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Volume 56 / Humanities

LITERATURE: BRAZIL


Novels

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


IN 1995, NÉLIDA PIÑON, the subject of an in-depth study by Moniz (item bi 95000744), was awarded Mexico's international Premio Juan Rulfo, becoming the first Brazilian author to receive that important literary recognition. Another of the accomplished studies on a Brazilian woman writer is Gotlib's critical biographical volume, Clarice: uma vida que se conta (item bi 96013418). Two books of literary criticism include Brazil in their comprehensive studies of Latin American literature: Payne and Fitz focus on Clarice Lispector, Osman Lins, and Guimaraes Rosa as part of a comparative analysis (item bi 95000778), and Schwartz's work, a voluminous study on vanguardism in South America, includes an analysis of its Brazilian counterpart, known as modernismo (item bi 97002084).

It may seem a curious coincidence, but among the female characters who have most challenged critics, the famous character "Capitu" of Machado de Assis' Dom Casmurro reemerges in two fictional works: in Sabino's O bom ladrão (item bi 95000761), in which the protagonist falls in love and marries a woman because of her resemblance to the Capitu of his imagination, and in Sá's Capitu conta Capitu (item bi 95000708), in which the novelist gives the celebrated character an opportunity to respond to (and confirm) her reputation as an adulteress. In another attempt to clarify history, Ferreira's Os rios turvos (item bi 95000764), which was awarded the 1992 Prémio Joaquim Nabuco for biography from the Brazilian Academy of Letters, presents Felipa Raposa, the vilified wife of colonial poet Bento Teixeira, as a woman whose youth, intelligence, and attractive appearance, combined with her husband's neglect, lead her to extraconjugal involvements. These women, pioneers in terms of controlling their own destinies, were followed chronologically by Teresa Margarida da Silva e Orta, an 18th-century rebellious Brazilian writer and daughter of austere Portuguese nobles who spent most of her life in Portugal. Her writings are gathered in Obra reunida (item bi 95000767), with an important introduction and notes by Montez.

In contrast to these women who seem to control their own destinies, others were dragged into a life of degradation, prostitution, and despair, as portrayed in Monteiro's Maria de todos os rios (item bi 95000729), narrated by a woman who has navigated many ignoble rivers during her life; in Largman's Jovens polacas (item bi 95000738), a composite of voices belonging to young Jewish women who were lured across the Atlantic Ocean only to find a wicked fate; and in Chiavenato's As meninas do Belo Monte (item bi 95000765), which reveals the well-kept secret of the selling and exploitation of young girls captured by government forces after the defeat of Canudos in the 19th century.

The military coup of 1964 still casts its shadow on literary writings, as can be seen in Cabral's Xambioá: guerrilha no Araguaia, which portrays the bloody assassinations carried out regularly by police forces from 1970-72 in Araguaia, state of Pará (item bi 95000766). Awarded the second Prémio Osvaldo Orico by the Brazilian Academy of Letters in 1991, Leal's Dia Santo portrays rebellions that started a decade earlier through a tale of a priest caught between the dogmas of his Church and his hope for a future molded by members of the "guerrillas" (item bi 95000681). Existential ponderings occupy the mind of an ex-priest and ex-communist, the central subject of Netto's Isto é o meu corpo (item bi 95000687), while Albergaria's Em nome do filho induces an allegory ("in the name of the son") to expose a father facing a child with AIDS (item bi 95000737). This disease is also the subject of Campos' O massacre, set in a prison where prisoners accelerate the death of AIDS-infected fellow inmates through foul means (item bi 95000763).

This introductory essay should end with a joyful celebration, in spite of the somber aspects of some of the narratives reviewed. A deserved interlude comes with the 84th birthday of Jorge Amado (b. 1912), an event celebrated in Bahia, throughout the rest of Brazil, and around the world. Among the many reference books on Jorge Amado being published in several languages is Rubim's Jorge Amado, 80 anos de vida e obra: subsídios para pesquisa (item bi 95000724), which collects the most important writings published on the most universally recognized Brazilian author. A long and healthy life for Jorge Amado!


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