(My translation of the short story of the same name, which was written in 1919 and published in the collection Histórias e sonhos (1920, 1951, 1956))
Joaquim dos Anjos, the postman, wasn’t one for going out serenading in the streets, but he did like the guitar and modinha songs. He himself played the flute, an instrument more highly regarded in those days than it is now. He even considered himself a musician, because he used to compose waltzes, tangos and accompaniments for modinhas.
He’d learnt “the knack” of music in his childhood home, on the outskirts of Diamantina, but the music he’d mastered was rather limited. The thing is, he wasn’t very ambitious, either in music or in the other aspects of his life. He’d worked for a famous lawyer, but had always wanted to get a modest job in the civil service, something that would provide a pension for him and a gratuity for his wife and daughter when he died. He’d got his postman’s job, in Rio de Janeiro, about eighteen years ago and was quite content with it, despite the hard work and low pay.
As soon as he was appointed, he sold his land in Diamantina and bought himself a house in the suburbs of Rio. Although the price had been modest, he’d not been able to buy it outright, and had to pay most of it off in instalments. But now he’d been in full ownership for several years. It was a simple house with two bedrooms, one of which was entered via the sitting-room, the other via the dining-room. A kitchen – which accounted for a third of the whole house – had been added at the back and, separate from the main body of the house, there was the toilet, the washroom etc. In the garden, which was quite big, there were some unkempt goiaba trees and a large, pollarded tamarind.
The road wound its way across a plain, and whenever it rained it turned into a quagmire; but there were houses along it, and it offered a beautiful panorama of the mountains that, although a long way off, seemed to press in on it from all sides. Some of the houses were quite good. There was even a large farm, with one of those old–fashioned farmhouses – the long façade, the squat roof, and the tiles covering the bottom half of the walls. On the whole, rather ugly, it has to be said. No airs and graces, but perfectly in harmony with the gnarled mangos, the sturdy jacks and all those other big, old trees that probably never gave any fruit to the people who planted them.
In those days the farm had been taken over by the Bible-bashers. On the Sabbath, you could hear their psalm-singing at regular intervals all day long. The people weren’t hostile to them. Some of the poorer ones were even quite sympathetic, on the grounds that the Bible-bashers weren’t like the Catholic priests, who wanted money for everything.
The leader of those Protestants was an American, a Mr Sharp. A steadfast man, and his eloquence when expounding the Bible must have been magnificent in English. But in his halting Portuguese it was merely quaint. He was one of those curious Yankees who, on the basis of their particular interpretation of a verse or two of the Bible, found and propagate Christian sects. And they have no trouble in gaining disciples – disciples who have no clear idea why they’ve joined up, or what the difference is between this belief and their old one.
Whenever he had enough novices to form a group, he put them up in huts that sprang up around the farmhouse or between those old unkempt and uncared for trees. Preparations for group initiation – largely comprising psalm–singing – lasted a week and, what with the psalms and the huts, the old farm presented the strange sight of an open–air monastery crossed with a sort of military encampment.
Few of the local Catholics signed up, but many of them went to have a look to satisfy their curiosity or to enjoy Mr Sharp’s oratory.
They had no reluctance in going, because our common folk like to confabulate all sorts of religions and creeds, and to avail themselves of this one or that one as they feel the need. If you have set-backs in your life, you need a shaman; if you’re suffering from a chronic illness, you need a clairvoyant. But heaven help you if you tell our common folk not to have their child baptised by a Catholic priest! The response will be furious: “You want my child to be a pagan? Whatever next!”
Joaquim was no exception to this rule, nor – very decidedly – was his wife Engrácia.
They’d been married for nearly twenty years, but only had the one child, their daughter Clara. The postman was coffee-coloured, but had what we call “bad hair”; whereas his wife, despite being darker, had smooth hair.
Their daughter had her father’s complexion and her mother’s hair. And she was shorter than him, but taller than her. Joaquim was tall – well above average height when he stood up straight; Engrácia was somewhat below average height, with a petite, well-proportioned face, which couldn’t be said for her husband, who had a big, flat nose. Half way in everything between the two of them, it was clear that Clara was the daughter of both. Imbued with her father’s music, she was full – to the brim of her girlish heart and soul – of the lilt of the modinhas and the sweet melancholy of all those ballads and songs.
She was sixteen years old, and both her mother and father treated her with kid gloves. Rather than send her daughter, Engrácia used to go herself to Nascimento’s store to buy odds and ends. Not that Nascimento’s was a hang-out for disreputable types; quite the contrary.
One of the people who could often be found there was Alípio, an interesting young man who, although poor, was nevertheless well-behaved and respectful. He looked like a fighting-cock; but he was far from having the ferocity of those Malayan birds so beloved of the punters; or, to be more precise: there was no ferocity in him whatsoever.
Someone else who frequented the place was an Englishman, a Mr Parsons, a draughtsman in a big mechanics workshop nearby. When he left work he’d pop into Nascimento’s, sit himself down in a folding chair and remain there till nightfall, having the odd drink and reading Senhor Nascimento’s newspapers. He was a man of few words, engaging little in conversation, but getting hot under the collar if someone addressed him as “Mister”.
Then there was Meneses, an old white man who suffered from oedema and considered himself a philosopher although, in fact, he was just a backstreet dentist who’d happily spout nonsense about anything. But he was a good-natured fellow. With his magnificent white beard he had something of the Roman emperor about him.
Sometimes J. Amarante would appear as well. This was a poet – a proper poet, who’d had his moment of fame in Brazil, although that’s probably long gone. At the time, a combination of personal misfortune and alcohol had turned him into a ruin of a man, despite his ten highly-successful volumes of poetry, which had made money for everyone except him. Nowadays he was a half-mad amnesiac, who couldn’t follow the thread of a conversation, and just made random pronouncements. Not knowing what to make of him, the locals just called him “The Poet”.
Another regular of Nascimento’s was old Valentim, a Portuguese a little over sixty years old. His body was bent forward as a result of his job of farm overseer, which he must have been doing for forty years or more. He loved telling tales of the old country, interspersed with piquant Portuguese sayings.
But, even though – as you can see – the place was by no means disreputable, Clara didn’t go there. Instead, her father allowed her to go on Sunday, once in a while, to the cinema in Méier or in Engenho de Dentro with some other girls. Meanwhile he himself would stay at home with some of his friends, playing the guitar, singing modinhas and drinking cachaça.
His friends would turn up first thing in the morning and, after having a coffee, they’d go through to the back yard and sit themselves down under the tamarind tree to play cards, with a litre of cachaça beside them. And off they’d go, with hardly a glance at the surrounding stark and rugged mountains, and they’d carry on until supper was served by Engrácia and Clara.
It was not until after supper that the singing began. On one occasion, one of Joaquim’s Sunday companions asked if he could bring a friend of his the next time, to help celebrate Joaquim’s birthday. The friend’s name was Júlio Costa, and he was an excellent modinha singer. Joaquim agreed and, on the day of the birthday party, the famous balladeer duly appeared. He was white and freckled, unremarkable in both face and body. But his hair wasn’t dishevelled, and there was nothing at all to suggest loose-living. In fact he was dressed with perfectly suburban sobriety; the work of a fourth-grade tailor. The only hint of the bohemian modinha singer about him was that his hair was meticulously parted down the middle. Joaquim accompanied him on the guitar and his début was a great success.
In particular, all the local girls of all those different skin colours that poverty somehow melds and harmonises thought the world of him. Not even Cesare Borgia, dressed up for a masked-ball given by his father in the Vatican would have caused such a to-do.
The girls were busy saying to each other:
“It’s him! It’s really him!”
But the lads weren’t too happy with the situation, and so they started telling unsavoury stories about the modinha singer’s love-life.
When he was introduced to Joaquim, Engrácia and their daughter, no-one noticed the lecherous glance he bestowed on Clara’s ample, pert breasts.
The music began with a gentle introductory piece for flute, cavaquinho and guitar. Polkas were the favourite dance music, with one and all disporting themselves as gymnastically as if it were a samba.
During a break, Joaquim said:
“How about singing, Júlio?”
“I’m not up to it,” was the reply.
Up until that point, Júlio had been one of the band and, while strumming away, had been ogling Clara’s gyrating hips while she was dancing. And Clara made so bold as to repeat her father’s invitation:
“Why don’t you sing, Júlio? Everyone says you’re a wonderful singer…”
(The “wonderful” was drawn out in the sweetest voice imaginable.)
“Oh, dear me, senhorita!” he immediately replied. “That’s just my friends being kind…”
But he was already arranging his song sheets, even before Clara could repeat:
“Please sing! Please do!”
“Your wish is my command, senhorita,” he replied. “I shall sing.”
Picking up his guitar, he adopted a poetic pose, strummed a few chords and announced “The Lover’s Dream!”
And off he went, in a terribly loud voice, almost bawling, only to rein it in after a while, so as to express melancholic pain, making the s’s really sibilate, and really rolling the r’s, as he rode the horrific metaphors that were the mainstay of the song. But at least the thing was sincere; and, in the simple minds of the listeners, even the most far-fetched similes merely had the effect of conjuring up dreams, desires, longings and glittering visions. When he came to the end there was enthusiastic applause from everyone except little Clara, and the only reason she didn’t join in was that she was still wrapped up in her dream world…
One afternoon that week she happened to come to the window and – without showing undue surprise, but rather as if she were expecting it – received a compliment from the love-sick balladeer. She didn’t see anything untoward in this, so much so that she went straight to her mother and said;
“Guess who’s just walked past, Mummy!”
“The one who sang at Daddy’s birthday party.”
After that party, life continued just the same in Joaquim’s. The same card games on Sundays, with Eleutério, who worked at the library, and Augusto, of the municipal guard, accompanied by those little glasses of cachaça, and followed by the evening modinhas. But it was not long before they gained a companion in the form of no less than Júlio Costa himself. The famous suburban balladeer being a good friend of Augusto (and his teacher in the art of balladeering).
Júlio hardly ever sat down to supper with them, because he always had a prior invitation from any number of places in the neighbourhood. Instead, he joined in the card games – now they could play two against two – and he drank little. But, even though he didn’t stay late, he had ample opportunity to be near the girl, near Clara. And he couldn’t keep his eyes off those round, firm and ample breasts, which so excited his voracious carnal appetite. At first it was just glances, which she, with her unusually large, dark eyes, reciprocated surreptitiously and timidly. But soon there was the odd word or two, little compliments, exchanged out of hearing of the others. And then, finally, there was the fateful letter.
She took it, slipped it into her bosom and later, when she went to bed, read it by candlelight – with trepidation, her heart beating wildly. The letter was the most fantastical thing you could imagine when it comes to orthography and syntax, but it had one virtue: it hadn’t been transcribed from the Lovers’ Lexicon; it was original. And it was enough to send shock-waves through Clara’s virginal nature; as she read it, she felt something new stir within her, something strange, something she’d never ever felt before. So much so that she slept badly. She didn’t know what to do. Should she reply? Should she hand it back? It was only too easy to imagine the severe looks from her father and the recriminations from her mother. But the thing was… she needed to get married. She didn’t want to spend all her life like a dog without an owner… One day her parents would die, and surely she couldn’t be expected to remain all alone in the world… The only thing was: he was white, she was mulatto… But why should that matter? There were lots of instances… She could remember some of them… Why not? His words had such passion… She could hardly breathe, she sighed, she wept; and her firm breasts seemed about to burst with her virginal longing to be loved… She’d reply! And that’s what she did, the very next day. After which, Costa’s visits lasted longer and there were further letters. A regular supply. Engrácia smelt a rat and asked her daughter:
“You’re not making eyes at Júlio, are you, Clarinha?”
“Me?! How could you think of such a thing, Mummy?!”
“Yes, you are! Do you think I haven’t got eyes?!”
The girl burst into tears; her mother said nothing more; and, as soon as she could, Clara gave a letter about what had happened to Aristides, one of the local black kids, to take to the balladeer.
Júlio lived in the neighbouring district, and his family were much better off than Clara’s. His father, Captain Bandeira, had a permanent job at the town hall and was completely different from his son. He was grave and dignified, full of grotesque, municipal self-importance; and he certainly wouldn’t allow Clara into his house. Dona Inês, his wife, didn’t have her husband’s air of solemnity. In fact, she was rather relaxed when it came to niceties: she ate with her hands, she went around bare-foot, and she was an avid collector of local gossip. But even she was inwardly convinced that she and her family were a cut above. Apart from Júlio she had three daughters: Mercedes, the eldest, was an assistant at the town hall; Adelaide was training to be a teacher; and Maria Eugênia, the youngest, was a student at the Institute of Music.
All three had much of their father’s airs and graces; and they had high hopes of marrying university graduates. There was no chance at all that they’d accept Clara as their sister-in-law. And, of course, they looked with disdain upon their brother’s louche habits, his guitar, his plebeian fighting-cocks and, not least, his crushing ignorance.
They were a petit-bourgeois family, without any fortune to speak of, but, because of their father’s job at the town hall, and their rather well-respected schools, they could foresee only one destiny for Clara: that of serving-maid.
For her part, Clara was a sweet, tender girl. With her innocence and essential goodness, you’d say she was far superior to their brother with respect to feelings; and perhaps in education as well, for all that hers had been rudimentary, as could hardly have been otherwise, given the poverty of her family. Júlio was almost illiterate and scarcely had sufficient powers of attention even to read the description of a film on a cinema poster. Semi-imbecile as he was, his mental life centred around the composition of insipid modinhas, full of weird imagery that sublimated his erotic urges in that strait-laced society. But always at the front of his mind was the sexual act.
More than once he’d got into trouble with the police for seducing and deflowering young girls.
After the second case, Captain Bandeira had initially refused to get involved; but Dona Inês, with much begging, weeping and references to the purity of the family’s blood, at last managed to get him to use his influence to avoid Júlio having to marry the sixteen-year-old black girl he’d “mistreated.”
Although she wasn’t thoroughly bad, Dona Inês’s prejudices, together with her blinkered intelligence, wouldn’t permit her to take their poor grandson – the result of the “mistreatment” – to her heart, or even to protect him. So she had no remorse in leaving him to make his own way in the world…
Meanwhile, Captain Bandeira had become so ashamed of his son that he cut him loose, and thereafter they hardly saw each other. So Júlio started living in the cellar, or on the edge of the farm, where he kept his cages of fighting-cocks – just about the most repugnant, ferocious creatures you could ever see. So that was his business, the cocks and the cock-pits. He used to bargain with them, sell them, breed them and bet on them. And that, together with the odd coins his mother gave him, was how he made enough money to keep the shirt on his back. He was the epitome of those domestic vagabonds who can be found in their thousands in the suburbs and districts of Rio de Janeiro.
His mother was continually afraid he’d get into trouble with the police again and she did her best to keep up to date with his love life. Thus it was that she found out about Clara and gave him a stern dressing-down on that account. Her son listened respectfully in silence; but he thought it sensible to write to his girlfriend and explain, as best he could, what had happened. This is what he wrote:
My deer lital girl, I hav to tel you that wen I risseeved yor leter my muther saw it an I maid the big misteak ov confessin evrithin to muther that I luv you an wud do enythin for you but they ar all agenst me witch is the reeson I am telin you not to tek eny notis ov enythin they sey an to fink ov how mutch I am sufrin. Fink abaut it and tel me wever you ar priperd to do what I woz askin you in my last leter. Lots an lots ov luv from this por boy hu adors you so mutch wiv uncorispondid luv. Yor Júlio
Clara was already accustomed to her boyfriend’s grammar and spelling but, although she could write much better herself, her education was insufficient to allow her to look down on such an illiterate suitor. And not only that: her obsession with the balladeer and with getting married completely removed any critical facilities she might otherwise have had. And thus the effect of the letter was exactly as Júlio had hoped. Tears, palpitations, vague anxieties, even vaguer hopes, fantasies of beautiful, unknown horizons – the letter brought her all of that, not to mention the halo of love and dedication which her imagination draped around the balladeer and his ballads.
A few days later she fulfilled her promise, i.e., she left her bedroom window open so that he could climb in. And she did the same thing on several of the following nights, but he never stayed for long.
On Sundays he turned up in the house as usual, sang his ballads and acted as if nothing had happened. One day, Clara felt something strange in her belly. She told Júlio, but he just laughed it off. It was nothing, he said. But it was something: it was their child. She wept. He calmed her, He promised to marry her. And her belly grew and grew…
The balladeer started coming less often, until he stopped coming altogether. And Clara wept. No-one had yet noticed her pregnancy but, through the intimate bond between mother and daughter, Engrácia suspected something and set about interrogating Clara. The girl could no longer deny it: she confessed everything, and those two humble women wept in each other’s arms in the face of the inevitable…
But Clara had an idea. “Before you tell Father, Mummy, let me go to Júlio’s house and speak to his mother.”
The old lady thought it over before saying:
“Good idea! Off you go!”
So Clara put her coat on hurriedly, and off she went. She got a cold reception from one of the daughters when she said she’d like to speak to Júlio’s mother. When Dona Inês eventually came to the door, she was no less brusque. But Clara summoned up all her courage and, with admirable sangfroid, confessed everything – her error and her shame.
“And what do you expect me to do about it?”
“Make him marry me!” blurted out Clara.
“Whatever next! Who do you think you are? Can’t you see that my son couldn’t possibly marry someone like you? He hasn’t put a lead or a muzzle on you, has he?… Off you go, young lady! I don’t want to hear any more about it. Be off with you!”
Clara left without saying a word and, as she walked back along the road, she fought back her tears so that no-one should see her shame. What was she to think? She couldn’t even marry a layabout, someone without any redeeming features. Was that it? And why couldn’t she?
She could see clearly now what her position was in society: permanent inferiority, without the right to aspire to the simplest thing that all girls aspire to. What was the point of all her parents’ efforts to shield her from the world? They were useless and counter-productive, because they prevented her from seeing clearly how low was her position and how little she should expect…
She returned home quickly. When she got there, her father hadn’t yet returned.
She went to see her mother. She didn’t say anything, she just embraced her, weeping. Her mother wept too.
When Clara stopped crying, with the last tears still rolling down her cheeks, she said, “Mummy, I’m nothing in this world.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
(The following biographical details have been translated from the [now defunct] Casa Lima Barreto website.)
Afonso Henriques de Lima Barreto was born in Rio de Janeiro on 13 May 1881 and died in the same city on 1 November 1922. The son of a typographer at the National Printing Works and of a state-school teacher, he was of mixed race. He was taught at first by his own mother, who died when he was seven. Through the influence of his godfather, Viscount Ouro Preto, an imperial minister, he completed his studies at the Pedro II National School, from where he went, in 1897, to the Polytechnic with the intention of studying to be an engineer. He had to give up his course, however, in order to become the breadwinner at home, after his father – bursar at the Colony for the Insane on Governador Island – himself became mentally ill in 1902. In the same year he had his first work published in the student press. The family moved to the Rio de Janeiro suburb of Engenho de Dentro, where the future writer decided to take part in a public examination for a vacancy in the Ministry of War. He came second but, because the first-placed candidate withdrew, he was able to take up the post, which he did in 1903.
Because his salary was only small, the family moved to a modest house in the suburb of Todos os Santos in which, in 1904, he began the first version of his novel Clara dos Anjos (Clara of the Angels). In the following year he began his novel Recordações do escrivão Isaías Caminha (Memoirs of the Clerk Isaías Caminha), which was published in Lisbon in 1909. He also published a series of reports in the Correio da Manhã newspaper and commenced the novel Vida e morte de M. J. Gonzaga de Sá (Life and Death of M. J. Gonzaga de Sá), which was not published until 1919. He participated in the Fon-Fon magazine and in 1907, together with some friends, launched the Floreal magazine, which survived for only four numbers but attracted the attention of the literary critic José Veríssimo. During this period he devoted himself to reading, in the National Library, the great names of world literature, including the European realist writers of the period; he was one of the few Brazilian writers who became familiar with the works of the Russian novelists.
In 1910 he was a juryman in a trial that condemned some soldiers involved in a student’s murder, an incident that came to be called ‘The Spring of Blood’; as a result he was passed over when it came to any possibilities of promotion in the secretariat of war. In the space of three months, in 1911, he wrote the novel Triste fim de Policarpo Quaresma (The Sad End of Policarpo Quaresma), which was published in instalments in the Jornal do Comércio, for which he wrote, and also in the Gazeta da Tarde. In 1912 he published two instalments of the Aventuras do Dr. Bogoloff (The Adventures of Dr. Bogoloff), in addition to little humorous books, one of them printed in the O Riso magazine.
Although alcoholism was beginning take hold of him, it did not prevent him from continuing to work for the press and, in 1914, he commenced a series of daily feuilletons in the Correio da Noite. In 1915 the A Noite newspaper published his novel Numa e a ninfa (Numa and the Nymph) in instalments, and he began a long phase of work with the Careta magazine, writing political articles on various topics. In the first months of 1916, the novel Triste fim de Policarpo Quaresma appeared as a book, together with some notable short stories such as ‘A Nova Califórnia’ (New California) and ‘O homem que sabia javanês’ (The Man who Spoke Javanese); these were warmly received by the critics, who saw Lima as a true successor to Machado de Assis. He began writing for the political weekly A.B.C. After being hospitalised in July 1917, he delivered to his editor, J. Ribeiro dos Santos, the manuscript of Os Bruzundangas (The Bruzundangans – Bruzundanga being Lima’s satirical name for Brazil), which was not published until a month after his death, in 1922.
He applied for a vacancy in the Brazilian Academy of Letters, but his application was not even considered. He published the second edition of Isaías Caminha and, subsequently, the novel Numa e a ninfa in book form. He started publishing articles and feuilletons in the alternative press of the period: A Lanterna, A.B.C. and Brás Cubas, which published an article of his showing sympathy for the revolutionary cause in Russia. After being diagnosed with toxic epilepsy, he was pensioned off in December 1918 and he moved to another house in the Rua Major Mascarenhas in Todos os Santos, where he lived until his death.
At the beginning of 1919 he ceased his collaboration with the A.B.C. weekly, because he took issue with an article it published criticising the blacks. He published the novel Vida e morte de M. J. Gonzaga de Sá, which was personally edited and sent for typing by the editor Monteiro Lobato; this was the only one of Lima’s books to receive such standard editorial care and for which he was well paid; it was also well advertised, being praised by both old and new literary critics, such as João Ribeiro and Alceu Amoroso Lima. At this time he applied once more for a vacancy at the Brazilian Academy of Letters; on this occasion his application was accepted, but he was not elected, although he received the permanent vote of João Ribeiro. Under the title of ‘As mágoas e sonhos do povo’ (The People’s Sufferings and Dreams), he started publishing, in the Hoje magazine, weekly feuilletons of so-called ‘urban folklore’ and he entered into a second phase of collaboration with Careta, which lasted until his death.
From December 1919 to January 1920 he was hospitalised in consequence of a nervous breakdown, an experience recounted in the first chapters of the memoir O cemitério dos vivos (The Cemetery of the Living), which was not published until 1953, when it was issued in a single volume together with his Diário íntimo (Intimate Diary). In December 1920 Gonzaga de Sá was short-listed for the literary prize of the Brazilian Academy of Letters for the best book of the previous year; it received an honourable mention. In the same month, the short-story book Histórias e sonhos (Stories and Dreams) was published, and the manuscript of Marginália (Odds and Ends), comprising articles and feuilletons already published in periodicals, was delivered to his friend, the editor F. Schettino; the manuscript was lost, however, and the book did not come to be published until 1953.
A section of O Cemitério dos vivos was published in January 1921 in the Revista Souza Cruz, under the title ‘As origens’ (The Origins); but the work remained incomplete. In April of that year he went to the little town of Mirassol in the State of São Paulo, where a doctor friend of his, Ranulfo Prata, who was also a writer, tried to put him together again, but in vain. With his health badly undermined, he turned into a sort of recluse in his little house in Todos os Santos, where friends came to visit him and where his sister Evangelina looked after him devotedly. Whenever possible, however, he would embark on another walk through the city he loved, keeping reading, meditation and writing for home, despite the constant presence of his father’s madness, which got worse through a series of crises.
In July 1921 Lima applied for a vacancy in the Brazilian Academy of Letters for the third time, but he withdrew his application for ‘entirely personal and private reasons.’ He delivered the manuscript of Bagatelas (Trifles) to the publisher; this book was a collection of his principal journalistic work from 1918 to 1922, in which he analysed, with rare vision and clarity, the problems of the country and of the world after the 1st World War. However, Bagatelas was not published until 1923. In November 1921 he published, in the Revista Souza Cruz, the text of a speech ‘O destino da literatura’ (‘The Destiny of Literature’) that he had been due to make – but had not managed to do so – in the town of Rio Preto, near Mirassol. In December he began work on the second version of his novel Clara dos Anjos, which he finished the following January. The manuscript for Feiras e mafuás (One Thing and Another) was delivered for publication, which did not happen until 1953.
In May 1922 the magazine O Mundo Literário published the first chapter of Clara dos Anjos, ‘O carteiro’ (The Postman). His health was declining steadily as a result of rheumatism and alcoholism amongst other things, and Lima suffered heart failure and died on 1 November 1922. They found him holding the copy of the Revue des Deux Mondes – his favourite journal – which he had just been reading. Two days later, his father died. They were both buried in the São João Batista cemetery, in accordance with Lima’s wishes.
In 1953 a publisher issued some volumes of his unpublished works. But it was only in 1956, under the direction of Francisco de Assis Barbosa and with the collaboration of Antônio Houaiss and M. Cavalcanti Proença, that all his work was published in 17 volumes; these comprised all the novels mentioned above and also the following titles that were not published during his life: Os bruzundangas, Feiras e mafuás, Impressões de leitura (Literary Impressions), Vida urbana (City Life), Coisas do reino de Jambon (A Report from the Kingdom of Jambon), Diário íntimo, Marginália, Bagatelas, O cemitério dos vivos and two further volumes containing all his correspondence – both letters sent and letters received. In the following decades Lima has been the subject of many studies, both in Brazil and abroad. His works, particularly his novels and short stories, have been translated into English, French, Russian, Spanish, Czech, Japanese and German. He has been the subject of doctoral theses in the United States and Germany. To mark the centenary of his birth in 1981, conferences were held about him throughout Brazil, resulting in the publication of innumerable books, including essays, bibliographies and psychological studies of the author and his works. There is currently a growing interest in him among new Brazilian writers, who see him as a pioneer of the sociological novel. His literary production, which is vast in view of his early death, is gaining him – quite rightly – more and more distinction.
Translator’s note: In an obituary for Lima in the Jornal do Brasil on 5 November 1922 , Coelho Neto – who had given the oration at Machado’s funeral in 1908 – described him as:
one of the best novelists Brazil has had, who observed things with the power and precision of a microscope, and who wrote with magisterial assurance, describing ordinary life like no one else has done. Just as he was neglectful of himself, of his own life, so was Lima Barreto neglectful of the work he constructed, not seeking to correct its defects of language, presenting it just as it flowed from his pen, without the necessary revision, the indispensable polishing, the definitive final touch which a work of art needs. Despite everything, however, what has remained to us of this man is worth so much by way of observation of life and depiction of characters that the rough edges cannot destroy the beauty: sometimes they compromise it here and there but only in the same way that a wall with stains and cracks can affect the harmony of a fresco, but cannot negate the magnificence of the painting.
Despite the nit-picking, this might be considered gracious in view of the virulent criticisms made of Coelho Neto by Lima.