visions of hell



An essay on Brazil seen from the macro-narratives of its literature and some other arts


Unlike the character Garcin, from Behind closed doors, by Sartre, we do not need an other who reveals our condemnation to some Hell: we already have within us, in addition to the condemned, the other who condemns us. After all, we've been almost everything in life: another without me; a self pursued by (its) others; an I that was actually another, or another that was actually me, children of a controversial and convulsed space where suddenly everyone was from the whole world; we were once a we in search of them who should be us, or who we should be; Now, I think (I immediately hesitate) we are a patient of the anomie and anonymity that have prevailed in recent years, in search of an I that has passed and awaits us, from another shore, from a Fortunate Island that we don't know what it is, an I whose blind gaze at the things of this world stares us down with its civilizing irony.

First Circle

Each culture, in literary production and beyond, has its motifs, themes and dominant plots. Dispersed, and yet solidary over time, these constants, in their variations and permanence, inform us of what we are, what we cease to be and what we want to be. They are the ever-complete and ever-changing map of an identity, understood here not only as an immovable stronghold, but as a changing universe of what we identify with, where, however, a nucleus remains that we recognize with the use of the verb “to be”. . They (constant) or they (plots, themes and motifs that make up a moving universe of myths of origin) compose a “ring of knowledge”, a permanent pulsar of images that reproduce, multiply, deny themselves, cross each other, decompose and reassemble non-stop.

Thus aligned, on our side of the Atlantic and south of the line demarcated by those who defined the desirable standard of the human species, a kind of horizontal Tordesillas on the (i)world map of ethnocentrism at first Eurocentric, then more simply North-centric, the processes and circuits that form the constellation Brazil in the subgalaxy of colonized or ex-tais nations or even, as some want, post-tais, in the vast black hole, or better, mestizo and mixed, that is Latin America.

second circle

When we started, albeit timidly, to stop being another from an impoverished and distant metropolis, the first great plot that excited us, and at an accelerated pace throughout the XNUMXth century, was that of the “comedy of national integration”. The main action of this plot can be described as pulling the nation out of the sequels and ills of the “backward” colonial underworld to integrate it internally, thus giving it a place among civilized and modern nations. I remember in passing that I take “comic” in the sense developed by Northrop Frye, as opposed to his sense of “tragic”. In the first, a sense of integration predominates, of acceptance by the protagonist by a social body to which he aspires to belong, while in the second, the sense of his exclusion predominates, through his fall or displacement.

In the theater, this animated the comedy of manners, simple but sincere, so sympathetic and sometimes of excellent quality. In it, where Pena, Alencar, França Júnior, Macedo, Azevedo and even the critic Machado de Assis were sharpened and asserted themselves, a line of continuity was composed throughout the XNUMXth century that only had a parallel in the novel, and even so if we take considering that Machado had the insight of not wanting to start all over again and picked up where Alencar had left off. However, it must be recognized that it was not in the theater, but in the novel and poetry, that the emblematic hero of this period crystallized: the Indian.

This catalysed, in terms of the imaginary, the dramatic irruption of the newly independent Empire in the scenario of national emergencies in the XNUMXth century. Among all the heroes and heroines, the protagonist of The Guarani, which was first successful in the footnotes of newspapers and was later published as a novel. When the palm tree, magically plucked from the earth by the lone warrior (but in the company of the white Ceci), floats between the waters and the sky, disappearing over the horizon, the fumes of wars and colonial predations that blew away the brave and ferocious Aimoré, the intrepid and eager adventurers, and the entire household of the nobleman of lineage and character D. Antonio de Mariz. The vanishing point of that palm tree, mestizo, pagan and baptized love nest, deathbed and universal cradle, vertigo that reverses the course of European caravels, is the birth of the new nation, the same one, concrete in terms of language, which emerged for the reader in the pages of the newspaper, surrounded by news from the world, from the country and advertisements in search of escaped slaves.

Poetic myth, feuilleton, novel, The Guarani became a theater play and would still become a national exultant goat, in the happy expression of Paulo Emílio Salles Gomes, when he performed with Europeans at Scala in Milan thanks to the opera by Carlos Gomes, with a libretto in Italian by Antonio Scalvini and Carlo D'Orneville . Its initial chords would be embalmed in the opening of Hora or Voz do Brasil, already in the 1972th century, until XNUMX, when they were revoked militarily and replaced by the opening of the Anthem of Independence, composed by D. Pedro I. But so remarkable is the musical theme of the The Guarani, which, with the re-democratization of the country, in 1985, he returned to the opening of the radio program, winning a version made by the Bahian group Olodum.

third circle

In that “comedy of integration”, the “national self”, from whose point of view everything was written, lives in pursuit of its “others”, or is pursued by them. The first “other” of this labyrinth is the Portuguese metropolis, which, in order to give us a past, as it still happens in the drama Leonor de Mendonca, by Gonçalves Dias, published in 1846, began to bequeath us, according to the increasingly critical eye of the time, an aura of mediocrity, an undesirable memory, a predatory adventure and a suffocating yearning for independence. The second “other” – envied but dangerous – is the seductive French civilization, exemplary and deviant, ambitious halo and feared courtesan, an obligatory point of reference for the values ​​of “modern” civilization, but an absorbing mirror that could mischaracterize “us”.

Finally, the third “other”, our cruel opposite, was everything that remained from the colonial adventure and misadventure, and that could no longer be simply imputed to the Portuguese past, although it could have originated in it: the “accursed” heritage but lucrative of slavery, provincial narrow-mindedness, the pettiness of a poorly shaved urbanity, the rough cerrado, the bristly caatinga, the thriving but hostile forest instead of the sweet the countryside French, the quilombo instead of the Vendée, greedy adventurism instead of the bourgeois solidity of elsewhere. Liberal and bourgeois ideology – “reality” in Europe seen from Brazil – was here “utopia”.

Here is the “I” chasing his “others” and haunted by them, an “I” permanently facing his “inside out”, something scoffed and stuck between alterities more powerful than himself. Putting it simply: whoever ventured into the literary endeavors of a “Brazilian literature” had to compete for space with the most powerful writing that arrived from Europe, and which enjoyed the preference and admiration of the potential readership that, contrary to what is commonly thought, , was not so small, because it was also a “listening” public of readings in family firesides or in student “republics”.

fourth circle

Shortly before the predominance of this comic plot of national integration, another emerged that can be understood as a “tragedy of alterity”. In the midst of the arcadian formation Cepé, Cacambo and Lindóia, by Basílio da Gama; amidst the meadows, streams and shepherds of Greece revived, the abrupt stones and cliffs, so typical of Minas Gerais, emerged from the anguished Claudio Manoel da Costa, as observed by Antonio Candido in the Formation of Brazilian Literature: Decisive Moments. Curious somewhat tragic experience, where the native appears lost and exiled in his own land, and the personal memory as an intrusion in a foreign landscape. They are tricks of the colonial enterprise, which still today animates part of our people, in particular those who, although without the grandeur or grace of the characters mentioned above, feel like they are banished to live where they did not want to be born, sighing nostalgically for the European landscapes and US supermarkets. The latter are condemned to be eternal miniatures, “others without me”, talking dolls.

Within the comic plot of national integration, signs of disintegration were already growing: for example, Rubião and Corpo-Santo, inside and outside the literary pages and asylums. The most complete sign of disintegration, that we were not the new nation of utopias redeeming civilization, as the young Alencar wanted, but the old and outdated slave empire, is found in the work of the mature Machado. But even this one had its foot stuck in the plot of integration, making itself, while person literary, another “exultant goat”: first president of the Brazilian Academy of Letters, he was a writer for Castilho, no fault or mere Brazilian cousin: a classic of the language.

fifth circle

In the second dominant macro-plot in our literature, which will form the core and edges of the next cycle, impulses of a tragic order, excluding dramas, predominate, bringing to light what flourished in secret and blindly under the comic cycle of national integration: the tragedy of marginality. throughout the Old Republic, this tragedy will be that of the migrant, and its first full realization is the sertões, by journalist Euclides da Cunha. In it, migrants from the four corners of misery gather in Belo Monte for the massacre that, with others like it, of which the Contestado will be the biggest and longest, decorates the proud breast of our cordial Republic.

The echoes of this tragic epic still resound in the Grande Sertão: paths, which closes the cycle, and from the same angle of convulsive miscegenation, in “Meu tio, o iauaretê”, both by Guimarães Rosa. The landmarks of this tragic cycle of the migrant are the land occupation conflicts and the loosening of the chains of urban growth, together with the demolition of the Old Town and the erection of New Rio de Janeiro, which migrated from the seat of the Court to become The Federal Capital, title of an expressive comedy by Artur Azevedo, although at the end of it the protagonists decide to re-emigrate back to the hinterland of Minas Gerais, where the “true Brazil” and its economic and cultural wealth would be. But the evil, or the passage, had already begun.

A stuck dialectic between the “old” and the “new” predominates in the cycle, between galloping modernity and primitive Brazil, which sometimes appears as a tormented soul, a mestizo mutant, sometimes a repulsive trait for the whitish mentality that tried to impose itself on the country. , sometimes maragunço, a mixture of maragato and devilish jagunço promoting unexpected resistance. At times, this “primitive” may still appear as a picturesque feature, an authentic “backlands moonlight” that interacts with the urban landscape in which Brazilianness is being caged.

Brazil migrates in its entirety. Everything changes places, where before the gauchos gauchos, the caipiras caipiras, the sertanejos lived the sertão, the rural workers farmed, the blacks used to black people, the women sewed, while politicians sweetened their coffee with milk with expensive goods imported from Europe. The people, in which waves of immigrants from Europe and Japan were already mixed, whether they were customers on the farms or inhabitant of the tenements, ate beef jerky when available, instead of fingers and rings.

The tragedy of the migrant plays with an incipient comedy of child-urbanity, in which the comedy of manners survives for a long time that will finally expire, in its moment of glory, in the arms of Procópio Ferreira, a great ugly but gallant actor, like country. Macunaíma dresses up as an apprentice tourist and sets out to redefine Brazil, ending up as a star in the sky and in the lap of Italian immigration, in São Paulo. The gauchos, who seemed to disappear in time, an evanescent voice noted by Simões Lopes Neto, ended up tying their horses to the obelisk of Cinelândia and other pending issues in the notary offices and nightclubs of the Federal Capital, as Érico Veríssimo tells us, a few decades later.

Even the character of The rats, by Dionélio Machado, so urban, he migrates from the outskirts where he lives, by tram, to the city center and the labyrinthine magic of roulette, in search of the myrreis of his insomnia. Policarpo Quaresma makes his via crucis the urban migration of a Brazil that is disappearing into violence, and what will Amanuense Belmiro be if not a soul sweetly expelled from a utopianly peaceful time that migrated, in its entirety, to the beyond? And there are Lupicínios, Pedro Raimundo and Gonzagas, European exiles and anthropophagous aristocrats, Fabianos, Sinhás Vitórias and Abelardos, the infernal migration of Graciliano in the basements of this emerging Brazil towards modernity, as he tells us in Memories of Prison.

On the dead fire of the mills, Getúlio da Esplanada do Castelo grows, inaugurating, in his presidential campaign, the era of rallies and a new political dramaturgy, the Getúlio who on August 24, 1954 will become the body detonating in tragedy the story of this self that was actually another, this other that was actually his self, children of a controversial and convulsed space in which suddenly everyone was from the whole world.

In this space, the Indian is no longer a hero, but a reason for ironic mirroring. The most obvious example is the Manifesto Antropófilo, also the already mentioned Macunaíma. In any case, this cycle also has its emblematic hero: he is Captain Prestes da Coluna, the Knight of Hope, the migrant from a New World, on whose path the space of the homeland is redefined, expanding the dramatic path of the 18 do Forte, and once again, like the same Guarani of yesteryear, making us act on the grand stage of the universal operas, which now rehearsed Revolutions and Great Wars. The marriage to Olga Benário and the subsequent tragedy unite, in a single connection and dramatic outcome, the “local” and the “universal”.

sixth circle

The next cycle will be prepared within the incipient urbanity that had grown in the first half of the 1964th century: in the post-war and post-Estado Novo eras, we entered the “comedy of the national-popular” with open arms. In this new cycle that will die in television shows already in the waters of the dictatorial regime of XNUMX (see “Malu Mulher”, “Carga Pesada”, “Plantão de Polícia”, the Globo Special Cases, Gota d'Água in the theater) a Brazil, already densely urbanized, retains the northeastern drought as a banner to redeem, universally exemplary ordeal of the socially dispossessed man, unassisted, in the face of adverse nature: Severe Death and Life, dazzling Nancy, in 1965, is in gestation. In it, the enthronement of “the people” in culture takes place, so he, still so young, barely confirmed in 1930 and already in the reformatory for minors in the Estado Novo, in 1937.

He now sees himself forced to do as he can, as God helps and the authorities allow in that authentic supplementary course of democracy that was pejoratively called the “populist period” between 1945 and 1964. Everything seems, of course, or a love affair between Eliana and Anselmo Duarte or an adventure à la Oscarito and Grande Otelo, with a soundtrack by Carmem Miranda and in the background some off-key chords of bossa nova and avant-garde poetry.

The comedy of the national-popular gallops with a loose mane in the oratory faith of committed poetry, in the street guitars that promise the day to come; it also navigates freely in the rhetorical effort of vanguard poetry itself which, often clashing with the former, dedicates itself diligently to self-propaganda, proposing itself as an essential element in the modernization of national intelligence: “export poetry”, who doesn't remember? In this comedy, emblematic heroes multiply, leaving the literary pages for the news in newspapers, radio and the incipient TV. The figure of the “populist politician” grows, heir to a corpse that will be immortalized in the Letter Testament of 1954; Zé Bebelo, from Grande Sertão: paths, will also present himself as a candidate for deputy and also as one of the heirs of the corpse of Joca Ramiro, the one who when he got up seemed to lift all of nature with him. Other national-popular heroes are the candango who built Brasília and the migrant from the countryside who became a worker (the migrant Fabiano begins to gestate the future president-unionist of Brazil…).

Perhaps the most emblematic hero of this moment is the soccer player, who is immortalized in the unforgettable and far from boastful samba of bohemian Tulio Piva: “From Oiapoque to Chuí/There's a joy/Like I've never seen it/It's just that Brazil/There in the fields from Europe/He gave a dance/Danced the samba/And brought the World Cup…”, …in 1958. The Canarinho team (so it was said) that dazzled the world from Sweden was a collection of renowned characters in the Brazilian arts suddenly incarnated within the four magical lines of the sport that ceased to be “Breton”, as it was also said, to become resolutely “national”.

I take as a basis the team that faced the Swedes in the final, and that was forever embedded in the pantheon of national heroes. Goalkeeper Gilmar, elegant and always well placed like a lord; on the right side, Djalma Santos, a strong quilombola, beating the European pioneers with his rallies; in central defense Bellini, worthy of being a movie heartthrob; at his side, fourth defender Orlando, small but efficient as a serious office boy; on the left wing Nilton Santos, with his rascal mustache, also advancing like the goal he scored on his debut against Austria; in the middle of the field, Zito, aggressive and bossy on the field, as a modern executive or capitalist should be, distributing the game; at his side Didi, whom Nelson Rodrigues had dubbed the “Ethiopian Prince”, saying that he ran with an ermine mantle on his shoulders; on the far right, the crooked-legged Garrincha, the tico-tico on the cornmeal in the field, taking with him the Brazilian artist's capacity for improvisation and “viração”, with this feeling of always making his legs the heart and of being an irregular in the (dis)order of things; Vavá, a courageous caboclo and something of a blunt, hammering defenses, hitting the ball in the shin, hitting it from the front, side and back, brushing against enemy defenses as if brushing grass and weeds; Pelé, the country still a boy, remembering the end of carnival orpheus, in which the children dance in the place of the dead Orphic poet (in the film the main actor was another soccer player, Breno Mello); finally, on the left wing, Zagallo, hardworking like the middle class, making calls, helpful and always useful, without brilliance, but a lot of heart, determination and work, with the recognition of his limitations: the result, he would be the coach in 1970.

Never has a football team so completely embodied the Great National Theater, with gesture brechtian conceptions, especially on the part of Didi, elected the best player of the Cup, deserving then the title of “king”, which he inherited from Friedenreich and would later pass to Pelé. Gestures: emblematic moments, such as the one in which, in the semifinal against France, Didi decided that he had to pass the ball between the legs of the French star Kopa, who was the favorite favorite, to show who was in charge in the midfield; or like the one when Brazil, in the final against Sweden, conceded the first goal four minutes into the game, and Didi caught the ball in the back of the net, took it at a slow and rhythmic pace to the middle of the field, where, according to caption, would have said: "Let's put an end to these gringos". And they ended.

seventh circle

The main shows of the Great National Theater of this cycle have already been presented: the construction/consecration of Brasilia and the victory of 58 in Sweden, of which 62 in Chile would be a significant, but pale imitation, although – a dangerous sign of the times – Garrincha, who he only dribbled to the right in 58, he started to dribble to the left, against the English. The action of this show can be described as integrating the nation in an ascending movement, from chronic backwardness to lively modernity, with law, parliament and we even had a brief cordial parliamentarism, hastily approved to avoid a civil war in 1961, although soon overthrown by a plebiscite in 1963. We were experiencing the promotion of an agrarian country, dominated by rural oligarchies, to a predominantly bourgeois, urban and industrialized country.

With the inauguration of Brasilia, with its airplane format, Brazil really seemed to take off towards the future. The flight was soon shot down by the Coup d'état of April 1, 1964. Even so, it can be said that the last major achievement of this cycle was the 1970 World Cup, the first with direct transmission on TV, with national reach, already under boots and with the handcuffs of the Dictatorship, when Pelé, the hero-boy-wonder of 1958, transubstantiated himself into the export coffee star for Americans to see. To justify this retroactive mention of the national-popular cycle, I remember the firm determination of us, the left, that we would not support Brazil, a vain promise that shuddered when Ladislav Petrás opened the scoring in the opening match against Czechoslovakia and vanished once and for all when Rivelino tied the game, which ended 4-1 for Brazil.

The national-popular comedy began to fade with the 64 coup, although it still gained an afterlife in various arts, such as Popular Music (disputing space with the Jovem Guarda), in Theater, in Poetry. In 1968, with Act 5, the Theater of the Absurd was installed on the national scene, with the intensification of torture chambers, murders and disappearances, exile, persecutions, in short, State terrorism, with official preaching of the lie stating that none of this happened. What best symbolizes this period is the recovery of the work of the 26th century playwright, Qorpo-Santo, presented, in the locality of his comedies, as a precursor to Beckett, Ionesco, Jarry, Genet and many others, a new “exultant goat”, underlining the idea that the European vanguards were already in our waistcoat pocket. About him, Carlos Drummond de Andrade would say, in a poem published in Correio da Manhã on 05/1968/XNUMX, entitled “Relatório de Maio”: “without debunking MacLuhan, Chacrinha,/and the institutionalized theater of the absurd/Qorpo-Santo is who I was right/that May (...)”.

Eighth Circle

From that 1970 World Cup, we entered a new cycle-plot, whose chords reverberate until today. It can be described, in those 70s, as an update of the ancestral myth of the civilizing hero, navigating through the romances and memories of the dictatorship, the then reborn Indianism practiced by Antonio Callado, as in forever, by Darcy Ribeiro, in Maira, and he also reappeared at the monster rallies of the campaigns for the direct elections, in the public square. The reestablishment of the colloquial in poetry, of the feminine, of blackness in writing and in the theater, images of the fragmentation of that “national self” as sought after as it was lost, was reinvigorated.

Faced with the anonymity of consumption on the part of a middle class seduced by the economic miracle of the Medici years, which soon saw the dream of owning a home turn into the nightmare of paying in installments, the beginning of a tragic plot grew that could be called the litany for the dead hero . As I mentioned in passing, the central spectacle of this new nucleus enthroned in our meta-narratives broke out in those great demonstrations for the direct-já. In these, one of the culminating moments was always the evocation of “the one or those who passed”. The images jumble up in my memory: the crowd singing Vandré in São Paulo, the million people taking, in Rio de Janeiro, the avenue-body called Presidente Vargas, distributed in a cross along the avenue Rio Branco, Fafá de Belém calling the Menestrel das Alagoas, recently deceased, the Minstrel's own voice blessing that fervor and seething bodies, a welcome recorded voice emanating from who knows where, but giving us back the sense of a future.

This call for the future that comes from the past reappeared, in images, in the film Jango, directed by Silvio Tendler, released in 1984, on the return to homeland of that anti-hero buried in exile by his inflexible indecision, suddenly melancholic and something grand in his precariousness. In one of the most solemn moments of the film, the cars of the funeral procession enter the International Bridge that joins Paso de los Libres, in Argentina, to Uruguaiana, in Brazil, carrying the only President of the Republic who died in exile, standing shoulder to shoulder with Emperor D. Pedro II (it cannot be said that D. Pedro I died “in exile”).

That scene symbolized (our) amputated body returning from another world, a “beyond” that showed the political indigence of the “here” to which we had been reduced. The search for the missing body is also the subject of happy old year, an autobiography by Marcelo Rubens Paiva, from 1982, which became a play and film. The search for the body that had been mutilated after the accident suffered by the protagonist mirrors the search for the body of the father, a deputy who died in the cellars of the dictatorship, in 1971, whose body is still missing. A nation in search of its bodies and its own missing body: this is the central theme of the litany for the dead hero I was referring to. This plot-cycle has not abandoned us until today, appearing in the successive reports of political disappearances and murders, arrests and torture suffered during the Dictatorship, as in the novel K (2011), by Bernardo Kucinski, already translated into some other languages, narrating the search for the body and memory of the sister murdered with her husband in 1974. This theme is renewed in this troubled moment of national life, with researchers, journalists, teachers, politicians forced to leave the country due to threats and persecution promoted by the intolerance fomented by the occupant of the Planalto Palace.

This cycle, which has not yet closed, coexists with others, which were opening up during the Dictatorship and expanded in a formidable way after redemocratization, from 1985 onwards.

There was a qualitative and quantitative expansion of what was seen as “lint” of the construction of the “national self” that transformed them into central themes and motifs of contemporary cultural production: the identity search for the roots and flowering of various nuclei that were seen as “complementary” ” and became “foreground protagonists”: female identities, LGBTQIs, afros, immigrants, quilombolas and others. Although each one of them disputes the primacy of the spotlight, they all help each other, because _it is their multiplicity that guarantees them the greatest impact on the art scene and intellectual essay production. It is as if a stained glass shattered and each fragment acquired its own light, but still composing a whole and being part of it. They were exceptionally boosted by the proliferation of social networks in virtual means of dissemination. This trend took on a special dimension in the “literary soirées” held on the outskirts of large Brazilian cities, with the participation of community radio stations.

This expansion of communication media has become a theme in itself. On the one hand, there is a media insistence on this as a cutting-edge sector of modern technology that will lead us into the realms of “modernity”, making us “contemporaries of the present time”. Before, computing was a kind of “condominium for executives”. Today it is common property of everyone.

The bubbling inferno of daily violence grew immeasurably, in the streets, in the fields and in the media. Often presented as an inherent part of our “national character”, either to praise police repression or to criticize it as well, this mirrored violence in many ways permanently attacks our search for “modernity”, seen as the utopia of “countries advanced”.

This universe of violence is tempered by that of “apoplectic religiosity”, which recently entered the annals of politics as the central pillar of the movement that led us to have, for the first time in history, a ruler who is, openly, a charlatan, like charlatans it is the pastors and other religious who exploit this desperate people in search of transcendent consolation. There is an ongoing millenarian cycle, which is not restricted to the poor. The primitive is all of us.

The movement of charlatanism as a form of political discourse relied mainly on the media mainstream, with its narratives about the “inherent corruption” of Brazil, or “inherent to the left”, where the conservative discourse has been hegemonic since the 50s, imposing a continuous attempt at historical regression and forms of censorship of thought to avoid what Millôr Fernandes, some time ago, called “free thinking is just thinking”. The media mainstream disputes with academic thought the privilege of canonizing what is recognized as relevant in the analysis of Brazil and its access to “modernity”. Provincial, increasingly out of focus in relation to what actually unfolds in what he sees as “the developed world”, the dominant discourse in this media mainstream promotes a deconstruction of real attempts to reduce Brazilian social ills, always implicitly defending our inferiority before other peoples and nations. Lately, it dilutes social responsibilities in catchphrases such as “we fail as a nation”, or others of equal caliber.

In this regard, a further observation is in order. During the 30s, 40s, and into the heights of the 60s, conservative and even reactionary thought made a substantial contribution to the development of the great cycles of meta-narratives described here. Just think of the right-wing movements during the avant-garde period of the 20s and 30s, Catholic thought at this time and then, when we enjoy creations such as those by Plínio Salgado, Menotti del Picchia, Gustavo Corção, Augusto Frederico Schmitt, reaching the Rubem Fonseca pre-64 and the Nelson Rodrigues of all times. Since the times of the 64 Dictatorship, this contribution has dwindled, and although it still exists in niches such as country music, among others, its contribution to relevant artistic productions is close to zero.

Faced with this fragmentary multiplication of “I's” in search of new “us”, one must consider that the appropriation of the word remains a key element in the continuous re-elaboration of our myths of origin. Access to the word as a right is continually thematized, even when this takes place beyond an explicitly verbal or written medium such as literature. Access to the word before or on behalf of a collective catalyzes access to the human condition. Perhaps in football this is more clearly visible.

Victory only materializes in the cry of “goal”, or in the deafening murmur in the face of its failure. The cry is so necessary that today, in view of the limitations imposed by the pandemic that is plaguing us, in games without fans, loudspeakers and recordings are provided that imitate the screams of the stadium, just as in the old days recordings, on TV, the same ones were imitated. screams in the night programs that reproduced the climactic moments of the previous games.

The procession of “ascension to the word” in our culture is immense. I quote some examples:

Peter, the slave of O demonio familiar, by Alencar. Peri and the warrior Iracema, by the same author.

Machado de Assis, valued by critics for rising to the status of “universal writer”, alongside Joyce, Virginia Woolf and many others.

The pathetic narration of the inexplicable resistance in Belo Monte, by the sertões.

The peaceful, after being restless, narrator Riobaldo, pactary who doubts his pact.

Ava, from Maira, who at the end of the novel tries to reinvent the Bible in the language of his people.

The many memories of prison that recall the atrocities of our Brazil, from testimonies such as Memories of Prison, from Graciliano Ramos to the most recent ones, many of them scattered over the internet today.

ninth circle

Throughout the cycles described here, the image of the Indian – I am referring to the literary characters thus identified – is a kind of thermometer whose constant reappearance indicates the permanent need to rethink identities and origins. This character, in his “nudity”, in his “primitivism”, his proximity to nature and even his almost identification with it, is situated in our imagination close to the notion of “source”, “origin”, “beginning”, “first outburst”.

It is true that in recent times these images have gained new contours, with Indians appearing side by side with the highest technology devices, such as radios and computers. Still, he often appeared and sometimes still appears as someone “devoid of complex technologies”, but fully provided with his body. The last cycle identified here before what I called “the fragmentation of the shattered stained glass”, that of the “lament for the dead hero”, borders on a myth identified by Sérgio Buarque de Hollanda in his Vision of Paradise: Edenic motifs in the discovery and colonization of Brazil, that is, that of the civilizing hero, in which Christian motifs brought by the Jesuits and their interpretations of narratives they found among the natives who sought to catechize and “reduce” in the missions are mixed.

This fabulous character, coming from unknown places, from a “beyond”, sowed the known forms of life in the transition from nomadic to sedentary life, and then, often persecuted, withdrew to a “beyond”, which could be an island , where at the same time he waits for his apprentices and looks at them with his condescending and ironic gaze. This myth of the “civilizing hero” was joined by others, such as that of the Sebastianist heritage: see the episodes of several of the conflicts and massacres in the countryside that marked Brazilian life, interpreted with greater or lesser precision as “messianic”.

In the face of our present, continually threatened by the devastation of hard-won rights, many times we can only say in the face of these characters who come to our aid from a “past” that points to a “possible future”, that tireless crowd of Sepés, Peris, Macunaímas, Avás, Iracemas, Lindóias, Cacambos, Uiaras, Jupiras, Cacambos, the most recent Yanomamis from the film the last forest (2021), directed by Luiz Bolognesi, screenplay by him and David Kopenawa Yanomami, and so many others and others: “pray for us who have recourse to you”.

It is not necessary to make a great effort to perceive, as a constant in these journeys between past, present and future, the vision of a hellish world, confused, fragmentary, archaic, anachronistic or any other adjective with which one wants to illuminate these hidden places, whether seriously or in the parodic tone, whether in the comic or tragic plot, which one wants to leave, but which it is necessary to penetrate in search of the epiphanic contemplation of some hidden secret that will reveal “our true nature”.

There, in a fantastic whirlpool worthy of the Walpurgis night of Goethe's two Fausts, huts, large houses and slave quarters, the mud that persisted on the then modern and French-style Rua do Ouvidor in Rio Imperial alongside the accursed legacy of slavery, the irreducible silence of the defeated in Canudos and the barbarism of the winners with their cannonades and beheadings, all the violence of our civil wars, the atrocities of the Paraguayan War, the torture rooms of the Estado Novo and those of the Dictatorship of 64, evoked in the narratives spasmodic, the pact paths of Great Sertão and the macabre rictus of the Hermogenes of life, the hold of the ship of Memories of Prison, and so many other caves, caves and crevices of our memory and our forgetfulness. Added to all this is the anguish of contemplating in the cockpit of the Brasília-plane, once an airplane with promises of the future, a charlatan with his troop of other charlatans, chewing everything, past, present and future, as if it were a piece of gum that gave him Uncle Sam.


The search for that infernal epiphany can take place within a comic impulse, ascending, of integration into another time that absolves us, or with a tragic impulse, of realization that, like the banished from Dante's Inferno, we are condemned to be forever ourselves, unable to transcend, or even in varied mixtures of both impulses, in the tragicomedy we are used to seeing and enacting. In any case, we will always be looking for that “other” look, of that “I” of ours that has gone to the shelter of another shore, and that could, in the event of its return, redeem us from the anonymity that continually threatens us.

* Flavio Aguiar, journalist and writer, is a retired professor of Brazilian literature at USP. Author, among other books, of Chronicles of the World Upside Down (Boitempo).

This essay is a revised and expanded version of another homonym, published in the journal Language and Literature, 1986 edition.


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