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BARBOSA, Maria Do Socorro Baptista. Violence in the Relationship Between History and Literature - An Analysis of Alvina Gameiro's Novels

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  Violence in the Relationship between History and Literature: an Analysis of Alvina Gameiro’s Novels    Maria do Socorro Baptista Barbosa Abstract History, as pointed out by Paul Veyne (1998), is a “true narrative”. As Hayden White says, “history is no less a form of fiction than the novel is a form of historical representation.” Considering thus that there is a close connection  between History and Literature, this paper intends to deal with the way some literary texts portray a Brazilian historical period. During the first half of the 20 th  century Brazilian northeast was dominated by violence, both legalized, represented  by an oligarchic system called Coronelismo , in which great landowners had total control over their lands, their families and their employees; or outlaws, represented  by a form of social banditry called Cangaço, formed by men and women who decided to react against those landowners’ domination. Both kinds of violence were portrayed by literature. In this work I intend to show how the violence of Coronelismo is portrayed, through the memories of their narrators, in the novels Curral de Serras   (  Mountain Cattle Shed  ),  A Vela e o Temporal   ( The Candle and the Storm ), and Vale das Açucenas  (  Lilies’ Valley ), by the Brazilian writer Alvina Gameiro, pointing out how violence in her texts are used as metaphors for relationship of power and domination, as well as for breaking paradigms of gender and power, also considering the historical moment of the narratives and how the relationship between history and literature helps in the understanding of such a specific moment of Brazilian history.  Key-words: History, literature, violence, Coronelismo, Alvina Gameiro. ***** During over a half century Brazilian Northeast was overwhelmed by violent acts, both legalized, practiced by the great landowners, from an oligarchic system called Coronelismo , or outlaws, from a group of bandits who called themselves cangaceiros  and who defied the power of those landowners. Such systems took over the entire Northeast, and narratives of violence in that region were spread all over the country. Literature, as a social way of representation, could not be alienated from that process. Thus, many North-eastern authors wrote about that moment, such as Jorge Amado, from Bahia, José Américo de Almeida, from Paraíba, and many others. Among those authors, it is possible to situate Alvina Gameiro, a writer from the state of Piauí, one of the North-eastern poorest states. In this paper, I will show how the Piauiense writer portrays such violence, specially the violence practiced by the great landowners or by their employees with their financial and political support. However, in order to analyse Gameiro’s  Violence in the Relationship between History and Literature  ___________________________________________________________________  portrayal of violence it is necessary to clarify how such violence was institutionalized in that specific Brazilian region. By the end of the 19 th  century the once Empire of Brazil became the United States of Brazil through a military coup d’état   that deposed the Emperor Pedro II and established a republic. The Court, situated in Rio de Janeiro, southeast of Brazil, became the new capital of the recently created republic. The nobles were no longer privileged members of the elite. Instead, because Brazil was not a monarchy anymore, the nobility lost its power, which was, in a certain way, transferred to the military, responsible for the coup . In the Northeast, far from the centre of the Empire, and, therefore, from the centre of the newly founded republic, the great landowners were former members of the Army, usually with the rank of colonel (also called, among themselves, as  Bush Masters ), and, for being far from the centre and from its control, those colonels established their own chain of command, giving birth to the system known as Coronelismo . According to Gregg Narber, such system was stronger in the countryside rather than in the urban places. In a large space called Sertão (North-eastern backwoods), that goes through the entire region, from Bahia to Piauí, Coronelismo  became, in some aspects, more powerful than the institutionalized power of the towns’ mayors , or even the states’ governors. In his estate, the Colonel owned the land, his family and his employees, including their families as well. 1  Crimes committed in those lands by the colonel himself, or by some of his capangas (henchmen) under his command were seen as natural  , and the local police was not summoned. If a crime was committed against some of the Colonel ’s protégée, or some member of his own family, his henchmen would punish the criminal following the Colonel ’s orders, and, as in the first case, the local police would not be required. In Alvina Gam eiro’s novels, such violence is  portrayed several times, due to different reasons and circumstances. In Curral de Serras, Marcelo, the male  protagonist and narrator, tells how he arrived in a far place near Pernambuco, where he meets the female protagonist and also where he faces the greatest challenges of his life. Isabela, the female protagonist, is the landowner. Opposing traditional gender roles, especially in that part of the world, and in the beginning of the 20 th  century, when women were still seen as men’s properties,  being submissive to their fathers, brothers and husbands, Isabela is an independent woman, who rules her estate with vigour and strength that makes her be compared to a male by the people surrounding her. She is the Colonel, in a sense in which she  behaves as a colonel is expected to. Violence is part of Isabela’s life since she is a child , when she killed her father and brother’s murderer  . As the narrator tells us, through the memories of one of the girl’ s employees, Pulquério:   Maria do Socorro Baptista Barbosa  _____________________________________________________________ And then the killer, who has just stabbed three men, saw the girl with the rifle in her hand, and came towards her in order to finish his job. But she was a brave woman, and shot him till her gun was unloaded, making him look like a sieve. 2  The girl kills the murderer, becomes the sole owner of the land, and there is not a single mention to the possibility of someone calling the police, or some institutionalized power to investigate both crimes. The fact that she revenges her family is enough, and it is then that she assumes the position of a female colonel. When Marcelo and Isabela first meet, they fall in love with each other. However, he does not accept his own feelings at first for suspecting she is responsible for his  brother’s  death, which is once more described by Pulquério: And it was just a misfortune that Norberta, my daughter, went to the store to get some salt and then the mistress got her talking to Mr. Lino . … And what was worth the truth, if the woman  became a serpent? Yes, sir! She changed into a brute animal; she got mad, became furious, giving orders to Mr. Tarcílio and Mr. Auxêncio to kill a big ox and asked Mr. Corbiniano together with Mr. Zebino and the help of Mr. Trifeno to leather my little girl, tied up with Mr. Lino, in the fresh skin of the recently killed ox, still running blood. After the parcel sewn from side to side, it was put in the middle of the terrain, under the Sun and the drizzle, in front of everybody, with Mr. Corbiniano watching, so that death would come slowly, suffocating little by little, when the leather would shrink as it was getting dry, those two still living beings. 3  The quotation above confirms what Narber says about Coronelismo: the colonel had the power of life and death over the ones surrounding him or her. No law enforcement is called to investigate Lino and Norberta’s death, and no one dares to act against the landowner, not even the little girl’s father. Everybody accepts Isabela’s acti on as natural  , following the pattern of how a colonel would act. Another violent act that influences the relationship between Marcelo and Isabela is the death of one of his henchmen, Corbiniano, killed by Marcelo himself. Such henchman, the same one that has helped killing Lino, has defied both her and her new fiancé, and she asks the man she loves to kill the daring man. As he says: ‘Take note, doctor: when I accepted to kill M r. Corbiniano it was to adjust a price for a debt he had with me’. 4    Violence in the Relationship between History and Literature  ___________________________________________________________________ In  A vela e o temporal  , the narrator is also the protagonist, Rosáurea, and she tells her story through her memories. The first moment she narrates is the death of her mother under suspicious circumstances, a death that is not investigated, and that is not clarified till the end of the narrative. As she grows older, violence also  becomes part of her life, and the most violent moment is when her cousin Dionísio, who has been blackmailing her by claiming that her father has killed her mother, is himself killed by one of her grandfather’ s henchmen: There was a heavy silence when Lawrence threw the corpse on the brick floor with contempt of someone who launches off a nasty spat, and then stood motionless looking at the boy washed  by the crimson liquid, with a huge open wound on his chest, where one stab pierced him side by side. 5  Killed for having raped a little girl, Dionísio is buried as a criminal and his death is not punished. Because the boy is the Colonel ’s grandson, the Colonel himself would have killed the murde rer if it were not for the boy’s crime, considered a very hideous one. The police are called by the boy’s mother, who did not accept that he has committed a crime. However, the criminal is protected by the Colonel, and no one questions his attitude. His grandson has broken one of the most important unwritten rules of the backwoods, by raping a girl, and had, therefore, deserved to be killed: They were Northeastern men to whom respect for women was in first plan; anyone who dared violate a virgin without the legal formalities would pay for the crime with his own blood. 6  In O Vale das Açucenas , the female narrator and also the protagonist tells her story through her memories as well. Such remembrances are full of violent acts, and the death of beloved beings. When she was almost 13 years old she became orphan and apparently totally alone in the world due to a supposedly criminal fire which killed all her known relatives: ‘ Maria, you are alone in the world … all your relatives were burned to death’. 7  After growing up and coming back to her land, now the landowner through inheritance, she faces the most problematic moment of her life, when her recently  born son is killed by her brother Abel, who had been kidnapped by some gypsies when he was a little boy, havin g, this way, escaped the fire that has killed Maria’s other relatives. Abel also tries to kill Maria’s husband, but is, instead, killed by her. Again, because she is the landowner, married to another one, there is no investigation concerning her brother’s death. The simple fact that he murdered her son gives her the right to kill him.
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