PETER J. SCHOENBACH – New England Conservatory of Music
The appearance of this collection of short stories follows the publication of a novel. Artérias e Becos (Editora Summus, São Paulo) in the same year and another assortment of “contos”, Torpalium (Editora Ática, São Paulo) in 1977. Only 23, Monteiro Martins is an enfant terrible of the emerging group of rebellious writers who are known as the novíssimos. He has enjoyed success, even notoriety, and there are indications that more struggle might have benefited his craft. Nonetheless, despite an unevenness that is disconcerting to the demanding reader, there are genuine glimpses of genius that promise a significant contribution from his future development.
Of the fifteen stories, several stand out, especially that from which the volume takes its title. As an indication of his considerable skill, it is written in the gíria of a Carioca beach boy, full of fumo and surf. Behind the gloss of a carefree existence and the rebellion of an adolescent, there lurks the duplicity of an adult world that is totally cynical. Using her daughter as bait, the modern mother, Simone, snares Tôni into running her dope. When he realizes that she is using him, he turns the tables on her by taking over her business.
Another effective story, “Blocos de Pedra”, poignantly describes a casual but intimate encounter between a hippie artesan and a rootless, nameless girl against the backdrop of Ouro Preto. Reminiscent of an Erica Jong story in its “zipless” joining of two bodies, there is just a touch too much nostalgia belying its surface callousness.
When Monteiro Martins tries to create a larger narrative framework as in “O Livro Chamado O Livro”, or in the several stories in which he targets the military for a bitter, corrosive satire, he is much less convincing. Although the book is dedicated to “os homens da Resistência”, it is stories of Kafkaesque (“O Presente do Nilo”) and/or Borges-like inspiration (“Cães da Madrugada” – “O Admirador”) that are the most dramatically effective. Violence, fear, and exaggeration permeate the volume, with the subconscious very much in evidence. The author uses necrophilia, homossexuality, incest, torture, and all sorts of bodily functions as the material “pour épater la bourgeoisie” to a degree that the sophisticated reader might find sophomoric. However, he demonstrates an uncanny sense of language, varying style, point of view, and dialect from one story to another. In the best ones, these elements are integrated to create some of the most fascinating short stories in current Brazilian letters.
At this time an unpublished collection of poems, As Algemas da Terra, is being pubblished in Swedish. An upcoming anthology in English featuring the work of the novíssimos will include one of the stories from Sabe Quem Dançou?