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Volume 56 / Humanities

LITERATURE: BRAZIL


Short Stories

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


THE WORKS REVIEWED FOR HLAS 56 include mainly short story collections published between 1993-95 and a few published earlier. Of the 200 or so works examined for this volume, one-quarter were of sufficient literary interest and value for review. Established authors continue to publish works of note (items bi 95019040, bi 95000346, bi 94014467, bi 96013300). Some of these writers, as discussed in HLAS 54, have taken a slightly modified track, as time mellows their social denunciations. Other authors, including some journalists who have made the transition to fiction, present their first published works (items bi 95018990, bi 95000327, bi 95000335, bi 95000322, bi 95000336, bi 95019030, bi 97004873).

Perhaps as a sign of their mellowing, several established writers, such as Fonseca, Giudice, and to some extent Sant'Anna, are continuing to present new, lyrical voices, a trend first noticed in HLAS 54 (see HLAS 54:4775, HLAS 54:4777, and HLAS 54:4798). It must be remembered that when these authors wrote during the repressive decades of the 1960s-70s, they were subjected to censorship, with all its attendant dangers and stringencies. At first prophetic in their denunciations and clamorings for justice, their voices were eventually muffled or silenced until the relaxing of literary censorship in Dec. 1978. Some were journalists who resorted to the allegory as a literary disguise of sorts. Others, most notably Rubem Fonseca, however, continued on their outspoken paths. As a case in point, Fonseca, a lawyer, sued the federal government when his Feliz ano novo (see HLAS 38:7361) was banned.

Although some of these authors returned to journalism proper, many persisted in writing fiction, to the readers' good fortune. Among recent efforts is a superb collection by Lygia Fagundes Telles (item bi 96013300), the doyenne of women writers. Rubem Fonseca has also produced an impressive work (item bixx-xxxx), as have Sabino (item bi 95000346), Giudice (item bi 95019040), and Callado (item bi 95000319). Todt, who started publishing in the 1980s, has written yet another remarkable collection (item bi 95018985). As expected, these mature writers often use official and unofficial historical incidents as topics for their stories. Younger writers demonstrate the same interest in contemporary historical, philosophical, and literary currents.

Among new writers with outstanding collections are Becker (item bi 95000336), A.C. Carvalho (item bi 95000312), B. Carvalho (item bi 95018990), Carrascoza (item bi 95000327), Castro (item bi 95000335), Neubarth (item bi 95000322), and Oliveira (item bi 95000306). Each of these authors exhibits an individual style, yet their works are recognizable as belonging to that of a specific generation. Their concerns encompass a wide range of topics, from material desires to spiritual needs. In contrast to the previous biennium, 1993-95 has not brought forth consistent black and gay short fiction, two important directions in the literature of the Americas.

Given the substantial role women journalists and fiction writers have played in the last 100 years of Brazilian literature, and given that the Brazilian population consists of more women than men, one hesitates to classify short fiction by women as a marginal area. However, it is a given that in the popular mind, women are still associated with the affairs of the heart rather than with the writing of professional literature. One need only turn to the Sunday pages of the prestigious newspaper Estado São Paulo for evidence of this. The aforementioned newspaper's "Caderno Feminino" continues to use the same guiding principles as 100 years ago: romance, children, clothes, and food are still considered to be the female province. Although the women authors examined here are diverse in their styles and topics, most deal with issues of general interest from the vantage point of the female consciousness. Some follow a traditional path (items bi 95000328 and bi 95000315), but the majority employ daring techniques, producing more valuable and stimulating fiction. Becker (item bi 95000336), Calage (item bi 95000339), A.C. Carvalho (item bi 95018990), and Telles (item bi 96013300) produced the most distinguished collections. The focus of these authors is clearly perceived through their tales, although in her preface Pio explicitly and earnestly reminds readers about a "woman's fight to become herself" (item bi 95000333).

As expected, the authors reviewed here are mostly from the southeast. Nevertheless, although the great majority of publishing houses are located in Rio, São Paulo, and Porto Alegre, editorial houses in Santa Catarina have published many good collections this biennium.

In the stories that can be classified as specifically regionalist, the geographic setting is as significant as the characters and story line. Amazonian Manaus is the theme for Souza's collection (item bi 95019012), as northeastern Recife is for Oliveira's superb collection (item bi 95000306). In the latter, allusion and allegory weave an intricate and effective design. Also in the north, São Luiz do Maranhão becomes nocturnal and dangerous. The southeastern metropolises appear in their usual guises: Rio is lively and beach-strewn, while São Paulo is relentlessly consumed by business and industry. Rio is the acknowledged setting for stories by Callado (item bi 95000319), B. Carvalho (item bi 95000327), Giudice (item bi 95019040), and Sabino (item bi 95000346), whereas Campanário (item bi 95000328) and Rheda (item bi 95019032) focus on São Paulo. In the south, Santa Catarina inspires several fine writers as a motif and setting: Athanazio (item bi 95000310), Pereira (item bi 95019011), Ribas (item bi 95018994), and Todt (item bi 95018985). Napp employs Porto Alegre both as a geographical and an allegorical setting (item bixx-xxxx). From the Center-West (Brazil's "far west"), we have on the one hand Ibanhes' optimistic frontier tales (item bi 95000317), and on the other, Jorge's ironic collection featuring Brasília as the site of political power (item bi 95018988).


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