Bocage by José Paulo Netto

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By DÊNIS DE MORAES*

Considerations about the poetic anthology of Manuel Maria de Barbosa du Bocage, organized by José Paulo Netto

At first glance, a poetic anthology by Manuel Maria de Barbosa du Bocage (1765-1805), a controversial Portuguese author from the XNUMXth century, organized and presented by José Paulo Netto, one of the main Brazilian Marxist intellectuals, biographer of Karl Marx and literary critic. But From Erotica: far beyond the obscene (Boitempo) subverts the conventional framing of the genre. The 42-page presentation, the careful selection of poems and sonnets and the rich collection of notes (almost a book within a book) make up a full-length portrait of the libertine poet who scandalized the puritan hosts of conservatism.

The introductory essay corresponds to an authentic work of narrative engineering. From the exposure of the biographical contingencies that ended up being reflected in the process of literary production, José Paulo Netto highlights the keys to interpreting Bocagian work, associating them with ideas and events that would define its complex intellectual and existential physiognomy .

The argumentative synthesis refuses the imprisoning limits of haste and common sense. What we have before us, as we read, is the essential explanatory and analytical aspects of the stages that outlined Bocage's life story, as well as the sociopolitical and cultural injunctions that, directly or indirectly, interfered in the scale of his creative adventure.

José Paulo Netto evaluates, with extreme expertise, the conflicting transition between modes of production and the economic and social implications in the 1524th century, amid the disputes for power in Portugal. It also incorporates movements, genres and cultural nuances that, over time, converge in the construction of Portuguese literary history, placing the Bocage case in the line of influence of Luís Vaz de Camões (1580-XNUMX), the great poet of the Western tradition, among other derivations and approximation possibilities.

Without fixing the picture that involved Bocage's adversities, torments, bohemian streak and audacious choices, it would be impossible for us to understand the amalgam of inspiration, conviction, nonconformity and open transgression present in much of his work, all of it tensioned by the “confusion of the world". In a similar sense, by deepening the examination of the “immediate historical soil” in which the Portuguese poet’s journey took place, the organizer’s text highlights, in the right intensities, the reasons why Bocage’s erotica is projected as a “privileged and most expressive possible libertine conception” of the last decade of the XNUMXth century in Portugal.

José Paulo Netto rejects the “legendary memory”, the mystifications and falsified objections that ignore the boundaries between the erotic, the pornographic and the obscene, in an attempt to disqualify and leave the Bocagian legacy in the open. Even today, many classify the scenes of explosive desire and explicit sex and the unlimited cunning of seduction in his verses as “cult pornography”. As much as, here and there, we can problematize deviations and excesses on the part of Bocage, it is necessary to recognize the praise for the freedom of pleasure and the resignification of the dimension of desire in societies hostage to the moral impostures of the dominant classes.

From the title given to the poetic anthology itself – “On the way to emancipated sensuality” –, José Paulo Netto points out, as a way to overcome the dualistic and exclusionary vision of an “erotic” or “pornographic” Bocage, a broad analysis of his condition as a man of letters going against established values ​​and retrograde mentalities. An analysis that is not limited to current standards of aesthetic evaluation, including “obscene” language as a salable item within the scope of cultural commodification, and contemplates concrete situations in which Bocage worked. At the time of the Holy Office, he emphasizes, “being a libertine consisted of thinking freely, in accordance with the Enlightenment principles of reason and nature, facing the coercion of prejudices and tradition – and nothing more than that”.

In concluding this brief note, I share the hypothesis that, in certain cases, the organization of a book suggests an alchemical exercise, guided by the subtleties of sensitivity, the mixture of singular components and the honest spirit of the organizer (in this volume, highlighted by the beautiful graphic design and cover by Maikon Nery). There are not a few passages of Da erótica in which these distinctive elements intertwine, highlighting – especially in a resigned and reified world like ours – the validity of the feverish words of an eternal rebel like Bocage, notably rescued by José Paulo Netto.

*Denis de Moraes, journalist and writer, he is a retired professor at the Institute of Art and Social Communication at the Fluminense Federal University. Author, among other books, of Sartre and the press (mauad).

Reference

José Paulo Netto (org.). Bocage. From erotica: far beyond the obscene. São Paulo, Boitempo, 2022, 272 pages. [https://amzn.to/3RsiqsQ]


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