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Antes Das Primeiras Estórias

Antes Das Primeiras Estórias (a nod to Rosa’s 1962 collection of short stories) is a small collection of four short stories written by a very young, twenty-one-year-old João Guimarães Rosa. First published in the popular Brazilian magazine, O Cruzeiro, in 1929 and 1930, the short stories were each the winner of a monthly contest which guaranteed, as first place prize, publication with illustrations by famous artists of the time. This collection gathers the stories for the very first time.

In regard to the rare book’s launch, Nova Fronteira Editor, and organizer of the book, Janaína Senna, had this to say:

“It’s our intention to pique the curiosity of those who love literature. This is a nice collection [but] whoever reads the stories will find a writer in formation. It’s not the Rosa people have come to love, but rather, it’s someone who writes well, and yet is still looking for a narrative voice.” She goes on: “The stories are so peculiar, we decided not to invite a specialist to write a critical introduction, in case they didn’t have anything to say about the style of the young author who looks more like Edgar Allen Poe than Rosa at his height.”

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In prototypical form, Sagarana first appeared in 1938 as a one thousand-page manuscript, entitled Contos, submitted to the Premio Humberto de Campos fiction contest by a thirty eight year-old João Guimarães Rosa, under the pseudonym Viator. The manuscript took second place, but even with the interest of critics and publishers piqued, no one could find Viator to offer a publishing deal. Eight years would pass before the manuscript, pared down to half the number of pages and reworked by the author, would reappear for publication, this time titled Sagarana.

Luis Hrass, in the most intimate portrait of João Guimarães Rosa written in English, wrote of the great author’s penchant for the letter S. Almost a vertical infinity symbol, and fluid like the rivers of which he so often wrote, the S for Guimarães Rosa  was fluid and ideal for Continue reading

Logos and the Word

Homer’s Proteus is a daimon with the power of assuming all manner of shapes; but if held fast until resuming his true form, old Proteus will answer questions. We can expect no such fixity from the protean text, Grande Sertão: Veredas, and, in fact, to expect it would be a betrayal of the novel’s concerns. A riverlike, ‘riverrun’, novel which invariably contradicts itself, redoubling its ambiguity, GS: V is multiform, eminently plural in its plot, language and narrative structure. Moreover, GS: V’s plural structure is its philosophy. What we have is actually a plural work one of whose major themes is precisely the plurality of the world and the age-old problem of ferreting out its meaning. Refrain from holding me fast,’ this text seems to warn, ‘for my multiplicity lies in my true form.’[1]

[1] Logos and the Word: The Novel of Language and Linguistic Motivation in Grande Sertão: Veredas and Tres tristes tigres, by Stephanie Merrim
Utah Studies in Literature and Linguistics
Peter Lang Publishers, 1983


We’re back up and running.

In Barcelona I picked up Sagarana and Gran Sertón: Veredas, the most recent Spanish language manifestations of Guimarães Rosa’s masterpieces, published by Adriana Hidalgo editora. I haven’t read the English translation of Sagarana, so my first encounter with the opening story, “O burrinho pedrês,” (“El Burrito Pardo”) has been in Spanish. It’s magnificent so far. “[…] la historia de un burrito, como la historia de un hombre grande, se puede contar bien resumiendo un solo día de su vida (28).” [The story of a little burro, like the story of a great man, can be told by recounting just a single day of his life.] These books (among several others) added significant weight to my luggage on the return trip from Barcelona, but they were well worth it.

Travessia by Juliana Simonetti is a brand new book I just received in the mail yesterday. I’ve only reached the third page (because it’s difficult to read Portuguese when you don’t know Portuguese), but I look forward to the coming pages. Travessia is the reportage of Simonetti’s travels as she follows the route taken in 1952 by Guimarães Rosa, on the back of his mule, Balalaica, accompaning a herd led by seven vaquieros—the material from which served Guimarães Rosa as source material for the works Corpo de Baile and Grande Sertão: Veredas. In 2007, Travessia received the Embratel Press Award for Cultural Journalism. Juliana Simonetti, as we learn from her bio for the book, is from Sorocaba, Brazil, where she is the editor of the culture section for the newspaper Southern Cross, Sorocaba. She holds a post-graduate degree in Art History from the State University of London, and she’s a member of the Academy of Sorocaban Letters. Her first book, Poiesis, discusses the work of six visual artists based in London.

Rebellion in the Backlands

GS: V (8 or ∞)