PRESENTATION AND REPRESENTATION OF SELF AND CITY IN PAULICEIA DESVAIRADA by Charles A. Perrone
While having historically occupied positions on geo-political, socio-economic and cultural peripheries of the Western world, Brazil has participated vigorously in transcontinental schemes of development and paradigmatic exercises of aesthetic behavior. The major changes and innovations in the arts of the early twentieth century in Europe and North America had surface or immediate reflections in Brazil, as well as more profound original implementations and reformulations, especially in the multifarious center that the city of São Paulo was becoming. When Malcolm Bradbury wrote that "[i]n many respects the literature of experimental Modernism . . . was an art of cities" (96), he was referring of course to Paris, Berlin, New York and other hegemonic centers of innovative activity in literature and beaux arts. That he did not contemplate Latin American sites should not diminish in any way the relevance of his overarching affirmation to São Paulo, which in the early 1920s was experiencing ever-increasing industrialization and urban evolution, including the emergence of nationalist artistic thought in modernismo, or Brazilian Modernism.
In Western letters, the city itself and the artist in the city, observing and bringing a distinct new consciousness, were themselves the "two major themes of modernism" (Lehan 77). Again, this fundamental truth of the general renovation of literature up to 1930 is eminently applicable to Brazilian counterparts, notably to Paulicéia desvairada (1922) by Mário de Andrade, inaugural publication and oeuvre par excellence of the combative phase of modernismo. This multifaceted collection of verse initiated a city/artist-in-the city thread in Brazilian poetry that passes through such other principal modernistas as Oswald de Andrade, Carlos Drummond de Andrade, Manuel Bandeira, and Murilo Mendes, and finds pointed expression both in the mid-century neo-vanguard of poesia concreta and in numerous discursive texts in the domain of later twentieth-century lyric.[i] Emerging from and reflecting upon the hub of São Paulo, Paulicéia desvairada comprises a launching pad of an urban imperative in the modern poetry of Brazil. This seminal work represents a foundational moment in a movement that comprised a major rupture in the history of Brazilian culture by virtue of its radically fashioned “questionings of the relationship between the metropolis and the colony in a search for cultural independence.”[ii] The historical place of Paulicéia desvairada is evident in any account of modernity in Brazilian letters. An integral understanding of the collection hinges on examination of the relationship between its projections of self and its representations of the city of São Paulo, as well as of the overarching importance of performative roles in those processes.
Paulicéia desvairada (Hallucinated City) comprises a three-part collection. The first section consists of paratextual front matter directly related to the text proper: a two-paragraph self-addressed epistolary dedication and a twenty-page "Prefácio Interessantíssimo" that lays out a theory of modern lyric in technical and playful language. The central corpus is composed of twenty-one poems inspired in the life and environs of the city of São Paulo. The final part is an extensive composition (about half as long as the entire main sequence) dubbed "As enfibraturas do Ipiranga (Oratório profano)" and imagined as a massive performance piece. All told, the poems count twenty-two, perhaps not a coincidental sum in the polemical context of 1922, the first year of declared modernismo and actual year of publication of the book (though it was mostly written earlier). The best known and most widely discussed components are the preface, three particular poems (the first, second, and ninth), and the concluding oratorio. Because of its expository and manifesto-like qualities, the preface of Paulicéia desvairada and Mário de Andrade's complementary ars poetica, "A escrava que não é Isaura" (1924), are regularly considered as fundamental documents of modernismo (see Telles 297-307).
The ninth poem "Ode ao burguês" was read (and booed) at the landmark Semana de Arte Moderna (1922). The épater les bourgeois impulse which drove that event, and which permeates Mário de Andrade’s subsequent book, is best embodied in this odious and shrill poem in lines such as “Eu insulto o burguês! O burguês-níquel,/ o burguês-burguês!” and “Ódio aos sem desfalecimentos nem arrependimentos,/ sempiternamente as mesmices convencionais!” The first poem, "Inspiração," establishes essential parameters for the series to follow. The speaker’s impassioned focus on the city is crystallized in the repeated line "São Paulo! comoção de minha vida . . ." Exclamatory and harlequin, the consistent persona is shaped in such lines as “Arlequinal!. . . Traje de losangos . . ,” while a geo-ideological dualism that structures the book and, on a larger scale, the inquisitive movement it advocates, inhabits the last line: "Galicismo a berrar nos desertos da América!" An operative binomial of "civilized"-European / "primitive"-American is further expressed at the conclusion of the second poem, "O trovador," as "Sou um tupi tangendo um alaúde!", a line that came to be seen as "síntese do processo de criação" (Lopez 30), as a common characterization of the identity-conscious author. This troubadoresque item further illustrates the pervasive musicality and performativity of the sequence as a whole, which passes into the third division. Adrian Roig (74-124) dedicates an entire section of his, the lengthiest study of Paulicéia desvairada, to the various aspects of the poet-musician in the book.
The inaugural role and proactive character of Mário de Andrade’s novel book are more noteworthy than the actual poems. These are quite attitudinally symptomatic of the author’s early work in the Modernist spirit and contain numerous anthological moments, but they prove to be uneven. Critical remarks about Paulicéia desvairada generally concern its place in instituting the program of modernismo as an attention-generating publication with a theoretical statement and as an emphatic implementation of new poetic technique with a national focus. An oft-repeated anecdote of genesis, based on the author's own story, includes reference to a French-language inspiration and is offered as evidence of the application to writing of a liberated subconscious and of a new urban awareness. Analysts' approaches to Paulicéia desvairada invariably involve the treatment of the city per se— its physical spaces, configurations of people and places, the outward traits of groups, notable activities, etc.—particularly in relation to the poems' lyrical subject.
An inescapable referent in any discussion of the city and the emergence of modernity in lyric is Baudelaire, who, many decades before the historical avant-gardes and sans wider ranging intentions, "embodies the artist in the city, the move from an objective to a subjective view of the city— the move . . . from naturalism to Modernism" (Lehan 73), revealing civilizational transformations well beyond its lyrical designs, as Walter Benjamin's incisive writings have shown. More than half a century after Les fleurs du mal, Mário's city-focused book marked a very conscious declaration of an expressly modernist perspective. The readings that provoked him were distinct from well-traveled Parisian models. In his indispensable retrospective essay "O movimento modernista" (1942), Mário wrote that he imagined his poetical São Paulo adventure via Les villes tentaculaires (1895) by Belgian poet Émile Verhaeren (Aspectos 233). Every discussant of Paulicéia desvairada alludes to that source but precious few—notably Lafetá and Lopez—appear to have actually read the collection in question. It followed Verhaeren's Les campagnes hallucinés (1893), raising the possibility that Mário's title resulted from a fusion of the two French titles, as Lafetá also speculates (84). Comparison of Les villes tentaculaires and Paulicéia desvairada (whose preface utilizes a quotation of Verhaeren as epigraph) indeed helps bring the Brazilian experience into relief.
With an introduction, eighteen poems and epilogue, Verhaeren's volume presents an organizational structure quite similar to the one later created by Mário de Andrade. Unlike the poetic celebration of Brazil's largest city from a first-person harlequin perspective, however, the realist-symbolist construction of Verhaeren is not specific, about any one city, but rather generic, about urban sites in general, including emerging industrial towns, ports, and complex though nameless cities of Europe. Les villes tentaculaires, moreover, is very much external and objectified, virtually exclusively third person, in its register of active spaces (factories, streets, etc.) and brutal changes brought about by urbanization, transformed productive modes, and proletarianization. In an epochal sweep beyond cityscape, it further contemplates shifting ideas, the growth of laboratory science, and the indomitable spirit of human endeavor. In Verhaeren, there are evident residues of a romantic ambivalence toward industrialization (as in Blake, Wordsworth) in an exaltation of rural innocence vis-à-vis urban decay countered by wavering attitudes about the physical and spiritual consequences of new social and geographical forces. Despite exclamations of admiration in Paulicéia desvairada, Mário de Andrade also oscillated between "acceptance of modern civilization and nostalgic rejection of it" (Simon 40). His vision of his city is by no means univocal, and it even strikes some readers as negative and painful. Treece, for example, concludes that "São Paulo emerges . . . as a gloomy landscape of grey drizzle, economic booms and busts, foreign-owned railways and disillusioned farmers, watched over by the indifferent gaze of an uncaring motherland" (71).
In Verhaeren, the emphatic, impassioned awareness of transformation does not have a developed formal co-relation, as his measured verse, while fervent in tone, is hardly fragmented or experimental. Still, as noted by a venerable German thinker who later turned his attention to Brazil as well, Verhaeren's was not only the first poetic account of the rural-urban transition and of the measure of all value through money, but also an enactment of the realization that the grandeur of the new had gone beyond the aesthetics of the past (Zweig 94, 99-100). Such an enactment, of course, is very much relevant and true for modernismo considering the lingering prestige and practice of Parnassianism in Brazilian letters. In relation to that worn model, Mário's anti-normative verse was indeed quite unsettling, disjointed, and vanguardist. His language was made to reflect a burgeoning something new in Brazilian reality, the urb, and in the arts, the local version of l'esprit nouveau. The "anti-syntax" he devised gave rise to a diversified linguistic attack, a "polyphony that translated modernity" (Passos 57). Through refreshed and refurbished language, Mário de Andrade may have absorbed from Verhaeren above all an attitude of engagement with the soul of the city and its spectacles, but self-exploration took on a tremendous role for the poet of São Paulo as well.
As stated at the outset, Modernism, in Europe and South America alike, was an art of cities; it was marked by the 1920s by an intense examination of self through the release of inner being and the subconscious. What a recognized scholar of this tendency in Western culture remarks in a general fashion about the early stages of Modernism is pertinent to the tensions Mário de Andrade faces and extends in his Paulicéia desvairada: "In modernist culture, the object perceived seems always on the verge of being swallowed up by the perceiving agent, and the act of perception in danger of being exalted to the substance of reality. . . Subjectivity becomes the typical condition of the modernist outlook . . . modernism declares itself as an inflation of the self, a transcendental and orgiastic aggrandizement of matter and event in behalf of personal vitality" (Howe 14). In the case of Paulicéia desvairada, the strength of the eu in relation to the city of São Paulo proves to be a key measure.
It is natural that poetic space should be a prime aspect of a collection dedicated to a particular place, a city. In the apprehension of an urban entity, Paulicéia desvairada presents precious few overviews or images of unity, preferring to weave a fabric made of numerous constituent parts. Even one of the most memorable wide angles comprises a locus made of many smaller units: "Paulicea-- a grande boca de mil dentes “ (in poem three, “Os cortejos”). The organizational rationale of accumulating visual and auditory images relates to the presumed dress of the persona as harlequin: a clown's or jester’s outfit made of multicolored lozenges sewn together.[iii] His gaze and attention do not follow any pattern, logical development, or route through the city. Places, points, buildings, transports, shops, parks, etc. appear as associations to occupy the delirious mind of the speaker. Numerous neighborhoods come into play, but mostly by mere mention of their names (e.g. Braz, Bom Retiro, Mooca). In keeping with the fragmented nominalism of discourse in Paulicéia desvairada, accounts or suggestions of what those names might represent (e.g. class, ethnic, historical physical traits) are not necessarily forthcoming. In some cases, a critical view of a sector of society is tied to a location, e.g. politicians "a pastar/ rente do palácio do senhor presidente” in “O rebanho." Yet the scans and close-ups of areas and points of reference do not clarify the perceptions of readers outside the time period or city. In a review that appeared soon after the release of the book, Manuel Bandeira considered the plethora of specifically local referents therein; while admiring the work, he found it could easily be "incomprehensible" for those who were not familiar with the environs and nomenclature of São Paulo.
In contrast to potentially hermetic cartographic details, the sequence of poems in Paulicéia desvairada does effectively configure linguistic and ethnic multiplicity in the city. English and French phrases and authors are heard and cited as befits captured moments satirizing aristocrats and bourgeois folks attuned to European high culture, a clownish inventory of high-brow cultural opportunities in town, or nods to the novelty of film. On the popular level, the dominant Other tongue is Italian (together with Italianized Portuguese), treatment of which specifically concerns the representation of Italian identity in this and other literary works by Mário de Andrade (see Carelli). The multiplicity of São Paulo's populace is made explicit in several places, most notably in "Tu", a poem graced, among others, by a beloved "costureirinha ... italo-franco-luso-brasileiro-saxônica," whose profession as seamstress coincides with the idea of binding parts together. This hyper-hyphenated ethnoscape and the multi-voiced language scene—carnivalized in the Bakhtinian sense of incorporating, or at least recognizing, a variety of voices, especially of conventionally non-represented groups—also correspond to the sartorial image that accompanies the ever-present harlequin lyrical subject of the poems. The tensions that persist within and between his mental and spiritual space and the material and cultural components of the domain of São Paulo are crucial to the mapping of Paulicéia desvairada.
Since the appearance of the book, critics have pondered the interplay of self with surroundings and speculated on the results of favoring an egocentric or exogenous comprehension of Mário de Andrade's lyrical homage to his home base. João Luiz Lafetá sought to explore what he determined to be the most profound necessity moving the lyrical subject in Paulicéia desvairada: the very representation of his modern "I" in correlation with the modern city (80). He returns to critics contemporaneous with Mário de Andrade to demonstrate a continuity of concern. Tristão de Ataíde noted in relation to the poet "condescências excessivas com o seu subconsciente lírico" but also "uma visão poderosa da vida atual e de todos os contrastes da civilização moderna" (1923, qtd. by Lafeta, 81). Meanwhile, in the Modernist organ Klaxon that advertised Paulicéia desvairada, a colleague characterized Mário de as "um objetivo na sensação. . . mas . . . um subjetivo na expressão," juxtaposing sensorial reception of the city and an exaggerated subjectivism of self-recognition (1922, qtd. by Lafeta, 83). Here, apostrophes and exclamations such as “Minha Loucura, acalma-te!” and “Oh! Minhas alucinações” help fortify the sense of surplus. For his part, Fernando Góes, author of the longest "story" about Paulicéia desvairada, underlines the wholly satirical character of the collection yet insists it remains "uma poesia de 'emoção' contra uma poesia de 'temas' e de 'assuntos'" (135), thus tipping the balance toward individual feeling and away from what in the world provokes it. Roig, orienting his interpretation by thematic structuring, affirms without hesitation that the poet does not present any sort of objective view but rather "les impressions, les sensations, les émotions intenses qu'il éprouve dans sa ville." Elements of the modern city are always channeled through "le moi omniprésent du poète" (21). Without distinguishing between author and poetic voice, David Haberly states that the goal of the former is "the discovery within the city he loves of a single, satisfying identity that will compensate for his own disunity" (140), clearly subordinating place to person. Noting Mário de Andrade's unending preoccupation with identities, the great Latin American humanist Richard Morse, sure of hierarchy in Paulicéia desvairada, admits an interpenetration of city and self while stating that the poet’s " 'hallucinated' São Paulo . . . was not an economic reality but an arena for the quest of self" (20). This brief but significant passage through the critical corpus regarding Paulicéia desvairada demonstrates, as different as approaches may have been, the extent to which the private realm is seen to weigh on the public in a work easily assumed, by its title, to have somewhat of a spatial bias.
For Luiz Costa Lima, contextual and textual evidence alike lead to the conclusion that the concrete loses out to the individual in Mário's textual city, which appears only to plunge into the "anonimato da subjectividade" (43). In principle, he fails to achieve "o que fora fundamental, desde Baudelaire, ao sentimento da poesia moderna: o impacto da grande cidade (39). Other modern Brazilian readers would not "discredit" the author of Paulicéia desvairada in this fashion, preferring to postulate an adjustment of subjective and objective levels that in fact reveals the city. Iumna Simon, for example, describes a process of internalization and externalization of the city that produces "analogical and metaphorical intersections" between lyrical self and urban setting, whose multiplicity and ambiguities toward modernization do receive emotional and critical responses (39, 43). In the study with the tightest focus on this challenge of subjectivity, Lafetá stresses that Paulicéia desvairada was the first effort to create verse "capaz de representar a agitação e o tumulto da vida nas grandes cidades" (79) and finds reason to reconcile with Mário's excesses, as they are seen to constitute, more than exaggerated signs of the subconscious, something like photographic negatives of the historical moment (82), thus also representing, if not the city of São Paulo per se, a state of modernity there.
The foregoing review of critical reception has hopefully exposed efficaciously that key feature of commentary on Paulicéia desvairada that is the concern about its overwrought "I" and a consequent relative distancing from urban portraiture. If the interpretive balance on Paulicéia desvairada has never tipped to the city's side, at least with respect to the main sequence of 21 poems, it is perhaps because the egocentrism reflected in the first-person singular possessive pronoun in " São Paulo! comoção de minha vida!" simply never lets up. Just as the excited tone of the work is unavoidably established with the (irritating for some) omnipresence of exclamation points (every poem has them!!!), the poetic self is kept at the fore grammatically, as each and every one of the first twenty poems has first-person singular possessive, object or subject pronouns (verb-implied in a few cases). The final poem in the main sequence (“Paisagem no. 4”) is the only exception, as imperatives are first person plural: "Ponhamos os (Vitória!) colares de presas inimigas!/ Enguirlandemo-nos de café-cereja!" This poem has a more collective outlook, a finalizing view, from a strategic place. The people/landscape thus functions as a transition to part three of Paulicéia desvairada.
The sequence of twenty-one poems, as Ilza Soares has explored, is structured by the behavior of the harlequin voice in several ways. Familiar topography is reorganized as a subjective city, confirming the self-absorbent tendency seen above. Hallucinatory trance highlights visual distortions. Of particular interest is the statement that "Paulicéia desvairada representa a paisagem urbana por anamorfose, imagem deformada do solo pátrio..." (162). The word anamorfose is quite effective here because it has several meanings: optical deformation of an image, the artistic representation of such deforming, a mathematical mapping, and constant evolution (like serial metamorphoses), which suggests the subject's mindset and the reality of burgeoning São Paulo in the 1920s. In a more encompassing sense, the city is a discourse of dance, a theatrical spatialization (Soares 164). "São Paulo é um palco de bailados russos" (from “Paisagem no. 2”) is the line that best communicates both the projection of multiple perspectives and the idea of stagecraft. São Paulo, a platform of self-discovery and affirmation, becomes a stadium for a broad range of performers.
In the closing somewhat independent section of Paulicéia desvairada, "As enfibraturas do Ipiranga (Oratório profano)", there is a first-person presence in "Minha loucura" (who had been addressed in one of the main poems) but the sui generis choral composition mostly represents non-individual structures, friction among factions, and contrasting aesthetic tendencies in current artistic events (see Nunes). A cast of group voices is comprised of “Os Orientalismos Convencionais,” “As Senectudes Tremulinas,” “Os Sandapilários Indiferentes,” and “As Juvenilidades Auriverdes.” The quasi-dramatic face-off of these groups is best understood as an experimental and performance-oriented manifesto (Unruh, 42-50). In this unusual context, a unique authorial intervention provides an opportunity for reader participation through morphology that radiates in urban imperative and usability. The disputatious faction representing convention utters: "E as . . . . . . . . . cidades, as . . . . . . . . . cidades, / as . . . . . . . . . cidades, as . . . . . . . . . cidades / e mil . . . . . . . . .cidades . . . " (original ellipses). Here, a footnote explains, readers should insert, according to their likes and dislikes, the names of local writers, exemplifying with the real-life author: "mariocidades." By extension, one could produce "oswaldocidades" for Oswald de Andrade or "menotticidades" for Menotti del Picchia. The producer of the footnote then says this is just for the sake of rhythm, that the suffix does not exist. Such an emphasis on personalized rhythm is eminently modernista (cf. poet Ronald de Carvalho's dictum: "Cria teu próprio ritmo!"), and the grammatical claim leaves room for thought. Strictly speaking, the suffix –cidade does not in fact exist,for the suffix morpheme is -idade. Yet -cidade is indeed a common word termination in Portuguese, and in the context of this poem-for-performance the reiterated c+suffix provides a convenient echo of the urban(e) and combinatory scene being played out.
This mixture, in the passage cum footnote, of (implied) author and narrator, dramatic voice or lyric self and artist-citizen, passes onto a gamesome (ludic) plane beyond any concern per se with representativity of São Paulo. This set-up, more importantly, breaks the illusion of fiction like no other passage in Paulicéia desvairada and suggests an opportunity to ponder Mário’s collection in historical aesthetic terms. On one level, it draws readers into their own performative roles within the modernist debate staged in the oratorio. On another, it may be profitably associated with another quite distinct view of the urban, of verbal coincidence, and of Brazilian experiment: This passage prefigures the Portuguese-English-French text "cidade-city-cité" (1963) by Augusto de Campos, a celebrated example of Brazil’s eminently informed and cosmopolitan poesia concreta, which was conceived as a minimalist antithesis to the kind of verbose, exclamatory, and inflamed speaker-driven verse found in Paulicéia desvairada, one of the earliest examples of modernist vanguardism in Brazil.[iv] The volume of this modernista act is amplified by compagination with the later neo-avant-garde assertion of difference, just as retrospection and speculation on the material and spiritual carry-overs from Verhaeren shed light on the literary architecture in motion being conceived by the cosmopolitan yet passionately Brazilian Mário de Andrade. In broader perspective, such contrasts in style revive and affirm the significance of a question that has preoccupied analysts of Paulicéia desvairada: the extent to which subjective immoderation might destabilize the external poetic rendering of the city, assumed to be a natural objective of a so-titled collection, or somehow diminish the sense of the impacts lyric had suffered during the citifying march of modernity. By any measure, Paulicéia desvairada was a brash affirmation of a new aesthetics of modernismo; the tensions of self and city, of presentation and representation, of expressivity and interpretive activity, all embody, in the final analysis, a newness and dynamism characteristic of São Paulo in the Modernist decade and in the successive decades of development and artistic diversification to follow.
Originally appeared as “Presentation and Representation of Self and City in Paulicéia Desvairada.” Chásqui volume 31, no. 1 (2002), pp. 18-27
[i] On modernista particulars, see Simon. On the concrete connection, see note 4 below. For an idea of the legacy of the prime figures of the 1920s in urban-center youth poetry of the 1970s, see the illustrated volume of free verse by João Farkas, São Paulo de Andrade (São Paulo: Massao Ohno, 1976). Symptomatic later works include Adriano Espínola, Em trânsito (Táxi/Metrô) (Rio de Janeiro: Topbooks, 1996) and Italo Moriconi, A cidade e as ruas (Rio de Janeiro: UERJ, 1991). In "Retrato de uma cidade III, São Sebastião e Pecadores do Rio de Janeiro," Drummond wrote:
Cada cidade tem sua linguagem nas dobras da linguagem transparente Pula do cofre da gíria uma riqueza, . . . Diamantes-minuto, palavras cintilam por toda parte, num relâmpago, e se apagam. Morre na rua a ondulação do signo irônico. Já outros vêm saltando em profusão. (Poesia e Prosa. Rio de Janeiro: Nova Aguilar, 1983, p. 763).
He refers here to Rio do Janeiro, but his sense is applicable to modern cities in general, especially those with notable growth patterns in artistic creativity such as São Paulo.
To avoid any confusion with Oswald or Carlos Drummond, Mário de Andrade will be referred to here by his full name or by first name only.
[ii] Holanda (4), who also cites concrete poetry and tropicalismo. She sees such radicalization especially in Oswald de Andrade, but it is clearly visible in Mário de Andrade as well. [iii] This image was fortified on the cover of the first edition designed by Modernist poet Guilherme de Almeida, which consisted of of multiple multichromatic lonzenges. [iv] Campos’ non-discursive text is constructed as a extended line comprising the roots of 30 alphabetically arranged words and terminating in cidade / city, cité /” i.e. the common suffix (–idade, -ity, -ité,) preceded by the letter c. With this morphemic character and the abstract urban “theme”, there is an insinuation of the local-author selection option offered in “As enfibraturas do Ipiranga.” The well known song "Sampa" (1978) by Caetano Veloso alludes heavily to the context of the making of “cidade” and echoes Mário de Andrade’s landmark collection loudly. Critical readings of “Sampa” intimate that connection in several different ways, as there are numerous parallels that allow for useful comparisons in the understanding of the respective lyrical statements and in the consideration of their performative representations of the city. I have made the interrelation of this trio of works the subject of a separate study.
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