Monday, 15 March 2010

Literary Cleanup, book #4



















O Barão - Branquinho da Fonseca

First crap book of the year! Let's celebrate! Honestly, I went into this excited, because I had just finished O Mistério da Estrada de Sintra , so I was all like "yeah, let's read some more portuguese authors!" only to become puzzled, bored and frustrated. Despite the title, O Barão - or, at least, the version I have of it - includes 2 more stories, As Mãos Frias and O Involuntário. Let's start with O Barão. The back cover says:

Novelist and short story writer, Branquinho da Fonseca was one of the founders of "Presença", the famous magazine that helped modernize portuguese literature. [...] O Barão probably is Branquinho da Fonseca's most popular book. The author delves in the telluric Barroso hill, deep in the core of Portugal, where he battles with a primitive world that dominates and almost absorbs him. The baron is one of the most fascinating and overwhelming characters of all portuguese literature.

Now, believe me: that last line is complete bullshit. But I'll get to that soon. First of all, it does surprise me that this is the guy who, in some way, was a pioneer in our country. How? I mean, I do get that you have to consider the time this was written in, but the Eça de Queiróz book was, in 1870, a lot more modern than this one, written in 1942. Now that just boggles my mind. How can something written in the middle of a war - well, even though Portugal was sipping on tea waiting for it to end, trying to be as far away from trouble as possible - and sound so self-indulgent, futile and detached from reality? I love how they mention the "telluric" aspect of it, but in reality, the actual place they were in was mentioned quite briefly. It's less about how beautiful and magical the place was and more about how magical and beautiful women are, in general. I think I would have liked not hated it if the book didn't try to be anything else than an ode to the powerful passions stirred by even the simplest of women. I use "simple" because both main characters have huge boners for the lady who makes them dinner. Why? Because OOOH THE COUNTRY THE ROMANCE SHE HAS BREASTS AND I'M DRUNK, BUT NOTHING WILL HAPPEN. There, that's the whole story for ya. And the baron? Self-absorbed, alcoholic douchebag who coerces the school inspector who's staying with him to drink a whole lot even though he will work the next day. Also, he convinces him to run around at 3 am going to some woman's house, to do...something. Being drunk, mostly.

(I love how I have so much to say about a book I didn't like, and yet for Sourcery I only wrote a small paragraph)

What about the other two stories? Well, since you asked, I can tell you that they are equally pointless and unimpressive. All the characters create big philosophical manifestos out of nothing, only to arrive to absolutely no conclusion. Ineffectual, meaningless tripe.

I usually have a rule about stuff I don't like: however bad it was, I will still try to read another book by that author because I don't think you can honestly judge their work having read only a tiny morsel of it. That being said, you can be damn sure I won't be running to library in search of more Branquinho da Fonseca. I have wasted enough time already.


Excerpt:

Já estávamos ambos embriagados. O Barão ergueu-se, fitou-me e disse, de repente triste:
- Vamos beber por uma mulher.
Levantei-me também. Foi tão tal armário e trouxe uma garrafa de champanhe. Berrou:
- Taças!
E tentava tirar o arme da rolha, sem conseguir. Veio a criada e pôs quatro taças sobre a mesa. O arame não saía. Então bateu com o gargalo da garrafa na borda da mesa e o champanhe jorrou em espuma branca. Reparando que estavam mais taças, com as costas da mão atirou duas da mesa abaixo. Eram de reserva. Porém, daquela vez não queria reservas. E ergueu a taça que transbordava. Eu imitei-o, perguntando nebulosamente:
- A que mulher?
- À única!
E bebemos ao mesmo tempo, despejando-as de um só trago. MAs com surpresa notei que o barão tinha ficado subitamente pensativo. Depois, com um gesto solene atirou o copo ao chão e fitou-me, silencioso. Fiz o mesmo, atirei a taça.

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