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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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Chapter 4: Acquisition (ii): Graphic (and Real) Death and the Maiden


C H A P T E R F O U R Acquisition (ii): Graphic (and Real) Death and the Maiden Critics have read Valério’s intent on writing an Indianist historical novel, focus- ing on the cannibalistic historical episode, as an allusion to Brazilian Modernism (Malard 34–35; Teles, “Escrituração” 403–404). However, unlike the reference to both Dias and Alencar as possible models for his writing, Modernist authors and works do not explicitly appear in Valério’s narrative. Nowhere directly referred to in the text, Modernist primitivism is visually evident in the cover that Santa Rosa created for the first edition of Caetés.1 It depicts a man sitting at his desk, paper and pen at hand; a woman’s face, sideways, at the bottom right-hand corner of the picture; and, above the writer, two indigenous warriors who, from the title of the novel, readers may assume to be Caeté Indians. Following a new trend in the book industry in Brazil, which began in early twentieth century and was advanced once publishers such as José Olympio emerged, Santa Rosa conceived book covers as graphic projects whose objective was to add a visual component to the literary text. Besides the title of the book, the name of the author and publishing house, and sometimes the literary genre, the non-verbal element served to establish a first and quicker communication between the book, the author, and potential readers. In Santa Rosa’s view, the art of illustration is only apparently subordinated to the...

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