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Subaltern Writings

Readings on Graciliano Ramos’s Novels


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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Gone Primitive: Readings on Caetés


“Ótima gente! Por fim apaixono-me deles, ponho cueio e vou para o mato, traduzir meus indignos versos em língua de caboclo.” Gonçalves Dias, Letter to Antônio Henriques Leal, October 10th, 18611 “. . . não desvanece porém nunca o receio de ‘perder inutilmente meu tempo a fazer versos para caboclos.’” José de Alencar, Letter in Iracema’s first edition, 18652 Palmeira dos Índios, the town where Graciliano Ramos lived for almost twenty years and which serves as the setting for his first novel, literally means “Indians’ palm tree.” Situated in a piece of land that belonged at first to the Kariri Indians, the name of the town refers to a legend. Long before the Portuguese conquered the land, two Indians, Tilixi and Txiliá, had a forbidden love affair. Although Tilixi had fallen in love with Txiliá, she had been promised to the chieftain Etafé. During a celebration, Tilixi got close to his beloved and kissed her. As punishment, he was sentenced to starvation, and Txiliá was forbidden to see him. Disobeying the prohibition, Txiliá was caught by Etafé, who shot her with an arrow. Mortally wounded, Txiliá died next to Tilixi, and in the exact location where the lovers perished, a beauteous palm tree grew, but only one, not two, as an indication that in death Tilixi and Txiliá were united. As a symbol to posterity, the palm tree 26 | SUBALTERN WRITINGS: READINGS ON GARCILIANO RAMOS’S NOVELS illustrates love’s power over man’s laws. Nowadays, both the Indians and the...

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