A writer-essayist and his world view

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By RICARDO MUSSE*

Afterword of the recently released book “Complaints from the province”, by Júlio Ambrozio

Reading these essays – a “set of small articles”, as the author prefers – instigates reflection in multiple directions, some of which are highlighted throughout the book. The title points to the dialectic “province (dead cities) x metropolis (seat of capital)”, a polarity that becomes even more complex when Júlio Ambrozio adds a third term: “colony”. This triad, in turn, is examined from the territorial (geographical), economic, social, political and cultural point of view.

The author is at the same time an essayist and a fiction writer – a recurrent configuration in the frameworks of international and Brazilian modernism. The articles deal with well-defined objects (a film, a work of art, a social situation, an economic movement, a cultural or political action), but always under the prism of the subjectivity of a specific individual, located in a certain historical moment, in his social group (the literati), in his generation, in a city in a country called Brazil.

Thus languages, temporalities and perspectives are mixed. On the one hand, from the objective world, from the public sphere. On the other hand, from the individual scope, from private and intimate life. All under the distanced and close gaze of the writer and his fabled imagination.

This combination constitutes the main driving source of the book's richness. It is certainly possible to cut out (and place in parentheses, as recommended by Husserl's phenomenology) each of these poles. The truth of the whole, however, stems from these elusive and elusive relationships – sometimes marked, others unsewn – between the registers of the journalist, the intellectual, the activist and the fictionist.

The articles published in the 1980s, the initial moment of each of the three blocks – “Mundo”, “Cinema”, “Petrópolis” –, retain a deeper unity than that derived from the same historical-political moment or affiliation to the literary-journalistic genre – “film criticism” – in which they are inserted. They are permeated by a Worldview itself arising from an original combination of personal experience, political militancy, cultural orientations and geographic landscapes.

Júlio entered the University, taking the geography course at UFRJ, in the second half of the 1970s, a period of intense activism concentrated on the fight against the military dictatorship. A convinced Petropolitan, he deployed his political engagement on two fronts: directly political militancy in the student movement (ME), exercised on campus and in the streets of the city of Rio de Janeiro, and the creation and maintenance, in Petrópolis, of the film club “Tristes Trópicos ”.

The film society movement, at that time, constituted one of the trenches in the fight against the dictatorship. It was not just about cultural resistance, the defense of art in the face of a regime that prohibited and hindered access to the cultural heritage of humanity. The exhibition – and the subsequent discussion of films, subverting the isolationism of “each one for himself” and obedient passivity – put on the agenda the reflection on the directions of the country and the world. Meditation, mediated by the artistic object, bet on the critical and transformative potential of cinematographic art.

Scattered across the country, anchored in academic centers, in professional associations, in social movements on the periphery, film clubs constituted one of the few cultural manifestations that did not conform to the dictates of the newly implemented Brazilian “cultural industry”. Recognition of the cultural importance of film clubs opened the doors of local, regional and alternative newspapers to film club members. The film criticism gathered here is therefore part of this broader context.

The two oldest articles, from 1981, comment on the early death of Glauber Rocha. In the heat of the moment, the young film club member outlines a consistent and dialectical assessment of the filmmaker's historical place. Glauber was an active participant, a leader of Cinema Novo, projecting his desire to build national cinemas against Hollywood into this movement. But, warns Júlio Ambrozio, the work of the “self-reflective poet” – with its “exalted aesthetics, contrary to illusionism” – shuffles and strains the relations between “the real and the ideal”, “life and art”.

Glauber's cinema, a leap towards tropicalism, is thus configured as a critique and overcoming of national-popular aesthetics (incorporated then, to general satisfaction, by the emerging entertainment industry). In the words of J. Ambrozio: “Glauber's corpse is the body of each one of us. It is the threatening creativity, the passionate light and the indignation torn apart by mediocrity, by the authoritarianism of a decadent bourgeoisie that did not modernize the country, did not carry out a capitalist revolution”.

Brazilian cinematographic production, especially in the 1980s, from the perspective of the film club critic, is mere entertainment. Distraction cinema, “anesthetic for the eyes and for the thought”, abdicates the imagination, the ludic, the freedom inherent to artistic forms that announce the possibility of transforming life. Condemned to irrelevance, “it carries within itself the bacilli that anticipate its end”.

The verdict, at first glance, is cruel: “Brazilian cinema is doing poorly. It ranges from Boca porn to political porn, passing through love porn, police porn, and a few more that appear between a swim in the sea and work on any TV”.

It must be recognized, however, that this is a premonitory judgment of what happened with the end of Embrafilme and the culture incentive laws during the Collor de Mello government. It also alludes to the flagrant inadequacy of this cinema to the new (and electrified) forms of exhibition.

The explanation for this decline goes beyond the scope of aesthetics, ultimately deriving from economic and geopolitical factors. The colonized mentality reflects the country's return to the old international division of labor. At that moment, it was already noticeable that “the industrial park celebrated during the dictatorship, during the “economic miracle”, even before the return of the government to civilians, had turned into scrap metal, given the advances in technoelectronics”. Brazil, having missed “the bandwagon of the technological revolution, remaining only with old and polluting industries”, returned to the condition of an economy that exported raw materials. All of this is said after discussing the link between cinema and urban life, with the speed of the metropolis, with the production of mass industries, with the so-called “modernization”.

At that moment, in that same generation, many identified in marginal cinema – by Júlio Bressane, Andrea Tonacci and Rogério Sganzerla – the Other of that cinema. This was the case of young film club members grouped in the magazine Cine-Eye, whose circle Júlio attended during a course at PUC-RJ, in 1979. A transfer of sympathies, which resumed the critical path of Torquarto Neto in the pages of the newspaper Last Minute.

Julio Ambrozio went in another direction. He identified the critique of the culture industry's reification, the “rebellion against the monotony, objectification and solitude of existence” in the German New Cinema of Win Wenders, Werner Herzog, Rainer W. Fassbinder and Hans-Jürgen Syberberg.

To understand this artistic movement, Júlio Ambrozio turned to his founding document, the “Oberhausen Manifesto” (1962), a starting point complemented by a brief foray into the history of German culture and cinema. He highlights, in the Manifesto, the purpose of young filmmakers in proposing an experimental cinema, “free from commercial control”. What enchants him most, however, is the aesthetic configuration of the new German cinema, especially the one that unfolded after 1967.

In J. Ambrozio's interpretation, the strength of this movement is based on the meditated updating of two golden moments of German art: Romanticism and Expressionism. Characteristic of this neo-romanticism is the discernment and awareness of the break with nature (exterior and interior), exemplified both in references to Friedrich Hölderlin and Heirick von Kleist and in analyzes of films by Werner Herzog and Win Wenders. The prevalence of images of nature stems from narratives based on the wanderings of solitary characters, emphasizing landscapes remodeled by human action in Wenders or inhospitable scenarios – valleys and misty mountains – in Herzog. The “romantic nostalgia” that seeks to remodel the outside world in the light of aesthetic imagination is perceived there.

O topos of a non-indifferent nature – contrary to the lineage of modern art that has dazzling moments in Mallarmé, Cézanne and Eisenstein –, the basis of a non-instrumental relationship with nature, is also present in Expressionism. Here, however, the pursuit of forms of the “absolute” ceases. In the post-utopian scenario marked by disenchantment and the loss of individual uniqueness, it is felt that “history is blind force, not progress and development”.

Discomfort with the contemporary world, evident in images by Erich Heckel and in the poetry of Georg Trakl, takes on a diabolical content in Rainer W. Fassbinder's plots, full of “devastation and evil”. The same radical break with naturalism turns Hans-Jürgen Syberberg's characters – submitted to the Brechtian technique of estrangement (distancing) – into “neo-expressionist mechanical beings who move in front of a fixed camera”.

The articles on German new cinema date from 1984. During this year, Júlio Ambrózio wrote his first novel, published four years later with the title of In the serene of the world (Ed. Firefly). The sketches developed in newspaper articles acquire – in the fictional record – the solidity and consistency of a “world view” (Worldview) own and original.

I had the opportunity, at the time, to highlight this factor, when writing the text for the publication's ear: “The book by Júlio Ambrozio, In the serene of the world, is the phenomenology of a solitary gaze. The character's life pulsates in the gaze. Hence, cinema constitutes his imaginary and the precise and complete – almost geographic – description of things is his constant companion. Space, as well as time, emerges from this gaze. A look that doesn't see clearly in the distance; that cannot follow the succession of objects in space – the movement – ​​in its unpredictability. Between him and the world, there is the gray hair, and the plastic image is that of a windshield wiper that, in its constant movement, appears as an eternal no. From the point of view of its uniqueness, the world appears as a here and now. Space is limited, opaque, closed. The world, as it appears in a momentary shot, is unpredictable, although its course despairs like repetition – of unhappiness”.

The novel, in my description at the time, is organized into two blocks. In the second part, specific issues of Brazilian sociability emerge. “It is only when João José leaves his intimate circle (friends, the house, the car) – on Monday – and enters the public sphere that we discover that the city whose geography has been delimited for us and which we grope with our gaze is a microcosm of the country. By narrating the character's clash with this world, the work acquires the tone of a “farce”. And since the world of work, businessmen, bureaucrats, intellectuals, the people, the beggars are bullied, João José, in symbiosis with the environment, scolds himself by losing his coldness, his asceticism – his dignity – which will only meet again at the end. In In the serene of the world cohabit the contemporaneity of the cosmos devoid of the sense of technological modernity with the country-farce where morning glory prevails, the authoritarian and lordly environment”.

An observation is in order here about the origin of this fruitful confluence and overlapping of themes and perspectives typical of philosophy, history, geography, sociology and anthropology. In the 1980s, the young student's “programmed dilettantism” gained strength and concreteness with his constant contact with three renowned intellectuals: Gerd Bornheim, Dirceu Lindoso and Gilberto Vasconcellos.

After completing the geography course, Júlio enrolls in the postgraduate course in philosophy at UFRJ, starting his master's degree under the guidance of Gerd Bornheim, with whom he maintains a relationship that goes beyond mere academic learning. Intellectual and, to a certain extent, existential affinity sustained a friendship that lasted until the philosopher's death.

Dirceu Lindoso, historian by profession, professor with passages at UFBA and UFRJ, member of the editorial team of the magazine and Civilização Brasileira publishing house, settled in Petrópolis, in the early 1980s, assuming the position of director of the historical documents division of the Imperial Museum. Júlio Ambrozio shares with him, on an almost daily basis, dinners in the city's restaurants and occasional trips to the bohemian area. In the conversation, indications of books about little-known episodes in Brazilian history, regional historiography classics and works relegated to oblivion that Júlio then compulsively reads.

The interaction with Gilberto Vasconcellos took place in two stages. First, Júlio, like almost all the militants of the left wing of the Student Movement, was an assiduous reader of the column that Gilberto wrote, on Mondays, in the late 1970s, in the cultural section of the newspaper Folha de S. Paul. In it, Vasconcellos commented on authors who were little known in the country at the time, such as Susan Sontag and Cesare Pavese; he shared the controversial manifestations of Glauber Rocha – at the time in conflict with the Cinema Novo group ensconced in Embrafilme and with sectors of the left that accused him of “betrayal”.

When he started writing in Sheet, Gilberto was a promising name for the new generation of São Paulo sociology, author of an acclaimed thesis – Curupira ideology: analysis of integralist discourse – which soon becomes a book by Editora Brasiliense, with a Preface by Florestan Fernandes. In the following years, Vasconcellos distanced himself from this intellectual universe, gradually becoming one of the most qualified critics of USP sociology [Cf. The Xará of Apipucos (Max Limonad, 1987) and The Prince of Coin (Space Time, 1997)].

In the second half of the 1980s, Gilberto Vasconcellos takes up residence in Petrópolis. Júlio often finds him in the pools of the country clubs in the Nogueira district and in the city's bars. He consolidates, in this coexistence, his unique reading of Brazilian sociological thought – both from the São Paulo school and the trends inaugurated by Luís da Câmara Cascudo, Gilberto Freyre and Darcy Ribeiro.

The articles that open the first block – Mundo – are also from 1984, the year of writing In the serene of the world. They constitute, therefore, a revealing index of the diagnosis of the time and of the “world view” that permeates the novel.

Júlio Ambrozio considers art as a “symptom”, or better, as a specific mediation of the general economic, social and political situation. In this register, he initially examines the contemporary developments of modern art. His verdict on the then much publicized “crisis of the vanguards” is peremptory: “these are living their terminal moment. And it's time to write your obituary."

In this direction, Ambrozio endorses Hans Sedlmayr's analyses. This theorist highlights some extra-artistic constraints that have guided modern art since the XNUMXth century, such as scientism and technicality, and were, to a large extent, decisive for the strange alliance between aestheticism and the ideology of progress.

The historical balance – to which is added the examination of the recent artistic production of artists then in evidence (Marco Ferreri, Michelangelo Antonioni, Charles Bukowski, The Clash) – indicates that we have entered a post-utopian world. In this, objectification, helplessness, the impossibility of communication, and the tearing of man predominate.

This post-utopian, disenchanted world stems from the victory of the counterrevolution that defeated the hope embodied by the “counterculture, Prague Spring, Maria Antonia, May 68”. The result was the consolidation of the two blocs threatened by those events, the capitalist and the so-called “really existing socialism”, boosting “military Keynesianism” on both sides as a response to the world economic crisis. Ronald Reagan and Konstantin Chernenko took up the arms race at the height of the Cold War – nuclear cataclysm as a real possibility.

The counterrevolution also enshrined the primacy of technology – threatened by movements arising from the counterculture and the defense of the environment. In the summary of J. Ambrozio: “The contemporary shock of the world economy revealed the real interests of the State: the project of depoliticizing the masses, for example. The effectiveness of this undertaking in industrially advanced countries was viscerally linked to individual ascension, job stability, increased wages, etc. The achievement of even a minimum of social well-being, and the emergence of technology and science as the new ideology, helped the idea of ​​the State as the privileged institution of technical and administrative activities without a political nature [...] depoliticization is under the hammer. Collective complaints are responded to with states of emergency”.

In the year in which crowds mobilized in anticipation of the Diretas-Já, Júlio Ambrózio – attentive to the role of the State in the new world scenario – does not allow himself to be infected by optimism, which he considers to be devoid of economic and social foundations. His political and existential engagement is concentrated, even more intensely, in the artistic sphere.

Social transformation continues on the horizon, but in a lowered register: “traversed by its singularities, art would open its way through this world of stumbling blocks, glimpsing options for the terrible conflicts of all kinds that we experience; fundamentally, it would warn us about the danger of the destruction of man and life on Earth, when it does not console the unpresentable, the impossible, the future, for example, by detaching itself from any happy ending, because, in fact, perhaps it does not we actually have”.

Ambrozio shares the diagnosis of the historical present of Marco Ferreri's films. In Chronicle of Crazy Love, for example, the exhaustion of literary bohemia, the counterculture, the aesthetic ideals of Modernism and the very possibility of the Revolution are staged. The character (Charles Bukowski) immerses himself in the world of the excluded in search of solidarity and hope (a prerogative of the desperate). He rejects artistic practice as “work” – a place par excellence for reification and one of the pillars of the dominant order. In the world of the counterrevolution there is only room for revolt.

1989 changes (almost) everything. Júlio Ambrozio, following the events – fall of the Berlin Wall, election of Fernando Collor, etc. – reformulates his analyses. A summary of them can be found in the article “The extermination of cordiality”, inserted in the first section of this book. After briefly touching on the changes in Europe (in Eastern Europe and in Portugal), the worsening situation of anomie in Brazil is addressed, “the undeclared civil war in Rio de Janeiro and the country”. According to the author, “with the transformations of the last decades and the long economic crisis, the native's standard of coexistence – cordiality – was broken. It collapsed and a vacuum opened up: savagery”. The expected passage to civilized forms of coexistence that would come with the transition from the military dictatorship to the New Republic was blocked: “all live the agony of existing in an endless void”.

Civilizational failure is presented and explained with the language and concepts of sociology. In the “decline of cordiality”, “the manifestation of politeness does not succeed because the country does not resolve the issue of equity. It is important to expand equality in the circumstances of producing and consuming. The cities are huge and the opportunities almost zero. The cordial man, with his relations of kinship and cronyism, is no longer able to involve the whole of society”.

In 1993, encouraged by the celebrations of the 150th anniversary of the city of Petrópolis, Júlio Ambrózio edited his second book, Petropolitan Geography, a collection of three articles published between 1988 (year of publication of In the Serene of the World) and 1992. He warns, at the outset, that the articles “are united in a concern: to imagine the cultural nosology of the city; suggest a geography that overturns the factual presumption in the idea of ​​Petrópolis” (p. 7).

This indication for reading was followed almost strictly in the first comments on the book. Dirceu Lindoso – in the generous Afterword in which he highlights the “intellectual acuity” of Júlio Ambrozio – decrees: “they are courageous essays (…) whose geographical intuitions call into question the presumption of the idea of ​​Petrópolis” (p. 29). Petropolitan Geography demystifies the dominant (and official) ideology, that of an imperial city of German origin, emphasizing the presence of slaves and the importance of migration from Minas Gerais.

In a book review, Gilberto Felisberto Vasconcellos, attentive like Dirceu Lindoso to the manifestations of regionality and the dialectic of culture, visualizes in Petropolitan Geography an example of "Kulturpessimismus constructivist”. Both, apart from differences in perspectives and worldview, identically characterize the essays as a reflection on Petropolitan identity.

The two intellectuals brought in their comments insights documents about the idea of ​​Petrópolis. Dirceu Lindoso, for example, mentions the “adornment culture” and develops the topic – present in the book – of “mountain neurasthenia” in its own direction. In this way, not only did they legitimize the scope and interest of Petropolitan Geography, but also make it the center of a fruitful debate about the nature of local culture.

Invited by newspaper editor Petropolis Tribune to participate in the discussion, I wrote a short article. In it, I tried to shift the focus of the comments, concentrated exclusively on the object of the book – the city of Petrópolis – to the author of the work. I begin by recalling that Júlio Ambrozio, in addition to being a geographer, is also an essayist and novelist. In the course of his critique of the ideology of Petropolitan culture, it is possible to discern the outline of an aesthetic, of a poiesis.

In that direction, Petropolitan Geography can be read metaphorically as a description of an imaginary world whose most representative inhabitants are João José, Beth, André, Carneiro, the characters of In the serene of the world. What is the choreography of Petrópolis, whose geography Júlio unveils? – The trio rain, dapple, mountain, that is, the same opaque, closed space that João José travels through on a daily basis with his Karmann-ghia. Even the nexus, distant and imprecise in the novel and in the essays, between suicide and cartography is the same.

An excerpt from the article asks: “'The schizophrenic duality between the court and the colonist, or rather, the absence of cultural plasticity between the aristocracy and the European migrant worker', pointed out by Gilberto Vasconcellos does not remember In the serene of the world, with the cohabitation of the contemporaneity of the meaningless world of technological modernity with the country-farce where morning glory prevails, the authoritarian and lordly environment?”.

I pose another question: “After all, Petropolitan Geography Is it a work of geography (science), of poetics (literature), or of philosophy? And I conclude the article with the following answer: “here, the positivist reasoning that catalogs cultural production according to watertight and autonomous forms is useless. Júlio Ambrozio resurrects – in line with the best contemporary essays, whether of Frankfurtian or literary origin – a genre that has now disappeared, but which in the past, cultivated with care by the German romantics, managed to combine poetry, science and philosophy in the same text: the Naturphilosophie.

Petropolitan Geography it won a second edition, in 2005. In it, Ambrozio added two homologous essays “Considerations about decadence” from 1997 and “Conversations with the aquatic atmosphere”, from 2003. The volume was also bodied with the compilation of the critical fortune of the first edition, selection that included, in addition to the essays mentioned above, articles by Edmundo Jorge and Francisco de Vasconcellos.

Between 1993 and 1996, Júlio Ambrozio was busy writing his second novel, The man in the German coat. The book was published in 1996 by the publishing house set up by Júlio in partnership with Edson Vieira da Paz in the Minas Gerais town of São João Del Rey, known as “Ponte da Cadeia”. Thus, he continued to bet on literature as a form of knowledge and action in the world.

What changes is the figure and status of the writer. The model followed is no longer the outsider – distinctive mark of French existentialism, North American counterculture and the so-called Brazilian “mimeograph generation”. The conversion is radical. Júlio enters the postgraduate course in literature at the Federal University of Juiz de Fora and writes his novel as a master's dissertation.

The form is close to the prevailing pattern in literary writing courses, keeping, however, features typical of the author's style. The first-person narration of the serene of the world – a descendant of the autobiographical confession characteristic of a strand of modernism, from Proust to Cortázar – is replaced in The Man in the German Coat by third-person (and omniscient) narration, in an explicit dialogue with the predominant trend in police investigation reports.

If the character Cenir Semeão reminds Rubem Fonseca's policemen, the social scene and the adventures of Toninho Arapuca refer to Dalton Trevisan. On the cover of the book, Cilaine Alves Cunha points out that “the co-occurrence of two worlds, one agrarian and the other urban, mirrors the rapid and brutal absorption, in the formation of Brazilian society, of the caipira universe by the rhythm of the great metropolises”.

Cilaine Alves Cunha considers that “although the core of the plot is centered on the investigation of a police incident, the inability of reason to explain or even organize the chaos makes The Man in the German Coat goes beyond the borders and limits of the police genre”. This judgment is shared, in a way, by Bernardo Ajzenberg in the book review published in the newspaper Folha de S. Paul (and recently posted on the website the earth is round). There, the journalist (and writer) points out that “the main element of Ambrozio's work is not in the plots or in the suspense that could come from a [police] plot”.

Both indicate the proximity of Júlio Ambrozio's book to the “customs chronicle” – a vigorous genre in novels and soap operas set in Rio de Janeiro –, updated with the description of “objectification” – “the demotion of heroes to the condition of mere spectators of peripheral capitalism”, in the words of the author of the ear.

Cilaine Alves Cunha's comment goes further, pointing to “death”, “death” as the central theme of the book.leitmotiv central and recurrent, omnipresent spectrum”. This is a very insightful observation that expands the range of readings and the possibilities of interpretation of The Man in the German Coat.

Scenes abound throughout the book in which someone is dead or dying. These reports, in general, are accompanied by reflections – metaphysical or banal – about the passage of time and human finitude. In an illustrative passage, a lady dying on the sidewalk says: “Call no. I never even found out if I was born or if I should die. It's a chatter. This wanting to know where I come from and where I'm going. Now maybe find out. Maybe, right?” (p. 20).

The call to meditation is also engendered by the form of literary composition. In The Man in the German Coat the narrative is “shaped by the overlapping of scenes – in a technique close to cinematographic (de)construction – and by the shock generated by a distorted and fragmented language” (Cilaine Alves Cunha). The “expression is elliptical, dry and arid; the lean, economical, minimalist stylistic treatment; the narrative dissolves before our eyes, like the waves on the sand of Copacabana” (Bernardo Ajzenberg).

In 1998, Júlio Ambrózio published Small book of distracted lines and an obituary in another publishing house in São João Del Rei, A Voz do Lenheiro. It is a selection of articles that appeared in a local newspaper during a year, between November 1986 and November 1987.

The weekly Newspaper of Sao Joao Del Rei, directed by Edson Vieira da Paz, was an undertaking by migrants from Petropolitan, fraternal friends of J. Ambrozio since adolescence. In the presentation of the book, entitled “Funeral song for a newspaper”, Júlio recalls, ten years later, the Enlightenment character of the social and cultural project of the newspaper, its ability “to place politics on another level, to build through the public discussion that the weekly newspaper provided a solid barrier against the surrounding barbarism” (p. 8).

The periodic visits to the city of Minas Gerais, the contact with a geography, a culture and a sociability very different from Petropolitan, broaden the thematic agenda of his articles that acquire, in the “learning about a place that slowly became known”, an unexpected lightness. The essays, always permeated with personal reflections, focus on the mountainous landscape, the railway, the region's cuisine, profane and religious festivals, nightlife and local bohemia, the beauty of Minas Gerais women, etc.

In the first article of the volume, on “cooking as a spiritual activity”, the existentialist perspective, so strong in the serene of the world, is still present. After some reflections on the recently introduced microwave oven, Ambrozio ponders: “technology creates a new culture, with parameters that disrupt the social, political and economic life of humanity. Somehow the separation between technique, economics and cultural apprehension occurred: the distancing of a world generated in previous centuries – Humanism, Enlightenment, Double Revolution. The man runs in a wagon at high speed, it is the crisis” (p. 13-14).

The sensory impact of mountains and female beauty soon tempers the tragic nature of this worldview. Júlio, a little amazed, writes: “life has no meaning. Neither in Minas nor in hell. But in Gerais the mountains are almost deceiving”. (p. 34). And he concludes: “here the dark and hostile side does not exist. Nature consoles the nostalgia for infinity. It simply brings the certainty of returning home” (p. 36).

In the historic cities of Minas Gerais, the Baroque, noticeable in the architecture of monuments and churches, also predominates in popular religiosity and in everyday life. Júlio Ambrozio records: “death was always announced during the profane festival period: Carnival. In São João, the Bloco das Caveiras makes no mockery of death. On the contrary, it anticipates Holy Week: its tragic scenography, slow rhythm and gloomy music, raise more circumflection than joy on the lips” (p. 44-45). Remarks like this, quotes from The Sermons by Padre Vieira – “Do you know which are the dead who die? They are those who end their lives before dying, those who die before death takes them out of the world” (p. 44) –, make the baroque acquire primacy in the Ambrozian interpretation of finitude.

Another topic on which the author expresses himself is “tourism”. Today, the motivations for displacements are different from the past, the “mass tourist strays to replenish his work capacity” (p. 30). This one “does not want to know about baroque tragedy. Nor from the remote man and train him. It is the lack of culture that, in Brazil, advances through the highways and in advanced capitalism through any breach of the travel companies” (p. 31).

In contrast, he points out that in the past “travel was always commercial or educational. The Phoenicians traveled. The Hanseatic League too. But the young and noble Romans went to Greece preoccupied with knowledge. For the romantic movement, travel was the pursuit of history. From the trail passed. Goethe went to Italy. And Kleist, Heirich Von Kleist traveled his life looking for the back door of paradise” (p. 30).

Completed the reading Little book of distracted lines one gets the impression that the displacement instigates Júlio for other reasons; history, the knowledge sought is personal, existential. It is more reminiscent of the model inaugurated by Hegel in phenomenology of the spirit – the movement towards self-awareness – or the action that Jean-Paul Sartre, in Situations I called “voyages of discovery”.

The articles of the third block of Province complaints – Petrópolis – address various topics: the place of the intellectual in city politics, the concept of Petropolitan literature, the character fake an annual agricultural exhibition, artistic manifestations and local cultural institutions, the lack of a Federal University in the municipality, a book about the streets of Petrópolis, the administration of Mayor Leandro Sampaio (PSDB), the writer and artist Edmundo Jorge, etc.

In all of them, Petrópolis appears as a memorial object and historiographic material, instances of an effort towards self-recognition and reflection on the relationship between landscape and culture, or rather, on the “mediation of space in the experience of the world”. The reading of this set allows a better glimpse of the concept of province developed by Júlio Ambrozio, but also the way he imagines the dichotomy of dystopia and utopia.

The six articles published in the 1980s examine Petrópolis from the perspective of cinema. J. Ambrozio recognizes in advance that, in the city, cinematic dynamics are limited to exhibition. He then discusses the commercial circuit that stimulates stagnation with the projection of “leftovers from Rio de Janeiro’s programming” and about the clumsy attempt of the local city hall to supply alternatives with the implantation of an exhibition room baptized with the pompous name of “Cinemateca Humberto Mauro”…

The films, shown in “crowded rooms”, instead of contesting, endorse the audience's worldview. Legitimate products of the culture industry, they lead to conformism, proposing what exists as a harmonious society, and incite prejudices – “screen pornography confirms the woman-object eager to satisfy the phallus, thus demonstrating the power of men to continue in social domination” .

With the advent of video, the situation becomes bleak. Video rental companies only offer the rubbish of the cultural industry and citizens lose the habit of going out at night, of frequenting public spaces. The petropolitan – “shy and frightened” – hides even more in private life, under the domain of the family. Against this “aesthetic indigence”, the author prescribes that “in Petrópolis, the artistic-cultural activities should detect the gestures and feelings of the provincial and underdeveloped man of the end of the XNUMXth century – a destopian world”.

In articles published in the first decade of this century, the distanced view of the film critic is replaced by a civilizing effort. Júlio Ambrozio draws up a detailed diagnosis of Petropolitan intellectual life, from which he unfolds a plan of actions for cultural and social transformation. He engages in the project (aborted by the insensitivity of Vozes) to create a magazine – a partnership between the Historical Institute of Petrópolis and the Academia Petropolitana de Letras. He elaborates the program of the cultural area of ​​the campaign for mayor of Paulo Rattes. Etc.

In these clashes, he sharpens his knowledge about the mistakes of Brazilian cultural policy, a topic developed in the register of literary imagination in In the serene of the world. He emphasizes, however, that if “the Brazilian elite lives hypnotized and miseducated by mass culture”, the provinces “follow the metropolitans avidly because they are unable to make critical judgments, autonomous thoughts such as self-esteem”.

Ambrozio believes that the ruin and devastation of Petrópolis – the result of its economic and industrial decline – can be reversed with the inclusion of culture in the city's politics. When memory and imagination, past and future are added, the possibility opens up – in a decisive reversal – of understanding administrative, urban and social problems “as corollaries of the cultural phenomenon”. At the very least, the agenda of the discussion changes with the incorporation of new questions: “What is Petropolitan? What would threaten your place? What to do in the city? Is the dialogue with Rio de Janeiro or with the course of the Piabanha river?”.

Júlio Ambrozio's proposals, listed in the article “Cultura e arte” (without a doubt, one of the highlights of the book), are inspired by Schiller's project of aesthetic education of man. Radiating center of a new sociability, the Municipal Secretariat of Culture should privilege “cultural formation” and not the construction of spaces and the organization of events. Space and event would make sense as an auxiliary base of a “training” that would allow “the realization of a constant and average cultural production, because that is where the peak, one would say excellence, emerges”.

These tasks will hardly be carried out satisfactorily if handled only by bureaucrats and/or university specialists. They demand a form of action that is an attribute of the “intellectual-statesman”. With this term Júlio Ambrozio designates the lineage of intellectuals formed in the multidisciplinary lineage of essayism – from José Bonifácio de Andrada e Silva to Darcy Ribeiro – who dedicated themselves to administrative functions. A select group that sealed the “alliance between the library and politics”.

In 2005, Júlio entered the doctorate in geography at USP. He defended his thesis in 2008. A few months later he was approved in a public tender for a course at the Department of Geography at the Federal University of Juiz de Fora (UFJF). The thesis became a book in 2013, in a partnership between Escrita Fina and Fapemig, under the title Petrópolis: The present and the past in the urban space. a territorial history.

In “Notice to the reader”, Júlio Ambrozio highlights the maintenance of the analytical approach present in his previous studies, especially in the book Petropolitan Geography, an orientation that allowed him to “turn the bias of a large part of the literature on Petrópolis upside down, which has always been inoculated with a systematic embarrassing perspective of the autochthonous in the face of the allochthonous, making it worth the submission of the petropolitan – especially that born poor – in relation to the aristocratic/republican foreign”.

When one goes through the “vast and rich Petropolitan library” freed from this ideological burden, it becomes possible to perceive that “the territorial power was undoubtedly the totality that framed the vilegiatura and the industry of Petrópolis, a power that is used until today, with the contemporary tourist urbanization of the municipality”.

In 2001, Júlio Ambrozio had published mountain trials (Chain Bridge). In Petropolitan Geography cultural essayism prevailed. In Little book of distracted lines the predominant genre is chronicles. This third collection brings together notes on books. The commented works were selected according to personal, intellectual and political affinities. The result thus consists of opinionated texts rather than reviews. They are long-suffering assessments sewn together with breadth and a spirit of communion.

The differential of mountain trials it is the weight attributed to politics, which amounts to the “ruler and compass” of the other domains. The political framework stands out even when it comes to considerations on Pombaline Patronage and Neoclassical Poetry, by Ivan Teixeira or the memoirs by Edmundo Jorge. The articles were written during the period when Ambrozio was more adherent to the ideas of Labor, which is clearly visible in the comments on books by Bautista Vidal and Gilberto Felisberto Vasconcellos – two intellectuals who orbited around the PDT and Leonel Brizola.

This approximation resulted, according to him, from “a gradual awareness of the destruction of the Brazilian State by neoliberalism”, making even more difficult the political equation that would enable the “resumption of the clash – defeated in 1964 – against Imperialism and its internal minions” .

The article “O farroupilha Leonel Brizola” – written on the occasion of the death of the former governor of Rio de Janeiro and Rio Grande do Sul and inserted in Province complaints – condenses the interpretation of Labor by Júlio Ambrozio. It is a gaucho-based movement, with origins in southern federalism and castillistism, which, under the command of Getúlio Vargas, in 1930, provided the bases for an alliance between the middle class and the people. Since then, in the country, the confrontation between the Nation (including the internal market) and Imperialism has been established; in the struggle, supported by the triangle “people, army and industry”, for the construction of Brazilian Civilization.

Labor, thus conceived, fights for the strengthening of the State as a precondition for the decolonization of the country and the institution of a social democracy. Acting in this direction, this movement would have, according to the author, in the so-called Era Vargas, implanted the “Brazilian State of social welfare”.

In his words: “the cosmos of this period – 1930-1964 – existed in a trance, this only means that the Brazilian people exercised their energetic, creative and resistance drive, thus affirming that their civilization would not be built in the image of the former USSR and the USA, but as popular and sovereign Brazilianness: Ary Barroso, thirteenth salary, Villa Lobos, work card, Tia Ciata, Petrobrás, Oscar Niemeyer, Vale do Rio Doce, ISEB, basic reforms, Portinari, BNDE , Gustavo Capanema, profit remittance law, Companhia Siderúrgica Nacional, paid vacations, Maria Lúcia Godoy, FNM, women's vote…".

With the amnesty, in 1979, Leonel Brizola, a combatant of this strand since the second half of the 1950s, returns “as the legitimate and only heir of Labor”. Brizola, with “an admirable sense of responsibility for his land, his world, his tradition and history”, knew how to keep the flame of the legacy of the Vargas Era burning, in a period of intellectual and political hegemony of globalization and neoliberalism.

The two most recent articles collected in Province complaints, from 2015, deal with the current resurgence of urban cycling. In “The bicycle and Petrópolis”, Júlio Ambrozio presents his project for three bicycle lanes – illustrated with sketches by the architect and urban planner Cesare Migliori –; solution that indicates to the problems of congestion in the first district of the city. He proposes a radical change in investments in urban infrastructure, based on the logic that it is the roads that determine the forms of circulation.

The essay “The bicycle and the city” mobilizes historical, economic, geographic and urban knowledge to try to understand the reasons why cities prioritized, on a global scale, from the end of World War II, “individual automotive transport, the road network and parking lots to the detriment of pedestrians, squares and bicycles”.

This option created the mentality – prevalent both in the administration and in the consciousness of most citizens – that “the internal combustion engine has absolute priority and precedence in cities and highways”. In such a way that, “in Brazil, the bicycle has prestige only as a gym equipment, as a cardiovascular and anti-diabetes sport, limited to the weekend, or restricted to sports disputes set in areas that, in the vast majority of cases, do not affect the automotive dominance.

The recent measures in favor of urban cycling – in this context – express and deepen a contradiction that Júlio Ambrozio precisely highlights: “If, from the productive point of view, the internal combustion engine still plays an important role in the reproductive structure of capitalism, from the spatial and urban point of view, however, it contributes to the insolvency of the circulation, thus generating breakdowns or obstacles for that same reproductive structure; all this without mentioning the considerable effect of this vehicle on the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere”.

Militancy in the environmental cause, which Júlio maintained throughout his life, leads to this recent activism. It is impossible not to mention, however, the recurrent pursuit of individual and collective happiness, evident, for example, in this description of the charms of cycling: “The bicycle, finally, brings irreducible pleasures and never threatened by the car. It is not by chance that, pedaling, many carry a smile on their face. Doing good for physical health, it also provides a certain self-confidence – after all, child or old, those who pedal reach a certain height when they become aware of their balance and strength”.

In 2011, Júlio Ambrozio published his third novel, The round passage of Honório Desterro (Fine Writing). I would like to present here the report of the reception and my considerations about the book. I realize, however, that this text has already gone far beyond the dimensions and scope of an Afterword. Stay for the next…

*Ricardo Musse He is a professor at the Department of Sociology at USP. Author, among other books, of Durkheim: social fact and division of labor (Attica).

 

Reference


Julius Ambrozio. Province complaints. São João del-Rey, Grumixama, 2022, 294 pages.

 

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