the interior universe

Carlos Zilio, 1970_ARido
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By DANIEL BRAZIL*

Comment on the book “Toada de um educator quasi caipira”

When Jean-Paul Sartre released, in 1964, an autobiographical account of early childhood (The words, Nova Fronteira), caused a certain strangeness in the academic and intellectual environment. Obviously there were already autobiographies on the market, but the Parisian philosopher focused on the period from four to eleven years old, and pointed the spotlight on the capital importance of the act of learning to read and write.

Literature as an instrument of knowledge and transformation of the world is defined there, interspersed with family and affective memories, without hiding the horrible ones. After all, he was nine years old when the First World War broke out, and with less than two years old he had lost his father.

In 1960 Sartre and his (but not exclusive) wife, Simone de Beauvoir, visited Brazil. For two months they circulated in various cities, gave lectures, participated in parties, visited coffee plantations, tobacco and cocoa farms, slums, beaches and fishermen's colonies, often guided by Jorge Amado and Zélia Gattai.

The topic of conversations was the cold war, the liberation of Algeria, the Cuban revolution, US imperialism on the continent. A conference in Araraquara became famous, published in a book (Sartre in Brazil – The Araraquara conference, Paz e Terra/ Unesp, 1986), which had in the audience people like Ruth Cardoso and her husband Fernando Henrique, Antonio Candido, Gilda Mello e Souza, Dante Moreira Leite, Bento Prado Jr., and even a young man from Araraquara called José Celso Martinez Correa, passionate about theater.

The words, translated in Brazil by Jacó Guinsburg, was widely read, but not always understood. Sartre's obsession with the act of writing, whether as a philosopher, fiction writer or playwright, places writing as an instrument of self-knowledge, memory perpetuation and world transformation.

In the same year Sartre's book was published, 1964, Antonio Candido launched the sociological essay The partners of Rio Bonito, whose subtitle “study on the caipira paulista and the transformation of their livelihoods” is self-explanatory. One of his references was the work of Valdomiro Silveira (1873/1941), one of the first authors to study caipira culture, noting expressions, habits, superstitions and customs, and paying special attention to language.

This fruitful mix of sociological field research with Sartre's personal positioning generated several fruits. the already classic Paradise via Embratel (Paz e Terra, 1985), by Luís Milanesi, focused on the cultural transformations in a small town in the interior of São Paulo (Ibitinga) with the arrival of television. Although written with a certain academic distance, Milanesi is talking about his hometown, his childhood, his education.

In 2011, the eminent sociologist José de Souza Martins takes up Sartre's lesson by launching An archeology of social memory – autobiography of a factory boy [reissued in 2018 with the title factory brat - An archeology of social memory, Ateliê editorial], an exquisite study of the period in São Caetano do Sul, in the ABC region of São Paulo. Along the same path, in 2020, a tasty book published by USP's Faculty of Education senior professor, Claudemir Belintane, appears.

Toada of an almost redneck educator (Polo Books, 2020) dives into the interior universe so well described by Antonio Candido, Valdomiro Silveira and Milanesi, and goes deeper, in an existential way (apoud Sartre). The poor boy from Novo Horizonte (SP), orphaned at the age of seven, living among “the garbage, the slaughterhouse and the cemetery”, aligned his memories with a focus on language, popular expressions, comics and songs, on dirty puns, in the cruel nicknames, in the complex relationships of kinship and godparents, of friendship and distrust.

Proposing a writing that is far from academic jargon, Claudemir sings his prose like someone who is telling stories by the campfire or during a break in the field. Without major formal concerns, he lets the free flow of memory reveal, little by little, the nascent intellectual restlessness and the emergence of a social conscience (it was boia-fria when that expression didn’t even exist – it was still “pestle” – candy seller, shoe shiner, helper of baker and mason). Literary creation appears in between, in the gaps in the narrative: “Around three or four o'clock, we would look at the sky and ask where the clouds were”.

The farm boy grew up, went to the capital, studied, came back, founded the PT in the city, was a symbolic candidate for mayor, returned to the capital and became a doctor in Education. These stages are expanded in a few pages at the end of the volume, by way of explanation (where did that boy go?), as the interest is in childhood, in literacy, in transformation through reading. The boy is the father of the man, as Machado de Assis used to say.

Belintane explains his admiration for fiction writers such as Graciliano Ramos (Childhood) and Viriato Correa (Cazuza), who created memorable portraits of rural childhood. A diligent follower of Jean-Paul Sartre's lesson, and inspired by Mario de Andrade's compass, which points "into Brazil, not outside", he exposes himself body and soul in an unpretentious memorialist account, and ends up outlining a novel of training that could be that of millions of Brazilians. Unfortunately, it is the story of an exception.

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

 

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