Captain's Legacy

Image: João Nitsche


Commentary on Flavio Aguiar's novel

Many are those who have turned and continue to turn to this character and her famous hangover eyes, as well as the crucial issues involved in Dom Casmurro, above all the suspicion of betrayal and the fact that the story is told by only one of those involved, Casmurro of the title, remembering his youth and his love for Capitu. As we know, it's only through his eyes that we know her.

Writer Flavio Aguiar takes up the character in a daring and courageous way, with the confidence of someone who has truly encyclopedic knowledge and knows exactly what to do with it. I consider its resumption to be daring because it places Capitu at the center of solving the enigma of a police narrative – which, in principle, would place us far away from Machado's novel. But only in principle, since Aguiar's own novel brings us an important key in this direction, by mentioning the American critic Peter Brooks and his conception that every good narrative brings, in fact, a story underneath the one that apparently , is told, and that, consequently, one of the functions of the reader is to reveal this hidden story.

The police narrative would thus be at the heart of fiction, which means that even Dom Casmurro has something of a police narrative, and that we, as readers, are challenged to unravel the story that would be behind everything that Bentinho confesses in his text. The then sullen Bento Santiago even tries, with his narration, to decipher an enigma, but all he manages is to throw it at us, due to his inability to decipher it completely, definitively, to achieve the peace he would want for your old age.

And peace in old age is everything the protagonist of Flavio Aguiar's novel doesn't want. On the contrary, if at times he even identifies with the old Bentinho, he knows that he is not stubborn and that he does not want to rebuild his youth to take the place of an empty life, and that even though he intends to seek, in the current Berlin of the 70st century, the libertarian Berlin of the XNUMXs. All he will have, however, will be the opposite of the incessant remembrance of his past, as he finds himself plunged into a present full of action and danger, in which his life is put at risk. He is cast (or, better said, he lets himself be cast) as bait at the center of a police investigation to dismantle an international gang that dabbles in everything that is bad: drug and human trafficking, tax evasion, crimes of this and that. and which, to top it off, is involved with neo-Nazis and probably with old survivors of Nazism.

The gang, sought by a team from several countries, has an arm that operates in Brazil, through federal deputy Júlio Cina. Through this Brazilian arm, the author manages to bring the narrative, which already articulated the German historical present with its still ardent and complex past, to articulate with the Brazilian historical present - contemporary in the strict sense, considering that Captain's Legacy, takes place in the aftermath of Dilma's re-election, when the opposition questioned the validity of the election and began to show their teeth. It is to this scenario that we are also transported, which does not fail to make the book, when talking about our very recent past, speak a lot about what we are living now, after the deposed president.

But where does Capitu come in? Enter because in the midst of all this there is a mystery to be deciphered, on whose solution depends the life of a person, a former student of Professor Edmundo Wolf – which is the name of our protagonist. This student, Arruda, is a journalist hired by Senator Reginaldo Ribeiro to investigate the mystery involved in the violent and unsolved death of Ribeiro's mother, many years ago, and in the suicide of his father, shortly after his wife's death. Both Senator Ribeiro and Deputy Cina belong to the same party, but with rival tendencies, and the latter has been blackmailing the former with the threat of resolving the past of mysterious deaths, bringing them to the fore with new revelations, which could impede political projects. of the senator, to launch himself as a candidate for vice president or even president of the country.

Journalist Arruda, a former student of Wolf's, had been hired to investigate the past of Senator Ribeiro's parents, having left for Porto Alegre, where both politicians were born. But, on returning to Brasilia, he simply disappeared, shortly after having arranged a meeting with the senator by telephone. Suspicions all fell on the deputy, but nobody knew where the journalist was, not even if he was still alive. It was not possible to activate any of the police, due to the known infiltrations existing in it, divided into various tendencies and factions and their corresponding multiple interests.

Who was then recruited to decipher the riddle? Professor Wolf. After all, Arruda left a secret message, before disappearing, addressed to his former teacher. A message that involves Capitu, or what Arruda calls “Capitu's legacy”. It is on the solution to this riddle – and Arruda works as a riddler for several international newspapers – that his former student's life depends on, as well as the discovery of the mystery involved in those, in addition to the dismantling and arrest of the international gang, which had one of its top leaders living in the professor's building in Berlin.

Professor Wolf, therefore, is at the center of the episodes, and it should be noted that, constructed as a detective novel, Captain's Legacy he did not create a type of character that is so common in this fiction, the detective or investigator. What we have is a former university professor, retired, specialist in detective novels, who, with his literary knowledge, can solve the riddle and save the life of a former student. This choice by Flavio struck me as not only original, but perfect. After all, what would be better, when writing a crime novel that dialogues with one of the greatest works of our literature, and with one of its most enigmatic characters, than a character who is a literary critic, that is, a specialist in literature, and that he will have to solve everything with his knowledge of literature? Master play.

Of course Wolf will have help. And that help comes from the most unexpected places too. Starting with the person who brought him all the trouble: Aroeira, a former policeman who played soccer with Wolf when they were both young, in Porto Alegre, under the baton of another literature professor, Paco, a militant of the left like almost everyone who gathered around the ball on the little field in question, behind the Júlio de Castilhos school.

But, mysteriously, Paco had accepted the presence of Aroeira and several other police officers to play on the opposite team, and that in times of dictatorship. Now, Aroeira reappears claiming to be an Abin agent, our intelligence agency that succeeded the SNI. That is, despite this agent having the name of a song by Geraldo Vandré that talks about the struggle of the people against the bosses, Aroeira has always been on the other side. But are the sides really that sharp?

More than the help of Aroeira, who is the one who put him in the wheel of confusion, Wolf will have the help of the German police (also with its various internal feuds, still originating from the old division between West and East Germany) and of several other police and international intelligence agencies. Among all these men, a good surprise for Wolf: a beautiful woman, Zuleika, who falls in love with him (and vice versa) and who was not exactly a member of any of those secret services, but just a translator and former Portuguese teacher. for foreigns. Someone, therefore, from the universe of language.

We also have another ingredient in the novel: the protagonist does not have the author's name, but has his middle surname, the unusual Wolf. And the protagonist's first name is none other than Edmundo, like that of Edmond Dantès, the famous Count of Monte Cristo. And, like his inspirer, he finds himself in the midst of adventures through different territories, passing through Berlin, São Paulo, Brasília, Porto Alegre and Paris. Edmundo is from Porto Alegre, like Flavio, he lives in Berlin, like Flavio, but for the second time, as he went into exile there during the dictatorship there, unlike Flavio, who stayed in Brazil, although, like his creator, he did not participate in the armed struggle.

Unlike the writer, however, Edmundo was a specialist in crime novels. However, he had a colleague at the same university that Flávio taught for years, USP, and this colleague did specialize in Brazilian literature like the author. His name? Flavio Aguiar. He is just a character mentioned in the novel, but who makes up this game of mirrors present in Captain's Legacy, in which one thing mirrors the other without being able to properly know the answer. If it exists, if it is possible to reach it. In our political reality, for example, is there any ultimate truth? Are there any resolutions to our riddles? Flávio speaks of our destiny as a people, as a nation, questioning, through an intricate game of suspense and mystery, who we are and how everything is so fluid in our reality.

The novel ends (almost) as a happy end, as it is part of the convention of the police genre, but there is an indication of an enigma that cannot be solved and that will be resumed by the author, as his final words say: “To be continued in the next novel”. Excellent for us, who ended the book wanting even more. Like the good detective story that it is, Captain's Legacy makes us not want to let go of its virtual pages, reading its three parts at a devouring speed. And it also establishes that kind of second perception of reality that good mystery fiction brings, the one that makes us distrust our reality, in the multiple senses of that word, and feel a certain fear of any slight crack in the dead of night. I confess that at times I opted to turn on the lights at home.

*Red Marina is a postdoctoral researcher in literature at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ). Author, among other books, of Armed generation: literature and resistance in Angola and Brazil (Avenue).

Originally published on the portal Major Card.


Flavio Aguiar. Captain's Legacy. São Paulo, co-edition Boitempo/e-galaxia.


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