Valentine Facioli

Valentine Facioli


A profile of the recently deceased professor, literary critic and editor

“Good as hell” – profile of Valentim Facioli. I imagine that Valentine would not like a title without transgression and that pointed to any conciliatory or Christian aspect.

I went to night classes in Brazilian literature, part of the Literature course at USP, and I was soon able to appreciate the Luciferian brilliance of someone who I learned was an extraordinary person. He looked sparkling and provoked common sense, crude religiosity, little reading, and the discouragement of night school students. He started and continued to stir things up, but he never disrespected anyone. He said he was tired and lazy and taught an incredible class.

At least for those who were readers and distrusted classes that underestimated students, that treated us like children. Not him: Machado went with him, prodding, removing and putting everything back together. And, with the contents, came the best criticism, the one that rarely appeared in undergraduate courses because many perhaps thought we wouldn't understand... came György Lukács, Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, Roberto Schwarz. All these and much more.

In addition to literature, theory and literary criticism, his knowledge of history, sociology and political science was also surprising. He was especially knowledgeable about leftist thought (Marx, Lenin, Trotsky), the history of the labor movement, class struggles and revolution, Russia and the USSR (he had taken Russian as an undergraduate). Years later, now friends, I teased: when will you start reading in Russian again?

The political nature of artistic forms was a lesson always repeated. Not the hollow analysis, which closed in on itself, but the process that unearths the latent background of the story from the textual fabric. Part of this theoretical and rigorous commitment was his party political praxis, his history as a militant in Trotskyism and in the founding of the PT, his humble origins, his true approach to the lower classes and simple people.

Two books brought us together, at random. I took with me Luis Buñuel's biography. What course are you reading this for? To none. Oh! Another day, Trip around my room, by Xavier de Maistre (with his preface). Surrealism was a common point between us: he had a special appreciation for the movement and wrote great texts about Surrealism in Brazil. One of them bundled up a good book that is now out of print, Surrealism and new world (Ed. UFRGS, 1999); About this, I wrote, at his recommendation, a review for the newspaper The State of S. Paul.

The subject of avant-garde and revolution was always discussed again, in classes, texts and conversations. The strangeness of Surrealism's heterodox engagement – ​​rejected by Theodor Adorno, embraced by Walter Benjamin – seemed conducive to thinking about literature as a form and not a mere reflection (“there is no revolutionary content without revolutionary form!”). The two ends of his journey – political activist and literary critic – meet in the publication of the Manifesto For an independent revolutionary art, deBreton and Trotsky, organized by him (Peace and Land).

He formed a Scientific Initiation group to study the criticism of Antonio Candido and Roberto Schwarz and invited me. He was quite a learning experience for about two years. Then came the master's degree and the doctorate. We became friends. He read everything we wrote with enthusiasm (“Supimpa!” he used to say). Until a few years ago, I called to talk about what I wrote, what others wrote. She was exceptionally selfless.

The suggestion to study Cruz e Sousa came from him. During my Scientific Initiation period, one day I told him about my interests in late-century French literature (Baudelaire, Lautréamont, Rimbaud) and the surrealists. But he said he wanted to study Brazilian literature and not French. Then he threw a dart: read Cruz e Sousa, not the lyrics, the prose! I read it and it was the subject of my dissertation. The publication of the volume (in press) will be dedicated to him. There was time to count.

In trying to capture the elusive design of the trajectory I followed over these years, I venture: in my opinion, one can unravel the way in which their criticism and praxis were shaped by the thinking of two Brazilian writers: Machado de Assis and Mário de Andrade. From Machado, he knew how to retain and unfold irony, the thread of distrust capable of suspending the fringe of ideology; skepticism, which cut off his reading of the world; refined humor and melancholy. But in addition to being a wizard, the figure of Mário de Andrade had a strong influence on his way of thinking and acting.

And, in this sense, it seems to me that there was a crossing of disparate vectors. I think that, if Machado spoke from the ironic and demolishing side, Mário responded from the generous and altruistic side. The face of a pedagogue, a welcome, a listener. The first Mário, the one who bet on the promise of the country. But not just any promise, this was via the people, via the artistic production of the less favored classes.

Hence, in addition to the social struggle and the left-wing stance, there was a differentiated attachment to the unfortunate, the interest in manifestations of popular culture, in the voices of the underprivileged. To this day, we don't hear people talk about popular culture in college, a subject that now seems to have dissolved in the emergence of new topics. Valentim Facioli hosted and supervised the first study on Patativa do Assaré at USP, which he later published. (Cláudio Henrique Salles Andrade. Patativa do Assaré: the reasons for the emotion, Nankin).

Under his influence, Mário has always been a favorite writer of mine. I was going to do my PhD on it, but I ended up completely changing the topic. Today I think that there, in a way, it may have been a test of emancipation. I chose a Catholic author (Cornélio Penna), although, of course, he approached him in a materialistic way. When I told him I was going to change the topic I thought he was going to complain; but no, he accepted it and later published the thesis by Nankin.

From his long relationship with Machado de Assis he learned lessons in literature and life. She taught (theoretically) and understood (in practice) Machado's “medallion theory” like no one else. Averse to praise and self-promotion, he knew very well how to make medallions, he had valuable stories. He modestly published, just as a “reading guide”, the book A strange deceasedOn The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas. The volume brings many critical inferences and articulations that go beyond the didactic purpose. I liked this book and called it my defunct. (A strange deceased: analysis and interpretation of the posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas, Edusp/Nankin).

In his most productive years, he wrote some fiction. Poems and prose. I didn't publish much, but I remember one that, shortly before he left, I suggested he take up and finish. It was a fictional experiment whose story was that of Rimbaud in Rio de Janeiro (he wrote it trying to reproduce a broken French pronunciation: something like “Raimbó no Rio”). The demoniac boy's drunken ship would have stopped in Brazil, where he would meet the wizard. They were letters from Rimbaud about Rio! The great idea and the promising text were left aside, because he needed to publish the good work of others, of course. Do you think it's worth changing this? I asked. The things he produced were of little interest, that's how he was.

Still Rimbaud: the personal episode when I sent him a postcard with the famous photo of the poet, the one with the oval frame. The postcard didn't arrive and I said: Valentine, wasn't the postcard disappearing a bit surreal? Then I traveled again and sent the same postcard, which arrived. I had thought about repeating the shipment. There wasn't time.

Working as an editor at Nankin was another very particular stage. Upon retiring, he dedicated himself even more to reading others and editing academic works. That's also why he didn't touch his personal projects. The publishing house was barely supporting itself, in fact he always promoted it with his resources. The headquarters, on Tabatinguera Street, became a place for meetings, conversations, washed down with wine, whiskey and cachaça. He called them gatherings. Former students and others gathered. The conversation was about literature and politics, art and public life. Until nightfall, how I miss you.

There are many memories and not everything can be rationalized. But I can't help but consider that there is something selfish in regretting the departure of people who were guided by their view of being willing to build others based on what they have or should have at their best. It's a little bit of us that leaves because we want to be read and seen as he saw us. The improved self that was forged in us shatters.

Finally, I use Mário de Andrade’s lesson to think about the legacy of Valentim Facioli, through the “dialectic of cabotinism” (“Do cabotinismo”, in the bird stuffer). Against the idea of ​​mask x face, says the modernist: the elevated foreface that we achieve is an intrinsic part of our subjectivity, since we are only experience. So, if our noble motives make our self, can we also be the highest that was seen in us? Pursuing the image that a “good as hell” man created of us can be a good goal, perhaps unattainable.

Simone Rossinetti Rufinoni is a professor of Brazilian literature at USP. Author, among other books, of Favor and melancholy: study on “The Dead Girl”, by Cornélio Penna (Edusp/Nankin). []

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