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MARIA ANGELICA GUIMARAES LOPES, Assistant Professor, Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, University of South Carolina, Columbia
AS NOTED IN THE PREVIOUS BIENNIUM (HLAS 48), the Brazilian short story is in apparent decline. Fewer collections have been published in the last two years than in any similar period since at least 1975, and a great majority of these are works previously published, either partially or in their entirety (Colonia Moreira Campos, Scliar, V. G. Rosa). There is a trend towards anthologies, especially of collections of well-known authors' best stories (e.g., items bi 89004471 and bi 89004461).
Producing and selling books has taken a beating since the end of the pseudo Brazilian miracle, and publishing houses have shown how leery they are of financial losses in these economically difficult times by publishing well-known, "safe" authors. Unfortunately, "safe" usually means foreign best- sellers of doubtful literary value, to the detriment of worthy Brazilian works. Publishing houses specializing in story collections, such as São Paulo's Atica in the early 1970s, later veered towards essays and then specifically didactic material. This is a significant loss, for their beautifully illustrated paperbacks with careful introductions seemed both to reflect the genre's vigor and to stimulate new writers. Lately, it seems that only Mercado Aberto and L & PM in Porto Alegre and Nova Fronteira in Rio de Janeiro consistently publish new stories. Thus, one asks whether writers are really not writing or just not being published.
Among the new major collections annotated in this HLAS 50 are Chein's (item bi 89004453; see also HLAS 38:7352), S. Coutinho's (item bi 89004457; see also HLAS 44:6020 and HLAS 40:7433), and João Antônio's (item bi 89004460; see also HLAS 46:6107). Chein and Parente Cunha (item bi 89004458) set out in new directions (at least in comparison to their previous work), while João Antônio and Sonia Coutinho remain on more familiar ground.
Because there are fewer literary contests and fewer prizes, "winners' collections" are also in decline. There are some interesting anthologies of writers from the same state, such as the homogeneously fine Contos da terra do conto (item bi 89004456) from Minas Gerais and the impressive Geração 80 (item bi 90003389) and Rodízio de Contos (item bi 89004348), both from Rio Grande do Sul.
Among the unusual offerings are two books by José Sarney, the poet, novelist and politician who has been president of Brazil since Tancredo Neves' death in 1985 (see items bi 89004470, bi 89004449, and HLAS 34:4200). Equally "different" is Malcolm Silverman's O novo conto brasileiro (item bi 89004353), an ambitious project offering 36 stories by recent authors as both literary and linguistic didactic material for the use of Brazilians and foreigners. Another unusual anthology, Histórias de amor infeliz (item bi 90003388), is a commissioned work pairing off 10 female and 10 male writers, each pair writing on the same basic plot, with the same basic characters and settings.
One hopes that the regrettable situation of the short story will soon change and that the genre will regain the vigor and brilliance of a decade ago. Perhaps the words "O conto está voltando" ("The story is making a comeback") in the promotional material for a Mercado Aberto anthology will turn out to be more than a wistful writer's notation.