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Subaltern Writings

Readings on Graciliano Ramos’s Novels

Series:

Rocha Fernando de Sousa

Subaltern Writings focuses on one of the most important Brazilian novelists of the first half of the twentieth century, Graciliano Ramos, and critically examines two of his novels, Caetés and Angústia. The analysis is based on the premise that the reader must bring to the forefront the notion of a subject that is close to non-subjectivity and must develop heterodox forms of cultural production as Ramos himself sketches them. Rather than insisting on the protagonists’ assumed mediocrity or derangement, which has been the norm in previous critical readings of the novels, Subaltern Writings reconstructs how their attempts at composing fictional texts constitute examples of subaltern approaches, often standing alongside «high» cultural production. Unable to enter a circuit of literary writing that silences subaltern speakers, the novels’ protagonists create narratives that, instead of becoming finished objects of consumption, end up as fragments or notes. In this sense, Subaltern Writings consists of exercises in reading an object that resists becoming one. This book will be of great interest to researchers and students of Luso-Brazilian and Latin American studies.

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Chapter 1: In the Beginning Was the Lesser Being (And the Word)

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C H A P T E R O N E In the Beginning Was the Lesser Being (And the Word) “Se se calcular isso direito, o senhor está morto, Seu Varejão.” Graciliano Ramos, Caetés (1933)1 “Não faz mal que vocês desapareçam. Propriamente, vocês nunca viveram.” Graciliano Ramos, Angústia (1936)2 In recalling his arrest in March 1936, because of a State persecution of com- munists (or supposed communists), Graciliano Ramos speculates on his possible culpability, even though he was not affiliated to the Communist Party nor had he been involved in any revolutionary act. Had he not, Ramos ponders, in fact furi- ously desired to see the demise of capitalism and seen with great satisfaction walls plastered with revolutionary slogans? Besides, if they were to put his desires into actions, would they not find enough reason to convict him? He did not loathe the idea of executing property owners just because they owned property, and so it would be reasonable for them to punish him for his intentions (Memórias 1: 46). Despite this period of coercion and lack of freedom, Ramos states, writers should not blame it for not having written or for having produced works of poor or lesser value. For “[l]iberdade completa ninguém desfruta” (“[n]o one enjoys complete freedom”); and yet, “nos estreitos limites a que nos coagem a gramática e a lei, ainda nos podemos mexer” (1: 34; “within the narrow limits with which...

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