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Volume 58 / Humanities

LITERATURE: BRAZIL


Novels

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


HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BRAZIL! In 2000, official quincentenary celebrations in several regions of the country honored the arrival of the first Portuguese settlers in the new land and the subsequent 500 years of Brazilian history and culture. In the literary realm, novelists too looked to the Brazilian historical landscape, recreating it in fictional terms, either by recounting past romantic interludes, as in Paraguaçu e Caramuru: paixão e morte da nação tupinambá: romance by Assis Brasil (item #bi 96014509#), or by uncovering personal aspects of public figures, as in Anna e outros amores de Tiradentes by Joaquim Borges (item #bi 97013803#) and Joaquina, filha do Tiradentes by Maria José de Queiroz (item #bi 00000281#). Characterizing many of the historical novels is a roman à clef aspect in which actual members of Brazilian society and history interact with fictional characters, as in Noturno, 1894 by Raimundo Caruso, who recreates aspects of the consolidation of the Brazilian republic, including hypothetical dialogues about poet Cruz e Souza (item #bi 96014533#). Fictionalized depictions of historical events also reach beyond Brazilian borders, as in Antônio Olinto's novel of war in northern Africa, Alcacer-Kibir, the title taken from the infamous region from which King Sebastian of Portugal disappeared (item #bi 00000271#).

Revolutions and armed struggles provide the background for several novels portraying the conflict that typified the history of Brazil's southern region. O exílio na terra dos muitos: o romance da fundação do Rio Grande by Antônio Hohlfeldt features the development of the 1742 soldiers' revolution in Rio Grande do Sul (item #bi 96014497#). The combatant south is also described in Antonio A. Fagundes' Destino de Tal: novela gauchesca, which concerns the 1923 war between Chimangos and Maragatos (item #bi 97013825#). Revolutions in Santa Catarina, another southern state, are depicted in two novels, O bruxo do Contestado by Godofredo de Oliveira Neto and O dragão vermelho do Contestado by A. Sanford de Vasconcelos (items #bi 97013810# and #bi 00000270#). Both explore the messianic-political battle led by a monarchist monk in the first quarter of the 20th century. A further portrayal of the embattled southern region is set against the background of the Triple Alliance War; in Netto perde sua alma by Tabajara Ruas, the protagonist is a wounded Brazilian general, unable to move from his hospital bed, but mentally alert enough to plant strategic gossip in his ward (item #bi 97013801#).

The north and northeastern areas are also visited by authors reconstituting history. Many of these novels explore the history of racial, cultural, and gender relations in Brazil. Tróia negra: a saga dos Palmares by Jorge Landmann recounts the ferocious attacks of the Portuguese army against a colony of slaves who escaped from the region's sugarcane plantations (item #bi 00000286#). An exploration of the lives of African slaves in colonial-era Brazil is Heloísa Maranhão's novel, Rosa Maria Egipcíaca da Vera Cruz: a incrível trajetória de uma princesa negra entre a prostituição e a santidade, which realistically depicts the slaves' use of the language of their birthplace, Benin (item #bi 00000272#).

Esther Largman focuses on another aspect of colonial race relations in her tale of a Brazilian native taken to Holland as a slave by his Dutch owner, the Prince Mauritz von Nassau in Jan e Nassau: trajetória de um índio cariri na Corte holandesa (item #bi 97013859#). The Dutch prince appears in another novel, Treliças: balas e gozos na corte de Nassau by Virgílio Moretzsohn, whose mysterious and sensual protagonist, Ana Pais, overcomes the prejudices of her time through her role in the war against the Dutch and through her abilities as a businesswoman (item #bi 96014553#). Os rios inumeráveis by Alvaro Cardoso Gomes examines the cultural conflicts between Europeans and indigenous peoples through 500 years of Brazilian history; the stories are told in language that typifies each of the five centuries (item #bi 00000267#).

Another group of novels examines the lives of Middle Easterners in Brazil—a significant immigrant group whose history has only recently been uncovered and revealed in a variety of literary and historical works. The ubiquitous Jorge Amado delves into this world in his A descoberta da América pelos turcos: romancinho, where the "turcos" are Syrian and Lebanese immigrants arriving in Brazil in the first quarter of the 20th century (item #bi 96014578#). Also focusing on this group of settlers is Ana Miranda's Amrik (item #bi 00000282#), a narrative with a highly original structural frame in which a woman recalls the arrival of her foreign ancestors in São Paulo. Another novel about a descendant of Lebanese immigrants, O papagaio e o doutor (item #bi 00000289#) by Betty Milan, tells of the personal conflicts, painfully revealed through psychoanalysis, of a young Brazilian-born woman torn between the Lebanese world of her parents and her own dual identity. Domingos Pellegrini Júnior also focuses on immigrants in Terra vermelha (item #bi 00000256#), which tells of the first settlers in northern Paraná. The novel's narrative is shared by a grandfather and his grandson, though they are not aware that their stories are complementary.

The same exploration of the past reflected in these novels can also be found in narratives with a more sociological bent, such as A superfície das águas by Hilda Simões L.C. Acevedo (item #bi 00000291#). This novel portrays the decadence of a family of the oligarchy of Rio Grande do Sul with links to both Getúlio Vargas, depicted as a fascist-totalitarian, and his good friend Felinto Müller. Former President Vargas also looms in the background of A morte do presidente: ou, A amiga de mamãe by Maria Alice Barroso (item #bi 96014603#). Another period of dictatorship (1964-85) is re-examined in A ilha no espaço by Osman Lins (item #bi 00000273#). In this allegorical narrative of mysterious deaths and disappearances of tenants in an apartment building, the protagonist remains in his apartment, isolated and alone, as if on an island.

The many re-editions of renowned novels issued this biennium offer reminders that the past is part of the present: a third edition of Clarice Lispector's A cidade sitiada, a reworking of the novel's second edition, has been published (item #bi 00000266#); José Lins do Rego's Cangaceiros is in its ninth edition since it was first published in 1953 (item #bi 96014607#); with his new novel, Ópera dos fantoches, Autran Dourado provides a reconstruction of Tempo de Amar, originally published in 1952 (item #bi 96014659#); and Três casas e um rio by Dalcídio Jurandir, now in its third edition, provides a view of the splendors and miseries of Amazonian dwellers in the island of Marajó (item #bi 00000264#).

Two new novels offer further literary explorations of the Amazon region: Paulo Jacob's Amazonas, remansos, rebojos e banzeiros, which depicts the Amazon river, its caboclo population, and the natural wonders of the area (item #bi 97013850#); and Benedicto Monteiro's Como se faz um guerrilheiro, in which the protagonist boasts of his virility, which he demonstrates by impregnating seven women in this novel's intriguing, symbolic comparison to the river's prowess (item #bi 97013802#).

Other novels published as Brazil celebrates its 500th year keep their gaze on contemporary and future society. Soccer is the main theme of Uma vez Flamengo by Antonio Luis Mendes de Almeida, which reveals the illicit wheeling and dealing of professional sports barely hidden by the façade of vibrant players and cheerful spectators (item #bi 96014608#). At the turn of the millennium, a glimpse into the future of the narrating art is provided by Piritas siderais: romance cyberbarroco by Guilherme Kujawski, who uses Internet lingo and its hermetic terminology in the configuration of this cybernovel (item #bi 96014554#).

Many critical studies of informative value enriched Brazilian studies these past years, such as Heloísa Toller Gomes' As marcas da escravidão: o negro e o discurso oitocentista no Brasil e nos Estados Unidos, a comparative study on race relations in Brazil and in the US that examines selected religious, political, and literary discourses within a determined span of time (item #bi 96014558#). Also of a comparative nature, but within the limits of Brazil, is Teoberto Landim's Seca: a estação do inferno (item #bi 96014662#), in which the author contrasts different dimensions of the drought in fiction, examining works by José de Alencar, Rodolfo Teófilo, Rachel de Queiroz, and Graciliano Ramos, among others. José Ramos Tinhorão also takes a comparative approach with his Os romances em folhetins no Brasil, 1830 à atualidade (item #bi 96014567#). He studies novels published in daily or weekly magazines and newspapers in the 19th century, contrasting them to contemporary "soap operas," characterized by a sequence of daily theater episodes shown on television.

The availability of the Inventário do arquivo de Clarice Lispector, a gift to the Casa de Rui Barbosa in Rio de Janeiro by one of the author's sons, will surely enrich future studies by providing a glimpse of the author's personal world: it comprises a splendid mix of mementos and collected items such as theater tickets and restaurant menus, along with reviews and critiques of her books that she kept in shoe boxes, drawers, or simply left spread out in her apartment (item #bi 96014559#).

Examining this selected array of novels and studies, it is possible to see the rich contribution that authors, literary critics, and others within the fictional realm have made to scholars, academicians, students, and the readership at large, all beneficiaries of a special moment in Brazilian literary history, the celebration of its first 500 years of existence.


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