CXXXIII (Re) leituras -- Recordações do Escrivão Isaías Caminha, by Lima Barreto, comments by André Bandeira
This is the first novel of the brazilian writer Afonso Henriques de Lima Barreto, a very good writer of the first quarter of the XXtieth Century. Its title could be translated as «Memories of the clerk Isaías Caminha» and it implies that, besides being a Memory of a clerk, this latter remembers as if he was the Profet Isaiah,on pilgrimage. It is his first novel and it describes the life of a young offspring of a negro woman and a portuguese catholic priest, who has been carefully educated in the countryside and, at a certain point, he departs to the capital, Rio de Janeiro, in order to study Medicine. He is an idealist, somewhat dreamer and ignorant of the racism which prevails in Brazil,in the early XXth century. He happens to meet some people who work at one of the main newspapers, he calls «O Globo», incidentally the name of one of the most important newspapers in contemporary Brazil, but which probably stands for the «A Noite», a daily where the author, himself, had been a reporter. In few years, the protagonist thouroughly forgets what he was up to in Rio, he misses the political connections he had there in order to get a decent job and start studying, he even forgets his hard-tried mother, he doesn't have a clue, anymore, of the basic knowledge he had acquired thanks to the strife of his estranged parents. He gets a job as a clerk in the newspaper, he watches the unfolding of the scenes which blend the glamour and the filth of the politically influential press and, at a certain point, thanks to the capricious and dictatorial Director,of which secrets he happens to be up to date, he's promoted to reporter. His numbness about having a sustainable life in Rio, and being part of all that human show, gravitating around the newspaper, suddenly ends up when he realizes he has been stolen of his notes, by a fellow reporter. He recovers them with his fists and he rapidly concludes that sometimes, one has to be violent to get his due.He doesn't get further. The image he gets from the political and social life in Rio is the one which ends up in the newspaper's sink. He only remembers one thing earnest in that amalgama of cowardice, tiranny, frivolity and nepotism. At a certain point, one of the columnists, a diplomat who stayed for a long time in Paris, nicknamed Floc, gets into a real gordian knot, while wording his article on an important lyric «Première». He doesn't manage to assemble the right words in what seems to be a matter of sense of life, for him, and commits suicide over his desk.Here, the author makes a full stop and the novel ends up as if he had married,had a child and finished peaceful and philosophysing in the Rio suburbs, even holding some golden sinecure. As a matter of fact this first novel of a genious who died young and tragically, has very much of autobiographic, but has in it many futures which did never happen. Besides, the bucolic ending has no connection with the reality, whatsoever.Booze and the feeling of guilt, as well has a real insurmountable opposition from a society which kept its racial prejudices in a whirlpool of frivolity and cultural sincretism, made headway in advance. The photography which remains from this novel that is undoubtedlly the manipulation and genetic tiranny which looms behind the so-called public opinion and the oldest institutions of the so-called «open society».