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Macunaíma, the hero of our people

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It’s said that Mario de Andrade wrote Macunaíma in six days in Araraquara (a city in the countryside near São Paulo), lying on a hammock, like the hero of his story would be in many scenes of the book.

Although this novel is the fruit of years of studies of the Brazilian culture in every corner of the country, when I read that he wrote it in six days and thought that I’ve been trying to write my way simpler dystopian literary fiction for seven years and that I also have everything in my head, I just thought… yea, f you, Mario de Andrade. *laughs* I’m kidding. He was a great writer. I just got jealous of his determination and discipline for a while.

But Macunaíma actually began as a playful hobby and a form of expression in that time’s artistic movement, when it was fun to break the rules and yet to embrace what was helpful from them.

I like to think that Mario just thought it was interesting to summarize his observations on the Brazilian society, culture, our folklore, the way people talked, and the things people believed, into something that it would be fun and educational to read, instead of writing a long and tedious essay with difficult words and not much appeal to the laymen. It had to be a literary work.

It doesn’t mean that the book is not complex, and you have to know a few things about Brazil before you dive into it.

But that all was actually what made his work stand out and what makes it so important.

He played a lot. With words, with information, with common beliefs. You see he had fun writing the book. He invented many things, too (or gave his interpretation, if you will), like how football or how common expressions were created in Brazil, and we believe that the main character is a creator, a trendsetter, a true hero of our people.

Interestingly, the story is about an indigenous hero, which breaks the European role models of the time, and builds a pure Brazilian superman. He transforms himself, he has powers, he has superhuman features and yet a hundred flaws that could also paint him as an anti-hero.

He also serves as a critique, in my opinion. Our heroes, our values, tend to be always between perfection and flaws, laziness and willpower, correctness and a way around, the desire to evolve but a constant series of mistakes and obstacles, trial and error, fighting the system, surviving.

Come to think of it, this work couldn’t be more contemporary. It’s the fourth time I read this book, but it never ceases to amaze me and every time I read it, it’s a different experience…

■ beardbetweenthelines

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