Tyrant Flags

Image: Eduardo Berliner


Commentary on the 1926 book by Ramón Maria Del Valle-Inclán

Latin American dictatorships – alas – have long attracted the attention of literature and spurred the writing of novels. Most are born of the children of the earth and may even have hurt their own skin. Because dictatorships tend to target intellectuals and artists, considering that thinking with your own head is the worst of crimes.

A remote ancestor of these novels is Nostromo, by Joseph Conrad, whose protagonist, from abroad, as Italian as a condotiere of the Renaissance, ends up taking power in the imaginary Caribbean republic of Costaguana.

The author, Polish naturalized English, was a merchant navy sailor for many years. His books are preferably set in Asian waters, such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Bali, or even Africa. This is the case of one of the main the heart of darkness, tremendous x-ray of the evils of colonialism, showing how, while it exterminates the natives, it rots its practitioners from within. It ended up inspiring a great movie, Apocalypse now, by Francis Ford Coppola, reckoning with the moral and political damage caused to the American social fabric by the invasion of Vietnam by the United States, which claimed about three million Vietnamese lives, most of them civilians.

However, the one who seems to be the direct father of all the others is also from an outsider author, perhaps less outsider than Conrad. The Spaniard Ramón de Valle-Inclán, author of Tyrant Banderas, traveled extensively across our continent. He was a member of the famous “Generation of 1898” in Spain, the brilliant advent of young people who renewed literature and modernized it, removing its XNUMXth-century rancidity. He wrote symbolist and decadent poetry and prose. He was a well-known character in Madrid's artistic bohemia and nightlife, they say he was a mythomaniac and an imposter: in other words, he must have been a lot of fun.

It is his invention, or at least theorization, the aesthetics of the “grotesque”, a multipurpose word that indicates the grotesque allied to the fantastic in art and literature. He advocated its use, because such shock effects remove the reader/spectator from the apathy with which he receives what he is given, making him come to his senses and think. There are details in the electronic magazine El Pasajero, dedicated exclusively to this author.

This volatile mixture of political anarchism and an aesthetic platform would give rise to a powerful lineage, with an unmistakable brand, easily identifiable in the Spanish arts: surrealism, Dalí, Buñuel, Almodóvar. All of them with the bossa of disrespect: iconoclasts, oil workers, blasters of bourgeois conventions.

Tyrant Flags takes place in the imaginary location of Santa Fe de Tierra Firme, on the Pacific Ocean. He exercises modernist, lean, telegraphic prose, of great synthesis and concentration, with excruciating metaphors. The lineage titles are as follows, all very instructive.

The Señor Presidente (1946), by Miguel Ángel Asturias, from Guatemala, who was based on the dictator Estrada Cabrera, at the beginning of the XNUMXth century. XX. Yo el Supremo (1974), de Roa Bastos, from Paraguay, is modeled on the dictator Francia, from the XNUMXth century. XIX. “El Supremo” was his title in real life. It was written in exile.

El otoño del patriarch (1975), by Gabriel Garcia Márquez, from Colombia, puts on stage an old dictator general, in a Caribbean country, in the XNUMXth century. XX, but focuses especially on the State terror apparatus that he created and that sustained him. the goat party (2000), by Vargas Llosa of Peru, focuses on the Dominican Republic and the assassination of its dictator Trujillo, broken down into three intertwined narratives.

Of these four authors, three received the Nobel, proof of the popularity of Spanish-American Magical Realism at the time. Due to the low penetration of the Portuguese language, nobody remembered that Macunaima e Grande Sertão: paths already belonged to Magical Realism before this aesthetic category was invented.

Tyrant Flags it is literarily the most accomplished of all, because its narrative is creative and not exactly realistic. He practices the “degeography” that Mário de Andrade advocated, generalizing customs, landscapes and, above all, languages ​​from different countries to all of Latin America. He is indeed a forerunner, a lineage founder.

*Walnice Nogueira Galvão is Professor Emeritus at FFLCH at USP. She is the author, among other books, of reading and rereading (Senac/Gold over blue).


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