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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 9: Looming Revolution


C H A P T E R N I N E Looming Revolution In “Arte Moderna,” Menotti del Picchia states that, for those who were against Modernist barbarianism, poets engaged in the new art were “um bando de bol- chevistas da estética, correndo a 80 H.P. rumo da paranoia” (17; “a bunch of Bolsheviks of aesthetics, running at 80 H.P. towards paranoia”). Based on a his- torical coincidence between two revolutions, the aesthetic and the political, this association between bolshevism and art denounces the fear of radical changes that, in both fields, could only take place through violent acts. In literature, the violence against passadismo, a term Modernist poets used to refer to artists who clung to an “old” aesthetics that, in their view, was anachronistic with the present times, entailed the adoption of free verses as well as themes, figures, and situations that were relevant for modern life. What matters, in Picchia’s words, is to hear the con- temporary anguish and glory that one finds in present-day odysseys: “a do operário reivindicando seus direitos; a do burguês defendendo sua arca; a dos funcionários deslizando nos trilhos dos regulamentos; . . . a do aristocrata exibindo o seu fausto; a do político assegurando a sua escalada; a da mulher quebrando as algemas da sua escravidão secular . . .” (23; “of the industry worker claiming his rights; of the bourgeois defending his money chest; of the employees sliding on the tracks of regulations; . . . of the aristocrat exhibiting his opulence; of...

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