A novel by Domingos Oliveira

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By AFRANIO CATANI*

Comment on the book “Antonio: the first day of the death of a man”

 

1.

A few days ago I found myself at the Tietê Bus Terminal, in São Paulo, with the purpose of catching a bus for a short trip to the countryside. As it was early, I decided to kill time in a small bookshop, in reality, a book stock outlet, that is, an establishment that sells, at low prices, publications that publishers have disposed of to renew or vacate their stocks.

I took a quick look, and as I was about to leave, I found a copy of Antonio the first day of a man's death, by Domingos Oliveira (1936-2019), actor, filmmaker, director, playwright, film and television screenwriter and poet.

Domingos Oliveira joined Globo in 1963 to do the station's programming, which debuted two years later. Although most of the program was not aired, he remained with the company, having produced and directed “Show da Noite”, in addition to being responsible for the scripts for the series “22 200 Cidade Aberta”. In 1967 he left Globo to dedicate himself to cinema and theater, returning to it in 1970, remaining as an actor or author until 2001.

Graduated in engineering, never practiced the profession. In a 60-year career in the artistic field, he wrote the scripts for 18 films, directed 19 or 20, acted in another 10, directed and scripted TV programs and series, wrote and adapted half a hundred plays, published some books, released six translations.

His film directorial debut took place in 1967, with All women in the world, with Paulo José, Leila Diniz (with whom he was married), Joana Fomm and Flávio Migliaccio, followed by Ed, heart of gold (1968), also with Paulo José, Leila Diniz and Joana Fomm, in addition to Amilton Fernandes and Maria Gladys, among others.

He started in theater with his play “We are all from kindergarten” (1963). He directed a series of renowned actors (Henriette Morineau, Jorge Dória, Tônia Carrero, Marília Pêra, Paulo José, Fernanda Montenegro, Fernando Torres, Dina Sfat, Ida Gomes), being for more than a decade, from 1990 to 2000, director of Teatro Planetarium, where he directed, adapted and organized philosophical events and cabarets, mixing music, humor and criticism. On TV, he directed “Confissões de Jovens”, written by his daughter Maria Mariana, and also made adaptations for several Globo programs and miniseries. It deserves to be highlighted that in 1984 he received the Molière prize for directing three plays, “Intimate Conversations”, “School of Husbands” and “Irresistible Adventure”.

Similar to the American actor and director John Cassavetes (1929-1989), Domingos maintained an authorial and artisanal style of work, characterized by a very low budget, independent production, almost always with the same team, technicians and actors, usually friends. from the director – cases of Ricardo Kosovski, Maria Ribeiro, Clarice Niskier, Clarisse Derzié, Dedina Bernardelli, her companion Priscilla Rozenbaum, Paulo José, Aderbal Freire-Filho.

Domingos Oliveira stayed away from film activities for 20 years, dedicating himself to theater and television. He returned to the cinema with Amores (1997) and, until 2017, directed 11 films, notably Separations (2002) feminices (2005) Everyone has sexual problems (2008) passion and chance (2012) Childhood (2014) and the magnificent 8 (2017)

 

2.

Domingos Oliveira, however, had not published any novels – and he did so with this Antony: the first day of a man's death, which had the collaboration of Andreia Alencar and Duaia Assumpção. I think the work ended up going unnoticed because, as I wrote in the opening lines, I found it lost in a stock of books, alongside self-help texts, horoscopes, classics of universal literature in poorly maintained and cheap editions, football history, novels naïve, adventures (in the Himalayas, climbing Everest etc.), English language grammars.

It is true that Domingos Oliveira's book is not a masterpiece, but a narrative by an author who produced writings in which humour, irony, sexuality, love disappointment and the pursuit of happiness always gave the tone. I understand that excerpt from the ears can better explain what I am saying: “Professor, screenwriter, frustrated writer, man who is no longer a boy, Antônio is an unforgettable protagonist, and in the pages of the novel he does what every character should do: he lives. He loves, suffers from the end of a long marriage, falls in love with Manuela and Nádia – vertices of a delicious love triangle –, writes, fights for recognition, all of this observed by the specter of his friend Eduardo, recently deceased, who does not avoids issuing opinions and trying to interfere in Antonio's choices (...) Stuffed with anthological scenes of love, pain, friendship and sex Antônio is a poignant novel about relationships. A book that (…) is heavily influenced by Domingos' dramaturgy – with cinematographic cuts and dialogues from the best theater…”.

Antônio is 42 years old, married and, on a Christmas night in Paris, in the 1990s, he ends up finding great love – at first sight. He returns to Rio de Janeiro, leaves the woman he used to live with, and establishes a new affective relationship. A more or less respected professor of anthropology, he earns his living teaching at private universities and “writing chronicles for various newspapers, signed or unsubscribed. He's not famous, but he's still famous, no one is famous in Rio outside his block” (p. 12).

She, Blue, “European type”, two years younger, graduated in sociology, “worked in the fashion business, partner of a promising boutique/thrift store of exclusive women's clothing (…) A firm personality, she always dressed in Blue's fashion” (p. 13).

Both met at a moment in their lives that can be summarized as follows: “They say that life is better in between. When something has already been learned and the body still does not know the humiliation of old age” (p. 13). Needing more money, Antônio goes to work on TV, collaborating in a humorous program, in addition to classes. He achieves success, then ceases to be successful, is fired, after some time is rehired with a higher salary, “but much lower than he expected”.

After 18 years, the separation. Out of the blue, Blue announced that she had fallen in love with a much younger drummer she had met at a concert she had just attended; he warned that he will leave him because he would not want to betray him. Antônio was 62 and Blue was 60. She had just published a book, the first and only one, about her time as a virgin girl (contemporary chastity), an instant success, whose editor (the same as Antônio), João Maria Rosas, had begun to court her.

There is old Cavalcanti, now in his late eighties, who once owned a luxury bookshop and now owned and practically lived in a large, well-stocked newsstand. One learns, in reading, that Asif becomes “a slang increasingly used in groups of very modern psychoanalysts”: asif = “as if” = “as if it were”. A person who behaves as if he were someone else.

The narratives alternate, in the first and third person and Antônio, at times a bit depressed, at others going about his life on autopilot, ends up getting involved with Manuela, 21 years old, green eyes (“I don't like old people, but it was Nádia who commented that he was the right guy. Very intelligent, he has already been married to some pretty women there. It would be worth putting it on his resume", p. 66), and with Nádia, 28, blue eyes, who wore "a short dress from eye color” (p. 74). Then the involvement turns into a threesome.

Anyway, I won't go into more detail, I'll just add that “Platonic love is a perversion, as Freud formulated it. A kind of perverted sexual dimension that excludes the body” (p.88) and which is in Bible that “the beloved's body is the garden of delights, the lover being a whimsical gardener whose obligation and pleasure is to take care of every corner in detail” (p. 91-92).

Another character that appears in the narrative is Curvino, Jesuit, Ph.D. in statistical analysis, psychologist, who “plays piano with free jazz influences”, handsome, tall, similar to John Cassavetes and…rector at the private and denominational university where Antônio works. His goal is to place the institution in the “Top 500”, that is, among the best universities in the world. A friend of Antônio's, he invites him to spy on the professors he considers “unproductive” and that could hinder the university's plans to become a center of excellence. As Antônio refuses to rat out his colleagues and continues to get involved with Manuela, a student at the house, he ends up being fired by Curvino.

Under the influence of his ex, Blue, he manages to publish his book, crystal coat (Ah, the editor Rosas, who previously refused to publish it, now lives with Blue).

In a plot twist, Curvino resigns, asks the pope for forgiveness, drops his cassock and surprises readers, reappearing in São Paulo, rich and famous. The old Cavalcanti returns to the limelight and completely changes the tempo that appears in the final pages. Antônio, in turn, receives the verdict from Nádia, while writing his novel: “…for you there is no way out. You will start to die when you stop falling in love” (p. 172).

Perhaps Domingos Oliveira's novel is not very close to the best that has been produced here in recent times. But it has its charm and is not serious, on the contrary, it is free, light and loose as are his works, of considerable autobiographical content, in the artistic domains in which he navigates with ease. It's a book that can be read in one sitting, perhaps in just over two hours.

It is full of advice to the Domingos, for example, this one: “as is known in long-term marriages, husbands should be cautious when their wives undergo plastic surgery or seek a psychiatrist” (p. 19). Or this other one: “A love room needs to have at least two more rooms next to it: a kitchen, since loving makes you hungry. And a bathroom, since loving asks for a purification bath, demanding the renewal of sin” (p. 89). But there are still others, many more…

*Afrânio Catani He is a retired professor at the Faculty of Education at USP and is currently a senior professor at the same institution. Visiting professor at the Faculty of Education of UERJ, Duque de Caxias campus.

 

Reference


Domingo Oliveira. Antony: the first day of a man's death. Rio de Janeiro: Record, 2015, 176 pages.

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