The dogs of the four beaches

Lincoln Seligman, Wrapped Wine Bottles, 2010.
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By AFRANIO CATANI*

Comment about the book “Perros del diablo”, by Letícia Núñez Almeida

1.

The otorhinolaryngologist, poet, short story writer, memoirist, novelist, essayist and playwright Miguel Torga (1907-1995) is not well known in Brazil, but he is well known in Portugal. He wrote more than six dozen books (18 poetry, 22 prose, five plays and 16 volumes of his diaries, which comprise poetry and prose) and received many awards.

Born in São Martinho de Anta, Trás-os-Montes, he was an irritable, combative, talented Portuguese who, throughout almost his entire life, printed his books in printers and sold them without using the support of any publishing house. He used to say that if his books ran aground, he wouldn't lose money to anyone. He only belatedly published one or another text without being independent and, shortly before passing away, he accepted that his complete work would be published by a respected publisher, which still sells his copious literary production to this day.

In 1940, Miguel Torga published Bichos, containing 14 short stories, each of which has an animal as its main character, almost always interacting at a disadvantage with men or the elements of nature. The book has, to this day, been published in successive editions in Portuguese and in several languages ​​(English, French, Spanish, Romanian, Japanese, German, Serbo-Croatian) – my copy was published by the author in January 1995 at Gráfica de Coimbra Ltda., with a circulation of 50 thousand copies. The dogs Nero and Ferrusco, the bull Miura, the sparrow Ladino, the crow Vicente, the rooster Tenório, the jerico Morgado, the frog Bambo, the cat Mago, as well as goldfinches, cicadas, shepherds and children parade along it.

Dogs of the Diablo, by sociologist Leticia Núñez Almeida (1978), in my opinion, maintains a good dialogue with Bichos, by Miguel Torga, and with the wonderful stray dog, Mr. Bones, the central character of Timbuktu (1999), by Paul Auster (1947).

2.

With a PhD in sociology from the Faculty of Philosophy, Literature and Human Sciences at the University of São Paulo (USP), Letícia is a professor at University of the Republic of Uruguay (UDELAR), in Rivera, and researcher at the National System of Investigators of Uruguay. She has written several books and articles in her area of ​​professional activity, highlighting Zero Tolerance or New Prevention: the experience of public security policy in the city of Porto Alegre (Rio de Janeiro: Lumen, 2015); The state and the illegalism on the banks of Brazil and Uruguay: a case study on the border of Sant'Ana do livramento and Rivera (Porto Alegre: Editora Fi, 2016); Brazil's border subsystems: illegal markets and violence (Rio de Janeiro: Gramma, 2017).

This already Dogs of the Diablo is a humorous fiction with friendly watercolor illustrations by Argentine artist Florencia Valle (1987) who, since 2018, has lived in Punta del Diablo “in a mud house built by her and her partner”. She lives there with two children, a dog (Pancrácia) and a cat (Mirtha).

Dogs of the Diablo is made up of 20 short stories that take place in Punta del Diablo, a small fishing and tourist town by the sea, on the east coast of Uruguay, in 2019. The population that lived there was just over 800 people and the city is composed of four beaches: Playa de la Viuda, Fishermen's Beach, Playa del Rivero e Playa Grande. “We have everything around here: hippies, turtles, Italians, Argentine artisans, fishermen, lizards, cats, rich people fleeing the burnout and lots and lots of dogs. If you don’t like animals, it’s not a place for you” (p. 19).

Well, but I think that before proceeding, it is necessary to say a few words about the narrator. His name is Artigas and he describes himself as follows: “I'm a Uruguayan cat, gray, very hairy and with green eyes” (p. 19). The perceptive cat adds that he is living in Punta del Diablo, “a town on the coast of Uruguay – a country full of cows, where you can consume marijuana on the street, women can have legal abortions and from where they can cross, walking or by boat, to Argentina, Brazil, China and Nigeria” (p. 13).

Artigas is cunning, mischievous, and reveals on the final page of the narrative that he wrote under a pseudonym: his name, in fact, is Theo. “I used this noble pseudonym to give seriousness to these tales of a fat, presumptuous and naughty cat” (p. 121).

on the pages of Dogs of the Diablo Cats, cats, dogs and dogs appear in droves, of the most varied breeds, as well as local residents, some children... This entire microcosm lives in harmony in the set of fables told by Letícia's alter ego, Artigas - who in fact It's Theo.

Katunga (“black dog, big, strong, short-haired, with a lizard face”), Negrito (Son of Katunga, similar to his mother, has “something like a farmer roots, muscular, serious and brilliant”), Manuela (yellow Sharpei, with three legs, born in China, who “arrived in Punta del Diablo in a container”) and Artigas live with “a couple of Argentine humans, Fabi and Miguel” in Angelo Cabañas, “idealized and built by the hands and dreams of both” – he was a machinist, socialist and sailor; She is an architect, surfer and painter. The couple hates banks (p. 21).

The narrator cat is enchanted by Fabi, who gives him food and water, removes his fleas and laughs when he runs after the frogs. “As she is the daughter of a famous tango singer, everything she says sounds like music, or rather, everything she does is melodic, and we love life with her” (p. 21).

For Artigas, it is very easy to live with humans, as they “are predictable”. “Every day they do the same, they have an infinite lack of us…” (p. 22). And more: “very early on I understood that I could do what I wanted with those who walk on two legs; They love being surprised by our uncontrollable instincts” (p. 27).

Katunga, as said, is Negrito's mother. “Just like women, cats and rats, you don't know who your father is, it's always like this: children always stay close to their mother's teats and the father goes on with his life” (p. 29). Bold is serious, imposing, “it hasn't been corrupted by this whole capitalist pet wave: it doesn't bathe with soap, it doesn't use a flea collar, it doesn't get vaccinated. It is a roots dog, as hippies and anarchists would like to be” (p. 29).

The narrator explains the origins of Playa de la Viuda, with its fierce waves and giant dunes: Punta del Diablo was just a fishing village, with simple wooden houses, when a Jewish couple built a concrete mansion there on the farthest beach. Her husband was killed by the Nazis and she, “…after she became a widow, was the only resident of a four kilometer stretch of coast (…) She died of a heart attack, next to her dogs and cats, old lady, reading the poet Alejandra Pizarnik (1936-1972) and smoking Coronados. She never went to the doctor – she wouldn’t let herself be touched” (p. 31).

The three-legged Sharpei Manuela was named in honor of President Pepe Mujica who, with his wife, Senator Lucía Topolanski, “lives with a three-legged dog called Manuela and is famous for appearing at press conferences that they did it on their farm” (p. 36). She gained weight and learned to bark in “Argentine”. She became naughty, but no dog or cat could hit her, because she “was the little baby of the house” of Fabi and Miguel (p. 37).

Blazing passion? It is that of Artigas by Aretha, “black cat with yellow eyes”; she lives with Roberto at the Panes y Peces Restaurant. Spends the day listening to jazz. She complained that she felt like the Queen of England, because “she couldn't go out alone, she couldn't choose who she had sex with, she couldn't eat rats. anything. She only did what the monarchy allowed me to do – which, in this case, is the neurosis of humans…” (p. 47). Humans are terrible; “castrate us in every way so that we are like your childhood stuffed animals; They bathe us, decorate us, cut our nails. They operated on me, I don't have testicles, they did it to calm me down, to take away my cat instincts which, it seems, are harmful to humans” (p. 49). For Artigas, Aretha is a true queen who, “…stretched on the wooden floor, sang You make me feel like… looking towards infinity” (p. 52). The cat's world was strange to her. He was in love, although she treated him with indifference. “I wanted to jump, run after her – apparently the castration hadn’t worked” (p. 52-53).

The dogs were heading to Playa de los Pescadores, where boats leave every morning to bring fresh fish that they then sell, to eat the leftover fish that were discarded. There they found Ernesto, a black and white Newfoundland, who took care of a boat, “The old man and the sea”, and Evita, an Argentine dogo dog, phosphorescent white and fierce, mother of three puppies. They also found Belchior, huge, “a fat, dog version of Bob Marley” (p. 70), who arrived there in 1978 with the singer, his companion, a Kombi and a piano.

Everyone hates going to the vet, although humans always try to take good care of them. For Artigas, if Marx were alive, “he would call the pet world the modern “opium of the people”, as it generates millions of dollars for the pet industry and makes people feel more empathy for a dog that lives on the street than for a dog. person in the same situation” (p. 85).

Bogo is human, writes all day and frequents the bookstore The devil reader with Milonga, a greyhound “taciturn like her owner” (p. 92). The school teacher has more than 30 cats, raises chickens, pigs and doesn't like dogs, while Dona Diosa, who is not friends with the teacher, gets along well with animals, takes care of sick people, the elderly, cleans their houses.

Artigas protests, writing that “it is common to say that cats are treacherous and thieves, that black cats are dangerous; humans are always comparing us: dogs are faithful, cats are selfish… it is impossible for those who walk on two legs to understand that there are other ways of living different from theirs” (p. 96).

This Artigas is crazy, he could be a deputy, senator or at least councilor in Punta del Diablo, since he fights fiercely for his category, that is, for cats. He argues: “we are under in society” (p. 106). He says that governors and politicians pose with their dogs: Barack Obama walks with Bo, a Portuguese dog; Vladimir Putin had his Bulgarian shepherd Buffy; Emmanuel Macron his labrador Nemo; Evo Morales had Ringo; Hugo Chávez appeared with Simón, having purchased “twenty-three dogs of the mucuchíes breed to prevent their extinction, because this breed accompanied Bolívar on his campaigns”. And Lula adopted a stray “who lived at the door of the prison where he was detained (…) his name is Resistência” (p. 106). However, he counter-argues: if most famous dogs belong to politicians, cats are found as pets of poets, drunks, philosophers, and thinking people…” (p. 107).

The narrator meets and is amazed by Pepe and Grecia, huge German shepherds who work at the police headquarters: “I'm intrigued by how they can be dogs and have jobs, schedules and all that human stuff, they're taught to obey in order to live. in peace; It seems that before they were educated they were terrible, they bit people without mercy, they barked all the time and not even their owners could get close” (p. 111).

In conclusion, the narrative “Joaquín y José” addresses delicate issues. Letícia (or Artigas? or Theo?) diverges from the official Uruguayan history by mentioning that José Gervasio Artigas (1764-1850), politician, soldier and national hero of his country did not have cats, only dogs and “Negro Ansina”, his slave . This is Joaquín Lenzina, enslaved by rich Uruguayans. They say that “before being treated as a thing, he worked as a waterman and a poet. It seems that he tried to flee the country (…), he was captured and enslaved again until José Artigas bought him – as he bought cows – and granted him the freedom to serve him until his death (…) Racist memory transformed him into a good black man and faithful who was with Joseph until his death, like a dog, a dog of Artigas” (p. 117).

And he goes on, in territory with thin ice: “…there are rumors that Joaquín (Lenzina) was the great love of José (Artigas), a forbidden passion, as were all love relationships between different ethnicities and the same gender. “They lived together (…) until João’s death in Paraguayan lands, and Joaquín, the brilliant poet, was murdered and buried like any other dog, without breed or surname, from Artigas” (p. 118-119).

In short, this is the narrative of the cat Artigas – Theo, “like a farewell to his life in Punta del Diablo” in 2019. He entered through one door and left through the other. Whoever wants to tell another.

*Afranio Catani is a retired senior professor at the Faculty of Education at USP. He is currently a visiting professor at the Faculty of Education at UERJ, Duque de Caxias campus..

Reference


Letícia Núñez Almeida. Dogs of the Diablo. Sant'Ana do Livramento: Tan Ed., 2023, 144 pages. (watercolor illustrations by Florencia Valle).

REFERENCES


Miguel Torga. Bichos. Coimbra: Author's Edition, 19th. ed., 136 pages. [ed. original: 1940]

Paul Auster. Timbuktu. São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 1999, 144 pages.


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