CXVII- Triste Fim de Policarpo Quaresma, by Lima Barreto, comments by André Bandeira
This novel, possibly translated as «The sad end of Mr. Policarpo Quaresma», is generally described as a novel written by a libertarian writer. Yes, it is from that epoch, whem libertarians didn't have to be rubber-stamped by Ayn Rand to become respectable, but who, nonetheless, stretched from a pacifist Lev Tolstoin, to a genocidal Henri Michel. The writer was a «mulato», with the african and european traits, quite conspicuous in his physiognomy. It is amazing how these characteristics were important, that time. A writer, with such traits, wouldn't be taken seriously, or, alternatively, he had to fight an up-will battle just to be published, not to mention to be respected or live decently. Not everybody had the witchy crafts of Machado de Assis, in the creative streets of old Rio. Lima Barreto died young, as an alcoholic. In this book, he demonstrates, by means of a model civil servant named Policarpo Quaresma, who devoted all his life to Brazil, how a generous ideal may turn into the hallmark of human tragedy. Policarpo didn't marry, he was a diligent civil servant, who even managed to learn tupi-guarani and who dared to propose it as the official language of Brazil. But he had no relevant studies, he was mostly an auto-didact and the boss who received the proposal, felt himself humilliated, by a subordinate, who knew better than him. Then it comes the consulate of Floriano Peixoto, the military who had congeminated the fall of the monarchy, who became the first vice-president of the new brazilian republic, and the second President, reputed as an authoritarian. Marshall Peixoto belonged to that middle-class in Rio, which flirted jacobinism, which abhorred the portuguese still remnant in the Empire's system, and who was able to shoot around to get a centralized Brazil rather than a regional, fragmentable federation. That is why Policarpo, who saluted the advent of the Republic as the realm of merit, and who even managed to get close to the Marshall and pass him a memorandum he spent years on, for the rehabilitation of Brazil's agriculture, misunderstands eveything. When former rivals take arms against Floriano Peixoto -- and they end up defeated (this, at the beginning of a long series of putsches in Brazil) -- the diligent Quaresma dares to ask mercy for some of them, before the death squad lines up. The novel ends with the reader never really knowing whether Mr. Policarpo Quaresma, finishes himself before the death squad, too. Is this the anguished chronicle of a libertarian on the Republic, or a nostalgic evocation of the Empire? Lima Barreto didn't live to tell us. One thing was certain: he longed for a Justice which could never come at gun point. If the scent of the Republic was the one of powder, he, a «mulato», would always be one of the sand bags, or a genetic target, moving in the crossfire.