance that he composes the chorus and gives the title to the song. Note that this is not a value judgment: one of the most beautiful and intricate attributions of poetic language is exactly that of repeating clichés to transform them, in the context of a poem, into unusual elements, capable of gaining new meanings, an unexpected intensity. .

Before talking about the omitted verses, let's take a look at letter 2, which many here already know what it is about, given the controversy it ended up provoking. In it we also find a whole collection of love poetry clichés. They are, however, perceived by those who listen to the song today as something older, which the use of the second person insistently within the standards of the cultural norm, including the treacherous use of the imperative, underlines. Not to mention the vocabulary: “heartless”, “beg”, “silently”.

But that's not all: the author is not shy about repeating ideas that have an undeniable musty smell, such as that the lady drops her handkerchief so that the gentleman has the opportunity to show her his attention and kindness; or that his dedication is such that he will be jealous even of himself. The submission of the lyricist is the size of the submission of the troubadours, and the lady seen as queen is a novelty imported directly from the twelfth century.

It is clear that the use of the cliché derives from a conscious process – at least that is what some specific poetic procedures indicate. I will talk about three of them. The first, simplest, is the direct use of citation. The lines “Or these rhymes I didn’t write / Neither did anyone / Never loved” are the translation of the final line of Shakespeare’s sonnet 116: “I never write, nor no man ever loved”, literally something like “I never wrote nor no man ever loved”. The second is the invention of moments of great novelty, compatible with the old model chosen, but unexpected, which is seen in the simple use of a word that today sounds like it comes from orality, although it is old in the cultured language, like “aperrear” , or in the synesthesia of the verses “Just blow my name / With your perfume”.

The third, most important for us here, is the inclusion of elements that sound off-axis in relation to the model, which gives the entire lyrics a subtle but evident background of irony. This is how this man, to demonstrate his submission, will include housework among his future actions, and love will be made in the bed he has made, just like the next day, he will wake up before her and wake her up – quite the opposite of that happens in a classic song where it is said “Every day she does everything the same / Wakes me up at six in the morning”. This stanza generates a very interesting noise because it sounds like an update intention on the part of a lyrical self whose values ​​seem to be linked to another world, that of falling handkerchiefs, and may sound like an old man who tries to give indications that he knows, without know exactly how the game is in the present.

This is also how, in an unprecedented attitude in the history of courtly love, the lyrical self caused controversy, because, to demonstrate the degree of submission to which it would be willing, it proposes to leave a wife and children to follow the beloved. Faced with these verses, Flavia Azevedo said so in the Bahia Mail: “But this time, on the panel of female emotions, Chico pressed a controversial button. This woman he evokes, I am not, she is not. Neither who we are nor who we want to be. The one who needs to be saved, who dreams of the kingdom of the home, the one who enjoys hearing “I leave my wife and children”. Wrong button for me. Wrong button for the friend who said: “I thought it was dated”. Wrong button for Andréia who wrote “this business of leaving the child did not go down”. Did not work. And Tua Cantiga is not unanimity”.

This is not about patrolling or rough militancy. But who controls feeling, crazy? Chico Buarque has always communicated with our subjectivity. And it is our subjectivity that is talking to him now. And the real thing is that this internal world has changed. Suddenly, for a lot of women, "I'll drop the kids" sounded about as romantic as a mid-kiss burp. An inelegance, a slutty, an ugly and unnecessary thing. We got bored with the narrative of a cowardly love, with the scoundrel dressed as a superhero, with that childish and ancient lover, with that kind of love… dated. This guy, this character brought by Chico (and so well known among us) is no longer successful. Because we have changed and even our romanticism is, yes, in a different vibe.

Flavia Azevedo's reading is of great interest for the discussion on how it is necessary to pay attention to language without very fixed assumptions, under penalty of producing, in the desire to build a view free of orthodoxy, a profoundly orthodox discourse. Not to mention that if so, it's true, that no one controls feelings, it's the case of those who feel understand the feeling well. In other words, how not to give anything away when it comes to language.

The starting point of his text is legitimate and intelligent: there is a lyrical self linked to a traditional vision of love – not because he uses the troubadour tradition to express himself, but rather because of the somewhat crooked way he chooses to stand out from this tradition, or to allegedly adapt it to our times, or in her terms, to a new feminine subjectivity. If “the bed I made” didn't sound strange to her, the “I leave my wife and children” imposed itself as noise and ended up becoming the whole song. Hence the idea that it is a dated song, which, in this context, means outdated.

Well, the whole song is an exploration of this sliding – hence its effectiveness. I think this is noticeable even without the final and initial stanzas, but with their consideration everything becomes clearer. But before dealing with these intentional purges, let's look at the two verses that were missing from the first song because it is in them that we can find all the meaning sought for that accumulation of clichés about love and freedom. Here is what the entire second stanza says:

Baby, I'm done hiding
Between looks, whispers with you
we are two men
And nothing else

In these two verses, the actuality of these lyrics is manifested, this is where the transformation of a forbidden love song into a manifesto, into a hymn for a cause resides – to use the description made in one of the comments about it on Youtube. Therein lies the source of all his intention and strength. That's the point where the clichés turn into something else. And this is confirmed by the other layers of the song and its promotion.

The melody also refers to a cliché of engaged pop, which reminds me of the great era of Motown from the 70s. It is sung by torn voices, sometimes hoarse, as if they were screaming, but at certain tender moments (especially when Liniker enters, in the second part). The dry drums, without treatment of the introduction, almost dirty, already anticipates this dry, direct climate, the piano, which comes right after, also without any treatment, confirms it and the entrance of the other instruments gives volume and goes in a crescendo that amplifies the manifesto, whose resounding apex is at the end, in the reiteration that no one can want to say how to love. We don't have a clip to see, but the cover of the single, which anticipated the release of the album Chicken Heart, maintained during the entire performance of the song on the official Youtube channel, shows Johnny Hooker, who is the author of the song, and Liniker, kissing each other on the mouth, which already tells anyone who sees what the song is about even before she starts playing. It is, therefore, an engaged song.

The second song, those who didn't know it must have already guessed it, is “Tua cantiga”, by Chico Buarque and Cristóvão Bastos. Its first stanza reads as follows:

When I miss you
When your throat tightens
Just take a breath
that I go fast
console you

In this opening, which is reinforced by the repetition also at the beginning of the second part, we have the position of the lyrical self. There has already been a relationship between him and the lady, that relationship has ended and he wants to resume it. Filled with this desire, he turns to a woman who is absent and who has not expressed any longing or felt any tightness in his throat – things he just longs for and anticipates – and tells her things he finds interesting and potentially attractive. The entire text is a solitary monologue, it is the speculation of an abandoned person, it is the manifestation of a love dream. The lady is not in a position of superiority, she is absent altogether.

In the final stanza, the most unexpected of the lyrical elements emerges, from another topic, this one even older than courtly poetry, that of “long art, short life”. To stay with Shakespeare, let’s see his sonnet 18 translated by Geraldo Carneiro:

Compare you to a summer day?
You are more temperate and adorable.
In May the wind sways the flower bud
And the summer empire is not durable.
The sun sometimes shines brightly,
Either your golden complexion is darker;
All beauty finally loses its splendor,
By chance or negligence by Natura;
But your summer will never end,
Losing possession of your beauty,
Not even death will laugh at overshadowing you,
If in immortal verses you perpetuate yourself.
As long as one breathes and sees and lives,
Live this poem, and survive in it

The idea, as you can see, is that the lover's beauty ends, death will overtake her, but she will live forever because the poet's verses, after all immortal, will perpetuate that beauty and that life. In the lyrics of Chico Buarque what we have is the following:

And when our time is up
When I'm not here anymore
Remember, my deny
of this song
What did I do for you

It is the poet's death that is invoked, not that of the beloved, and the song does not serve to perpetuate it, but rather to keep it in her memory. The sense of helplessness in the opening stanza is completed and amplified in this final stanza. What the song proposes all the time is a game of traditional form and intervention in the debate of the present and, which may seem the same thing, but is not, the coexistence of different discourses.

Listening to the music this impression is reinforced. Cristóvão Bastos' melody also has an old-fashioned feel. In a debate about the song gathered on Túlio Vilaça's blog, the definition that it would be a samba in ternary, as Clove and Cinnamon, by Milton Nascimento and Ronaldo Bastos, which Luis Felipe de Lima disagrees with, who characterizes it as a “kind of lundu in three, a unique samba-reggae”, a classification that Cristóvão Bastos himself approaches when making a brief comment: “It's not a samba in three. It is much closer to a lundu, it has nothing to do with Clove and Cinnamon, groove and melody with a very different meaning”. In other words, it's lundu and it's a waltz, old music from another time. The lyrics capture this suggestion and are immediately integrated into it by the title, when characterized as a song – exactly the name given to poetry by medieval troubadours who wrote in Portuguese.

The melancholy that derives from the hopeless situation of the lyrical self is clear in Chico Buarque's interpretation that we witness in the clip who released the song. The intro already plays when the singer enters the scene. In a truly scenic interpretation, this singer sings the entire lengthy lyrics with a melancholy smile, which embodies the loss the song talks about. In the end, he simply leaves, embodying the “when I'm not here anymore” while the music also continues, but just a little bit, leaving us with the melancholy impression that nothing remains. After all, everything – even the song – has to change.

If all this makes sense, Cristóvão Bastos and Chico Buarque did not do “an ugly and unnecessary thing”. Perhaps they would have done something ugly and unnecessary if the song, as a whole, said what Flavia Azevedo hastily, isolating a passage, betting on a sensation, thought it said based on a kind of standard interpretation of our time. Yes, in a hurry because it is not necessary to summon troubadour poetry or Shakespeare to realize that “I leave my wife and children / And on my knees I will follow you” is hyperbole, and perhaps the lyrical self does not even have a wife and children to abandon. It is enough to set aside for a few seconds the commitment to judge everything morally, to set aside for a few moments the vigilance in the face of potential offense so that language can speak with the complexity that it always speaks.

In the anxious pursuit of conservative thought that wants to keep traditional values ​​unchanged, isn't it curious that Johnny Hooker's music hasn't caused any controversy? Fortunately, no homophobe on duty dared to repudiate the music, the lyrics, or the kiss between two people who, after all, are “two men / and nothing else”.

Who sought the controversy was the artist himself. The day before the release of her song, the Folha de S. Paul had published an interview with Ney Matogrosso who, asked if he “at some point considered himself a representative of a minority”, said: “Casting myself as “the gay” would be very comfortable for the system. How fucking gay. I am a human being, a person. What I do with my sexuality is not the most important thing in my life. That's a third-place aspect." And what is the most important thing in your life? – Having character, being an honest, principled person who treats others well. Be an affectionate, loving person. This is more important than who I fuck.

Johnny Hooker quickly reacted on his Facebook profile: “It's inconceivable to read the phrase 'What a fucking gay, I'm a human being' in the country that kills the most LGBT people in the WORLD(!!). Coming from an artist whose career was largely supported by the struggle of this community, of his own public. A genius artist who lost the floor that the world took, became crystallized, a canon. (...) And in times of 'Gay is the fuck' the only possible answer is that there will be gay as fuck, it will be gay as fuck yes, every day more gay, every day one more level like Pokémon”.

Speaking of old and new, I'm halfway between the two: Ney Matogrosso was born in 1941, a year before my mother, and Johnny Hooker was born in 1987, two years after my eldest daughter. I understand the youngest's concern and, at the same time, I don't understand why defining oneself as a human being is a form of giving up and freezing in time. Anyway, I'm sure that Ney Matogrosso doesn't support violence against gays and neither did he run into the closet, denying his gay status. Which, at this point in the game, given his history as a public figure, would be ridiculous as well as useless.

“Gay as fuck” and “gay as fuck” are not statements with opposite meanings. They are just two forms of the same activism. One – “gay as fuck” – indicates that the path is to emphasize the similarities, therefore refusing the label and highlighting equality; another – “gay as fuck” – bets on the assertion of specificity as a way of taking a stand and confronting the discourse that opposes it. Barring a crass mistake in analyzing their use of language, both want the same thing: the end of prejudice.

This semester I had two experiences in the classroom that worried me. In a debate about star hour, a student and a student disagreed about the interpretation of an aspect of the book, and the girl ended up stating that her colleague was a man and therefore would never understand Clarice Lispector. In another class, a student stated that the black movement did not have to listen to any criticism coming from outside the movement itself.

Once again, I understand that positions like these originate from a new form of militancy, based on the idea of ​​affirmation, which has deepened in the last decade. But I think they lead to a very direct relationship between language and the world. I fear that such an attitude could lead – if it doesn't already lead – to isolation from the thousand ways of seeing a more open society and from the thousand people willing to act to conquer that society. Meanwhile, this December 2017, the forces that really oppose these ideas are gathering to win the presidency and maintain their hegemony in parliament – ​​and not only in Brazil.

Johnny Hooker and Chico Buarque are very different artists, but who, on balance, are on the same side of the ideological spectrum. For better or for worse, neither one has the key that will lead to solutions to the problems of our time, nor is the other simply out of date. It is always necessary to debate, but with the disposition to see in the manifestations of the other the complexity – and the eventual affinity – that they have.

* Luis Bueno is a professor at the Federal University of Paraná (UFPR). Author, among others, books of A story from the romance of 30 (Edusp/Unicamp).



Chico Buarque. your song.

Johnny Hooker. Floats.

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