a um moçoilo (a point of personal curiosity)

I first came across this poem while reading Formação da literatura brasileira for the nth time. This time around, I was struck by the brief section on Junqueira Freire, and something about the tortured sensuality of the Bahian monk’s poetry led me to Google “Junqueira Freire homossexual.” A few thousand hits were unanimous in declaring him, if not gay, then at least not straight – a statement made with some degree of certainty, given his authorship of “what is likely the only Brazilian Romantic poem dedicated to openly homosexual desire.”

The poem’s title was “A um moçoilo” (To a Lad, roughly), and the first line was “Eu que te amo tão deveras” (I who love you so truly). That was all that furious Googling could turn up. The poem had been reproduced in an anthology from 1969 by Gasparino Damata dedicated to gay Brazilian poetry – Poemas do amor maldito – which was, in turn, elusive and out of print.

In the age of Project Gutenberg and Google Books, it seemed ridiculous not to be able to turn up a few lines written no fewer than 150 years ago and published within the last 100. I tried the library at PUC in Rio (no dice), solicited the book in vain at the new Brasiliana library at USP (the book didn’t have a locator number yet), and finally, several months later, Inter-Library Loan delivered the slim volume to the library counter at Brown.

The poem, happily, is surprising – not least, as one friend pointed out, for the absolute lack of guilt in the poetic voice’s desire for the young lad. This love is cheeky and persevering, even in the face of what might be a devastating slight; and it is expressed with a brazen physicality, from the affectionate reference to the lad’s “queixinho” to the explicitly declared desire for a kiss and carnal passion.

(It’s worth remembering that Junqueira Freire died short of his 23rd birthday, in 1855.)

I’ve transcribed the poem and leave it here for the next person who searches for the phrase “A um moçoilo.” Read it in good health.

A UM MOÇOILO

Eu que te amo tão deveras,
A quem tu, louro moçoilo,
Me fazes chiar e amolas,
Qual canivete em rebolo;
Eu que, qual anjo, te adoro,
Então, menino, eu sou tolo?

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“B-Side,” my ass. (pun intended)

Less radicalism and a bit more good humor — that’s what Zuenir Ventura had to recommend in the wake of feminist criticisms of his column of February 4th. [Some context for those who are lost: an actress appeared in revealing underwear on the soap opera that’s currently running. That’s pretty much all you need to know.]
Whence the radicalism and lack of humor? Objecting to this drooling bullshit:

The B-Side is a Hit

It was an incredible viral hit on social media, wound up in Ancelmo’s column [in O Globo] and inspired a paean from Joaquim Ferreira dos Santos the day before yesterday. I’m referring, of course, to the butt of Paolla Oliveira, the actress from the soap Felizes para sempre? [Happy Ever After?] How can we explain the nation’s fixation, given that, it being a national taste, there is such an, shall we say, excess of product? I’m not criticizing, on the contrary, but why hers? The beaches have never been fuller of nearly-bare bodies laid belly-down, revealing themselves in any number of forms: watermelon, pumpkin, melon, apple, pear. To say nothing of the muses of Carnaval who are already showing themselves off in the samba school rehearsals. A butt a time like these, in the middle of a crisis? Maybe that’s precisely why, escapism, getting away from all the bad news coming out of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. Or yet another scandal from Petrobrás. Or yet another stray bullet. What should we really be admiring, Paolla’s tush or the faces of the new presidents of the Congress?

In search of explanations, I went to talk with someone who knows what he’s talking about: Ziraldo, who once headed up a magazine entitled Bundas [Butts], and recently organized an exhibition of 16 large-scale canvases by famous and anonymous artists alike, with a number of examples displaying the part of the female body he considers himself a specialist in. “I’ve always loved pretty women and their butts,” he says. An American documentary filmmaker even came to Brazil just to interview him on that object of desire, Brazil’s “chief export and national glory.” As he says in tones of gleeful pride, “I’m a pioneer. I always knew that butts would win out.”

But, in the end, what’s the mystique behind Paolla’s tush? Maybe because it’s a butt with an identity and a brand. If it were anonymous, it would never have gotten so much attention. Joaquim describes it in transcendent terms, believing that it has taken on an emblematic dimension in the heat of the political situation […] Ziraldo, meanwhile, believes that the secret of Paolla as a phenomenon lies in the whole: “The beauty of her face, her smile, her empathy, all that adds to the appeal of her butt.”

Maybe. In the soap Amor à vida [Loving Life], I was struck when I saw Paolla’s face for the first time. Unlike the Angelina Jolie-model mouth, with its sensual and sizable lips, she had one of the most delicate and well-shaped mouths on the scene today, with a barely-evident smile that recalled – to an extent – the Mona Lisa’s. I couldn’t understand why people weren’t talking about it. Now I know. Inside, she must have been saying: “You ain’t seen nothing yet. Wait ’til you see my B-side.”

So where, you ask, having wiped tears of hilarity from your eyes, was the lack of good humor? In pointing out, as Branca Vianna did in a letter to the columnist, that a) domestic violence and violence against women in Brazil is a massive problem; and that:

All of us, specialists or otherwise, can do one thing: treat women like people. Paolla Oliveira, Zuenir, is not a butt who came to the world to let you, Joaquim Ferreira dos Santos, or Ziraldo blow off steam. She is a person. Nor is she a “delicate and well-shaped mouth.” Paolla Oliveira is more than the sum of her enticing parts. I can’t imagine that giving men pleasure at a time of national crisis is her aim in life, or that of any woman, for that matter. I expect that she wants something more for her career. I hope that she wants something more for her career.

While it seems normal to speak of women like you did in your column – and, moreover, while that can still be considered a compliment – there will remain the idea that women are things without rights, to be used, handled, and enjoyed. And that only serves to fuel the fire of violence against women.

I don’t have much to add to such a common-sense, admirably calm takedown. In his answer, Zuenir — you guessed it — drooled some more and suggested that Branca see the funny side in all this.

I struggle with these rude shocks that come from time to time, as a feminist who studies, occasionally lives in, and loves Brazil. After the anger and disbelief, there comes fatigue. Is it really worth it to write back, when the answers reveal even deeper degrees of ignorance? The festive tones of Carnaval — which, in all honesty, and despite all my reservations, I’m missing terribly — will likely drown out any protests. Those who raise objections are either carried along by the crowd or run straight over.

Despite the temptation to shrug and sigh, it is unfailingly important not to let the recommendation — less radicalism and a bit more good humor — pass us by. I would turn it around, as a matter of fact. The fact that the author of Cidade partida would find it “radical” to criticize the sort of unabashed objectification that even a late-stage Don Draper might blush at is radical — radically backwards — in and of itself. And the columnists giggling and ogling in equal parts need to update their sense of humor. Bundas has gone out of print for a reason.

As I was translating Zuenir’s column (stopping periodically to gag), something else occurred to me. The convergence of the person and the body part in the feminine pronoun “ela” makes the objectification even more insidious in Portuguese. “She” and “it” (her ass) are literally indistinguishable. Paolla becomes even less human, linguistically drawn and quartered as she is by the ela that simultaneously subsumes her personhood. Nor is a possessive pronoun necessarily used in Portuguese — it’s not her mouth, it’s the mouth. A pair of lips, an ass framed against an open window, sans owner or context: she is gone. The fact that that elision is even syntactically possible is deeply disturbing.

Meanwhile, O Globo, feeling emboldened and festive, has just profiled three incoming female federal representatives as if they were the new picks for the cheerleading squad. It would be funny if it weren’t frightening. But hey, Zuenir, there’s a pun in my title. Feminists can have fun, too.

brazil x chile: it comes in waves

A little late, I know, but during the dying moments of the Group of 16 matchup I took my little radio up to the top of the building and sprawled out on the terrace. Television transmits with a delay, and HD is even worse. I wanted to be the first to know what was happening. Radio antenna pointed up towards Cristo for maximum signal.

First the little radio bellows. Then the neighbors throw open their windows. Then the valley from Santa Teresa to Corcovado goes absolutely nuts. The hills sprout fireworks. The shirtless dudes on top of a nearby penthouse jump dripping from their pool and rattle the railings with glee. It ripples out and grows and grows.

0:40 – Neymar’s GOL on the radio

0:41 – 0:55 – flurries of honks and steadily rising bellows

1:30 – NA TRAVE! Jara’s ball bounces off the post

1:32 – the ball bounces off the post on my neighbors’ TVs

1:35 – my neighbors’ neighbors’ neighbors start to scream

1:36-on – insanity, shots being fired, possibly joyful fatalities

It took a while to get to sleep that night. Every far-off sound seemed as if another corner of the city had just gotten wind of the news and was setting off fireworks of its own, belated but ecstatic.

blame it on the

Through some fatal alchemy, São Paulo beat its own awful record yesterday: the longest traffic jam in the city’s history, perhaps in the world, 344 km of frustrated, idling motors. Worst of all, at least in terms of finger-pointing, is that there were no protests that day, no demonstrators blocking highways — just a broken city and bumpers stretching the distance between Washington and New York. (What a caravan that would be.)

The same rains that pushed paulistas into their cars have come to Rio. The Saturday feira was both underpopulated and more crowded than usual, garlic sellers and bag-laden shoppers jostling for space under the vendors’ covered stalls. The banana lady, whose table groans under her green-and-yellow display, was rushing to deal with a small line of customers. A woman walked by and asked if she had any banana-da-terra. “Not today. Banana-da terra‘s on strike.” At least in this case, you can direct your complaints to the union.

a countdown to what?

“Why don’t you keep a diary about the World Cup?”

image

With less than a month left before kickoff, and although I’m too preoccupied with my own impossible tasks to even consider going to either the matches or the popular assemblies, I might as well write something.

The government claims that in two weeks (make that one week, now), Brazil will get in the mood for the Cup. But in the non-activist circles I frequent, the air is more of resignation than jubilation. The forward-moving outrage of last year has slipped into browbeating, a refrain of caveat emptor: we asked for a Copa and we got one, all right. My half-joking “Não vai ter Copa” was met yesterday with a “Vai ter Copa, sim. There won’t be hospitals or working stadiums or anything useful, but there will be a Copa.” One cabbie was already looking to August with dread: once the cameras are gone, what will become of us? Another ingredient in the mix is the perverse, thrilling anticipation of disaster, as if before a high school fight scheduled that afternoon in the hallway.

At first I saw two streets, one in Glória and one in Flamengo, all painted and bestreamered in green and yellow. Then more. My supermarket was soon festooned with decorations and images of the Cup’s armadillo mascot showing a remarkable degree of coordination in holding a soccer ball. Then another shop hung yellow-and-green soccer balls in its display window. It feels like a slow-moving landslide, something beyond people’s control. Pure inexorable capitalism? Habit? Peer pressure? Defeat?

In Cinelândia, activists hold a pick-up game in front of the City Council chambers, after dark, with the perennially vigilant police as their spectators. The teams are called FIFA Terrorista and Fuck the Cup. Neither side wins, though, because the police wind up telling them that they can’t play football in the Praça Floriano. The police are shown a red card by the ref, but refuse to leave the pitch.

The Brazilian giant, once sleeping, then awoken, now dozing fitfully, seems to be waiting for a sign to rise. It may never come. Buses are burned in São Paulo, the police cross their arms in Recife, and Dona FIFA rolls on sternly but serenely, trademarking the terms “Brasil 2014” and even “Pagode,” dispatching cease and desist notices with impressive zeal. The cabbie waxes almost nostalgic for the days of military interventions.

Karim Aïnouz has a new film out; last week it opened in cinemas all across the Zona Sul. It has an exciting title and an elliptical trailer, and the posters are eager to highlight the popular, handsome actor who stars in it. Within days of the premiere, one movie theater started instituting a screening process of sorts for would-be spectators. “You know that this movie has gay sex scenes in it, right?” If the spectator didn’t walk away from the ticket office in disgust, then their ticket would be printed and stamped with the word AVISADO. Forewarned. No getting your money back after steely-eyed Wagner Moura falls in love with another man. No more people walking out of the theaters (hopefully).*

The film’s distribution was cut to limited screenings in just two theaters in Rio.

(Some things, everyone is willing to protest about.)

If only FIFA had used a similar system during the bidding process. “You know that more than half of the promised infrastructure won’t be done in time (or at all), seemingly impressive projects won’t even be started, thousands of families will lose their homes, and this whole mess will wind up supported by torrents of public money, right?” AVISADO. Enjoy the show.

 

 

*The theater says they did warn people about the scenes, but that the stamp was related to a half-off discount. Regardless, when a film with Wagner Moura tanks this badly at the box office, you’ve got to imagine that plenty of Tropa de Elite fans must have walked out.