Thursday, 30 June 2011

Literary Cleanup, book #12*

*Because it totally counts as a "book on my shelf", even though I had to read it for a class I was taking this year. Well, college caught up with me and I pretty much lost my mind. Couple that with the fact that getting through Dirk Gently's Holistic Agency is proving to be incredibly difficult, and you have a span of almost a year between the last book I reviewed (I use that word loosely, of course) and this one.



Nome de Guerra - Almada Negreiros (avaliable at your local library)

Apart from Manifesto Anti-Dantas and some of his paintings, I knew very little about Almada Negreiros. In fact, I didn't even know how much of a pioneer he was. We can see his work throughout Portugal, be it sculptures, paintings, quotes or murals, he's kind of...everywhere, really. But that's a subject for another post. For my money (or no money, really, since I use libraries religiously, and I advise you all to do the same), is it worth it to read "Nome de Guerra"?

I'd say that it's worth it for what it is. I'll explain. It's Negreiros' only novel and it's a very important work for its time. Though it was published in 1938 it was written much, much earlier, in 1925. Which means that it actually coincided with the Presença magazine movement, which Negreiros was also a part of. I'd say it's a very relevant book in portuguese literature...but I didn't really like it.

It has a very fragmented structure, so you learn the story from short snippets that are not directly linked, sometimes. The main guy is called Luís Antunes and he's a small town, simple guy. You can see already where this is going, right? If your hunch was "goes to the city, gets amazed by the sights and the women", you are correct. He eventually meets a prostitute who calls herself Judite and starts a sort of journey where he discovers who he really is. The book doesn't end with him feeling bad about being "tainted" and wanting to go back to his simple country life. No, that's...the middle of the book. And then the realizes that he is a new man and that he will make his own life wherever he wants to. And that both Maria (his country bride) and Judite were the same: just steps to reach his final goal of fully knowing himself.

The book is also peppered with lots of monologues from the narrator in which he discusses peculiar aspects of life (such as why we have names in the first place), that serve as a parallel for the events Antunes goes through, but they can also be interpreted as his own introspection, albeit with a distant tone.

In itself, as I've mentioned, it's a very interesting piece, but it didn't captivate me. Perhaps it was because I had read similar-themed works that I quite enjoyed (A Queda Dum Anjo being one of them) or maybe it was just his style of writing, but really, it all boils down to the fact that I couldn't relate to anything. Well, except for the brothels.

Excerpt:

Por sorte, a vaca não tem apelidos de família para lhe complicarem a existência. Mas, como é animal doméstico, vem a dar-lhe na mesma que tenha ou que não tenha apelidos. O ser animal doméstico faz com que fique dentro da circunscrição dos apelidos da família em casa de quem serve. A vaca é «Pomba», «Estrela», «Aurora» ou «Vitória» como uma pessoa podia ser apenas José, Maria, Luís ou Judite. É a domesticidade que leva a estas designações e para evitar o opróbrio da fria enumeração. São feitos da gentileza com facilidades para distinguir. Mas a verdade é que o facto de alguém ser Joana ou Manuel já é mais do que ser apenas homem ou mulher. Ser homem ou mulher é apenas a natureza; chamar-se João ou Manuela já é a natureza mais a vida inteira: é o problema. E se o João é Sousa e a Manuela é Pereira, então, à natureza e à vida junte-se-lhes ainda por cima a existência e complicou-se o problema.

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