Clara dos Anjos
I get it: Lima Barreto is a key figure in Brazilian literature. But I don’t like his work. I recognize his importance as an accuser of the racism in Brazilian society at the beginning of the nineteenth century, but I read his books with the constant doubt of whether or not I’ll have the will to finish them. I have also read “Triste fim de Policarpo Quaresma”, which I appreciated way more than this one.
Clara dos Anjos is the name of a mongrel1 girl, living in a poor family in 1900 Rio de Janeiro. The author was of mixed descent as well, so the book is also an accusation of the condition he found himself in. At the time, the city was emerging from its past as capital of the Portuguese empire, a place where the finest culture was being produced, but where a part of the population lives in the basest misery and the deepest ignorance. In this context, in a family of rich white people lives one Cassi Jones, a youngster with a penchant for seducing young girls of miserable extraction and have sex with them, by promising them he would marry them. Only, after the act, he disappears, leaving them “dishonored” for life, destined for an even more miserable life. This idea already shows its age in our darker times.
This fine fellow plans to do the same with Clara. I won’t spoil the end, but there’s really nothing unexpected about it. I liked the character of Marramaque, the godfather of Clara and the one trying to defend her from defamation by convincing her family of keeping Cassi at a distance from their house, and also the other examples of desperate humanity. But all of them walk in a context of a story that I found shallow and superficial, which led me to not like the book.
I wouldn’t recommend this book to friends.
1I have no idea if this term is considered derogatory, but the point of the book is to show the condition of people who were poor and considered inferior because of their ethnical origin. I’d be glad to change the word if someone comes up with a better one.