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Volume 62 / Humanities

LITERATURE: BRAZIL: Short Stories


M. ANGÉLICA GUIMARÃES LOPES, Associate Professor of Portuguese and Comparative Literature, University of South Carolina, Columbia

ALTHOUGH NOT AN EXHAUSTIVE EXAMINATION of the Brazilian short story during the last five years, these reviews include several significant works. The story continues as a vigorous genre in Brazilian literature with production by both established and new authors. Stories and "crônicas," adjacent genres, are at times indistinguishable even for their authors (Mendes Campos, Seixas). A short story is defined by Poe as a work of fiction that can be read in one sitting (two hours). For the Russian Formalists, its effect is that of "a bomb dropped from an airplane," as opposed to the novel cast as the panoramic view from the top of a hill. For Sean O'Faolain, a good story must produce/yield "punch and poetry," as well.

The "crônica," however, notwithstanding its medieval literary name, is a less defined genre with few fixed rules, similar to a sketch. Unlike a good story for which "punch and poetry are essential," crônicas can dispense with them. Crônicas started in mid-1800s Brazil as newspaper columns, often wedding "the frivolous to the useful," according to Machado de Assis, the first great "cronista," with whom the genre migrated to the literary side. In the hands of journalists, fiction writers, and poets alike, it has became a hybrid style. With Machado de Assis and numerous other authors it has reached its present literary plateau.

The major scholarly event related to the short story in the last five years is the admirable edition of Machado de Assis' Contos Completos by Djalma Cavalcante (item #bi2005004388#). The two first tomes of Volume I were published in 2003 in handsome books generously illustrated with photographs of Rio de Janeiro's Belle Epoque.

Works reviewed for HLAS 62 included significant prize-winning collections such as Sérgio Sant'Anna's superb O Vôo da Madrugada (item #bi2004003029#), awarded the prestigious Jabuti Prize (not the author's first); Sérgio Telles' Peixe de Bicicleta (item #bi2006000917#): and the six recipients of nationwide and regional categories of the triennial Santa Catarina State Cruz e Sousa Prize. (Sanches Neto, Pimentel, Teixeira, Ambrosio, Bruggemann, and Arantes). This prize honors the great symbolist poet, a Santa Catarina native. There are also triennial Cruz e Sousa prizes for poetry and the novel in the intervening years.

Several collections by deceased authors were issued since the last HLAS volume. Established writers have produced new work and also had past works reissued. Ribeiro Couto's Baianinha, Maricota e Outras Mulheres is an important anthology (item #bi2006000913#). Couto (1898–1963) is one of the major fiction writers of 1920s Brazilian Modernism. His short fiction, like that of Machado de Assis, captures the spirit of Rio de Janeiro. O Último Sábado, the work of a more recent poet and fiction writer, Orlando Bastos, is also outstanding (item #bi2004001180#). He was a contemporary of Carlos Drummond de Andrade who considered him "an exceptional writer." Luiz Fernando Emediato (b.1945), who at 19 received the prestigious Paraná Short Story Prize, and numerous others afterwards, had his stories collected by another prize winner, Ruffato, in Trevas no Paraíso (item #bi2005004399#).

Other distinguished veterans are Márcia Denser, one of the strongest and most daring voices in women's literature in the last 30 years. Her collection, Toda Prosa, reunites previously published and unpublished stories (item #bi2006000906#). Adelia Prado's new Filandras develops her admirable mixture of quotidian earthiness and spirituality (item #bi2003001521#). Another distinguished author, Edla Van Steen evinces her usual dramatic and somber vein (item #bi2005004387#). Poet, "cronista," and fiction author Mendes Campos' stories of thieves were collected in the eponymous volume which, notwithstanding its topic, provides much gentle comedy (item #bi2006000904#). Dalton Trevisan continues on his classic "Curitiba Vampire" path as he brings forth new and vital stories on the dark side of love and sex—from the lyrical to the farcical (item #bi2006000918#).

Thematic collections—variations based on a theme—are also prevalent, either by a single or multiple authors. The18 stories by different writers in Corrupção focus on moral corruption, including political corruption (item #bi2006000905#). Another anthology, Novelas, Espelhos e um Pouco de Choro is composed of stories by television writers, actors, and directors; not unexpectedly, the collection concentrates on their milieu (item #bi2005004386#). Several of the stories follow a soap story paradigm. The strong Histórias dos Tempos de Escola also includes works by a group of authors (item #bi2006000908#). Translated from the original Yiddish by São Paulo college students, Meir Kucinski's Imigrantes, Mascates e Doutores, based on the experiences of Eastern European Jews in Brazil, makes for an impressive collection (item #bi2006000520#).

Two authors chose frightening nonhuman beings as a successful theme. From a theological perspective injected with humor, the Dominican lay monk, Frei Betto, produces fine "diabolical and angelic tales" (item #bi2006000907#), while advertising executive Giulia Moon concentrates on sophisticated vampires, werewolves, and other denizens of the night (item #bi2006000912#). Much lighter though at times as otherwordly are Seixas' cats in 7 Lives (item #bi2004001184#). (In the Portuguese-speaking world, cats have only six extra lives.)

An eminent newcomer, prize winner Luiz Ruffato, organized a collection by 30 women (not all of them new writers) whose work is "helping build Brazilian literature" (item #bi2006000911#). Among the impressive new writers is Sussekind, whose collection of stories, Litoral, is reviewed here (item #bi2006000916#).

The collections examined in this issue of HLAS were published in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Santa Catarina, and Goiás. Of course my examination is not exhaustive, but I do wish there were works published in the Northeast, Center West, and North of Brazil as well.


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