The enchanted lake of Grongonzo

Image: Paulo Monteiro / Jornal de Resenhas


Commentary on the book by Marilene Felinto

don't imagine that The enchanted lake of Grongonzo, the second novel by the writer, journalist and translator Marilene Felinto, is an easy read, one that can be read inattentively. Marilene is not one to make concessions. just see The women of Tijucopapo (1982), her award-winning and highly praised debut novel, and also the book Graciliano Ramos: other heroes and this Graciliano (1983), a controversial and original biography of the great Northeastern writer. A translator of Conrad and Shaw, she is a powerful revelation in prose.

The theme of Grongonzo is not just one, there are several, very interconnected: friendship, badness (ours and others), anger as a possibility of love. This is all worked out based on Deisi's story, which recalls, reconstitutes, reevaluates and relives her past. Deisi is in Grongonzo, that place that turns “women into stones”, her almost critical “territory”, where she spent her childhood, waiting for friends – Lena, Estefânia and Demian, her ex-boyfriend, from whom she had spontaneously separated.

Deisi and other brothers were raised by their grandmother in the violent Grongonzo of the “times of the jaguar”, a city of “four weapons”, where everyone was military and the kids were “children of one rank or another”. Deisi was the daughter of Browns, a Marine. There were children of green privates, white corporals, sergeants, blue Air Force lieutenants. They studied together at the same “Patronato Maria Tereza” (p. 49).

Very early on, he learns to handle his bodoque made of guava stalks and tire strips, an indispensable weapon for his survival and for venting his grudges. He refuses to trade his bodoque for a rubber-tipped pencil, and he doesn't let the children of lieutenants who at school get involved in talking well, "not mixing with anyone" and, supremely daring, writing verses in class, with such arrogance, “as if words were blue, they belonged to someone who was born well”. She and her friends, in groups, huddled in the grass clumps and armed with V-shaped bodoques and cartridge cases loaded with tick seeds, opened fire on the hot dogs, the officers' sons. Grudge as a moral for rural Jacobins.

Like their friends, their relationship with the grandmother who raised them is one of love and hate. The old woman, however, provides him with a sure guide to survival, through proverbs, catchphrases and words (“he just made words. They even killed people”): “each head is a world”; “it stinks like only aruá catinga”; “beast is cashew, which is born with the head down”; "here you do, here you pay"; “I trample you, I trample you, I reduce you to hail”. The grandmother almost killed him (of course with words), when expressing what she thought about the eldest granddaughter: “that girl is so full of badness, from the tip of her bad hair to her dirty toe”.

More could be said about The enchanted lake of Grongonzo, but I think we can stop here. Marilene gives her message in a language close to oral language, short sentences – most of the times the sentences do not exceed one line –, registering what her character says, thinks or what she formulates badly. And she does it with the precision of an elite sniper, firing deadly, spiteful words, but with an almost intractable tenderness: “the carbuncle words” in which Mário de Andrade saw the possibility and principle of “a diamond affection”.

*Afranio Catani he is a retired professor at USP and a visiting professor at UFF.

Originally posted on extinct read books. São Paulo. Year IX, September, 1987, p. 30.



Marilene Felinto The enchanted lake of Grongonzo. Rio de Janeiro: Guanabara, 1987.


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