Live life



Comment on the new novel by Ivan Angelo


For many years I wrote lots of reviews and articles, here and there, in various newspapers and magazines in São Paulo. But where I published most was in the “Caderno de Programas e Leituras”, then “Caderno de Sábado”, from the extinct Jornal da Tarde, which belonged to the group of The State of S. Paulo. There were more than nine dozen articles, initially commissioned by Edison Paes de Mello, sometimes by Laerte Fernandes and then by Thereza Ribeiro and Kléber Ferreira de Almeida, who was the editor.

We held meetings on Tuesdays, in the late afternoon-early evening, with Kléber, Thereza, Sérgio Amad Costa, Luiz Carlos Lisboa, Pedro Medeiros and myself – on two or three occasions Marcos Faerman appeared there. Sometimes Ivan Angelo participated, as he was usually attending to his duties: he was editor, executive editor and editorial secretary of the Jornal da Tarde.

This lasted, more or less, from 1984 or 1985 until the early 1990s, when the Jornal da Tarde began its slow withering process. In these agenda meetings, everything was discussed: future editorial releases, what competitors had already reported, the “scoops” we had and the “bumps” that happened, who would write about what… We left with tons of reports and editorial proofs underneath. of books that had not yet been released but were supposed to be included in the Saturday editions – the closing of the books page took place on Thursdays, in a huge rush.

In all this time, I have never seen Ivan Angelo lose his calm or raise his voice. Never, when edited, did I suffer cuts in the materials or any form of censorship. A native of Barbacena, from Minas Gerais, with his good-natured manner, he easily navigated the problems that arose.


“We are what we are, with added guilt” (Fernando Bandeira de Mello Aranha).

Ivan Angelo does not write in haste, publishing one book after another. His writing is constant, methodical, slowly elaborated. He worked for decades in Jornal da Tarde, wrote since he was 20 years old in Belo Horizonte newspapers, collaborated in Playboy and, from 1999 to 2018, he was a columnist for See São Paulo. He received several awards, including two Jabutis, at a time when the recipients did not see the color of money, in addition to being awarded by the São Paulo Association of Art Critics (APCN). Among his production, the novels The party (1976) and You can kiss me if you want (1997), the book of stories The horrible face (1986), the soap opera Love? (1995). His work has already been translated into English, French and German and also includes chronicles, essays and children's books.

Ivan Angelo returned to the novel much later. He started writing Live life about seven or eight years ago, he became discouraged, stopped and, during the pandemic, he resumed the text. The book begins on the night of November 24, 2021. Viewers of the National Television Network (RNT), the largest channel in the country, are in front of their TVs, cell phones and computers turned on to watch the first chapter of the nine o'clock soap opera, Forbidden Fruits. In place of yet another product from the broadcaster's dramaturgy department, “a man of seventy-seven years old, almost fat, white, pale, in a white robe over a very light blue dress shirt, burgundy frock spilling from the back of his neck to his chest, appears. and the camera slowly pulls back until it shows him sitting in a large black leather armchair. The intense light from two reflectors hits him directly, devastating his dry, thin skin, without reflecting: he is swallowed by it. No music, just the sound of his breathing, labored. You can feel the air passing through obstacles through the larynx, trachea, bronchi, alveoli, as if loose pieces of rags barely covered the entrances and sticky bubbles obstructed the exits…”

This gentleman is Fernando Bandeira de Mello Aranha, the main character of the novel, a heavyweight in the press, who heads 57 companies. He is the owner of the station. Quite weakened, the man stands still for a few seconds, in a studied posture, like an actor, and begins to speak in a low tone, with somewhat labored breathing, apologizing for postponing the soap opera and the pleasure of the people who expected to watch it: “They won’t lose, what you will see is unprecedented. I promise emotions.” He says he's going to tell a story that hasn't ended yet. This involves revealing the underbelly of his family and politics, celebrities and powerful figures, as well as some of the dealings in which he participated. Great success, protests in droves, audience explosion!

The tycoon, who everyone calls Dr. Fernando, enjoys his performance and appears live for 18 consecutive nights telling spicy and inconvenient stories.

But, what are the reasons for this set of confessions, apparently incomprehensible to spectators? The main one is soon revealed, which occurred seventeen years, eleven months and thirteen days ago: he obsessively wants to discover the whereabouts of an unknown woman found in an old photograph, “in the hope that she is some kind of redeeming angel.” He offers her a million dollar amount of money as a reward, that is, 500 thousand dollars. He does this in front of 30 million people, who follow him with curiosity and perplexity. He also offers her marriage and a valuable alliance.

Dr. Fernando decided, almost 18 years ago, to completely isolate himself in his fortress, a large building on Avenida São Luiz, in São Paulo. He declares that “it’s the photo of the last person I exchanged glances with on the street.” To do this, he mobilizes his entire media apparatus, as well as detectives and other advisors, in search of the mysterious character. In the image he appears getting out of the car, accompanied by his driver and escorted by security, while the young woman passes him with an enigmatic posture, as if she wanted to speak to him.

In addition to Fernando Bandeira de Mello Aranha and the mysterious woman, there is another decisive character: Covid-19. He was infected by the virus, but survived, although with sequelae, at a time when there were no vaccines available yet. The millionaire believes that his contamination was deliberate, in an attempt to assassinate him, as for almost twenty years he isolated himself in his huge triplex, having reduced his social cycle to a few people.

Dr Fernando is a man of the elite, but of the enlightened elite, who reads and prepares his projects. He descends from rich people and has always been rich, comes from the rural aristocracy. Ultimately, he belongs to the segment of those who “rule”. From the studio installed in his home he performs his monologues for the program “Vida ao vivo”. His diatribes are delivered amid mentions and quotes from poets, novelists, thinkers, humorists, filmmakers, playwrights, in which good humor sets the tone. Just out of curiosity, I listed dozens of references found in the text appearing, among others, Pedro Nava, Beckett, Machado de Assis, Millôr Fernandes, Fernando Pessoa, Sá de Miranda, Shakespeare, Drummond, Guimarães Rosa, Murilo Mendes, Brecht, Italo Calvino, Voltaire, Marinetti, Pascal, Kafka, Nietzsche, Bergson, Octavio Paz, Sartre, Valèry, Rilke, Camus, João Cabral de Melo Neto, Álvaro de Campos, Dostoiévski, Paul Éluard, Dante, Pascal, Joseph Conrad, biblical quotes with phrases from prophets, Bernard Shaw, João Antônio, Paulo Francis, Proust, Clarice Lispector, Darcy Ribeiro, DH Lawrence, Eugene O' Neill, Saroyan, Wilhelm Reich, Agatha Christie, Timothy Leary, as well as Rita Lee, director Bob Wilson, filmmakers John Ford and Orson Welles, the economists Belluzzo, Bresser Pereira, Maria da Conceição Tavares, Jacob Gorender, without forgetting songs by Dalva de Oliveira, Noel Rosa, Chico Buarque, Luiz Gonzaga...

I have no doubt that the good humor of the main character of this fiction originates from Ivan himself, a prolific reader, as well as the mentions of his favorite Brazilian, English and French writers. This without forgetting that he is well versed in the Bible, cited in detail by Dr. Fernando, when debating with the public who criticize his positions on various aspects. In short, Ivan Angelo lends his memories to the protagonist, especially those lived in the capital of São Paulo in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s.

Ivan Angelo, once again, uses the fragment to compose his novel. He talks about something he experienced in his daily life, through the artifice of giving the floor to a press professional (was it the journalist Ivan who decided to face Dr. Fernando Marinho, oops, Dr. Fernando Bandeira de Mello Aranha?) who , when protesting against the tycoon's speeches, recalls that the Mello Aranha group's newspapers were docile towards the government during the military dictatorship, not needing to go through censorship, while in The State of S. Paul and Jornal da Tarde journalists needed to write “…with the censor sitting at the next table. He resisted whoever he wanted and how he wanted. You didn’t want it.”

And he adds: “We left the space in the articles that the censor cut out blank, so the reader could understand that there was a cut. They banned white space, We published excerpts from The Lusiads, by Camões, instead. At the newspaper of Afternoon, baby of the house, we published cooking recipes. They resisted until the end of the previous censorship, each in their own way, the Estadão, JT, Pasquim, Opinião, Veja, O São Paulo. It only slowed down in 1978, with the end of AI-5, which gave it 'legal' support. As a reward for good behavior, lenient media outlets like his received the full share of advertising from the federal government, until the end of the regime. Lie?"

Mello Aranha responds with jokes and ironies and quotes fragments from his favorite authors, between generous sips of Sauternes wine from the best vintage, “…produced at Château d'Yquem (…) which costs ten to thirteen thousand reais in stores in São Paulo. Each gift costs one minimum wage…”

The plot develops with another decisive character entering the scene, there is an apparent robbery, deaths, family scandals, torture and relations with the military regime, illegal mining, militias, everything comes together. In the businessman's view, “militia is a method”, as there have always been militias in Brazil, since the colony, “with other names, another social function, but look at the methods: they are armed groups, they gain power, they take the law into their hands.” In an interview to promote the book, Ivan understands it as “a novel about impunity”, with “structural violence” inherent to the country: “it marked its history and still calls the shots in the present.”

Mello Aranha’s view of the vehicle that increased his fortune is quite pragmatic: “I make my living with images, but I learned to live with words. I read a lot, I read a lot.” For him, “the art of writing is sand in an hourglass, flowing… I prefer to speak, to record. Laziness. And this isn't literature, I don't paint beauty with words. Writers compose beautiful passages, rewrite everything – whoever speaks, no, whoever speaks throws it into the wind.”

When faced with the two-page document sent by a viewer, Dr. Fernando takes the opportunity to comment on the program that one page without a paragraph makes him uneasy, two distress him, three irritate him. “If you look to the side while reading, if you take a sip of water, when you look back you don't know where you are, lost. Proust. Proust you have to read with your finger on the line, a genius with a paragraph tantrum. Pedro Nava is another who has a paragraph tantrum, if he weren't a self-confessed Proustian (…) Save the paragraph, save whoever invented it, save the scribes who had this elegance to make reading easier. That’s what a paragraph is, it’s kindness.”

Live life It is a mix of humor with touches of a detective novel in the tropics, in which reality and fiction about a Brazil that is still sketchy, and mediated by TV, surprises us every day – and, almost always, in a violent way. Ivan declared that he has four unpublished books ready, which he hopes to release soon. If they are thought-provoking like this live life, come soon.

*Afranio Catani is a retired senior professor at the Faculty of Education at USP. He is currently a visiting professor at the Faculty of Education at UERJ, Duque de Caxias campus..


Ivan Angelo. Live life. São Paulo, Companhia das Letras, 2023, 294 pages. []

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