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Volume 52 / Humanities



REGINA IGEL, Associate Professor, Department of Spanish and Portuguese, University of Maryland, College Park

THE SUFFERING INFLICTED ON Brazil by the dictatorship of 1964 as well as the social chaos that has engulfed the nation since are leading subjects in many recent novels. Nevertheless, traditional genres and themes such as the historical and psychological novel, the plight of the Brazilian poor in urban and rural areas, the saga of the nation's immigrants and Indians, and science fiction continue to attract Brazilian writers. Another interesting development is the reissue of important out-of-print Brazilian novels, some published more than 50 years ago.

After Brazil's return to democracy, the end of censorship led to a boom in fiction, particularly in works dealing with the dictatorship. These novels provided a catharsis for Brazilians who had lived through one of the most dramatic and repressive chapters in their history. Indeed, the methodology of oppression and repression are detailed in innumerable personal accounts reported in the form of novels, diaries, chronicles, or documentaries. Above all, the fictional works emphasize the impact and consequences of the military dictatorship on individuals, families, and on the country as a whole. The overriding feelings conveyed by this "testimonial literature" or reportorial narrative are astonishment, rebellion, impotence, and despair, as well as the need to forewarn Brazilians against historical amnesia. Many of these novels are notable for their innovative narrative strategies, imaginative expression, original development, and other features characteristic of a post-modernist sensibility. These works stand in contrast to the few conventional novels annotated below which adhere to more traditional writing patterns.

Two important works on the subject of the abuse and suffering endured by Brazilians under the military regime are Cardoso's Meu pai, acabaram com ele (item bi 90006773) and Diário de Berê (item bi 91003813), novels that make innovative use of the narrative voice. Horrifying accounts of people victimized by military oppressors are included in Faria's Autópsia (item bi 90006787) and Glauco's Os cogumelos vermelhos do outono (item bi 91003848). Not even adolescents were spared the upheavals of the 1960s. Powerful portrayals of young people growing into love and maturity under these appalling circumstances appear in the following novels: Diniz Netto's Armadilha do destino (item bi 91003845), Andrade's Perdido no meio da rua (item bi 91003803), Bahia's Ensina-me a ler: conspirando contra o amor (item bi 91003838), and Batista's O camaleão no abismo (item bi 89001311). That the old and the middle aged were as persecuted as the young is the subject of a novel by Amaral, Luísa: quase uma história de amor (item bi 89001312). Practically every geographic region of Brazil has generated fiction on the repressive policies of the dictatorship and their impact on Brazilians. In Rio Grande do Sul, Cristaldo's Ponche verde (item bi 90006764) follows a group of individuals through their exile in Europe. In Pernambuco, Berto's Nunca houve guerrilha em Palmares (item bi 91003832) focuses on early struggles at the outset of the military takeover. There is even an ironic narrative of conflicting ideologies, past and future, in Leitão's O hóspede do tempo (item bi 89001303), in which a formerly right-wing father requests help from a liberal friend in order to hide his leftist son from military persecutors.

Additional social and political issues are explored in novels such as Carrero's Viagem no ventre da baleia (item bi 91003827), Lacerda's Manual de tapeçaria (item bi 91003831), and in Escobar's "punky" Speedball (item bi 91003828), a satire on Brazil written in a language filled with foreign words. Coincidentally, the need to preserve and protect the Portuguese language of Brazil against foreign influences is the subject of Bernardes' novel Memorias do vento (item bi 91003829).

The prevalence of satire, irony and parody in Brazilian fiction today is exemplified by novels such as Marcos Rey's allegorical Memórias de um gigolô (item bi 91003812) and A sensação de setembro: ópera tropical (item bi 91003835), a sort of opera buffa. The text of Maranhão's Rio de raivas (item bi 90006763) confirms its author's gloomy perspective whereas Fonseca's Bufo & Spallanzani (item bi 90006767), already translated into English, is a best-seller in Brazil.

A more traditional approach to fiction is apparent in works such as Bulhões' As quatro estações (item bi 91003801), and Bandeira's Espere um pouco, Solano (item bi 91003810), a novel that uses a political pamphleteering style. Oswaldo França Jr.'s No fundo das águas (item bi 91003820) and Portes' Maruim (item bi 90006776) deal with the fate of the doomed populations of two different towns. Rónai's O terceiro tigre (item bi 91003821) concerns an author's tribulations as a novelist. Other personal quandaries are explored by Campos in A boa guerra (item bi 89001289), a narrative about how Brazil's financial problems affect the mental health of a businessman and by Daniel in Alegres e irresponsáveis abacaxis americanos (item bi 89001284), a novel about the predicament of homosexuals. Other personal predicaments are adroitly examined in Celina's Afonso Contínuo, santo de altar (item bi 90006780), a well-crafted literary tribute to a humble man which is also a roman à clef. The nature of love and infatuation between man and woman are treated in two separate novels: Luzilá Ferreira's Muito além do corpo (item bi 91003834), a work of singular spirituality, wisdom, and poetry, and in Luiz Vilela's Graça (item bi 91003814), a witty exploration of a protagonist's macho attitudes towards the novel's female character. A feminist sensibility governs Marilene Felinto's O lago encantado de Grongonzo (item bi 89001288), a novel in which everything a woman values is destroyed.

Novels about the various immigrant experiences in Brazil are well represented in this HLAS volume: the Japanese are featured in Ana Suzuki's Flor de vidro (item bi 89001843) and in Cecília Murayama's Sayonara, e já que assim deve ser... (item bi 91003815); the Italians in Lacava's Vinho amargo (item bi 89001300), which takes place in Rio Grande do Sul; the Germans in Boos Jr.'s Quadrilátero: livro um; Matheus (item bi 89001280); and the Lebanese (or "Syrian-Lebanese" as these immigrants were known at the turn of the century) in Emil Farhat's Dinheiro na Estrada (item bi 89001296) a narrative which unfolds in several geographic areas.

The perennial struggle over the use and ownership of Brazilian land, a leitmotif in the nation's history and literature, is once again the dominant theme of many works of fiction. The abuse and misuse of land by unscrupulous men is portrayed in a new edition of Barroso's Os posseiros (item bi 90006765). Although first published 31 years ago, the novel's depiction of an ancient and widespread problem is as timely today as it was then. Land is also the subject of Carvalho's Carro doce (item bi 90006786), an ironic and bitter portrayal of life among the Northeast's sugarcane planters. Jacob's A gaiola tirante rumo do rio da borracha (item bi 89001321) deals with confrontations between rubber plantation owners and the humble peasants of the Amazon basin. Set in the same region, Tocantins' As ruínas de Suruanã (item bi 91003802) evokes life on the island of Marajó, a region rarely portrayed in Brazilian literature.

A theme inseparable from the Brazilian struggle over land is the subjugation of the nation's indigenous population. Two recent novels depict confrontations between the white man and the first Brazilian natives: Marques' Extermínio (item bi 89001287) centers on colonial policies designed to either convert the Indians to a European notion of discipline, better described as slave labor, or to annihilate them. The other novel, Kuperman's O pai de todos (item bi 89001320) encompasses the entire world but focuses on several Indian villages in Brazil, denouncing iniquities perpetrated against their inhabitants.

Another Brazilian minority group victimized by unfair treatment throughout the nation's history is blacks. Historical novels about African slaves and their descendants still in chains -- actually, if not visibly -- include Pinaud's Malvados mortos (item bi 89001838), a story of the hatred and injustice that permeated the institution of slavery, and also Oscar's Curukango Rei (item bi 91003843) about a black leader nicknamed "King" who led a doomed slave rebellion. The terror experienced by blacks in colonial times also affected whites who happened to hold different religious beliefs from those of the Portuguese colonizers. Neves' prize winning As chamas na missa (item bi 91003823) conveys the persecutions suffered by non-Christians (i.e. "New Christians" and Jews) during the time of the Inquisition. The Church and religion are also the subject of a novel that portrays the little-known, charismatic heroine Santa Dica in Moura's Sete léguas de paraíso (item bi 91003841). Finally, in another historical novel, narrated at many levels, author Maria José de Queiroz tells the story of Joaquina, filha de Tiradentes (item bi 89001319), the natural daughter of "the Martyr of Independence," and the frustrations which eroded her life.

Among other eclectic and recent novels are Horizonte de eventos (item bi 89001281), a "sci-fi" version of the future; Márcio Souza's O brasileiro voador: um romance mais-leve-que-o-ar (item bi 89001315), a satirical interpretation of Santos Dumont's contribution to aviation. Reeditions included A família Agulha (item bi 89001294), a humoristic work about Brazilian society in the 1800s published nearly a century ago by Guimarães Jr.; the renowned Macunaíma (item bi 90006799); and three massive volumes of Josué Montello's works reissued on the occasion of his 70th birthday (item bi 89001279).

To conclude, one can state that the Brazilian novel is enjoying a renaissance. Departures from traditional styles and the success of original and experimental approaches to narrative confirm the vitality of the genre. These new novels attest to the rebirth of creativity in a society formerly frozen by the repression of a police state and still undergoing great socioeconomic turmoil.

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