CXVI – Contos Novos, Mário de Andrade, comments by André Bandeira
These «New Tales», by Mário de Andrade, who died at 52, in 1945, were projected to be titled «Worse Tales» if they ever had to be accomplished, before death came on the way. Generally, they protest what the week of 1922, strived for: that one could interject modernity in Brasil, without changing deeply social conditions. From the point of view of a bipolar mind, what Mário de Andrade was contending for, was that technological and mental progress would only pierce through, if there were a kind of socialism, to be implemented in Brazil. However, while reading these tales, one gets the notion that Mário de Andrade was very much critic of what socialists and communists were looking for. In the tale «First of May», he describes the generosity of a warlike young worker, ready to punch a policeman, anytime that day, as naif, narcisistic and brute energy, mostly arising from a burgeoning nature than any reasonable consistency. It is the same burgeoning nature which gives a place for homossexuality in « Frederico Paciência», this said, in the early forties, of the XXth Century. But that doesn’t work for the other tales. Social inequality becomes human disgrace, only when the people responsible for the others (not only the boss, but also the collection of «others») make no effort, or simplily are nescient about an individual drama. That is why, in the last tale «A camisolinha» («The little night-gown»), a child of somebody, we would say today was rising from Class D, to middle-Class C, offers a starfish, to a portuguese worker, «skinny and barbaric» he was, finally unloading to the sympathetic child, why he is standing there, infinitely sad about his moribund wife and seven children («bad luck!», he sighs). The child ends up injuncting the disgraced immigrant to accept that sign of good luck, which is everything that he has, a child who doesn’t even have underwear, besides his ridiculous «little night-gown» he’s been dressed in. No wonder Mário de Andrade died young, with a heartattack. How to reconcile collective compulsions with individual drama? «Nelson» stands for his most mysterious tale: a former rich landlord, happily married to a parguayan, abbandoned by the wife in the sequence of the brazilian-paraguayan war, and who, after surviving the wounds of some civil war in Brazil, lives the rest of his life, gossiped around and misantropic. It is time to say that the enormous heart of brazilian middle-class, descends from a latin-american ancestry, whose very heavy luggage, was the final thing, the worker of «First of May», found to exert his burgeoning muscles. An old man had tried to put his heavy suitcases on the tram, but he stopped, scratching his head, till the young worker came along.