A window in Copacabana

Carlos Zilio, A QUASI PARTIDA, 1971, felt-tip pen on paper, 47x32,5cm


Commentary on the Book of Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza

“He came to the conclusion that he had simultaneously lost the past and the future and was looking for the meaning of the present.” This happens, it's not rare; but it is also not the reflection one would expect from a police detective, on the way between his house and the 12th DP, in Copacabana, after a visit to a used bookstore. But not every delegate is called Espinosa, a name too good to be true. AND é truth: one of the most unexpected and well-liked truths in recent Brazilian literature, renewed in this fourth book by Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza.

It was the philosopher Theodor Adorno who said of Proust that he never committed the inelegance of making the reader feel more intelligent than the author. The phrase could be adapted for Garcia-Roza's fiction. It makes each one of us feel more intelligent than he is, more experienced, more experienced, more in tune with perceptions, and not for that reason hesitates in the exercise of his own superior wisdom. That the pleasure of thinking is confused, here, with the habitation of a sensibility only reinforces the literary character down to the bones of this great stylist – without any favors, one of the great international masters of the crime novel.

That Garcia-Roza, as you know (it's on the back of the books), was a professor of psychoanalytic theory and wrote eight academic books, would be enough to make you read the police officers with a grain of salt. The proximity between detectives and psychoanalysts is obvious; and cheap. And the name Spinoza, by itself, turns on another warning light: thus explicitly alluding to the philosopher of free thought, of reasoning taken to the last consequences and of ethics as a human field of experience would be a more than likely reason for everything to go wrong.

The fact that there are people today who want to go to Rio just to get to know the Peixoto neighborhood (as there are others who go to visit Catete de Machado de Assis) demonstrates how well the mixture is right, where forces come together not to compose a thesis, but but to elaborate the seductive riddle of a man named Espinosa, a delegate from Rio de Janeiro.

The enchantment of place is one of the many hallmarks of the police genre, which Garcia-Roza practices with aplomb. A Window in Copacabana it is not just the story of a window, but the same concentration of meanings at a particular point in space, which has animated mystery fiction since the beginning of the XNUMXth century, reappears here associated with… a window in Copacabana. Window where a certain crime is observed by a certain woman, at the beginning of the book, and which works as a magnet for the spiral of encounters and disagreements in the story.

“Maximum visibility” and at the same time “maximum blindness”: doesn't it sound like a law of the unconscious? In the first novel, the silence of the rain (1996), the same idea was crucial, both from a psychoanalytical and criminalistic point of view. And once again our author has the natural care and crafted talent not to make every description an allegory. The window is a window. Which doesn't mean it's easy to interpret, for the delegate.

It is true that Espinosa “felt like a fiction writer whose characters were the real people he met”, an observation that deserves to be compared with the assertion, on the credits page, that “the characters and situations in this work are real only in the universe of fiction”. At this time, a certain vertigo can take over the reader. But it's not the vertigo of madness; it's the vertigo of reading.

Certain fictional creatures, of course, are much more real presences in life than so many others, which are found somnambulistically outside the books. An example close to us: Chief Espinosa, dealing with his stacked books, his car without battery and his toaster that only burns one side of the bread, involved daily with his assistant Welber (a “real” stunt double for Sancho Panza or Dr. Watson) and, at a (mutually convenient) pace, with the almost perfect Irene, Olga's ex-lover, one of the victims in the previous book, southwest wind (1999)

All the delicate grace of the little annoyances of everyday life gives the novel a particular aura, recognizable by the visitor who returns with pleasure to Garcia-Roza's prose. No detail is insignificant, neither for the delegate nor, in another sense, for us. There is no naivety on Spinoza's part, neither in interpreting signals from others nor in evaluating his own symptoms. It is worth saying that the author respects his character, as he respects the reader. If both find themselves betrayed afterwards, that, as Spinoza would say (the philosopher, not the delegate), is perhaps an inevitability in the natural order of things.

In the novel, at least, the order of things has a compound rhythm; and the writing time here is flexibly modulated by the time and climate of the city. Not too fast, not too slow. The advances of history allow themselves to be interrupted by lulls and plains. A certain logic of coincidences, certain short-circuits of understanding pay homage to the art of precursors (from Sophocles to Cornell Woolrich), who always extracted the maximum from the twists and turns of a story. But without exaggeration of overdetermination: only serial psychoanalysts see a definite meaning in everything, or caricatured TV detectives. In the Peixoto neighborhood, we are in another world (“crime is also culture”, comments Espinosa, to a Welber stunned by the irony).

The culture of crime had a lower accent in Lost and found (1998); but the corrupt police force is exposed again here, in counterpoint with figures from the first echelon of the government's economic team and a succession of women in “e”: Celeste, Serena, Irene. Adding Espinosa and Welber, it is a true world of the second vowel, roaming the hieroglyphic streets of Rio in search of certainties and happiness (“certainty is not true”).
And the killers? And the murders? And the witnesses? You don't tell that in a detective novel review. They don't even matter that much. Accidents and crimes are just a framework for the human scenario to come to form once again. And what a great pleasure it is to inhabit this neighborhood again, despite all the abuses and aberrations that Garcia-Roza makes us see, with a look that is not even denunciation, but does not deny the school of realism to which he dedicated, after all, the first 60 years of life. Since then, there have been three more books. They make him today one of the leading names in our literature, limited only by the contingencies of the genre he modestly chose to practice.

*Arthur Nestrovski, essayist, musical and literary critic, is artistic director of OSESP and author, among other books, of Everything has to do. literature and music. São Paulo: However, 2019.

Originally published in the newspaper Folha de S. Paul, on 18/11/2001.


Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza. A Window in Copacabana. São Paulo, Companhia das Letras, 2001 (https://amzn.to/3YE99RH).

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