Plínio Salgado's novels

Image: Eliyeser Szturm

By Flavio Aguiar*

Even without agreeing with Plínio Salgado's prejudices and reactionary conservatism, it is worth not ignoring him. Especially at a time when his conservative religiosity, transposed into the XNUMXst century, is part of the impulses that inspire so many Brazilians.

In memory of Antonio Candido, who convinced me of the importance of analyzing Plínio Salgado's novels.

Nihil humani a me alienum puto. (Karl Marx's favorite maxim, quoting, in his daughter Jenny's poetry album, a phrase by Terence).

Plínio Salgado was the main leader of Ação Integralista Brasileira (AIB), an organized expression of the extreme right movement that excited part of the youth and intelligentsia during the 1930s. He was a journalist, was considered a brilliant speaker, and in addition to publishing dozens of political and religious books, he was also a successful literary writer. He has published four novels and a few books of poems, short stories and chronicles. The politician's fame, however, over time suffocated the writer's renown. Stigmatized the author as an “extreme right” and as a “fascist”, the literary work plunged into an unjustified ostracism from the public and critics (with rare exceptions). However, it should be noted that his book life of Jesus, published in 1942, has reached more than twenty re-editions or reprints to date and, if it is not a bestseller, features prominently in the Religion sections of some of the country's largest bookstores.

Plínio Salgado was born on January 22, 1895, in the city of São Bento do Sapucaí, state of São Paulo, in the Brazilian region known today as “Southeast”, then simply “South”. He died in the city of São Paulo, on December 8, 1975, after having been a federal deputy from 1963 to 1974, first for the state of Paraná, and then, from 1963, for his native state, São Paulo. When he was born, Brazil had abolished slavery less than seven years ago and had been a republic for less than six. It was a predominantly agro-export country, especially coffee; more than 70% of the population lived in rural areas.

The integration of the national territory, under the hegemony of the central government, in Rio de Janeiro, was still weak. In the extreme south of Brazil, federalist rebels contested the central government, in a bloody revolt that, in three years (1893-1895), caused more than ten thousand deaths, one thousand due to the beheading of prisoners, from both sides. The rebels even constituted a provisional government in the city of Nossa Senhora do Desterro, capital of the State of Santa Catarina. Reconquered by loyalist troops in the midst of a bloody repression, with executions by firing squad or on the gallows, in the fortress of Anhatomirim, it was later renamed the city of Florianópolis, in honor of Floriano Peixoto, the Marshal of Iron.

In the backlands of the Northeast, masses of impoverished peasants, ex-slaves expelled from the lands of their masters, bandits in search of refuge, gathered under the religious leadership of Blessed Antônio Conselheiro in the village of Canudos, renamed Belo Monte, in from the state of Bahia. Revolted, these peasants, after a tenacious resistance, were practically exterminated by forces of the National Army and state militias, in 1897.

In 1975, when Plínio Salgado died, the majority of the Brazilian population (about 70%) lived in urban areas. Although extensive regions were still relatively sparsely inhabited, Brazil was an industrialized country, especially in the Southeast and South. Its most distant corners were already reached by national television and radio networks. An authoritarian government – ​​like that of Marechal de Ferro – with a strong base in the barracks, but with expressive support among right-wing civilians, including Plínio Salgado – had dominated the country since the 1964 military coup, which overthrew elected president João Goulart and promoted violent persecutions against leftist militants, liberal opponents, students, workers, peasants, intellectuals, artists and dissident newspapers.

It must be said that, in 1975, the core of the military regime – the “system”, as it was called then – was already showing the first signs of isolation and difficulties in containing opposition. Their political reach would grow until the fall, or rather, the breakup of the “Dictatorship”, ten years later, in 1985, with its replacement by a civilian government, albeit indirectly elected.

In the 1920s and 1930s, at the same time that the right of art to experimentation was being established, the entire field of culture underwent a major process of politicization. Brazil, previously often defined as a picturesque, poor, but fortunate country, is now often presented as a backward and underdeveloped country. And Plínio Salgado's novels also participated in this redefinition of the national profile.

On his mother's side, Plínio Salgado descended from Pero Dias, one of the founders of the city of São Paulo, in the XNUMXth century. The family environment was Catholic, nationalist, literate and conservative. His father was a druggist – but was actually the political boss of the city; he admired the Iron Marshal. His mother was a teacher, and she taught at the Normal School in the city, which at the time was a distinction.

His father's premature death forced him to work from the age of 18. He was a teacher, surveyor, journalist and developed leadership activities in cultural initiatives in his hometown. In 1918, he married D. Maria Amália Pereira. Shortly after, a daughter was born to the couple, but soon afterwards d. Maria Amália died when the girl was not yet a month old. Plínio Salgado plunged into a deep existential crisis. He improved by immersing himself in the Catholic religion – a fact that would mark both his political life and that of a writer.

In the 1920s, Salgado moved to the state capital, where he developed mainly literary activities. The city was the privileged stage for the activities of avant-garde groups in Brazil, at the same time that industrial activities and working-class neighborhoods were growing, with European immigration, especially Italians, who brought anarchist movements.

Plínio Salgado viewed the proposals of the artistic avant-garde with some distrust, noting that in countries whose peoples were fragile from a cultural point of view – and this would be the case of Brazil, a country still in formation – the principles of modern art could be more harmful than how beneficial. However, this did not prevent her first novel –The foreigner–, published in 1926, adopted a style marked by “vanguardism”: a fragmentary prose, organized in discontinuous snapshots, with dramatic variations of point of view. The novel was a success: in less than a month the first edition was sold out [1].

At the same time, Plínio developed an intense activity as a journalist, which led him to the field of politics. There, he also developed reflections on the meaning of art and literature, seeing them as vectors for the construction of a national society and nationalist values. Along with Menotti del Picchia, Cassiano Ricardo, Cândido Mota Filho and others, he organized and led one of the literary currents of the time, proposing the “Revolution of the Anta”, which should revalue indigenous culture in the Brazilian panorama. His dedication was such that he began to study the Tupi language.

When, in 1930, Vargas came to power at the head of the armed movement that, it is said to this day, inaugurated “modern Brazil”, Plínio Salgado was a renowned writer, renowned journalist, and state deputy for the Paulista Republican Party. In this condition, he supported the candidacy of Júlio Prestes, politician from São Paulo and president of the province, for the presidency of the Republic, against Vargas. Prestes won elections in the Old Republic's corrupt electoral system, where accusations of vote-counting fraud were constant. This time, however, the denunciations catalyzed popular discontent, unrest among many soldiers and divisions within the ruling elites themselves. On October 3, rebels, under the command of Vargas, attacked, at five in the afternoon, the Army Headquarters in Porto Alegre. The overthrow of the government of President Washington Luís and the end of the Old Republic began.

While the rebels conspired, Plinio Salgado was abroad, on a journey that, in part, would decide his fate. In April 1930, his friend and coreligionist Sousa Aranha invited him to be his son's tutor – a common thing at a time when schooling used to be fragile – and to accompany both of them on a trip abroad. Pliny accepted the valuable opportunity for an intellectual lacking in greater resources, and thus he got to know part of the Middle East and Europe. The most important fact of the trip, according to him, was the month he spent in Italy, seeing the consolidation of the fascist regime up close, and where he had a personal meeting with Benito Mussolini. When he arrived back in Brazil, on October 4, the day after the outbreak of the armed movement led by Vargas, he was convinced that, if fascism was not to be copied literally in Brazil, our country needed to something very similar.

From the beginning of his political career, Plínio Salgado was critical of communist postulates, but also of liberal principles. He saw in liberalism one of the sources of corruption and inertia of the Brazilian elites, who abandoned the poorest to the laissez-faire of your own luck. At the same time, this paradoxical oligarchic liberalism of the elites favored national division through agreements between regional leaders, preventing, in his view, the true integration of the country.

It came from this, from reflections of this type, and also from the thought that against the fragmentation of the human person, promoted for him by both liberalism and communism, it was necessary to promote the vision of the “integral man”, the adoption of the name “Ação Integralista Brasileira ” to the movement that he would found shortly afterwards, in 1932, and which would lead him to the culmination of his political career – and also to his downfall soon after. The aim of the movement would be to promote the redemption of the homeland, through the construction of an “Integral State”, which would catalyze the spirit of the nation and organize the representation of classes, as in Mussolini's ideal for Italy.

The Integralist movement grew rapidly in Brazil, in part due to its alliance with conservative Catholic movements and with monarchist movements. The rise of Hitler in Germany gave new impetus to the movement. But, historians point out, Brazilian Integralism had, in practice, more affinity with Portuguese Salazarism and Spanish Francoism, thanks to the strong Catholic trait, than with the regimes led by Hitler and Mussolini.

Sectors of the Vargas regime were clearly close to these right-wing regimes. In the name of fighting communism, Salgado got closer and closer to Vargas. Integralist and communist militants often exchanged fire, or got involved in street fights, with dead and wounded. In 1935, the armed uprising organized by the communists from Natal, in Rio Grande do Norte, and in Rio de Janeiro, brought Salgado closer to Vargas: thus, he reached the height of his influence.

Pliny constituted the movement mixing aspects of paramilitary militias with aspects of religious order. The supporters wore green shirts, had the Greek letter sigma as a symbol, saluted with the right hand raised and flattened, as in fascism. His greeting was a shout in the Tupi language: Anaue, a cry of greeting and war. Two ordinary Integralists should raise their arms and shout Anaue once. The leaders, divided into provincial and arch-provincial, in a mockery of the Jesuit order, were entitled to two Anauese. The supreme leader, that is, Plínio Salgado himself, had the right to three, and God to four, but only the supreme leader could salute the divinity in public.

There was something sinister about all this, but also, at times, comic and pathetic. One of the young supporters of Integralism once told Professor Antonio Candido (who in turn shared the somewhat anecdotal story with me) how he decided, out of a sense of the ridiculous, to abandon the movement. He was traveling by car through the Brazilian interior, on the way to the province of Goiás, with two other militants, an arch director, and the chauffeur. As they passed a stream, the leader asked the driver what the name of the stream was. The chauffeur declared the name (which he no longer remembered), and added that that small stream was one of the sources of the great Araguaia river, which, with the Tocantins, will flow practically into the mouth of the Amazon. The arch-leader stopped the car, made the younger people form a line along the bank – “in blistering heat”, said the deponent – ​​and shouted Anaue, with their hands raised, declaring: “Integralists, let us salute this small stream that will form the great Araguaia, which is one of the rivers of national unity!”. According to the deponent, for him that was too much. On the way back, he left the movement. However, the other Integralists began to persecute him as a traitor. On one occasion, they even exchanged fire with him. In another, they managed to kidnap him and brutally beat him for “betrayal”, in an event that had great political repercussions in São Paulo.

With these methods, Plínio Salgado organized a veritable parallel state, ready to take over the Brazilian state: after the rapprochement, the clash with Vargas was inevitable. This came in 1938, the year following the one in which Vargas staged the founding coup d'état of the Estado Novo, which Plinio, in principle, supported, formally extinguishing the AIB as a political movement at the end of 1937. In 1938, Vargas gave the green light for that Integralists began to be persecuted and neutralized in various parts of the country. In May of that year, a group of Integralists attacked radio stations and the presidential palace in Rio de Janeiro.

But they were so disorganized that Vargas, his family and a small group of defenders managed to resist until the Army command sent reinforcements for the defense. Although he was not formally accused of participating in this failed coup attempt, Plínio Salgado was arrested in 1939 and deported to Portugal, where he remained until the fall of Vargas in 1945. Republic in 1955, its golden age it was over. After his return from exile, his political activity took on more and more of a conservative Catholicism. Some of his integralist principles survived in the regime imposed by the military from 1964 onwards, which, as I said, he supported, becoming one of the great defenders of censorship of the press and intellectual circles, in order to “discipline” the nation.

It was during his political rise, and as part of it, that Plínio Salgado wrote and published his four novels: The foreigner (1926); Expected (written in 1930 in Paris and published in 1931); The Knight of Itarare (1933); and the voice of the west (1934), historical novel and by far the worst of them all. The other three alternate moments of fragility in construction with moments of excellent prose – some brilliant –, especially if we see them as a composition of the fragmentary mixture of points of view, characteristic of modernist styles, with a chronicle of São Paulo, São Paulo and Brazilian life, in a very traditional style whose origin goes back to the old Portuguese medieval chronicles. Plínio's style also shows signs of naturalist interpretations, such as that of Eça de Queirós, and a certain taste for melodramatic and romantic atmospheres, such as those of Camilo Castelo Branco's novels.

With these ingredients, Plínio Salgado managed to draw very vivid and critical portraits of Brazilian society, especially that of São Paulo, and of the transformation processes that the country, the state and the city were going through: the recent waves of immigrants gave new profiles to the old Brazil with Lusitanian roots and the caboclo rural world, and, in the cities, industrialization changed the physical and human landscape. The feverish search for cosmopolitan innovations and a sophisticated lifestyle by the rich and emerging classes was opposed to the growing impoverishment of peripheral neighborhoods. All this Plínio Salgado painted with very expressive colors.

If he had his strength in painting social scenes and in the psychology of human relations in this context of transformations, Plínio Salgado found his Waterloo literary in the design of consistent protagonists and, above all, in the outcome of their plots. He had a political eagerness to draw pictures that were not only expressive, but modeled for the national society in transformation. His characters, while maintaining an external vision of their movements in a troubled social world, convincingly expressed the ongoing changes in the social landscape.

But when seen in isolation, in the depths of their souls, they began to slip into stereotypes that should embody abstract ideas about the human being. As a result, as the plots progressed, the options, the choices, the actions of the characters began to take on a certain artificial tone. Plínio Salgado was never able to provide, for example, a convincing outcome for the love affairs in which his characters were involved; a moralistic tone of melodrama or old serials, which in the XNUMXth century had become stale from the past, ended up covering up the situations they arrived at.

Added to this was the evident desire to draw complete panels of national society. There are an abundance of characters in Plínio Salgado's novels: there are at least a score of protagonists, dozens of supporting actors and hundreds, if not thousands, of extras. What could have been an impetus for social analysis on the model of Balzac, turned into a kind of grandiloquent opera that tended towards exaggeration and excess.

Some of these tendencies were reflected in the prefaces that always accompanied the novels, and in the classifications with which the author tried to fit them. The foreigner, for example, was presented as a “chronicle of São Paulo life” and the preface reads: “This book seeks to capture aspects of São Paulo life in the last ten years. Rural life, provincial life and life in the big urbs. Ascending cycle of settlers (the Mondolfis); descending cycle of the ancient races (the Pantojos). Caboclo march to the sertão and new bandeirismo (Zé Candinho); displacement of the immigrant in his footsteps and new agricultural period (Humberto): […][etc.]”. In this way, the author outlines each of his characters or groups of characters as vector types of the new national landscape in sketch.

The second novel, Expected, is the one with the most laconic subtitle: it is presented as a “novel”, simply. But, in the opening, the author says: “Throughout this book, the Restless, the Unadapted. Victims and oppressors pass by. Opposite directions of Thought collide. It is the drama of our Spirit. Where there are no culprits. Where everything is incomprehension”. Afterwards, he states categorically: “This novel does not defend any thesis”.

Respecting the author as to the sincerity of his purposes, it can be said that this statement is not true. The novel defends not one, but several theses: that men have a destiny pre-drawn in their characters; that these are the result of the environment in which they live and the culture they bring from the cradle. These two theses give Plínio's thought a positivist undertone, common in Brazilian and Portuguese naturalism. In addition to these two, the novel, by its title, hints at the thesis that only the advent of a providential leader can remove the nation from its impasses, which appear, in the final pages of the narrative, in a great confrontation between antagonistic political forces, plus the police, in the center of São Paulo, in the middle of a storm.

This “Expected” was a theme present in Brazilian society at the time. Paulo Prado, one of the most expressive intellectuals of that moment, ends his portrait of Brazil, (Companhia das Letras), from 1928, talking about this leader who should free the country from the melancholic stagnation to which the “three sad races” of his upbringing condemned him: the Portuguese expatriates, the enslaved blacks and the exiled Indians in their own homeland. land after colonization. O topos of the “Savior of the Fatherland” was and is recurrent in Brazilian politics. Its origins go back to the old Portuguese Sebastianism.

Who would this “Expected” be? The view of the novel in its immediate context, written in 1930 and published in 1931, allows us to assume that, for Plínio, Vargas' arrival on the proscenium of Brazilian politics pointed to the advent of the providential leader. But the type of leadership he developed later, in Ação Integralista Brasileira, suggests that he was convinced that the “Expected One” would be himself, Plínio Salgado.

In the preface of this novel, Pliny already announced the next one, The Knight of Itararé: “It belongs to the series of chronicles of contemporary Brazilian life, which began with The foreigner, which unfolded in the face of the more complex panorama of the expected, and which will continue [sic], possibly, in the third milestone of our march, which will be The Knight of Itararé".

Published in 1933, this third novel had as its title a legend from the south of the state of São Paulo, from the mountainous region of Itararé, according to which on certain nights death rides through the fields, sowing destruction. Although planned in advance, one cannot help but associate the novel and its title with Plínio's disappointment with Vargas. In the preface, he says that the novel was written “in bitter hours of disillusionment”. In 1932, there had been a military uprising in São Paulo, against the Vargas government. The uprising was provoked by a mixture of disappointment with the new regime, which did not quickly implement the reforms it had announced, with an effort to restore the old agrarian oligarchies of São Paulo, who saw their power emptied and who disliked the new labor policy, outlined by Lindolfo Collor. The uprising was put down in a few months of fighting. Plínio Salgado kept his distance from the 1932 rebels, but he did not hide his dissatisfaction with the Vargas regime and his delay in promoting the expected reforms that, for him, should have an exemplary doctrinal character in the sense of national salvation and uplift.

“Itararé” became a sign of identification of the new regime and its policy of compromise with the old order. When the troops commanded by Vargas headed north to occupy Rio de Janeiro, which was then the capital of the Republic, it was expected that the great battle between the rebels and the loyalists would take place at Passo de Itararé, on the border between the states of Paraná and São Paulo, a poor and abandoned region. However, aware of their fragile position, the generals of the Command of the Armed Forces deposed President Washington Luís and handed over power to Vargas. “Itararé” went down in Brazilian history as “the battle that never took place”. A famous Brazilian comic writer, of great success at the time, the gaucho Aparício Torelly, named himself the “Baron of Itararé”, starting to sign his always ironic and satirical works with this pseudonym. Today he is better known by his nickname than his given name.

It is inevitable, therefore, that Vargas is thought of as the ill-fated knight referred to in the third novel. Added to this is the fact that Plínio, in the preface, said that the novel was a call to young people and the country's military to fulfill their duty to save the homeland. And he ended with sayings more like an orator than a writer:

Because, if youth, civil and military, do not assume a decisive role; if we continue to watch, with our arms crossed, the confusion of minds, the game of intrigue, the unleashing of the ambitions of the thousand groups that dismantle national opinion, then there is nothing left to try for the salvation of Brazil.

The fourth and final novel, the voice of the west, published in 1934, presents itself as a “novel-poem from the time of the Bandeiras”. And, in the preface, the author says: “The story that will be narrated, in the successive chapters of this book, is the story of the Brazilian soul, at the dawn of the first impulses of the Nation”. The novel praises “the mythology of the American savage”, because it explains “the Earth's mysterious collaboration in the great Brazilian dramas that the centuries buried”, which mixes romantic rhetoric with positivist determinism.

The novel narrates the adventures of an bandeira that, from São Paulo, plunges into the American backlands to the foothills of the Andes, animated by the secret purpose of finding El-Rei d. Sebastião, the Portuguese monarch who disappeared in the Battle of Alcácer-Quibir, in North Africa, in 1578. The king, for mysterious reasons and reasons, would be a prisoner somewhere in the Andes Mountains, near the mines of Potosí, in what is now Bolivia.

The general idea is to expose that since the time of the ancient “races” that inhabited the region of the future Brazilian nation, it was already predestined to have a grand destiny. As can be seen, the novel moves away from the regular view of Nazism, of determining the fate of peoples by racial superiority or inferiority, praising a race and a culture that, on the scale of the Hitlerites, would have no value. From fascism, it retains the grandiose component, the grandiloquent tone, which, by the way, makes its reading unpleasant, and the sense of historical determination, of greatness of the homeland. But he calls in his defense the old Sebastianist mysticism born of the Portuguese crisis at the end of the XNUMXth century.

This mysticism was remembered by several intellectuals – among them Euclides da Cunha, in the sertões, from 1902, to explain the Brazilian peasant revolts, including the one in Canudos, which has already been mentioned here. the voice of the west brings together this mysticism with Portuguese roots and a view of indigenous peoples as motivated by a mystical sense of integration in a larger and superior civilization: the Brazilian, which Plínio identified as the matrix of the “fourth humanity”. But the whole is unconvincing: Pliny fails to create convincing historical characters, his Indians seem more like extras from some burlesque opera, and the novel literally ends up abandoning its characters to their fate, in exchange for the grandiose vision of a mirage: on the slopes of the steep mountains resplendent in a city described as “colossal and imposing”. This city is at the same time of the past and the future, because, says the narrator, “for the spirit there is no time”. And the author takes the opportunity to say goodbye to his characters: “What does the fate of Martinho and D. Gonçalo matter from now on? What else interests El-Rey, the Hidden One? Or the discovery of Violante? Or the meeting of the Tupi virgin and the caves of gold?”.

the voice of the west it gives the impression of having been a novel that, once started, became a problem for the author, pressured more and more by the complex political scene in which he and Brazil were immersed. And he then hurriedly finished it, cutting back on the characters' lives. Previous novels reserve better pages for the reader.

Of all, the most innovative from a style point of view is The foreigner. It is written in a succession of fragments, which capture moments, situations, states of mind. Occasionally they slip into aphorism, or abstract reflection. However, this innovation does not hide the melodramatic conception of the plot. O foreign of the title is a Russian immigrant, Ivan. He is a political refugee, who was denied his great love in his homeland. He manages to enter Brazil, whose government made a careful ideological screening among immigrants, among a group of Italian immigrants.

The novel is divided into two well-characterized parts. In the first, Ivan goes inland, to the coffee farms, where he watches the decline of traditional families, observes the misery of Brazilian peasants (caboclos), abandoned by the governments, and the prosperity of the newcomers.

On the second, he comes to the big city, the metropolis, São Paulo, where he opens a factory and gets rich. He then lives as a successful industrialist in a cosmopolitan city, which has lost touch with the ancient cultural roots of the country and the region. He recognizes, despite being well accepted in society, that, far from his country of origin, carrying the weight of that unsatisfied love, incapable of developing new roots, he will always be a foreign, a stateless person. To complicate his psychological situation, the consolidation of the soviets in his homeland, after the 1917 revolution, brought waves of immigrants who rejected communism to Brazil. Ivan dreams of the possibility of finding, among these immigrants, his beloved Ana, a descendant of an aristocratic family.

The ending is pathetic. Ivan thinks he recognizes his beloved Ana among some of the refugees who come to ask for a job in his factory. It's New Year's Eve, and there's going to be a big party at the factory. He then plans to poison everyone by putting a powerful drug in the beer that is served. He closes in with the young woman – who is not actually Ana – on the terrace, where they both die. The conclusion drawn is that the lack of a homeland drives man crazy, and that this condition threatens Brazilian society, risking distancing itself from its traditional roots without consolidating itself with a spirit of “national unity”. The novel also reserves a surprise: the final chapters reveal that it is one of the characters, Juvêncio, a nationalist schoolmaster, who is writing the narrative, as he marches to the sertão in search of the roots of the homeland.

Expected contains some of Pliny's best pages in the social sense. The protagonist is the character Edmundo Milhomens who, trying to survive between the innovative metropolis and the traditional sertão, witnesses the new social and political processes that at the same time drag and divide the nation. Deserve special attention, for example, chapters XXV (“The exodus”) and XXIX (“Péo! Péo!”). In the first, Plínio recounts the pressing situation of the caboclos, mercilessly displaced from their lands by political disputes between leaders of opposing parties, and forced to march to the west.

In this process, they break new ground, which will later be occupied again by politicians and city owners, in a painful and endless process. And that was the process of occupation of the lands of São Paulo. In the second, through the game between the characters, Plínio exposes two theories about the police treatment of political prisoners. One of the policemen thinks it's best to convince the young revolutionaries of the uselessness of their ideas through persuasion, while the other understands that it's best to shake their morale by beating them.

This novel reveals the author's tendency to complicate his plots by multiplying characters. And it ends with a fantastic vision of a battle, in the dark, between antagonistic political forces, in the center of São Paulo. Only the arrival of the Great Leader, the Expected One, will be able to save this society threatened with disintegration.

Finally, The Knight of Itarare makes a very interesting chronicle of the world of the ruling classes of São Paulo, from the beginning of the 1930th century until the beginning of the XNUMXs. It has everything: baby swapping, identity revelations, conspiracies, comedy and social tragedy, melodrama and love drama . Two of the protagonists (because there are several) are Urbano and Teodorico, the changed children. The first, the son of a rich family, grows up among the poor – and acquires an exemplary character. The second, son of the poor family, grows up among the rich, and lacks better moral qualities. In the end, after twists and turns, Urbano prevents Teodorico and his brother Pedrinho (who was the son of the family that raised Urbano, being, in fact, Teodorico's brother) from shooting each other to death because of the young Elisa, whom they both desire. But Urbano, wounded, dies. The result is predictable: the young woman lets herself be conquered by the memory of the dead hero, not marrying any of the suitors, which actually just confirms the author's moralism.

These melodramatic plots do not prevent the perception that Plínio drew very interesting panels of the transformations that Brazilian society was going through. Two aspects still deserve comment. In The Knight of Itarare there is a Jewish character – Gruber – in the foreground. He is a revolutionary and anarchist, but without character. He acts this way less out of conviction than compulsion. Pliny outlines the thesis that the Jews, deprived of a homeland and deprived of a nation, cannot have a collective character that gives consistency to the individual character. He weighs, therefore, in his negative judgment of this character, less the racial issue and more the cultural one, although also loaded with unacceptable prejudice.

The second aspect is a current curiosity. I did an experiment, presenting pages by Plínio Salgado – especially those chapters from Expected in which the social issue looms large – to colleagues of mine, professors of Literature, asking them to identify the author. All those consulted replied that he should be an author from the 1920s or 1930s, on the left. Their surprise, when they found out who it was, confirms the fact that, if Pliny was unable to be the expected in Brazilian politics, he is still today a surprising, unexpected writer.

We don't have to – we shouldn't – agree with their prejudices and reactionary conservatism. But, in the wake of the quotation from Marx/Terence that served as an epigraph, we cannot – we must not – ignore it. Especially at a time when his conservative religiosity, transposed into the XNUMXst century, is part of the impulses that inspire so many Brazilians, even without the literary talent that he manifested in the best passages of his writing.

*Flávio Aguiar is a retired professor of Brazilian literature at USP.

Originally published in the magazine Left margin. [two]


[1] Plínio Salgado wrote four novels: The foreigner (São Paulo, Helios Editorial, 1926), Expected (São Paulo, Companhia Editora Nacional, 1931), The Knight of Itarare (São Paulo, Gráfica-Editora Unitas Ltda., 1933), the voice of the west (Rio de Janeiro, José Olympio Editora, 1934). I was able to access them thanks to the generosity of Professor Antonio Candido, who lent me the volumes.

[2] This essay was written over twenty years ago for a special issue of a Canadian academic journal. From this original in Portuguese, a French version was translated. The issue focused on far-right writers who had been ostracized due to their ideological preferences. However, submitted to the publication's referee, I received a dry negative, written by the board of the competent department, saying that I spoke little about the text and too much about the author's biography. I thanked them for their attention, and said I was positively surprised to find that Plínio Salgado was such a well-known figure in academic circles in Canada that he needed no introduction.

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  • Letter to the presidentSquid 59mk,g 18/06/2024 By FRANCISCO ALVES, JOÃO DOS REIS SILVA JÚNIOR & VALDEMAR SGUISSARDI: “We completely agree with Your Excellency. when he states and reaffirms that 'Education is an investment, not an expense'”
  • PEC-65: independence or patrimonialism in the Central Bank?Campos Neto Trojan Horse 17/06/2024 By PEDRO PAULO ZAHLUTH BASTOS: What Roberto Campos Neto proposes is the constitutional amendment of free lunch for the future elite of the Central Bank
  • Chico Buarque, 80 years oldchico 19/06/2024 By ROGÉRIO RUFINO DE OLIVEIRA: The class struggle, universal, is particularized in the refinement of constructive intention, in the tone of proletarian proparoxytones
  • Why are we on strike?statue 50g 20/06/2024 By SERGIO STOCO: We have reached a situation of shortage of federal educational institutions
  • The melancholic end of Estadãoabandoned cars 17/06/2024 By JULIAN RODRIGUES: Bad news: the almost sesquicentennial daily newspaper in São Paulo (and the best Brazilian newspaper) is rapidly declining
  • The strike at federal Universities and Institutescorridor glazing 01/06/2024 By ROBERTO LEHER: The government disconnects from its effective social base by removing those who fought against Jair Bolsonaro from the political table