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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 10: The Solitary Act before the Letter of the Law (And Final Notes)


C H A P T E R T E N The Solitary Act before the Letter of the Law (And Final Notes) During his childhood, Silva had to face his father’s death. An only child, already orphaned by his mother, what scared Silva was the fact that he had no one else to care for him. During his father’s funeral, Silva is speechless, invisible to others and distanced from the scene in which the dead body is cared for. The body belonged to others, not to the small boy who was the dead man’s son. Shrunk in a corner, Silva embodies the fear of aloneness and is thrust into a state of not belonging and not having any belongings. With his father’s death, Silva is tragically tied to his family’s history, finally realizing the family’s decadence towards an unproductive, decapi- talized social position, which had started with the dissolution of his grandfather’s properties and with the grandfather’s senility. The day after his father’s death, Silva narrates, the creditors grabbed everything they could find. Unknown men entered the store, measured up fabrics and cursed but paid no attention to either the boy or the ex-slave Quitéria, who cowered and moaned “Mercy,” as when the thunders roared in the skies and the animals took shelter in the farm veranda. With the physical absence of the father and the symbolic absence of the name whose credit might still compensate for the family’s increasingly meager economic capital, the creditors cannot but consummate the...

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