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Volume 54 / Humanities

LITERATURE: BRAZIL


Short Stories

MARIA ANGELICA GUIMARAES LOPES, Associate Professor, Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese, University of South Carolina, Columbia

THE NUMBER OF SHORT STORIES PUBLISHED in the last four years continues to decline, a trend that began in the early 1980s. The previous proliferation of stories attested to the reading public's interest as well as to the venturesome spirit of publishing houses. The present reduction can be attributed to Brazil's economic problems which, in turn, are having a beneficial effect in that mediocre books are no longer being published.

Established writers continue to produce fine works (items bi 92019921, bi 93011238, bi 93011240, bi 93012227, bi 92019919, and bi 92019909), many of which reveal a new mellowness and compassion mingled with humor, in stark contrast to the more judgemental stories of past years and their castigation of bourgeois sins. As can be expected, the long shadow of 20 years of military rule compounded by the 1970s economic debacle are no longer dominant; the evils of dictatorship appear only in isolated stories. However, one wonders whether the 1992 Collor operetta and its consequences will generate another wave of cynicism in future stories currently being written.

The 50 or so books selected for HLAS 54 are of aesthetic, technical, and topical interest. They can be classified according to various criteria, including ideology, subject matter, and geography. Insofar as ideological trends are concerned there are fewer manifestations than in previous years. Feminist writers (e.g., items bi 93014597, bi 92019910, bi 93014599, and bi 93014598) are less "engagé" than those pursuing Afro-Brazilian themes. For example, in Vol. 14 of Cadernos Negros (item bi 94003747) the Quilombhoje movement (see HLAS 52:4581) attests to the earnestness and vitality of Brazil's black movement today, as do the Afro-Brazilian writers Rodrigues and Assis in their stories (items bi 93011198 and bi 92019899). Other collections deal with racial, sexual, and other social injustices, topics that Guimaraes, in particular, examines with gravity and literary power (item bi 93011234).

As usual, important collections have been reprinted for use in college entrance exams and courses. Others have been issued as homages to their authors. Some contemporary ones have become classics such as Lispector's A legiao estrangeira, now in its 10th printing (São Paulo: Editora Siciliano, 1992), and Fonseca's A colera do cão, currently in its 4th printing (São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 1991). Another scholarly edition of stories by the great Machado de Assis has been exquisitely printed and illustrated and is available as part of Livraria Garnier's Coleção dos autores célebres da literatura brasileira. The original editions of these works have been annotated in previous Handbooks. Joao do Rio, long considered a premodernist, has shown interest in the cultural and aesthetic aspects of early 20th-century Rio de Janeiro in his recent two volumes, one of which is a scholarly edition (item bi 92019904). Literary homages to outstanding living and deceased writers offer new anthologies of their work: Coutinho (item bi 93011233) Lara Resende (item bi 93011236), Pólvora (item bi 92019911), and Ramos (item bi 93014589). Other successful authors who have reissued collections modified by the inclusion of new stories and new titles are exemplified by L.F.Telles (item bi 92019918) and J.U. Ribeiro (item bi 92019895).

Some new authors continue to experiment and receive literary prizes such as those from Paraná state, Nestlé, and Guimaraes Rosa. The writers Capistrano (item bi 93011202), Ganem (item bi 93011201), Coelho (item bi 92019886), and Strausz (item bi 92019910) are daring and postmodernist in their approach and themes while others succeed in presenting viable surrealistic fables (items bi 93011199, bi 92019887, bi 93014595, and bi 93011221). These attempts have been original and successful, a feat if one considers the pervasiveness of magic realism in the last two decades, not all of it good literature.

Two other minor but significant trends are evident in stories that are consistently violent (item bi 92019898) or erotic (items bi 93011202, bi 93011239, and bi 92019905).

In a country where the climate ranges from tropical summer in the north to winter in the south, it would seem appropriate to organize fiction according to geographic regions. Nonetheless, regionalism is not a limiting factor as Graciliano Ramos, Guimarães Rosa, and others have shown. Even though linguistic practice and peculiarities from one region may hinder a reader's comprehension of another, the challenge should not deter his or her interest. Two Amazonian writers annotated below are of more topical than literary value. Of the two, it is the apprentice M.P. Ribeiro (item bi 93014584) and not the celebrated writer Engrácio (item bi 92019898) whose ecological concerns move readers. Several northeastern states have issued collections on this unique region, a civilization nourished by medieval lore and feudal traditions commonly celebrated in improvised song and poetry. Ceará's Maciel (item bi 92019887) and Pinto (item bi 92019915) deliver the sentiment and verve one associates with this area of Brazil. Tales by Pernambuco's Arraes (item bi 92019924), Felinto (item bi 92019908), Lemos (item bi 92019919), and Souto Maior (item bi 93011199) echo life in big cities and canefields in themes and styles that are uniquely varied. Bahia is represented by Pólvora (item bi 92019911) and Ribeiro (item bi 92019895). As for the sertão, that mythical yet real arid territory encompassing many states in addition to northeastern ones, it is featured in tales by Goiás' writers Coralina (item bi 92019894) and Vieira (item bi 93011216); by Minas Gerais' writers Pereira da Silva (item bi 93011218), Kleinsorge (item bi 93011226), and Melo (item bi 93011221); and São Paulo's writers Junqueira (item bi 93011204). The Paulista writers Lygia and Sérgio Telles (items bi 92019918 and bi 93014590) deal with their huge industrial city in which factory workers, corporate managers, intellectuals, and artists lead accelerated and stressful lives. As for the Rio de Janeiro featured in Sant'Anna's work (item bi 92019909), it shares much with João do Rio's vision of the city. Worthy representatives of the south who convey its rich history and folklore are Faraco (item bi 92019921), Kiefer (item bi 93011227), Schlee (item bi 90006391), and Todt (item bi 93011203).

To conclude, we must register a sad note: Brazilian literature recently lost two important story writers, Ricardo Ramos and Otto Lara Resende. Both have been posthumously honored by anthologies. Resende's O elo partido (São Paulo: Editora Atica, 1992) consists of a selection from his magnificent, As pompas do mundo (see HLAS 38:7399).


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