South Atlantic Modern Language AssociationThe Destruction of Realism in the Short Prose Fiction of João Guimaráes RosaAuthor(s): Allan EnglekirkReviewed work(s):Source: South Atlantic Review, Vol. 47, No. 1 (Jan., 1982), pp. 51-61Published by: South Atlantic Modern Language AssociationStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3199610 .Accessed: 27/04/2012 14:09Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at .http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jspJSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range ofcontent in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact email@example.com. South Atlantic Modern Language Association is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to South Atlantic Review.http://www.jstor.org
The Destructionof Realism in the ShortProse Fiction of JoaoGuimaraes Rosa ALLANENGLEKIRK T COMPOSEprose fiction is to create a world-a structurethat portrays fantasy or reality by describing or interpreting anouter, physically defined setting and/or an inner, spiritually de-fined ambient. It is one persons world, whose parameters aredetermined by an artist with a given purpose, or purposes, di-rectingthe process of creation.The outsider, or reader, may acceptthese parametersor establish different contours or dimensions forthis structure, depending upon perceptive capabilities and per-spective. The end result is the evolution of a world that is manydifferent worlds for many different readers, yet never nearly ascomplete or complex as life, for it is art, and artalone, that has beencreated. The boundary separatingthe imaginaryand the real in the noveland short story was generally well-delineated in the late nine-teenth century. The imitationof life in art, the primaryobjectiveofthe Realist, was not a revolutionarydoctrine. What made Realismso unique was the spirit, the quest for "truth," which motivatedthe artists who chose to approach art from this perspective. Plot,characterization,language, and narrativetechnique in the Realistnovel were all developed with the goal of objectivity as a funda-mental concern. Sentimental,idealistic, or fantasticdistortionweregenerally eliminated by a writer dedicated to visualizing the exactappearanceof characterand ambience, for it was only through themost faithfulportrayalof life that truth could be revealed. A "slice
52 Allan Englekirkof life" was exposed to the reader, and the indiscriminateeye of anarratorattempted to present as thorough a portraitof life as hadsupposedly ever been depicted by art. As the twentieth century progressed, however, the artist beganto question the meaning of reality, whether it was possible for artto captureit, and whether this goal should be the primaryconcernof the artist. The line between the fantastic and the real becameimperceptiblein many works of prose fiction as writers were lesspreoccupied with reflecting mere surface reality and more intenton creating, or suggesting, more profound or revolutionaryimages. Realism as it had come to be known in the pages ofnineteenth-century fiction vanished into a fictional narrative inwhich recognizableobjects, people, and situations were no longernecessary parts of the total construct. In the fictional world ofmany contemporarynovelists or short story writers, "realism"isnow a term whose natureis determinedby the subjectiverenditionor interpretationof life emerging from the intellect of an imagina-tive artist. The fictional world created by Joao Guimaraes Rosa was quiteunique to the pages of Brazilianliterature.The immediate reactionto his first works of prose fiction was not unmitigated praise. Sagarana, Corpo Baile,and especially Grande de were Sertao:Veredas intricately conceived structureswhich stood in striking contrast to most other works of fiction in Brazilian literature. The authors perspective was quite often puzzling and unfamiliar. Even more confusing was the "quase mania do pensamento sentencioso" of various narratorsor protagonists and the preference of the author for employing a plurisignificant language replete with obscure phrases and neologisms.2 GuimaraesRosas fiction suffered in the eyes of many criticsfor failing to capture the world as it truly was but ratherpresenting "uma transcridao eminentemente literariada realidade"-the implication being that the author placed far too little emphasis on what was said and far too much emphasis on how it was said.3 It was precisely because GuimaraesRosas works were such an imaginativeand artistic"literary transcriptionof reality,"however, that they eventually attracted such national and internationalac- claim. Well before his death in 1967, the significanceof Guimaraes Rosas contribution to Brazilian letters was recognized. For the German literary critic Gunter Lorenz, Guimaraes Rosa was the "fundador de una nueva orientacion literaria" in Brazil, thus veinte."4 placing him "entre los autores mas importantesdel siglo
SouthAtlanticReview 53 Accordingto Assis Brasil,"a nova ficgo brasileira" began with the narrative of this singular mineiroauthor.5 Luis Harss referred to GuimaraesRosas sole novel, Grande Sertdo:Veredas, "una de las as tres o cuatro novelas mas acabadas de la literaturalatinoameri- cana,"6and the Brazilianwriter Augusto de Campos expressed a similar sentiment in stating "ninguem podera construir qualquer coisa em prosa brasileira, pretendendo ignorar o GrandeSer- tdo:Veredas."7 GuimaraesRosas influence on Brazilianletters was considered to be so pervasive by many criticsas to warrantdivid- ing twentieth-centurynational prose fiction into those works pub- lished before and after the publication of his fiction. The purpose of this paper will be to characterizethe nature of realism in GuimaraesRosas later works of prose fiction-namely in Primeiras Estoriasand Tutameia. a purely superficial level, On GuimaraesRosas first works depict worlds vaguely reminiscentof those defined by Afonso Arinos, MarioPalmerio,and other writers of the regionalist traditionof Brazilianletters. A complex cultural phenomenon, regional literaturein Brazil has ranged from idea- lized interpretations of picturesque rural scenes, to powerfully graphicvisualizations of the confrontationbetween man and land, and GuimaraesRosas works are an importantpart and product of this tradition. There is, however, in his prose literature, an ap- parent progression away from the mimetic reproductionof verisi- milar charactersand settings as the author destroys traditionally defined realism in many of his later works by transforming the nature of the fictional worlds in these narratives through his approach to characterization,plot, language, and narrativetech-nique. In concentrating on PrimeirasEstoriasand Tutameia,thispaper will attempt to show how certainspecific narrativesof theseworks question the meaning of truth and reality and producewithin their texts not so much an illusion, but more so the dissolu-tion of reality-being less a presentation of the concrete andparticularand more a perusal of the abstractand theoretical.8 Most of the narrativesof Primeiras Estoriasand Tutameia evolvefictional worlds relatively similar to those in previous volumes ofprose fiction. In an interview with GunterLorenz, GuimaraesRosaacknowledged his profound ties to the sertdo Braziland asserted ofthat a spiritual identificationwith this specific area of the countrywas one of the most important factors determining the content,and very often the theme of his works of prose fiction. In com-menting on the label given him by Lorenz-"o homem do ser-tao"-Guimaraes Rosa stated:
54 Allan Englekirk Eu sou mesmo antes de tudo, este homem do sertao, e isto nao e somente uma constataqao biografica, mas tambem ... esta presente como ponto de partida mais do que qualquer outra coisa . o pequeno mundo do sertao ... e paramim o simbolo, diriamesmo o modelo de meu universo.9Vaqueiros, jagungos,fazendeiros,gypsies, simple country folk, beg-gars, prostitutes, blindmen, street urchins, crazed people, reli-gious zealots, etc.-the full cast of regional charactersevident inany of the authors previous works are still a prominent feature inthe narratives of his final volumes. Typical conflicts identifiablewith the regional setting, with regional literaturein general, andwith a vast majorityof GuimaraesRosas previous works likewisepropel action:conflictsof man versus man, triggeredby love, hate,greed, vanity, jealousy; conflicts of man versus self, arising fromindividual anxieties caused by psychological or physical factors;and conflicts of man versus nature, resulting from the oftentimespowerless position of man in confrontinga potentiallyperilous andalways unpredictablenaturalworld. Expandingbeyond the boun-daries of the Braziliansertao,the narrativesof Primeiras and EstoriasTutameia also reveal aspects of existence common to humanity in general-in these volumes, to a far greater extent than in his previous works. The illusion of reality presented in many of these tales transcends the immediate, being regional in detail and uni- versal in perspective. Not all the narrativesof Primeiras and Estorias Tutameia, however, present thoroughly recognizable or credible worlds. In certain instances, events portrayed in a narrativeare verisimilar,but the author makes them seem fantasy-likein nature. A young lady in "Arroio-das-Antas" Tutameia taken away from a depressing in is setting by a man on horseback. Both setting and action are plausi- ble, but the surprise ending is definitely designed by the author to erase the line between the imaginaryand the real, for the man who saves the girl is portrayedas a chivalrous knight, appearing from nowhere on a swift and large horse to gallantly claim a pure maiden and take her off to live and love happily ever after: E vinha de la um cavalo grande, na ponta de uma flecha-entrante a estrada. Em galope curto, o Mogo, que colheu redea, recaracolando,desmontou-se, desco-
South Atlantic Review 55 briu-se. Senhorizou-se:olhos de dar, de lado a mao feito a fazer caricia-sorria, dono. Nada; senao que a queriae amava, trespassava-se de sua vista a presenca. Ela per- cebeu-o puramente; levantou a beleza do rosto, reflor. Ia. E disse altinho um segredo: Sim.10 With this ending, the illusion of reality is diminished by giving it an air of fantasy-a reality too perfect to be real. In other narratives, the events themselves, rather than the manner in which they are portrayedby the author, lack verisimili- tude. At times, unlikely occurrences are purely symbolic-such being the case in "A TerceiraMargemdo Rio" in Primeiras Estorias, where a man decides to spend the remainderof his life in a canoe in the middle of a river. In other instances, fantasy overpowers reality, as occurs in "Seqiiencia"in Primeiras where a cow Estorias, with mystical powers leads an unexpecting lad a considerable distance to meet and immediately fall in love with his wife-to-be. Willi Bolle classifies "Seqiiencia," "Luas de Mel," and "Substan- cia" of Primeiras Estorias "modernoscontos de fadas," the first of as the three labeled as such because a "magic helper"-the cow- plays an integral part in plot development and climax." Othernarrativesof the two volumes present a horse that drinks beer, apriest that momentarily becomes a pig, and "a very white boy,"who, to the consternationof all in the story, disappears into thinair. In these tales, verisimilitude does not determine the coordi-nates for setting or action and, according to Paulo R6nai, "naofuncionam nem as leis da casualidade nem as da logica."12 Many narrativesof Primeiras Estoriasand Tutameia which couldnot be classified as fantasy possess protagonists who successfullyconstruct their own imaginary worlds and live in them. Theirperception of reality is quite distinct from the more "logical" or"rational"perspective of the characterswho surround them andthey are usually considered as laughing stock by these individuals.Jon Vincent labels the "irrational" protagonistsof Primeiras Estoriasand Tutameia liminal beings, with liminality defined as "an asontologicalstate in which the reflectivethreshold being is expectedto develop new perceptions of the relationships in his world.. . . "13 The man in "A TerceiraMargem do Rio" who determinesto pass his life in the middle of the river symbolizes the stance ofmany such liminal figures whose actions are apparently irrationaland certainlynot verisimilar,but whose conviction to seek a third
56 Allan Englekirkbank to the river-to define truth and reality other than the way itis defined by most-sets them aside as heroes in the narrativesinwhich they appear. Three consecutive tales in Tutameia-"JoaoPorem, o CriadordePerus," "Grande Gedeao," and "Reminisqao"-likewise possesssuch liminal characters. The importance of these tales is high-lighted by the author in his setting them outside the alphabeticalorder accordingto title in which the other narrativesare arranged.Appearing after "Intruge-se,"the first letter of each of the threeseparatetitles spells J.G.R.-the authors initials. Each protagonist forin these narrativesrejects "reality."In "ReminisSao," example,Romao, the shoemaker, falls in love with and marries a womanwho is anything but attractive: Divulgue-se a Dra:cor de folha seca escura, estafermiqa, abexigada, feia feito frituraqueimada, ximbe-ximbeva; primeiro sinisga de magra, depois gorda de odre, sempre pr6priaa figura do feio fora-da-lei.Medonha e ma; nao enganava pela cara.14Inexplicably,"Romao ... gostou dela, audaz descobridor ... pu-desse achar melhor neg6cio. Mas ele tinha em si uma certa mate-matica."5Despite her unattractivenessand unfaithfulness, Romaocontinues, seemingly blindly, to love Dra, though no one canunderstand why this is so until he is at the point of death. In hisfinal hours, as Romao stares adoringly at his wife, for a fleetingmoment, those people surroundinghis bed see Dra as Romao hasundoubtedly envisioned her from the beginning: Romaopor derradeirose soergueu, olhou e viu e sorriu, o sorriso mais verossimil. Os outros, otusos, imaginan- imes, com olhos emprestadosviam tambem, pedacinho de instante: o esbocoso, vislumbranqaou transparecen- cia, o aflato! Da Dra, num estalar de claridade, nela se assumia toda a luminosidade, alva belissima... 16 In almost all the stories with liminalfigures, the world surround-ing these figures is life-likeand verisimilar,yet the validity of truthor reality as presented in these worlds is brought into questionwhen the author suggests the existence of other levels of realityand champions the cause of those charactersable to penetrate tothose levels.
SouthAtlanticReview 57 With each new work of fiction, the question of illusion versus realityfor GuimaraesRosa assumes increasingimportance,becom- ing in Grande Sertdo:Veredaspreoccupationbasic to the theme of a the narrative. Riobaldo, the protagonist of this, the authors sole novel, is infinitely perplexed by the ambiguous nature of any "reality" perceived by man and constantly doubts his ability to distinguish, or the validity of his distinction, between truth and falsehood. He is concerned over the possibility of his being an unreliablenarrator-a narratorwhose perception of events mightbe overly influenced by his personal perspective and lead him to distort or interpret reality rather than re-create it as it occured.Many of the narratives of PrimeirasEstoriasand Tutameiacall attention in similarfashion to the validity of "reality"as perceivedby those telling the tales. "Antiperipleia,"in Tutameia, narratedinfirst person, relates the incidents surroundingthe death of a blindman as told by the dead mans formerguide. The narratorsuggests several possible alternativesto explain the death of the blind man,defending the veracityof his story and denying any involvement inthe death, but the reader realizes the dubious value of this "real-ity" as it is proposed by Prudencinhano,the narrator,for it seemsall too possible that truth is being obscured. The narrators eyes areno longer indiscriminate in perspective, but instead see realityfrom a purely subjective position. The narration ends with themystery of the blind mans death unresolved and the reader mustdecide which version of the death to accept as reality, if in fact, anyversion is a true representation of actual events. Formalaspects of GuimaraesRosas later prose greatly affect thescope of vision or focus presented by the tales of these volumes-this being especially so in Tutameia. Published in the journalPulso,none of the forty narrativesof this volume exceed three pages inlength, a limitationwhich forced the author to severely condenseexposition, virtually eliminate dialogue, and reduce characterde-velopment and descriptionof scene to a minimumwhile emphasiz-ing the portrayalof action. The use of such techniques often resultsin an "abruptness" or "unpredictability"in certain narrativeswhich produces a sense of incompleteness ratherthan synthesis.17This sense of incompleteness is furtherinduced by the tendency ofthe author to end many narrativeswithout resolution of conflict.Events or actions critical to plot development are often left out,while tangential or insignificantactions are portrayedwith unnec-essary attention given to detail. Other techniques such as theabundant use of abstract neologisms, convoluted syntax, and a
58 Allan Englekirkhigh frequency of narration or dialogue terminating in suspendedpoints further complicate or confuse the version or vision of lifeemerging from these texts, with all the factors above-mentionedproducing a "reality" less than coherent and intentionally partial.In characterizing the narratives of Tutameia,Paulo R6nai states thatplot "e mais entremisturado que contado; o autor da a entenderque conhece toda a hist6ria a fundo, mas s6 libera dela uma parte.Suas senten,as carregavam-se de um sentido excedente pelo quenao diziam, num jogo de anacolutas, reticencias, e subenten-didos."8 In comparing the prose of Euclides da Cunha to that of Gui-maraes Rosa, Antonio Candido notes a similar preoccupation withthree basic elements-man, land, and struggle. How the authorsemploy these elements is completely different, however, for "aatitude euclidiana e constatar para explicar, e a de Guimaraes Rosa,inventar para sugerir."19 Guimaraes Rosas first works might beclassified as works that generally attempted to "constatar paraexplicar," for, basically similar to most traditional realist writers, hedemonstrated a strong desire to fashion a fictional world bothsimilar to the regional world it was modeled on, yet representativeof the universe which surrounded it. The fundamental objectivewas one of re-creation, and the implication was that, though theexact events portrayed in the narratives might never have oc-curred, life, or reality, was very closely parallel to the imageproduced. The narratives published after Grande Sertdo:Veredas,however, evidence a new attitude by the author toward the rela-tionship of life and art. Though many narratives are still re-crea-tions of verisimilar worlds, others are creations of new imaginativeconstructs. The author is no longer attempting to define life, or "truth," or "reality," in specific terms in these prose selections,but, rather, imply through various narrative techniques and themes that reality and truth are far too complex to be captured in other than tentative and speculative terms, and that, furthermore, in any case, the objective of literature might not be so much to-as Antonio Candido has put it-"constatar para explicar" as "inven- tar para sugerir." The meaning of reality is questioned, and after Riobaldo determines how deceptive its nature truly is, Guimaraes Rosa decides that his literature must seek new vistas from which to posit the complexity of this concept-searching for reality within illusion rather than trying to differentiate categorically between the two. Eneida Maria de Souza believes that Tutameiarepresents a "car- nivalization of art"-with the authors literature no longer devoted
SouthAtlanticReview 59to copying life or defining distinctions between opposites such astruth and falsehood, etc. To the contrary,in Tutameia, GuimaraesRosabegins to mix opposities, and abolishes "distinctionsbetweenthe sacred and the profane, the sublime and the insignifi-cant .. . "-producing a confused illusion of "reality" which isquite removed from the objective portrayalof life rendered by a Intraditionalrealist.20 evolving such compact fictional worlds asthose contained in Primeiras and and Estorias Tutameia intentionallyweaving partial and incomplete narrativesthat either have no endor admit gaps in the depiction of characterand event, the authorleaves to the reader the task of completing these images andcreating his or her own vision of reality. It must be reaffirmed,in conclusion, that the tendency remainsstrong throughout the literary production of Guimaraes Rosa toevolve narratives that are intended to mirror life. In total, theauthors literature spins a vast tapestry whose intricate patternsreflect a panoramic vision of existence on both particular anduniversallevels, repeatedlyentering the realmof the metaphysical.Placed in opposition, or, perhaps better, complementing thesenarratives,is a set of tales whose texts do not produce a statementof "what reality is," but ratherinduce speculation on the questionof "what is reality?"The prose fiction of GuimaraesRosa leaves itsreaders in the middle of a "whirlwind"-with God and the devil,or illusion and reality figuratively spinning in confusion to thepoint of being indistinguishable one from the other.University SouthCarolina of NOTES JoaoGuimaraesRosa (1908-1967) was born in Cordisburgo,MinasGerais,Brazil.He was a doctor of medicine, a public servant, and a foreign diplomat. Hisobsession for learning diverse foreign languages led him to acquire a readingknowledge of fourteen tongues, and the expressive potential of language as amedium of communication was, for him, forevera most fascinatingpreoccupation.His first venture into creative writing-"Magma," a volume of poetry-won anaward from the BrazilianAcademy of Lettersin 1937,but was never published. Asecond volume of stories, entitled "Contos,"likewise won a literaryawardin 1938,but remained unpublished until 1946, when, after being substantiallyedited, itappearedunder the title of Sagarana. years later,the publicationof Corpo Baile Ten deand Grande Sertdo:Veredasattractednationaland internationalattention. Two morevolumes of short fiction were published before the authors death in 1967, theseworks being the subjectof this paper. The author was inducted into the BrazilianAcademy of Letters shortly before his passing. The critical bibliography on Guimaraes Rosa is indeed extensive. There areseveralbasicworks, however, which might serve as sources for furtherreferenceon
60 Allan Englekirka general level on GuimaraesRosa:(1) Jose CarlosGarbuglio,O MundoMovente deGuimardes Rosa(Sao Paulo: EditoraAtica, 1972). A comprehensive review of theambiguousnature of "reality"in Grande Sertao:Veredas.Though the study focuseson the authors novel, it allows for a better understanding of all the authorsliterature. (2) Gunter Lorenz, Didlogocor a AmericaLatina(Sao Paulo: EditoraPedag6gica e UniversitariaLtda., 1973). By far the most informative interviewgrantedby Guimaraes Rosato any literarycritic.A useful tool forrelatingthe authorto his work from diverse perspectives. (3) Franklinde Oliveira, "JoaoGuimaraesRosa," in A Literatura Brasil,ed. AfranioCoutinho (Rio de Janeiro: no EditorialSulAmericana, 1969). A good introductorystudy of thematic aspects of GuimaraesRosas works. (4) Jon Vincent, JodoGuimardes Rosa(Boston: Twayne Publishers,1978).Though condensed into 172 pages of text, including footnotes, this study ofGuimaraesRosasfictionrepresentsa scholarlyeffortof the firstorder. A broad, yetselectively-detailedanalysis of each of the authors volumes of prose fiction. ErikHeller, "The RealisticFallacy,"in Documents Modern of Realism, Literary ed.George J. Becker (Princeton:PrincetonUniversity Press, 1963), p. 596. 2Guilhermino Cesar, "No Mundo Moral do Riobaldo,"Correio Povo, 7 June, do1975, p. 67. A most thorough analysis of linguistic aspects of the prose fiction ofGuimaraesRosa is contained in Mary Lou Daniels JodoGuimardes Rosa:TravessiaLiterdria de Janeiro:LivrariaJose Olympio Editora,1968) (Rio 3WilsonMartins, "Um Novo ValdomiroSilveira," Estado Sao Paulo,30 Aug. de1956, n.pag. GunterLorenz, Didlogo America con Latina (Santiago:EdicionesUniversitarias deValpa:aiso, 1972), p. 336. SFrancisco Assis AlmeidaBrasil,Jodo de Guimardes (Riode Janeiro: Rosa Organiza-qao Sim6es, editora, 1969), p. 17. 6LuisHarss and Barbara Dohmann, LosNuestros(Buenos Aires: EditorialSuda-mericana, 1971), p. 446. 7Augustode Campos, "UmLancede des do Grande Sertao," do Revista Livro, No.12 (1958), p. 27. 8Theterm "est6ria,"as employed by GuimaraesRosa, suggests a distinct per-spective on the relationshipbetween life and art:"A est6rianao quer ser hist6ria.Aest6ria, em rigor, deve ser contra a hist6ria." (Tutameia, 30) The implicationis p.clear,by the use of the termin the titles, that the tales of both Primeiras and Est6riasTutameia representmoreof a creation,as opposed to a re-creation, Est6rias) (Terceirasof life in literature. 9GunterLorenz, Didlogo cor a America Latina(Sao Paulo: EditoraPedag6gica eUniversitariaLtda., 1973), p. 321. OJoao GuimaraesRosa, "Arroio-das-Antas," Tutameia, de Janeiro: in (Rio LivrariaJos6 Olympio Editora, 1976), p. 19. "WilliBolle, F6rmula Fdbula e (Sao Paulo: EditoraPerspectiva,1973), p. 93. 12Paulo R6nai, "O Conto de GuimaraesRosa," Correio Povo,17 Mar. 1973, p. do46. 3JonVincent, JodoGuimaraes Rosa(Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1978), p. 169. 4Rosa,"Reminisaio,"in Tutameia, 81. p. 5Rosa,"Reminisaio,"in Tutameia, 81. p. 16Rosa, "Reminiscao,"in Tutameia, 83.p. "Vincent, p. 120. 18R6nai, 46. p.
SouthAtlanticReview 61 g1Ant6nio Candido, "GuimaraesRosa e seu GrandeSertdo:Veredas," JornaldoBrasil,21 Nov. 1967, n pag. 20Eneida Mariade Souza, "Ficcao,Realidadee Humor em Tutameia," SuplementoLiterdrio MinasGerais,10 Aug. 1974, p. 9, quoted in Vincent, p. 170. de