Literature in Quarantine: bigger than the world

Image: Elyeser Szturm

Ulisses Razzante Vaccari*

Commentary on the most recent book by Reinaldo Moraes

Although a little unusual, it is fair to use a phrase from Kant to define Reinaldo Moraes' novel: it is a work of spirit, which enlivens the reader's mind. I thought about that when I read its pages, because, in fact, at the end of some of them, my mind seemed like a blender of ideas, of lights, of the most bizarre neural connections, whose existence I had never suspected existed in my head. A profusion of thoughts, feelings, memories, comparisons, and all that – this is the strangest thing – provided by a book that does not have a true story, a plot, a myth, as Aristotle demanded of every tragedy, with a beginning, middle and end. The book, rather, is composed of thoughts thought within the solitude of a flighty head, with literary pretensions, stuck in the body of a middle-aged man who walks up to Teodoro Sampaio talking into a tape recorder the ideas that occur to him at random, in free association, looking for a genius first sentence for their next novel. Everything happens there, inside your cachola. But such thoughts are not lost, as could well happen with any narcissistic soliloquy, as they are supported by the street, which here plays the role of a concrete poetics. The character's dangerous delusions are not consumed by themselves and in themselves, as they collide and narrow in the signs of the shops, in the windows, in the confused wires of the light poles, in the odors of the restaurants, bars and pizzerias, or in the nauseating smell that overflows with the corpses of the IML. But, above all, these thoughts collide with passers-by, as diverse as possible, with the richest fauna ever explored by a writer in search of a character and a story. Most of them are beggars, the most varied women, bikers, high-class ladies embalmed in their plastic surgery and in their big armored cars, bus drivers who cross the path of the eternal traveler. The most subjective discourse, therefore, more personal and more delusional, does not lose its meaning in a solipsistic and uninteresting epiphany. Without threshing floor or verge, the thoughts of this solitary character find threshing floor and verge on the street stone, on the dirty curb of the dirty sidewalk that stretches out in front of the feet of the solitary flâneur from São Paulo, as if in him the rhythm of apparently disconnected, humming thoughts on his analog recorder, was given by the frantic pitch of the intersections he slowly passes through. And, just as the streets, with their contingent characters, are left behind and disappear in the immensity of the autophagic city, thoughts, like the good thoughts that they are, disappear to the same extent that they are propagated into nothingness. Like the head of a loner, the city is also a cloud of pollution and luminous gases in eternal transformation. Both in one and in the other, nothing remains or remains like a micro chaos that expresses the macro chaos of the urban universe. Or will it be vice versa? In any case. beatniks. The intersections he passes through are not just streets and disconnected ideas, but also works and literary references, often implicit, always filled with irony, a lot of irony, as if the reader were reading a satirical history of literature, albeit without the pedantry characteristic of academic tomes, good sure, following the primer of a good pub conversation. A history of literature told at the bar table. For the writer knows for whom he is writing. And, for its reader, who also cultivates a literary pride deep down, it becomes impossible not to remember a certain Chillies, Turkeys and Bacanaço, making of bigger than the world a direct offspring of this purest breed of São Paulo writers, with their unmistakably urban verve, born from the chaos and asshole of the metropolis, smoky in its malevolent odors, tuned in the strident horns and mirrored in the blinding light of the advertising signs that cloud consciences in the twilight of the center of São Paulo. It once occurred to me that Chillies, Turkeys and Bacanaço perhaps constituted the epic of São Paulo, its Iliad skewed, and now I see that this upside-down epic poem also sprouted a Aenida, but one Aenida from the Augusta bass, stuffed, as it should be, with failed anti-heroes, motorcycles, taxi drivers and ordinary people, many addicted to cell phones, and also a few nostalgic whores, since modernity reaped from Augusta those fallen archangels of yesteryear . And so, by taking the reader on a tour of the city of São Paulo through the thoughts of its narrator, the book also brings up Roberto Piva, another literary character from the more lysergic and more paranoid Pauliceia. I can even see his angels of Sodom hidden behind the pillars of the Augusta buildings, as the character flows down this legendary street. It's just that, in today's Augusta, Piva's angels shyly look at the modernity outside, as if ashamed of themselves, pushed into the metropolis' unconscious, our collective Tietê. Only darker. And so, no matter how much Reinaldo's book can be seen as an heir to the João Antônios, Pivas and Plínios Marcos, and no matter how much it shares the same environment as them, it is observed through it that time has passed in that same city , and transformed its streets, re-dimensioned its spaces and narrowed the thoughts of its youngest and oldest passers-by. That is why its language is both old and new, as its inhospitable environment is both old and new. A language that expresses, after all, the vision of a middle-aged man who, born in the 60s, balances his verve between the safety of the sidewalk and the wild dangers of the middle of the street, between ideas and conceptions of the 80s and younger ones. manifestations of the generation of the second decade of the XNUMXst century. With that, his language achieves a feat. The critic would say that, at the same time that it unites the eras in an unbearable tension, it synthesizes the incest, characteristic of Brazilianness, of the highest literary culture with the most sordid world of the São Paulo sewers. Through his stubborn loquacity, his colloquial and unpretentious verbiage, our character, while belching Flaubert and the Bard, sees himself at risk of having to negotiate batteries for his analog recorder with a Chinese street vendor. And so it is, between a São Paulo of yesteryear, populated by the angels of Sodom, and a São Paulo of now, squeezed between the blackout blocks and the demonstrations at the front of Masp, which our character sneaks around, with his look at the same time stupid and in tune, idiotic and critical, naive and mocking. And all this without a kid in your pocket and a hard-on, as every aspiring writer in our beloved homeland called Brazil often does.

*Ulisses Razzante Vaccari Professor of Philosophy at the Federal University of Santa Catarina (UFSC).

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