Who's alive raise your hand

“Jazz” (1954), by Yoshida Chizuko.
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By DANIEL BRAZIL*

Commentary on the book of short stories by Maria Fernanda Elias Maglio

The Germans coined the term Zeitgeist to define the spirit of an era, back in the XNUMXth century. Hegel developed the concept, arguing that every form of art reflects the social and cultural context of the period in which it was created (in Philosophy of History).

If we apply this idea to Brazilian literature, we will conclude that several books of Romanticism, Realism or Modernism are very representative examples of the historical moment in which they emerged. Seen with the due critical and chronological distance, and inverting the concept a little, we would even say that the works of greatest impact helped to form the spirit of their time.

It is not by chance that the literature made in Brazil in this XNUMXst century has some traits in common. The urgent writing, the intentional trampling of some grammatical rules, the incorporation of speech with the “millionaire contribution of all errors”, violence as a practice, the elimination of any form of romanticism, the discredit of institutions, the denunciation of the bankruptcy of the State and its mechanisms of social control, descriptive crudeness, all permeated by a diffuse nihilism.

Of course, here and there we come across authors who insist on realistic, modernist or even romantic procedures, working in “classic” literature formats. More and more are exceptions, which is not a value judgment, just an observation. A realist would describe how a grenade works. A modernist would try to mimic the explosion. Postmodernists describe the damage caused by shrapnel.

But this modus operandi after-everything, fragmented and anguished, contains several pitfalls. In order not to fall into the common grave that levels literary attempts, low-level chronicles and outbursts on social networks, one needs narrative dexterity, imagination and a clear awareness of where one wants to arrive in aesthetic terms.

An impressive example of the power of this new form of writing is the recent book by Maria Fernanda Elias Maglio, Who's Alive Raise Your Hand. The volume brings together 25 short stories where the author uncovers a literary Pandora's box from which we do not emerge unscathed. More than raw, nervous and strongly imagery descriptions, the writer offers a thematic range that goes from refugees crossing the sea in precarious boats to the Carandiru massacre narrated from the point of view of a cockroach. Cops, rascals, criminals, perverse children, alienated people acting as puppets in a nightmare atmosphere, between the small middle class and absolute poverty.

The richness of Maria Fernanda's writing makes us continue with each tale, however shocking it may seem. It is not sadistic literature, in the classic sense of the word, but an investigation of the darkest and most pathetic nuances of the human being. It is unavoidable to mention that the author is a public defender, and deals professionally with poor people who are serving time. It is reasonable to assume that a good part of what she hears from her clients becomes an ingredient in her fictional production.

But she is not just a doomsday reporter, far from it! Maria Fernanda Maglio Lets glimpse a spark of hope in a meeting arranged in the center of São Paulo, shows the possibility of love rediscovered in a bakery, ironically paints the relationship of the former university student who gets involved with the owner of a little shop.

The author's writing turns out to be terribly human at all times, even if the narrator is an electric chair, as in the short story entitled 636. As a whole, she skillfully alternates narrative voices, develops characters that in a few lines hold our attention, and provokes reflections on misery, violence, destiny, anonymous suffering, atavistic evil, everyday perversions. O tempora! O mores!

It is impossible to leave unscathed the literature of Maria Fernanda Elias Maglio.

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

Reference


Maria Fernanda Elias Maglio. Who's alive raise your hand. São Paulo, Patuá publishing house, 2022, 230 pages (https://amzn.to/3qulI5w).


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