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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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A Few Other Viventes (By Way of Conclusion)


“Apenas concluiu [sua narração], a altivez do guerreiro desapareceu; ficou tímido e modesto; já não era mais do que um bárbaro em face de criaturas civilizadas, cuja superioridade de educação o seu instinto reconhecia.” José de Alencar, O guarani (1857)1 “. . . nós, cantores novéis, somos as vozes secundárias que se perdem no conjunto duma grande orquestra: há o único mérito de não ficarmos calados.” Casimiro de Abreu, As primaveras (1859)2 “Calado, calado num dá.” Mano Mendi, cimboa player, in Calado não dá (1999), by João Nicolau3 “Vocês entendam minha linguagem porque eu não tenho estudo, nem primário nem superior. Vocês não me pediram, mas eu vou me apresentar a vocês. Gosto de me apresentar com a minha viva voz.” Valter dos Santos, catador, in Waste Land (2010), by Lucy Walker4 A fundamental notion, which Ramos postulates in his crônica “O moço da farmá- cia” (and which I used as epigraph to the Preface) runs throughout this book: the unguided, subaltern writer’s path to writing is marked by stumbling, grop- ing around, and hitting walls. Such notion is what I attempted to bring to light in my readings of both Caetés and Angústia. How do you approach the writing 136 | SUBALTERN WRITINGS: READINGS ON GARCILIANO RAMOS’S NOVELS of an originary, indigenous primitivism?—this is Valério’s question. His sources are unearthed artifacts, Romantic Indianist texts, and contemporary...

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