The suppliers

Eliezer Markowich Lissitzky, Composition, 1922.


Considerations about José Falero’s novel

Every now and then an author appears in contemporary literature who seems to have emerged from the underworld, without influences or style references, and makes an impact due to his originality, freshness and, almost always, thematic forcefulness, permeated by a certain class revolt. It is not a Brazilian phenomenon, something similar must occur in all languages, since there is no nation in which social inequalities are completely hidden.

Lima Barreto, Plínio Marcos, Maria Carolina de Jesus, Ferréz, Paulo Lins and, more recently, Geovani Martins from Rio, are some names generally cited as paradigms of this current. Some argue that even Machado de Assis could be an example coming from the same origin, but what we are talking about here is building a work with a popular voice, as a spokesperson for its peers, and not seeking to absorb the language and universal themes of masters of their time. It is not enough to be born in the favela, you need to transport it, translate it into your writing.

Obviously, we are only talking about prose here, in the form of a short story, chronicle or novel. For several reasons, poetry has always been a more versatile vehicle for translating anxieties on the social and cultural peripheries of our planet. Even due to the fact that it doesn't require paper and graphics, all it takes is a wall and a piece of coal. Or the voice itself.

The prose writer José Falero is a notable representative of this lineage. Born on the outskirts of Porto Alegre, he lived with poverty and the heavy burden of drug trafficking, discrimination and police violence. Debuted with the volume of short stories Vila Sapo, and in 2020 he released the novel The suppliers, winner of several awards.

The narrative begins cautiously, introducing the characters and the central setting of the plot. A supermarket, where Pedro and Marques, the title's suppliers, work. Better known as replenishers in other regions of Brazil, these are the employees who arrange merchandise on the shelves and ensure that they are always stocked.

Pedro is presented as a reader and a non-conformist dreamer. He longs for a better life, like everyone, and carries an instinctive revolt against the situation of poverty. He even quotes Marx in his dialogues with his friend, who is married and has just received the news that his wife is pregnant for the second time. Marques ends up being convinced that the only way out of poverty is to start selling marijuana in the neighborhood, a niche that has become disused due to the region's drug dealers' preference for cocaine and crack. They therefore become suppliers of another category.

In language that oscillates between the cultured norm and the reproduction of everyday speech from the outskirts, full of swear words and without much subtlety, José Falero builds an engaging plot, which gains fluency and contours of thriller police officer in the second half of the narrative.

Secondary characters gain relevance, such as Angélica, Marques' wife, the supermarket security guard, the teenager Luan, the drug lords from whom they ask for permission to operate, the supermarket manager. An entire universe is outlined outside of law and order, which defines rules of coexistence, which establishes its own ethics of social behavior. And where justice is taken into one's own hands, thanks to the inertia of the State.

José Falero conducts the narrative with confidence, and works on the psychological profile of the characters to the right extent until the electrifying outcome of the plot. The repetition of swear words may make some more sensitive readers sick, but the author will always have the alibi that “they talk like that in the hood, okay?”

The suppliers is an essential novel for understanding the reality of Brazilian metropolitan outskirts, of this immense world of excluded people who from time to time manage to express themselves through tortuous paths. It refers to the universal dream of getting ahead in life at any cost, and focuses on characters who end up paying a high price on the shelf of opportunities that the supermarket world offers. And the author does not observe with binoculars, from afar, as if he were an academic, but with a close look, at eye level, with the innate wisdom of a brother.

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


José Falero. The suppliers. São Paulo, However, 2020, 304 pages. []

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