Murilo Rubião

The work of Colombian artist Fernando Botero is displayed at the Bowers Museum


Fantastic or marvelous realism – a classificatory uncertainty

To the memory of José Nicolau Gregorin Filho.

I sent a message to Murilo rubion, saying that I received an invitation from professor Bruno Anselmi Matangrano to participate in a discussion panel based on the theme of the borders of the unusual. And evidently, in the face of such a generous invitation, I did not hesitate to propose a communication on the poetics of the absurd in Murilian short stories, aiming at this imbroglio of epistemological scope related to the fact that narratives adjust to the fantastic mode of construction or are constituted under the verve of wonderful realism.

In response, Murilo Rubião asked me to pick him up by car, Thursday, August 10th, at 22 pm, at campus of the Federal University of Minas Gerais, in front of the Central Library, where the Acervo de Escritores Mineiros is located. I believed that, as soon as we met, he would contribute by elucidating this taxonomic issue that arouses controversy when it comes to his intrigues.

So I did, at 22 I picked up Murilo Rubião at the Acervo de Escritores Mineiros and from there we headed towards São Paulo. I invited him to accompany me to USP; he refused, preferring to be left on Rua Barão de Iguape, in the Liberdade neighborhood, in front of the building formerly occupied by Editora Ática. He told me that he would have lunch with his former editor, Jiro Takahashi, but not before checking in his suitcase at a hotel on Rua da Glória.

Time flew by – when I realized, we were already on BR-381. Murilo listened more than he spoke: cheerful face, dressed as usual (dark suit, without the tie). The car's windows were closed, and a scent of roses emanated from his body. I asked him to clarify for me the real classification of his narratives. That was when he smiled and told me to find this data in a letter that Mário de Andrade had sent him in the 1940s, and, later, in another correspondence, from the 1960s, whose sender was the critic Antonio Candido. I thanked him, somewhat embarrassedly. At that moment I realized that my passenger was about to fall asleep: his face was jovial. Very cordially he whispered. “My name is Zacharias. Speak freely; I’m dead but I can hear you perfectly.”

I thought it was a joke by the pyrotechnic author; I reduced speed and on the right I entered a gas station, without needing to fill up, because the car's tank didn't lack fuel. I remember mentioning to Murilo my favorite painting by Edward Hopper, dated 1940 – in the oil on canvas the gas station attendant occupies, alone and at dusk, the center of the portrait; The sides of the road stand out, covered in green-yellow fringes of rebellious scrubland.

I stayed in the car while Rubião went to the station's bathroom. When he returned, three people accompanied him: a very overweight woman, a skinny elderly man in a gray cap, and another gentleman, somewhat serious, carrying a cage with a rabbit. The woman, who introduced herself as Bárbara, sat at the front; the others were in the back seat, and they talked there, ignoring me and the obese woman.

Throughout the trip, I rehearsed this line, wanting to believe that the short story writer and his characters were listening to me. I glanced at the rearview mirror and saw that a snake was moving along Murilo Rubião's left arm. And several feathers from a bird, the species of which I could not define, were sticking out of his jacket pocket.

Well then: I started speaking.

Murilo, the writer Mário de Andrade, in 1943, did not have the nomenclature of fantastic or magical realism — nor wonderful realism — to classify narratives in the book that you would publish four years later. Mário wrote exactly this: “the strangest thing is his strong gift of imposing the unreal case. The same gift as Kafka: we no longer worry, we are trapped by the story, we read and accept the unreal as if it were real, without any further reaction.” When I mentioned the name of the Austro-Hungarian writer, Murilo Rubião laughed mischievously and lit a cigarette. I immediately rolled down the car windows. Brutes jumped out and disappeared down the road.

As for Antonio Candido's letter — I said to my passengers —, I really like the expression according to which the Murilian plot “makes us feel as if the laws of the world were normally remade. An admirable naturalness, made of supernaturality.” At that moment Murilo Rubião blinked his right eye and a small, delicate glass bottle, filled with water almost to the top, containing a fat, sparkling fish, appeared as if by magic in Bárbara's hands, resting on her legs — this Bárbara , to my eyes, it looked like a painting by Fernando Botero (To the scent of roses that wafted sweetly through the car, were added notes of musk and patchouli — it came from her, the character who once ordered a baobab tree from her obsequious husband).

I looked away from Barbara and resumed my clumsy rhetoric.

Deep down, Mário and Candido saw in Murilo's unusual an anarchically hybrid creation procedure: they conceived their stories as material that tempers the fantastic brought about by inexplicable phenomena with the allegorical intrinsic to marvelous realism.

In fact. If we recap some narratives, as an example, we will see this communion. The story “Bárbara” (upon hearing her name, my runner asked the skinny girl behind her for the pipe that this man with the gray cap was carrying in his hand; he gave it to her with a broad smile). The short story “Bárbara” – I resumed my reasoning – offers us in its economy and ambiguity that uncomfortable uncertainty that is characteristic of the fantastic; that is: the hesitant reader wonders, knowing that the statute of science would not give him answers, about the cause of the heroine's insatiable desire being linked to her immeasurable weight gain (I confess that I was inelegant and did not feel comfortable saying this to the Barbara's side).

I have the same to say about “Aglaia” (which reader does not wonder at the rebellion of the laws of nature, since a woman becomes pregnant without the consummation of the sexual act? And how can a legion be born, in consecutive births, of children? Dozens and dozens of babies). Although the reader accepts the contract of “make believe” (wonderful realism) there is always a flea behind their ears. Always the darkness around. I wanted to substantiate my point of view, using a classic essay by Julio Cortázar, and amend it with statements by Todorov, Irène Bessière and Irlemar Chiampi. I didn't do so, thinking that my propositions would sound pedantic — as if I intended to boast of erudition, indirectly boasting academic titles or the role of professor.

I continued, ridiculous in my certainties.

Know that the short story “The Slime” is structured in the style of nineteenth-century fantasy. Galateu, the protagonist, is the victim of persecution by a psychoanalyst (Dr. Pink), determined to uncover the past secrets of the man who refuses to lie down on his couch. Until a strange phenomenon, that is, surprising, of supernatural latitude, comes to the fore in the story: Galateu, lulled by the disturbance of sleep due to strong medication, notices in the bathroom mirror that his left nipple had disappeared — in its place it had appeared. a bloody wound, opened in scarlet petals.” There are so many sinister incidents surrounding this “sticky thing” announced on the character's chest that it seems impossible to ignore Freud's essay on the Disquieting One, also translated as the Unfamiliar, as well as Otto Rank's thesis regarding the double, the shadow...

I stopped what I was saying because the talking behind me was compromising my reasoning. And it's not that, to attack Murilo Rubião, I started saying that the character Hebe, from the short story “The Commensals”, is an automaton similar to Hoffmann's doll Olímpia, in “The Sandman”; and said further: that Murilo's imitation did not stop there: the hero and kind of scapegoat, whose name gives the title to the story “Rosebud”, is a facsimile by Josep K, by The process. Luckily, the author of The former magician he didn't hear what I was saying, chatting with his seat partners.

I remained silent for a minute or two and continued speaking.

If I were to list the short stories predominantly in the fantastic vein, I would never leave out of this inventory “The Guest”, “The Row”, “The Three Names of Godofredo”, “The Bride of the Blue House”, “Glass Flower”, “Elisa”… (as I listed them, my fingers on the steering wheel of the car moved as if I were pressing the buttons on a typewriter). Too many titles escaped me; I was tired from the trip. My head and shoulders weighed me down, my stomach growled.

Dawn. The light blue sky offered orange spots (I remembered that, as a child, I collected marbles, and many of them reflected this color).

And, in order not to get dispersed and interrupt the count, I continued with this copious phrase: if I were to list the stories predominantly in the line of marvelous realism, I would never leave out of this inventory “O ex-mágico da Taverna Minhota”, “O pyrotechnician Zacarias ”, “Teleco, the bunny”, “The dragons”, “The man in the gray cap”, “The blockade”… (I realized, from the repetitive movement of my fingers, that it was a draw; half and half: fantastic and wonderful realism ). I found my attitude pathetic, not to say ridiculous.

I remained silent, trying to analyze with balance and justifying to myself that Murilo Rubião's writing does not yield to framing. She operates with synthesis and derails surprises inherent to the magical territory (the vernacular in a straight line; the narrated experiences, in pirouettes). And as Murilo, in the labor of his fables, exhaustively sought conciseness through the right word, I am convinced that the word “unusual” translates – as no other word would so well – the nature of his literature.

When I came to my senses, we had arrived in São Paulo. They asked me to leave them near the Copan Building, and I went to the Liberdade neighborhood, on Rua Barão de Iguape. Murilo continued sitting in the back seat, now surrounded by animals. I thought about saying so many things to him at that moment, but shyness didn't allow it. I wanted to expose my personal things: to say that, on the occasion of my first visit to his estate, at UFMG, I held his glasses (a heavy frame), handled his scissors and his shaving device (in fact, identical to those of my grandfather, born in 1911 – seven years older than him); that I looked through boxes, folders, photos, read his notes, including napkins with notes from those who partied with friends at the Maletta bar and restaurant... That there are photos revealing that he was a good-looking young man.

But he didn't say anything. Yes, I had to take several walks around the streets of the Liberdade neighborhood due to Galvão Bueno being closed (dragons occupied the asphalt; colorful stalls filled both sides of the sidewalks; I identified a certain rat emerging from a manhole and escaping into a square ( I imagined it was “Josefina, the singer” — Kafka's enigmatic character.) Suddenly, Murilo extended his hand cordially to me: we had arrived at the old Attica building, and then I noticed that on his wrist there was a tattoo of a crucifix.

He got out of the car, but the animals stayed with me.

At the entrance to the building, he took the side corridor to the left – and, at the end, the person waiting for him was not Jiro. Instead of the editor of Japanese descent, there was a tall, stocky man with gray hair: the person who came to welcome him was my friend Nicolau Gregorin.

*Ricardo Iannace He is a professor in the postgraduate program in Comparative Studies of Portuguese Language Literatures at FFLCH-USP. Author, among other books, of Murilo Rubião and the architectures of the fantastic (edusp).

Text presented at the “11st Journey of Unusual Studies at USP”, on August 2023, XNUMX.

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