God's Unfeeling Chord

Frank Auerbach, The Rise of the Big Bear, 1967–8
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By DANIEL BRAZIL*

Commentary on the book by Edmar Monteiro Filho

The way in which contemporary literature is produced is inseparable from the media era in which we live. The fact that, since the end of the XNUMXth century, we have at our fingertips and eyes the largest library of all times, the most babelal profusion of styles, the most instantaneous catalog of bibliographic consultations and immediate access to the artistic production of all corners of the planet means that the act of writing is increasingly permeated by such a large amount of influences that many times it will be difficult to detect and verify.

The Borgiano Aleph appears in front of us today when we turn on the computer screen. Obviously, this doesn't make us omniscient wizards, as encompassing so much knowledge would probably drive us crazy. The labyrinths can turn into nightmares. New writers sail in different stylistic currents that can take them to the sinkhole of this ocean, if they don't know how to handle the rudder of creation with skill.

Edmar Monteiro Filho is a contemporary Brazilian author who adheres to the cultured norm, to classic narrative forms, but offers the reader a journey to other dimensions, beyond the surface of writing, where the handling of aesthetic and experiential references takes place in an intelligent and disturbing. Award-winning author of short stories that will be present in any anthology of this first half of the century, one of his feats was to establish a fascinating dialogue with the work of MC Escher (Atlas of the Impossible, Penalux, 2017), creating fictions that mirror or develop – never in a submissive or realistic way – the ideas proposed by the brilliant Dutchman.

Your new book, God's Unfeeling Chord, does not have the radical unit of Atlas, but reaffirms his qualities as a prose writer. It can be classified as a book of short stories, although the story that lends its title to the volume is 60 pages long. A civil servant from Amparo, responsible for the city's Museum, finds himself involved with a rumor that paintings have disappeared from the City Hall. At the same time, he digs through old documents and letters from over a century old, and goes over his tense relationship with his son.

Another quasi-novel tale is portrait of Rashmila, with almost 40 pages, where the eastern climate of the narrative takes us to Borges and his cunning existential dilemmas. The craftsmanship of Edmar Pereira Filho's writing subtly envelops us, and the words seem to exude the scent of sandalwood and Nepalese incense.

But it is in the short narratives that the author's talent sparks. From the Cortazarian climate of How the hourglass works, passing through the social crudity of widows, where a Montepio seller seeks customers in the suburbs, to the suicidal conciseness of the narrator of Thin (two pages!) and the emotional purgatory of an appointment at Preventive medicine.

Edmar Monteiro Filho's literature makes a counterpoint to the linguistic experimentation so in vogue – writing freely, without orthodox grammatical rules – and proves that there are still many narrative possibilities to be explored using more, shall we say, classical tools. And this turns out to be one of the great pleasures that a reader can find in contemporary Brazilian literature: the possibility of coexisting with opposing styles, of appreciating fictional raps, sambas and symphonies, of licking figurative and abstract paintings with one's eyes, of tasting feijoada, sushi and digital alphabet soups, without being tied to everyday rice and beans.

* Daniel Brazil is a writer, author of the novel suit of kings (Penalux), screenwriter and TV director, music and literary critic.

Reference

Edmar Monteiro Filho. God's Unfeeling Chord. São Paulo, Original Orange Edition, 2022, 172 pages (https://amzn.to/3OSZrYA).

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