Academic journal article Hispanic Review

Alogical Memory: Thinking beyond (Counter)hegemonic Postdictatorial Discourse in Beatriz Bracher's Não Falei

Academic journal article Hispanic Review

Alogical Memory: Thinking beyond (Counter)hegemonic Postdictatorial Discourse in Beatriz Bracher's Não Falei

Article excerpt

In her 2004 novel Näo falei, Beatriz Bracher1 explores residual memories of Brazil's most recent military dictatorship (1964-1985) and new ways of reading its effects on the present. The story is narrated by Gustavo, a teacher who is asked by a student (Cecilia) to be interviewed about his experience during the dictatorship, which sparks a fragmented narrative that constantly jumps between Gustavo's memories, the contradictory recollections of his family members, and lengthy digressions on language and the education system in Brazil. Gustavo was tortured by DOPS2 agents during the dictatorship in order to obtain information about his brother-in-law, Armando, a leader of an armed organization that sought a revolutionary overthrow of the military regime. Gustavo declares multiple times that he did not provide any information to his torturers about his wife's brother, reflecting the title of the novel. However, Armando was captured and killed on the same day that Gustavo was released from prison, leading family members and friends to suspect that he had betrayed Armando under torture, which plays an important role in the reflective metanarratives articulated in Nao falei.

Bracher's novel explores the limits of what I call the discursive logic of memory in postdictatorial Brazil, constituted by the (counter)hegemonic discourses of the militant left3 and the military regime during the dictatorship, and often serving as the dominant trope in the construction of memory about this time period today. In this essay, I first lay out the foundations for this dominant memory discourse constituted in cultural production during the 1970s and 1980s in Brazil. Next, I analyze the ways that Gustavo's narrative serves to fracture the idealized vision of a united left resisting the military regime by questioning the logic that guided armed revolutionary groups during the dictatorship. I then explore Bracher's engagement with the theme of "betrayal" in the novel, and how Gustavo's narrative serves to demythify Armando as a revolutionary hero while at the same time offering an account of the violence that he himself endured from military personnel. I close by examining Gustavo's realization of the impossibility of communicating his experiences to others, not because of the inherent gaps in meaning that accompany any representation of experience (traumatic or otherwise), but because his narrative does not fit within the accepted discursive logic of postdictatorial memory in Brazil.

The Foundations of (Counter)hegemonic Postdictatorial Memory

Silviano Santiago has noted three dominant tropes in Brazilian literature of the 1970s and 1980s that engage with the military dictatorship: an allegorical "prosa de intriga fantástica" that "transmitía urna crítica radical das estruturas de poder no Brasil"; the romance-reportagem "em que se denunciava os árbitros da violéncia militar e policial nos anos duros do AI-5"; and the testimonial "relatos autobiográficos escritos pelos jovens políticos" returning from exile in the abertura (37-39). Both he and Flora Süssekind note that it was this third category that was the most successful genre, as a middle-class readership voraciously consumed stories of violence, torture, and murder by those who suffered from the military repression as a type of "mea culpa" (Süssekind 44) for having supported the military coup in 1964 and/or standing by during the militarization of Brazilian society. Süssekind, however, argues that many of the texts that constitute the "radical" group of fantastic/ allegorical literature described by Santiago also implicitly maintain the same symbolic structure as the military regime itself. For Süssekind, these texts reflect a síndrome da prisäo constituted by "duas trilhas que, de certa maneira, aprisionam a literatura brasileira dos últimos anos: de um lado, o naturalismo evidente dos romances-reportagem ou disfarçado das parábolas e narrativas fantásticas; de outro, a 'literatura do eu' dos depoimentos, das memorias, da poesia biográfico-geracional" (42). …

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