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Volume 52 / Humanities

LITERATURE: BRAZIL


Crônicas

RICHARD A. PRETO-RODAS, Professor, Division of Modern Languages and Linguistics, University of South Florida

MANY OF THE SELECTIONS chosen for this section underline the crônica's paradoxical nature as a genre dependent on ephemeral topics which nonetheless assumes permanent literary significance in the hands of a talented writer. Decades after appearing in newspapers, magazines, and anthologies, many long unavailable pieces by some of Brazil's most popular authors are once again readily accesible. Accordingly, fans of such masters as João do Rio, Carlos Drummond de Andrade, Rubem Braga, Raquel Queiroz, and Fernando Sabino can now renew their acquaintance, and young readers can savor the best crônicas from the first half of this century. With respect to Carlos Drummond de Andrade, a recent publication of his final columns from the Jornal do Brasil (item bi 90002840) provides a fitting conclusion to an astonishingly long and fruitful cultivation of a genre that few would still regard as "minor."

Besides the reissues of anthologies long out of print, there are fine examples of collections by younger writers who build on past successes in other areas, such as the novelist João Ubaldo Ribeiro (item bi 90002853), the poet and essayist Affonso Romano de Sant'Anna (items bi 90002852 and bi 90002838), and the memorialist Eliezer Levin (item bi 90002834). Moreover, the trend towards the crônica as a national genre no longer confined to Rio de Janeiro continues in these collections by writers for newspapers from north to south. Little Santa Catarina, for example, is home and setting for no fewer than five of the works annotated below: Sousa (item bi 90002844) Cardozo (item bi 90002875), Hamms (item bi 90002836), Costa Ramos (item bi 90002846), and Souza (item bi 90002856), while Brasília serves as the focal point for the journalist Márcio Cotrim (item bi 90002867). There is also something of a first in the work of Nei Costa whose Ciranda da cidade (item bi 90002848) began not on the written page at all but rather as commentary over the radio for a São Paulo station.

Since the crônica is sparked quite literally by anything of interest, its thematic content defies classification. One can, however, detect certain preferences that reflect the times. As noted in 1986 and 1988, the turbulent state of Brazilian society in an era of little censorship accounts for the interest in topics pertaining to inflation, crime, social disintegration, and ecological disasters. There is also increasing awareness of the need for a feminist perspective as evidenced in works by Affonso Romano de Sant'Anna (items bi 90002852 and bi 90002838) and Lindolfo Paoliello (item bi 90002864). They also, along with others, express growing concern over AIDS in Brazilian society. Not surprisingly, the general tone has grown more reflective and a bit pessimistic in comparison to older writers or, indeed, in comparison to earlier works by veteran practitioners of the genre who now express a darker view of reality. To be sure, one can also find many comic moments including a peculiarly Brazilian penchant for malice and risqué situations as demonstrated by Hamms (item bi 90002836) and Drummond (items bi 90002837, bi 90002840, bi 90002841, and bi 90002870).

An especially noteworthy development concerns a self-conscious use of language and genre as point of departure. Thus, there are moments when Portuguese itself is the topic. The subtlety of grammar, for instance, is a topic in Sabino's As melhores crônicas (item bi 90002862), while Paoliello (item bi 90002864), Sant'Anna (items bi 90002852 and bi 90002838), and Ramos (item bi 90002846), lament the proliferation of technical and bureaucratic jargon at the expense of a more direct use of language. A curious inversion of the traditional linguistic standard is suggested by Ubaldo Ribeiro's humorous reflections on the impact of Brazilian soap operas on the speech patterns of television viewers in Portugal (item bi 90002853). The crônica itself, whether as a genre or a journalistic event, provides thematic material for Hamms (item bi 90002836), Bergman (item bi 90002859) and Cardozo (item bi 90002875), while all of Carlos Drummond de Andrade's De notícias e não-notícias (item bi 90002837) is an exercise in adapting the genre to the style and tone of a newspaper's sundry departments.

The selections below represent only one reader's choice of the best from dozens of collections, and even these can be further ranked with respect to literary significance. As a genre, however, the crônica certainly provides the most graphic portrayal of contemporary Brazilian society in all its colorful diversity and exuberance.


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