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REGINA IGEL, Associate Professor, Department of Spanish and Portuguese, University of Maryland, College Park
THE DEATHS OF TWO INTERNATIONALLY KNOWN LITERARY FIGURES in 1987 (Gilberto Freyre on July 16 and Carlos Drummond de Andrade on Aug. 17) left a void that will take many years to fill. Andrade's death came 13 days after the untimely departure of his daughter, Maria Julieta D. de Andrade, a chronicler and short-story teller. The two men represented the best of Brazil's sociological and literary resources for more than 50 years, having helped shape the modernist and post-modernist periods.
Prose fiction writers in Brazil seem to have been discouraged by current events over the last two years, leading to a kind of escapist literature that diverts the reader's attention towards the past or future. As a result, historical fiction and adventure and detective stories have displaced the traditional novel to a great extent.
Examples of historical fiction are Chermont de Britto's Villegaignon, Rei do Brasil (item bi 89004202) and Rui Nedel's Esta terra teve dono (item bi 89004168), both of which deal with the 16th and 17th centuries. Also set in the 17th century, representing a revival of adventure stories, is Gastão de Holanda's A breve jornada de D. Cristobal (item bi 89004189). Tabajara Ruas' Os varões assinalados: o romance da Guerra dos Farrapos (item bi 89004175) and Alcy Cheuiche's A Guerra dos Farrapos (item bi 89004176) recount the attempted establishment, 150 years ago, of a separate republic in the state of Rio Grande do Sul.
Another attempt to recapture the past, perhaps as an antidote to the malaises of the present, is the republication of novels long forgotten and now being introduced to younger generations, such as Coelho Netto's A conquista (item bi 89004188). Another earlier author to be reintroduced for the benefit of contemporary readers is Afonso Arinos, whose novel Os jagunços (item bi 89004179) deals with battles between two ideologies disguised as struggles for a parcel of land.
A few writers focused their attention on the time-honored theme of the sertão, with its struggles and unique atmosphere of social tensions. Along the lines of Guimarães Rosa's Grandes Sertões is Benedicto Monteiro's Aquele um (item bi 89004192), a monologue delivered to three different listeners, while William Agel de Mello's Epopéia dos sertões (item bi 89004185) creates an imaginary medieval age in the Brazilian backlands. Examples of the novela da terra dealing with the drought-stricken Brazilian Northeast and its victims are J. Felício dos Santos' Margueira amarga: novela da seca nordestina (item bi 89004172) and Fontes Ibiapina's Vida gemida em Sambambaia(item bi 89004182). Both of these describe the suffering of the region's populace and their unyielding faith in a better future.
Social criticism related more closely to contemporary problems is the theme of Rui Mourão's Monólogo do escorpião (item bi 89004200) and Virgílio M. Moreira's Fardados de azul (item bi 89004178), both of which denounce the neglect of Brazilian youth. Ironic criticism of pedantic behavior underlies Zulmira R. Tavares' O nome do bispo (item bi 89004180), while the renowned Aluísio Azevedo's satirical view of his contemporaries is rediscovered in the revealing and long-overdue Mattos, Malta ou Matta? (item bi 89004204).
A number of novels engage in psychological analysis of their characters' emotional and mental states. Salim Miguel's A voz submersa (item bi 89004194) deals with a specific period and history's impact on individuals, while Vera M. Mogilka's A história de Délia (item bi 89004201) and José C. Lisboa's Vicente e o outro (item bi 89004191) focus entirely on the impact of physical illness. Social oppression of women by a society shaped or organized by men is the theme of Marilene Felinto's As mulheres de Tijucopapo (item bi 89004171).
More appealing to popular tastes are Jorge Amado's Tocaia grande (item bi 89004197), Rachel de Queiroz's O galo de ouro (item bi 89004169) and Josué Montello's revised Janelas fechadas (item bi 89004177). Oswaldo França Jr.'s Recordações de amar em Cuba (item bi 89004079) provides additional light entertainment.
Detective stories have also appeared, to some extent as successors to the accounts of imprisonment and torture that filled bookstores immediately after the end of military rule. Alfredo Sirkis' Silicone XXI (item bi 89004199) is set within a futuristic frame, while Onofre's Sobra de guerra (item bi 89004181) and Glauco R. Correa's O assassinato do casal de velhos (item bi 89004195) resemble a police log.
Finally, Adão Voloch's O colono judeu-açu: o romance da Colônia Quatro Irmãos (item bi 89004173) describes life among rural pioneers in Rio Grande do Sul in a time when ideas were publicly debated and when a shovel, feelings of self-confidence, and opportunity to work were the basic tools needed to build a fair society.