Sad end of Policarpo Quaresma

LEDA CATUNDA, Portrait, 2002, acrylic on canvas and voile, ø 242cm


Historical subsidies for reading the novel by Lima Barreto

The first time I read Sad end of Policarpo Quaresma I thought that Lima Barreto was a military writer, or that he had at least gone through the experience of the uniform, such was the familiarity shown with the jargon, tricks, slang and language of the militiamen.

Even a certain elan in the commanding voice of the military, the prosody of the instructors of united order, appears in the story when Lima Barreto describes a retired sergeant, “somewhat lame, and admitted to the battalion with the rank of ensign”, responsible for instruction of the volunteers who joined the patriotic battalions created to defend the government of Floriano Peixoto. The lieutenant shouted and trained new volunteers “with his majestic and long-lasting shouts: shoulderhooh… weapons! mei-oãã volta… volver!, which rose in the sky and echoed for a long time through the walls of the old inn”.[I]

The study of the biography written by Francisco de Assis Barbosa reveals such proximity between the writer and the uniform.[ii] Due to a domestic catastrophe – his father's irreversible psychiatric illness – Lima Barreto had to drop out of college and find a job. The first opportunity that arose was a public contest for the position of amanuensis in the Secretariat of War, a bureaucratic body of the Army. At the end of eight days of competition, he ended up ranked second. As there was only one vacancy, the position was assumed by the first place. However, in October 1903, due to the death of an employee of the Secretariat, Lima Barreto took over the post.

Lima Barreto worked in the Army bureaucracy for about fifteen years, until he applied for disability retirement before the age of forty. That's where his proximity to the uniform comes from. Lima Barreto knew the Army 'from the inside' and from that privileged place he was able to debunk a little the myth that had been created around the institution Verde Olive.

It is true that he never radically rebelled against the "Force" that employed him. There was an ethical limit that the writer respected as a public official. The most acidic complaints and observations left, at that time, to share with his daily, such as this 1904 record written under the impact of the popular uprising that we now know as the Vaccine Revolt: “The officers of the Brazilian Army share omniscience with God and infallibility with the Pope”. Many important writings left by the writer in the daily, showing that since the first years of his life in the Secretariat of War he already distrusted the capacity of the “guardians of the homeland”.


The launch of his first work [Memories of the clerk Isaías Caminha, 1909] did not get the repercussion the writer had hoped for, a fact that left him somewhat frustrated. In fact, what happened was a silencing on the part of the press, the 'mainstream press' and literary critics [with the exception of José Veríssimo], who saw in it more a disrespectful attack on the main figures of the intelligentsia of the time than a denunciation against racism and racial prejudice.

It also counted as an unfavorable factor for the receptivity of the Isaias Caminha, the face-to-face campaign that shook not only Rio de Janeiro, then the capital of the Republic, but the whole of Brazil. It was the first time that anything resembling a presidential campaign had taken place in that Republic of frauds; on the one hand, the civilian candidate Rui Barbosa, on the other, Marshal Hermes da Fonseca, guided by political and economic forces who were somewhat dissatisfied with the predominance of the great oligarchies represented by the states of São Paulo and Minas Gerais: “There was then a shock, more apparent than real, among the oligarchies. The candidacy of Marshal Hermes da Fonseca, Minister of War under Afonso Pena and nephew of the founder of the Republic, divided these oligarchies into two fractions: one under the mantle of Pinheiro Machado, which grouped most of them, and the other, supporting the civil candidacy, the of Counselor Rui Barbosa”.[iii]

Things got so bad that it ended up killing the President of the Republic, Afonso Pena, from Minas Gerais. According to the doctors who cared for him in his last days, the president died as a result of moral trauma: “The development of the Hermes da Fonseca candidacy and the situation generated by the question of succession undermine the health of Afonso Pena, already elderly, who becomes bedridden in early June 1909; passing away on the 14th. The resulting shock of his death is great; the Nation is as if traumatized; Hermism and Hermes da Fonseca himself are blamed for the tragedy. “Moral trauma”, a term used by doctors and which Rui Barbosa repeats in his speeches in the Senate, appears as a formula of accusation against those who were men of his trust and who fled the commitment they had with him [Afonso Pena].[iv]

Hermes da Fonseca was a snake created during the Afonso Pena government itself, a period in which “a topic that would raise a national stir emerged: the reorganization of the Army.”[v] Chosen to occupy the post of Minister of War, the marshal carried out a series of improvements in the Force, remodeling and building barracks, purchasing modern armaments, instituted the military lottery, the predecessor in the compulsory military service and traveled to Germany at the invitation of the Emperor Wilhelm II himself, where he accompanied the maneuvers of the German Army; anyway, his prestige made him one of the most popular figures in that government. With the death of Afonso Pena, vice-president Nilo Peçanha took over the federal government, who endorsed the candidacy of the military man. Another important ally of the marshal was none other than the all-powerful Pinheiro Machado, an army colonel and senator for Rio Grande do Sul.

In this tense climate and, in a way, to use a more contemporary expression, of “polarization”, Lima Barreto decided to support Rui Barbosa's candidacy, which only had the endorsement, half-veiled, of the oligarchy of São Paulo. The antipathy that the writer had for the Bahian senator, the “Hague eagle” is well known; Even so, as Francisco de Assis Barbosa recalls, Lima Barreto “had taken a position against Marshal Hermes da Fonseca, albeit discreetly, given his status as a subordinate civil servant and, even more, serving in the very ministry from which the name remembered by the politicians under the command of Pinheiro Machado.”[vi]

And he made a point of pledging his support to the civilian candidate by sending him a letter: “Please, Counselor Rui Barbosa, accept my congratulations and the fervent vote I make for the victory of your name at the polls. It is in the name of freedom, culture and tolerance that a “roto” like me is encouraged to declare such great sentiments of his political ambitions, which consist simply in not wishing for Brazil the regime of Haiti, always governed by manipansos in uniform, whose cult demands blood and violence of all kinds. Isaias Caminha.”[vii]

He signs with the name of his character, whose book was about to be released. The last months of 1909 and the beginning of the following year, until the day of the elections, which took place on the 1st of March, were of intense confrontation between the two currents: “Rio de Janeiro is the constant stage of small civilist rallies, followed immediately by others of a hermitist tendency, or vice versa. The constant clashes provoke serious conflicts.”[viii] Together with his friend Antonio Noronha Santos, Lima Barreto participated intensely and in his own way in that presidential campaign. They launched a pamphlet to distribute in the streets of the city, the boogeyman, a “little anti-Hermist journal written almost entirely by the novelist.”[ix] Unfortunately, no specimens have been preserved. the boogeyman, but it is possible to imagine what Lima Barreto must have done with the figure of Marshal Hermes and all that political trivia that led him to the presidency of the Republic.

In September 1909, an episode took place that profoundly shook public opinion in the capital and signaled what would become that presidential campaign. It is about the murder of two students who participated in a jocular demonstration against the head of the Police Brigade: “It all happened as a result of an incident between students and the commander of the Police Brigade, General Sousa Aguiar, to whom the boys had gone to complain against the behavior of soldiers, during a commemorative spring march. The general did not want to answer them. As a sign of protest, the students decided to promote the symbolic burial of the Brigade commander. But the “burial” ended badly.

Plainclothes soldiers wielding clubs and daggers charged the helpless boys. The Police Brigade came next, scattering the people, in a fit of savagery. Everything had been prearranged. There would be disorderly policemen known in the circles of trickery. Famous capoeiras, such as Bexiga, Bacurau, Serrote, Moringa, Turquinho. Result of all this: two students dead and numerous wounded. José de Araújo Guimarães, a medical student who acted as sacristan, fell right there, with a stab wound to his stomach, on the stairs of the Polytechnic School. Francisco Pedro Ribeiro Junqueira, was the name of the second student killed in the massacre. All of Rio was moved by the event, such was the brutality of the police reaction to the student demonstration.”[X]

The sad episode became known as “Spring of Blood” and if, strictly speaking, it had no direct relationship with the presidential campaign, “there is no doubt that it was the clash of the so-called civil spirit with the Hermitian militarism that was the main cause of the riot, in which two students lost their lives.”[xi] By an irony of fate, Lima Barreto was part of the jury, in September 1910, that took Lieutenant João Aurélio Lins Wanderley, commander of the detachment responsible for the murders, to the dock. The trial was one of the most famous that took place during the first Republic.[xii]

Hermes da Fonseca won those elections and took office on November 15, 1910. The following week, the sailors' revolt broke out, known as the “Revolt of the Whip”, or rather the “Revolt against the Whip”, led by João Cândido – the Black Admiral. The repression against the movement was one of the most horrendous things we have heard from that Republic and is very well described in Edmar Morel's book, The Whip Revolt. In addition to the truculence of the first months of government, two other characteristics highlighted the beginning of the Hermes da Fonseca presidency: “the occupation of political positions by young people and the participation of members of their family in politics; his victory brought up another problem, the return of an element in the political reckoning – the Army”.[xiii]

Since the overthrow of the Floriano Peixoto government, the Army seemed to have returned to its role as a national defense force. The period of the so-called civil governments (Prudente de Morais, Campos Salles, Rodrigues Alves and Afonso Pena / Nilo Peçanha) represented the predominance of large oligarchies and a retreat from the interventionist tendency of the armed forces in politics, mainly the Army. With Hermes da Fonseca, power comes into the hands of the military in a legal way, that is: through elections. The “strong arm” and the “friendly hand” were felt more strikingly in the states, where the oligarchies that supported the military candidacy needed and relied on the federal military force to establish themselves in power.

It was the so-called period of salvation: “The electoral campaign of Hermes da Fonseca awakens, in the opposition and in certain independent opposition sectors, a certain hope of fighting against the oligarchies. It is true that Rui Barbosa also condemns them. But what characterizes them all, with rare exceptions, is the idea that the fight against Nery (Amazonas), Acioli (Ceará), Rosa e Silva (Pernambuco) etc., means only the fall of the leaders of each State or the problematic constitutional review. There is no mention of the problems of the oligarchic structures – the colonelistic base – nor of the electoral system. What is condemned is the individual and his entourage, the predominance of coercion, the assault on the public budget, etc.”[xiv]

We know that Lima Barreto wrote Polycarp Quaresma between January and March 1911, a few months after the judgment of those involved in the “Spring of Blood” and the massacre of the Navy rebels. These facts are important, as they help us to understand the two historicities that make up the book, as it is also a historical novel, although it goes back a little in time, around two decades.

There is a narrative time in the novel, within which the story of Major Quaresma develops, which runs more or less from the years 1892 to 1894, the period of the civil war in the southern states of the country (Federalist Revolution) and the Revolt of the Navy , in Rio de Janeiro. This narrative time articulates with the immediate present in which Lima Barreto writes the work, allowing the writer to indirectly criticize the Army, not in the figure of Hermes da Fonseca and Hermism (his contemporaries), but rather in the representation of Floriano Peixoto and the florianism. The criticism of the period of Hermes da Fonseca's presidency will appear in another novel, Numa and the Nymph, published in serials in the newspaper At night[xv]. Another important fact that occurred in April 1910 was the inauguration of the monument in honor of Floriano Peixoto, in Cinelândia, a fact that revived the memory of the man who until then had been the most popular president in the country, if not the only one with true popularity.

Last but not least, the conflicts that followed the Revolta da Armada had a non-negligible impact on Lima Barreto's early youth. At that time, the family of the future writer lived on Ilha do Governador, where his father had held, since 1891, the position of storekeeper at the Colonies of the Insane. Lima Barreto, after finishing primary school, was enrolled, with the financial help of his godfather, the Viscount of Ouro Preto, in the Liceu Popular Niteroiense, “one of the best at the time, frequented by rich people.

Afonso's colleagues were called Otávio Kelly, Américo Ferraz de Castro, Manuel Ribeiro de Almeida, Ricardo Greenhalgh Barreto, Caio Guimarães, the Sauerbronn brothers Magalhães, Carlos Pereira Guimarães. All will stand out, later, in the judiciary, in journalism, in the career of arms, in teaching. The Lyceum was located in Largo da Memória, in a big house on the corner of Rua Nova, overlooking a large farm with a tiled façade. It was directed by Mr. William Henry Cunditt,22 who lived there with his family. All took part in the teaching. Cunditt was a widower, had two daughters, Annie and Gracie, both teachers.[xvi]

Due to the enormous distance – the Lyceum was in Niterói, while the family lived on Ilha do Governador – Lima Barreto became a boarding student and returned home only on weekends. Who made the crossing of Guanabara Bay to take and pick up the boy was a gentleman named José da Costa: “This José – recalls the novelist – or rather, Zé da Costa, was everything in the Colonies [of Alienados]: coachman, carpenter, catraieiro and was always sweet and good to me. Now, with tears in my eyes, I remember him when, on Saturdays, he would pick me up from school, in those anxious and satisfied days of my childhood, still free from any bitter vision of the world and the despair of my own destiny”.[xvii]

When the fighting of the Revolt broke out – September 1893 – the student Afonso Henriques de Lima Barreto was unable to return home for about a month. A set of letters he wrote to his father gives us an idea of ​​how traumatic this moment was for him. Let us cite some passages: “My father. The reason I didn't get there [at home] on the 7th is what you supposed. I have just received your letter. I was saving my departure for Saturday, but the revolutionaries didn't want that. Miss Annie says I won't go out until you come and get me. The revolutionaries have been shooting a lot of bullets here [Niterói], and some have caused damage. Our school, fortunately, has not suffered anything, but it is not free from suffering”.[xviii]

On September 21, 1893, he writes: “My father. Unfortunately I can't go there. Rumor has it that the island [do Governador] is armed by the rebels. Send me some money, I received your letter of the 19th. I don't know where this will come from, the end will be ugly. Here we go like pigs, sleeping, eating and playing. You must know that the “República” [warship] left for Santos with two ships from Frigorifica [food company] and two torpedo boats. The day before yesterday there was a fight in which a soldier died and many were wounded. This revolt has been of an unpleasant character. They don't let ships in or out, what will become of us? We starve. The rebels are already masters of Armação. Bullets keep raining down here. Here, families who live on the coast abandon their homes. Goodbye. Regards to all. Your son".[xx]

Another letter, dated September 23: “My father. Unfortunately I cannot go there, there are obstacles that oppose this, there was no carrier either. I happily enjoy health and I am satisfied, I would be more satisfied if I were these days in the company of everyone who is dear to me. There is nothing new. Rumor has it that the island is taken, this news was given by Fluminense [newspaper], I believe it to be false. I believe that if this lasts a long time, I will be exiled to Niterói”.

Finally, the letter of September 28, before he managed to return home: “My father. I received your letter of the 25th of this month. Classes are working very poorly, that is, with a lack of attendance. In school, there is only one teacher. It was rumored that the Naval Academy was there on the island. Miss Annie won't let me go. I've been here for over a month without going there [home]. If you have someone who comes to Niterói out of necessity, send for me. Don't purposely send anyone here, because the trip is expensive. Tell Dona Prisciliana [Lima Barreto's stepmother] that I wanted to see her here, to see the bullets pass and burst, as I have seen them from here at the school. In this game, many people have died. Grenades exploded everywhere, from Niterói, until one of them exploded on the hill at the back of the school. Our piano teacher hasn't been coming. Regards to all. Your son".

As if the anguish of not being able to return home was not enough, in addition to the apprehensions of witnessing daily bombings very close to the school, young Lima received news that the same scenario was taking place in the place where he lived, that is, on Ilha do Governador. As we said a little above, this time was very marked in the life of the future novelist. There were not few texts - in addition to the Polycarp Quaresma – in which the already renowned writer recalls that second half of 1893.

In one of them, Lima Barreto narrates the adventures of his return home, in the company of his father, who personally went to Niterói to pick him up: “It is in the memory of contemporaries that sea communications between Rio and that city [Niterói] were soon interrupted at the beginning of the uprising, so that, to fetch me, my father had to make a huge detour, jumping from train to train, seeing rivers and small towns [sic] without account. With my father, after a tiring journey of twenty-four hours, I disembarked at Central [Central do Brasil train station] at nine o'clock at night, slept in the city; and, to get home, I still had to go from the railroad to the Olaria stop, on the Leopoldina Railroad, near Penha, walk about a kilometer on foot, take a boat at the so-called port of Maria Angu, disembark at Ponta do Galeão, ride a horse and travel about three kilometers on horseback, finally arriving at my family's residence”.[xx]

The relief at finally being able to return home didn't last long. The news he received at Liceu, according to which Ilha do Governador had become a focus of fighting, was not entirely false. He himself witnessed, at the age of twelve, a disembarkation of rebels on the Island, the negotiations they had with his father, while he was “among the sailors, talking to one and the other, desirous until one of them taught me how to handle a carbine". And he continues in the dramatic account of that day, which he may never have forgotten: “They went down, my father and the commander. Suddenly, I see 'Estrela' being taken out of the corral, an old ox in a cart, black, with a white spot on his forehead. 'Estrela' was paired with 'Moreno', another black bull; and both, in addition to trails, also plowed. The ox was led to the stable and I saw that a sailor, ax in hand, faced him and then struck him on the head. […] When I saw that they were going to kill him, I didn't say goodbye to anyone. I ran home without looking back.”[xxx]

It was the savagery of war, the looting, abuse, intimidation. The occupation of Ilha do Governador forced many families to leave their homes, among them the family of the future writer, who again recalled those days in a 1920 chronicle.[xxiii] There is, therefore, an indissoluble link between the Revolta da Armada and the affective memory of Lima Barreto, who only many years later was able to intellectually elaborate that scourge. As reported by Francisco de Assis Barbosa, “the hypersensitive boy began to feel the injustices of the world. The events of 1893 then gave him a new picture of life. Were the soldiers taken with collective madness?”[xxiii]


In the gallery of characters Sad end of Policarpo Quaresma what we find most are military. The protagonist himself, although he was not a military man, was mistakenly given the rank of major, willingly accepting it. In his youth, he dreamed of becoming a militiaman, but ended up being dismissed by the medical board, perhaps because of his severe myopia. Unable to join the ranks of arms, Quaresma turned to studying his homeland and chose a profession that would allow him to live closely with the uniform: he went to work in the bureaucracy of the War Arsenal. His patriotism, in that first moment, is linked in a secondary way to the Army.

The “Army-Patriotism-Nation” triad begins to invade history in a caricatured way, driven by the irony of the narrator and represented in the figures of General Albernaz and Rear Admiral Caldas, true generals in pajamas, more concerned with their private lives than with the public good. It is a comic nucleus within a tragic book. A comic that unmasks the patriotic appeal used to justify the existence of these caricatures of soldiers, who live off the memory of a war they did not participate in, the Paraguayan War: “The general was not at all martial, not even the uniform he might not have had. During his entire military career, he had not seen a single battle, had not had a command, had done nothing that had anything to do with his profession and his course as an artilleryman. He had always been an aide-de-camp, assistant, person in charge of this or that, clerk, storekeeper, and he was secretary of the Supreme Military Council when he retired as a general. His habits were those of a good section chief and his intelligence was not much different from his habits. He knew nothing about wars, strategy, tactics or military history; his wisdom in this respect was reduced to the battles of Paraguay, for him the greatest and most extraordinary war of all times. bad in that placid man [Albernaz], mediocre, good-natured, whose only concern was getting his five daughters married and arranging guns to make his son pass the exams at the Colégio Militar. However, it was not convenient to doubt his warrior skills. He himself, noticing her very civil air, from where to where, told an episode of war, a military anecdote. 'It was at Lomas Valentinas', he would say… If someone asked: 'Did the general watch the battle?' He would quickly reply: 'I couldn't. I got sick and came to Brazil, on the eve. But I found out from Camisão, from Venâncio, that things had gone bad'”.[xxv]

Major Quaresma's patriotism, at this moment, is of another breed and comes from a deep feeling of love for Brazil and, mainly, from a knowledge accumulated during years of reading and studying national things; a fact materialized in his library, which constituted a true Brasiliana. Quaresma was motivated by that cultural nationalism elaborated by romanticism, through which, according to researcher Giralda Seyferth, “the national language was the fundamental element, together with the folklore that delimited popular 'traditions'”.[xxiv]

We cannot forget that at the beginning of the XNUMXth century some intellectual circles, especially in Rio de Janeiro, had been taken over by 'boasting nationalism', whose main work of propaganda was to be found in the book Why am I proud of my country?, published precisely in the year 1900, when the fourth centenary of our “discovery” was being celebrated. The author of the book was the monarchist Afonso Celso de Assis Figueiredo Júnior, or simply Afonso Celso, also awarded the title of “Count of Ouro Preto”; this because his father was the “viscount of Ouro Preto” – Afonso Celso de Assis Figueiredo – Lima Barreto's godfather.[xxv]

The term pride came to be identified with the current of thought that proposed a counterpoint to the fatalistic ideas of “congenital unfeasibility” of the Brazilian people and, consequently, of Brazil itself as a nation: “Despite trends of exaltation of the Country manifesting itself since the colonial period, the work of Afonso Celso brought a new element more forcefully: the appreciation of the three races”.[xxviii] Marilena Chauí, in another reading key, proposes a critical understanding of pride and relates it to the idea of ​​reaction, typical of conservative or reactionary movements within class societies.[xxviii]

The important thing to emphasize at this moment is Quaresma's adherence to pride. For this very reason, his first movement towards the reforms he would propose aimed at the “emancipation of the modinha”, together with his faithful squire, the musician Ricardo Coração dos outros. He goes so far as to go against the common sense of the time, which condemned the viola as a Cappadocian instrument, and begins to take lessons from the minstrel of the suburbs.

The major's sister, Dona Adelaide, did not look kindly on her brother's new habit; “His [Dona Adelaide’s] upbringing, seeing such an instrument handed over to slaves or similar people, could not allow him to preoccupy the attention of people of a certain order.”[xxix] However, the relationship between Quaresma and Ricardo Coração dos outros ended up going far beyond guitar lessons, transforming into a great and true friendship, full of complicity, which many readers and scholars compared to the partnership between Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.

The radicalism of Quaresma's patriotism will only find support when he realizes that the foundations of our culture had been stolen by colonization, that our entire true cultural source was buried by what came from outside, starting with the language. Hence the attempt to exercise his prerogatives as a citizen and send a bill to the Chamber of Deputies proposing the adoption of Tupi as the country's official language. Quaresma's “application” went viral, to use a closer term, but not in the way he had hoped. The major became a laughing stock, saw his name circulated by the press, vilified, mocked, until he was taken to the asylum, treated like a madman.

Quaresma's second attempt to give vent to his patriotism took place shortly after his hospitalization in the hospice, when he acquired the “Sossego” farm and there he saw the possibility of, through example, showing the agricultural potential of our lands. Soon he was shocked by the difficulties of the enterprise, the silent war of the ants and, worse than this 'plague', the political intrigues and private interests that entangled him, even against his will, in the game of local mandonism.

With hard work and resignation, the major and his assistants, Anastácio and Felizardo, manage to revive the farm, plowing and sowing the land, reaping the first fruits. It was proven that in this land “everything grows”, despite the ants. But politicians, petty interests and the 'invisible hand of the market' infiltrate the major's life to the point where the continuity of his enterprise becomes unbearable: “That network of laws, postures, codes and precepts , in the hands of these regulotes, of such caciques, became a colt, a pole, an instrument of torture to torture the enemies, oppress the populations, cripple their initiative and independence, slaughtering and demoralizing them. In an instant his [Quarema's] eyes flashed those sallow, sunken faces that lazily leaned against the doorways of sales; he also saw those ragged and dirty children, with downcast eyes, surreptitiously begging along the roads; he saw those abandoned, unproductive lands given over to weeds and weeds; he also saw the despair of Felizardo, a good, active and hard-working man, not in the mood to plant a grain of corn at home and drinking up all the money that passed through his hands – this picture flashed before his eyes with the speed and sinister brilliance of lightning. Forty kilometers from Rio, did taxes have to be paid to send some potatoes to the market? After Turgot, after the Revolution, were there still inland customs? How was it possible to make agriculture prosper, with so many barriers and taxes? If to the monopoly of the river crossings were added the exactions of the State, how was it possible to extract from the land the consoling remuneration? And the picture that had already flashed before his eyes when he received the summons from the municipality came back to him again, more gloomy, more sombre, more lugubrious; and he foresaw the time when those people would have to eat frogs, snakes, dead animals, like peasants in France, in times of great kings. Quaresma came to remember his Tupi, his Folklore, the modinhas, his agricultural attempts – all of this seemed insignificant, puerile, childish to him. Bigger, deeper works were needed; it became necessary to redo the administration. He imagined a strong, respected, intelligent government, removing all these obstacles, these obstacles, Sully and Henry IV, spreading wise agrarian laws, raising the cultivator... So yes! The granary would appear and the homeland would be happy”.

It is at this moment of reflection and revolt that Felizardo appears, one of Quaresma's helpers, holding a newspaper:

"- Your boss, tomorrow, I'm not coming work.

- For right; it's a holiday... Independence.

- That's not it.

- So why?

- There is noise in court and say they will recruit. I'm going to the bush... Nothing!

- What noise?

- You nose foias, yes sir.

He opened the newspaper and soon found the news according to which the ships of the squadron had risen up and summoned the President to resign. He remembered his musings from moments ago; a strong government, even to tyranny… Agrarian measures… Sully and Henry IV…: “His eyes shone with hope. He fired the employee. He went inside the house, said nothing to his sister, took his hat, and went to the station. He reached the telegraph and wrote: 'Marechal Floriano, Rio. I ask for energy. I'll follow now. – Lent.'” [xxx]

Behold, his patriotism definitely finds its raison d'être. In the first place, to defend Floriano Peixoto against the country's enemies. But who were they? Who was Floriano? At this point in the book, not only, but mainly, the narrator's political position is felt more intensely. As the literary critic Silviano Santiago observed: “the reading that the narrator makes of the text itself within the novel and that is given as a gift to any of its possible readers.”[xxxii] In the characterization of Floriano Peixoto and Florianism, it is above all the voice of Lima Barreto that is felt in the foreground. Narrator and author are confused in the critical appreciation of one of the most delicate moments of our first republican experience.

The demystification operation of the “Army-Patriotism-Nation” triad continues to erode the hero's pride. While Major Quaresma saw in the “Iron Marshal” the redeeming possibility for the nation, the narrator/author unveils, step by step, the series of mistakes by which the good patriot let himself be dragged: “Quaresma was then able to better see the physiognomy of the man who was going to leave in his hands, for almost a year, such strong powers, powers of a Roman Emperor, hovering over everything, limiting everything, without finding any obstacle to his whims, weaknesses and wills, nor in laws, nor in customs, nor in universal and human piety. It was vulgar and heartbreaking. The drooping mustache; the hanging and soft lower lip to which a large Moscow; the flaccid and coarse features; there was not even the design of the chin or look that was proper, that revealed some superior endowment. It was a dull, round look, poor in expressions, except for the sadness that wasn't individual to him, but native, of race; and all of him was gelatinous - seemed to have no nerves. The major did not want to see in such signs anything that denoted his character, intelligence or temperament. These things don't fly, he told himself. His enthusiasm for that political idol was strong, sincere and disinterested. I thought of him as energetic, refined and far-sighted, tenacious and knowledgeable about the needs of the country, perhaps a little tricky, a kind of Louis XI dressed in Bismarck”.[xxxi]

The reading that Lima Barreto made of Floriano Peixoto and the movement that sustained him in power is anchored in the anti-military, anti-positivist, anti-American point of view and in the criticism of the idea of ​​homeland/nation, so dear to our author. On the latter, it is possible to observe the influence of the French historian Ernest Renan, not by chance owner of the epigraph that opens the Sad end of Policarpo Quaresma. Renan was a constant collaborator of the Revue de deux monds, “bedside magazine” by Lima Barreto, who died with a copy of it on his lap. Although quite conservative, a herald of colonialism and the supremacy of the 'European race' over the other peoples of the world, this in the 1860s and 70s, Renan seems to have changed his view on such issues, or put them a little aside, when he said his famous conferenceQu'est-ce qu'une nation?”, in March 1882, at the Sorbonne, later published, in 1887, in the collection Discours et conferences.

Renan maintained, in his lecture, that forgetfulness and historical error are the decisive factors for the creation and maintenance of the feeling of nationality; and for this reason, “the progress of studies represents a danger to the idea of ​​nation, since historical investigation brings back to light the acts of violence that occur at the origin of all political formations, even those whose consequences were the most beneficial . Unity is always achieved by brutal means”.[xxxii]

Contrary to the main arguments listed by champions of European nationalism, Renan discards any type of ethnic-racial consderation as a foundation for the idea of ​​nation. And so it also does in relation to linguistic, religious and even geographic determinations. “Ethnic consideration has not been of any importance in the constitution of modern nations. France is Celtic, Iberian, Germanic. Germany is Germanic, Celtic and Slavic. Italy is the most ethnically mixed country: Gauls, Etruscans, Pelasgians and Greeks, not to mention other elements, intersect there in an indecipherable mixture. The British Isles, as a whole, offer a mixture of Celtic and Germanic blood in proportions that are especially difficult to define. The truth is that there are no pure races and that to base policy on ethnic analysis is to base it on a chimera. The noble countries – England, France, Italy – are those where the blood is most mixed”.[xxxv]

This “detail” had escaped Major Quaresma when he studied the Homeland. The “progress of his studies” did not make him see, at first, the series of historical errors, of crimes, murders and forgetfulness that are left in the way of nation building. It was at the time of the great crisis that he, the patriot Quaresma, realized what the books had already taught him: “He reviewed history; he saw the mutilations, the additions in all the historical countries and asked himself: how could a man who lived four centuries, being French, English, Italian, German, feel the Homeland? At one time, for the Frenchman, Franche-Comté was the land of his grandparents, at another it was not; at a given moment, Alsace was not, then it was and finally it did not come to be. We didn't have Cisplatin ourselves and didn't lose it; and, perhaps, do we feel that our grandparents' fathers are there and therefore do we suffer any grief? It was certainly a notion without rational consistency and needed to be revised. But how could he, so serene, so lucid, spend his life, spend his time, grow old behind such a chimera? How did he not see reality clearly, did he not immediately sense it and allow himself to be deceived by a deceitful idol, absorb himself in it, give it his entire existence as a holocaust? It was his isolation, his self-forgetfulness; And that's how he went to the grave, without leaving a trace of him, without a son, without love, without a warmer kiss, without a single one, and without even a blunder![xxxiv]

“The homeland I wanted to have was a myth”. In a simple, lapidary sentence, Lima Barreto touches on an issue that would mobilize the main critics of nationalism in the second half of the XNUMXth century. The homeland, as a myth, is nothing more than the good old ideology, that is, “a narrative used as a solution to tensions, conflicts and contradictions that do not find ways to be resolved at the level of reality.”[xxxiv] In the case of our character, the myth also gains scope in the psychoanalytical sense, “as an impulse to repeat something imaginary, which creates a block to the perception of reality and prevents us from dealing with it.”[xxxviii] Any resemblance to our current reality is not mere coincidence...

The writer entangles his character in this double articulation of the idea of ​​homeland-myth, that is, in ideology (Quaresma embarks on the idea of ​​patriotism as a solution to the social tensions of the period) and in individuality (his compulsion to study national things, which obliterates the critical assessment of reality). If the narrator/author already knew these things beforehand, the Character only gradually becomes aware of the situation, until he falls into the hole whose trapdoor he helped to open. The homeland he wanted to have was a myth, perhaps the myth of Saturn devouring his children...

*Alexandre Juliete Rosa Master in Literature from the Institute of Brazilian Studies at USP.


[I] Lima Barrett. Sad end of Policarpo Quaresma. São Paulo: Klick Editora / Coleção Vestibular do Estadão, 1999, p. 169. All quotations that appear from the work refer to that edition.

[ii] Francisco de Assis Barbosa. The life of Lima Barreto. Belo Horizonte: Authentic, 2017.

[iii] Joao Cruz Costa. Short History of the Republic. Rio de Janeiro: Brazilian Civilization, 1972, p. 75.

[iv] Edgard Carone. The Old Republic II - political evolution. Rio de Janeiro / São Paulo: DIFEL, 1977, p. 255.

[v] Ditto, p. 241.

[vi] Francisco de Assis Barbosa. The life of Lima Barreto, p. 214.

[vii] Lima Barrett. Correspondence – Volume I. São Paulo: Brasiliense, 1956, p. 194.

[viii] Edgard Carone. The Old Republic II, P. 260.

[ix] Francisco de Assis Barbosa. The life of Lima Barreto, P. 222.

[X] Same, pp. 219-20.

[xi] Ditto, p. 218.

[xii] Francisco de Assis Barbosa describes in detail Lima Barreto's participation in the trial, in the chapter “Primavera de Sangue” of the biography.

[xiii] Edgard Carone. The Old Republic II, P. 270 and 278.

[xiv] Edgard Carone. The Old Republic II, P. 278.

[xv] According to Nelson Werneck Sodré, “… on July 18, 1911, Irineu Marinho [the patriarch of the Globo organizations] circulated At night, with a reduced capital of 100 contos de réis. Modern newspaper, well laid out, made by competent professionals; in less than a year, he was in a position to buy new machines, linotypes, setting up a well-equipped engraving workshop, distributing cars. It was an eminently political newspaper in opposition to the great oligarchies. When Hermes da Fonseca left power, in November 1914, the reaction did not wait; Irineu Marinho, in 1915, published, in serials, the satirical novel by Lima Barreto, Numa and the Nymph, which appeared between March 15 and July 26”. (History of the press in Brazil. Rio de Janeiro: MAUAD, 1999, p. 330-31).

[xvi] Francisco de Assis Barbosa. The life of Lima Barreto, p. 67.

[xvii] Lima Barreto. "The Star". In: fairs and mafuás. Complete Works of Lima Barreto, vol. X. São Paulo: Brasiliense, 1956, p. 64. In volume I of All Chronicle, organized by Beatriz Resende and Rachel Valença, the text appears as published in the 23 – 05 – 1916 edition of the Almanac d'A Noite.

[xviii] Letter dated September 14, 1893. Lima Barreto. Active and passive correspondence, vol. 1. São Paulo: Brasiliense, 1956, p. 28.

[xx] Same, p. 28-9.

[xx] Lima Barreto. "The Star". In: fairs and mafuás, P. 61-2.

[xxx] Same, p. 65-6.

[xxiii] This is the chronicle “Homem ou boi de canga?”, published in the volume trifles, organized while Lima Barreto was still alive, but published after his death, by the publishing house of Romances Populares, in 1923. See also in All Chronicle, vol. II, pp. 247 – 250.

[xxiii] Francisco de Assis Barbosa. The life of Lima Barreto, p. 83.

[xxv] Sad end of Policarpo Quaresma, P. 29-30.

[xxiv] Giralda Seyferth. "Building the Nation: Racial Hierarchies and the Role of Racism in Immigration and Colonization Policy". In: Marcos Chor Maio and Ricardo Ventura Santos (eds.). Race, Science and Culture. Rio de Janeiro: Editora Fiocruz, 1996, p. 42.

[xxv] Afonso Celso, Viscount of Ouro Preto [1836 – 1912], was one of the most important politicians of the last years of the Empire. He headed the Cabinet of Ministers when the Monarchy fell on November 15, 1889. Lima Barreto never had a relationship with his godfather, despite the latter having paid for his studies at the Liceu Popular Niteroiense and having helped his father, Afonso Henriques de Lima Barreto , in many difficult moments of life. In the chapters “Origins” and “The Godfather” of The life of Lima Barreto, Francisco de Assis Barbosa details the friendship between Lima Barreto's father and Afonso Celso, as well as the “non-relations” between godfather and godson. The relationship between Lima Barreto and Afonso Celso Filho has always been very cordial and mutually respectful. This is what the correspondence exchanged between the two shows, as well as the laudatory articles written by Afonso Celso Junior about some books published by Lima Barreto, in particular the Polycarp Quaresma and the Gonzaga de Sa. (See about it in: Lima Barreto. Correspondence – Volume I. São Paulo: Brasiliense, 1956, pp. 261 – 265).

[xxviii] Nísia Trindade and Gilberto Hochman. “Condemned by race, acquitted by medicine: Brazil discovered by the sanitary movement of the first republic”. IN: Race, Science and Culture. Rio de Janeiro: Editora Fiocruz, 1996, p. 27

[xxviii] Marilena Chaui. “Brazil: Founding myth and authoritarian society”. In: Ideological Manifestations of Brazilian Authoritarianism. Writings by Marilena Chauí – Volume 2. São Paulo / Belo Horizonte: Fundação Perseu Abramo – Autêntica, 2013, especially pages 183 to 192.

[xxix] Sad end of Policarpo Quaresma, P. 63.

[xxx] The quoted excerpts are found between pages 108 to 110.

[xxxii] Silviano Santiago. A sting in the instep. Iberoamericana Magazine. Vol. 50. No. 126, 1984, p. 34.

[xxxi] Sad end of Policarpo Quaresma, P. 124-5.

[xxxii] Ernest Renan. Qu'est-ce qu'une nation? In: Plural – Journal of Social Sciences. São Paulo. USP. Vol. 4. First Half of 1997, p. 161. Translation by Samuel Titan Jr.

[xxxv] Ditto, p. 166.

[xxxiv] Sad end of Policarpo Quaresma, P. 167.

[xxxiv] Marilena Chaui. “Brazil: Founding myth and authoritarian society”. In: Ideological manifestations of Brazilian authoritarianism. Writings by Marilena Chauí – Volume 2. São Paulo / Belo Horizonte: Fundação Perseu Abramo – Autêntica, 2013, p. 151.

[xxxviii] Idem.

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