August 1, 2021

Caio Abreu, posthumous gay hero in Bolsonaro's Brazil | Culture

Caio Abreu, posthumous gay hero in Bolsonaro's Brazil | Culture

He was thin, wearing metal glasses over inquisitive eyes sunk in the face. It used to be what was not owed at every moment. Critical with the military dictatorship (1964-1985) and openly gay in Brazil of the seventies and eighties; Sick of AIDS in the nineties. That is the myth of Caio Fernando Abreu, the Brazilian writer whose birth has turned 70 years. He died in 1996, at 47, leaving behind six books of stories, four novels and three plays. At least the first part of the myth. A second part would bring us to the Brazil of the far right leader Jair Bolsonaro, who has just won the first round of the presidential elections. Abreu's work, which in its day was underground, it is consecrated in the national literary canon, reissued by the great publishers, as in its day it happened with Clarice Lispector or João Guimarães Rosa. Behind this miracle, there is another generation of readers with new sensibilities who have found in this man an unexpected icon of life in 2018 and, in addition, one of the great Brazilian writers of the 20th century.

"These are days of rethinking the relationship between literature and dictatorship, a trauma that is present in all of Caio's books, although not always explicitly. And we can also better appreciate the nuances queer, the touches of ironic locale with which he wrote, "says Schneider Carpeggiani, editor of the cultural magazine Pernambuco and of the Cesárea publishing house.

Born in the city of Santiago (Rio Grande do Sul), also known as the land of poets, Caio Abreu wrote practically throughout his life. He wrote about grandmothers, whores, gays, children, towns, transvestites, beaches, cities and rich people. He was funny, hedonistic and melancholic. I had sensitivity for closed costumbrismo but also for camp and pop, and I could mix all three at the same time. In punk times it was tender; in military worlds it was queer

Finally, he fell ill in times of euphoria. In 1994, during a trip to France, he discovered that he had HIV. That also told him. And today the start of his Letter from beyond the wall is one of his most famous phrases: "Something happened to me, so strange that I have not learned the way of speaking about it yet". He returned home to his parents and died in February 1996. He was not anywhere near a stranger, but a good part of the criticism did not know very well what to do with him.

But, seen since 2018, his work has been able to reach many more people. His ironic tone is now less alienating and his biographical fiction style is now much more common in social networks. His lack of taboos to talk about AIDS has also turned him into a posthumous activist. "And when you read his chronicles, it seems to you that he is talking about now, that the world he is describing is that of 2018," defends Nunes Mello, one of the current writers most influenced by him.

"Caio is very visceral, speaks of anguish, fear and over the years that characteristic has left him marked among young readers", adds the editor Alice Sant'Anna, responsible for reviewing all the stories of Abreu for the compendium of more than 750 pages with which the Companhia das Letras is now celebrating its 70th anniversary. "The context has changed but his way of speaking from the counterculture has not. It is still current. And it deserves a place among our greatest writers. "

Where it has not yet deserved a place is in bookstores of other languages. In Spanish, one of the novels was published.Where will Dulce Veiga go?, by the Argentine publishing house Adriana Hidalgo, but the volume is now discontinued and the remaining copies reach exorbitant prices on the Internet.


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