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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 6: Among Bulls and Goats


C H A P T E R S I X Among Bulls and Goats One of the most crucial aspects of Silva’s narrative in Angústia is that he embod- ies the dissolution of a once affluent family that belonged to the land oligarchy. Such dissolution pervades all of the family members’ life trajectories, in particular his own. His very name—the one to which he must respond at all times—already indicates an erasure, signaling the family’s socio-economic decline: his grandfather had been named Trajano Pereira de Aquino Cavalcante e Silva; his father, Camilo Pereira da Silva, whereas he was a mere Luís da Silva (Brayner, “Graciliano Ramos” 209).1 From one generation to the next there is an increasing reduction, which Silva himself notes in relation to his father’s name, reduced to Camilo Pereira da Silva, and which critics such as Candido have underscored (“Ficção” 38). That Camilo’s name is a reduced form of his father’s only evinces the loss of the most prestigious surnames (Aquino Cavalcante), which results in a nominal value of the proper noun, so to speak. The value of Camilo’s name would have to be derived from the capital Camilo might accumulate on his own and through his feats, rather than by means of the inherited symbolic capital with which socially recognized family names are invested. Operating on the symbolic level, the name reduction parallels that of economic capital, evident in the family’s dilapidated assets: the cattle is reduced in number to...

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