A literary quarterly of the university of Oklahoma
Norman, Oklahoma / USA

AUTUMN 1992 issue

Malcolm Silverman
San Diego State University

Cristovão Tezza. A Suavidade do Vento. Rio de Janeiro. Record. 1991. 204 pages.

Although similarities in characterization, thesis, structure, and even hermeticism are present in some of his previous works - notably, Ensaio da Paixão (1986), Trapo (1988), Aventuras Provisórias (1989), and Juliano Pavollini (1989), Cristovão Tezza (b. 1952) opts to broaden his style considerably in his new novel. Indeed, A Suavidade do Vento (The softness of the Wind) proves to be a multitiered gybrid of theater and prose, realism and fantasy, tragedy and comedy, and especially fiction and metafiction. This unabashed confluence of styles and genres, in turn, is diffused through moody introspection and stagnant confines.

From the outset Tezza blurs the divide between reader (spectator) and writer (narrator), crator and created, truth and invention. The novel's title, for instance, is also taht of his protagonist-writer's opus, just as Tezza's general autobiographical coordinates mirror, if in a distorted manner, the chracter's very curriculum vitae. Meanwhile, all along, the narrator intermingles freely with reader and personae alike, and the protagonist insists on using several variations on his name.

The novelist begins A Suavidade do Vento with a half-page prólogo, quick to establish a sense of inverted stage convention whereby the absurd is rendered matter-of-fact. Here the narrator is a bus driver, releasing his (at this point) anonymous rider-characters in the middle of nowhere. In the final three-page cortina (curtain) which closes the narrative, the metaphoir is expanded and the voyage motif is concluded: the return trip (to oblivion) gets under way, this time with whe whole "cast" now identified by (nick)name.

It is the first-person narrator, obstrusive and o unproven reliability, who details the thoughts and behavioral patterns which join to produce the plot thread - i.e., the daily anguish of the thin, sickly looking protagonist. He is Matozo, a solitary, insecure, even paranoid provincial grammar teacher. Furthermore, he is characterized by a near-pathological attachment to tobacoo, liquor, and gambling; an obsession with becoming a writer; a virginal awe of women; chronic (psychosomatic?) vertigo and neck pains; and uneasy cohabitation, as it were, with little invisible monsters who delight in his unstable, seemingly worsening mental condition.
As with some laboratory rat, Tezza's narrator submerges Matozo in total inner and outer adversity, indeed oppressiveness; then he proceeds to magnify the protagonist's modus vivendi, placing him in and around a small Paraná town during a rather well-delineated period (late 1971). There is, for example, his brooding over finishing, publishing, and promoting a first novel, a pastime soon substituted by oil painting; his escapist forays to Paraguayan casinos; and a climactic sojourn in more cosmopolitan Curitiba, from where he returns home, a reborn prodigal son, to a surprising tabula rasa of radical rethinking on the part of former acquaintances. In the process, by covering previous lies with new ones, he dramatically renounces his artistic inclinations, in effect rebuking as well his own self-identity. Already in peril, this shattered ego had long since hinged, most notably, on a defensive outpouring of ubiquitous quotes from the I Ching and Clarice, inserted in italics at every turn.

Matozo's propensity for remorse and merciless self-criticism at once forms a multiple thematic vehicle. Through it, Tezza ponders the relevance of literature in society just as he takes to task the prostrate role of author, any author. In one instance of implicit criticism, during the author Matozo's only promotional interview - packed with false responses to cliché-ridden questions - he is asked about, and made to think, if only in passing, of the military repression all too common during the period. No wonder a title like "The softness of the Wind" seems cruelly misplaced, unlike "The Dust and the Darkness", a hypothetical second work with which Matozo fleetingly toys. Meanwhile, Matozo's twisted trajectory allows for explicit (metaficcional) metaphor as well, periodically echoed by narrator and protagonist alike.

Throughout, the entire narrative ebbs and flows in a contrastive rhythm of animated dialogues and depressing intimist thought. Heavy in symbolically named peripheral figures as well as surrealistic resolution, A Suavidade do Vento is, at the same time, a simple yet very universal parable. After all, passing mention of Fellini and Borges, Dostoevsky and Verissimo, among others, never detracts from an all-compelling message regarding human solitude. Matozo, for example, goes from inwardly correcting others' poor grammar, as a way of secretly avenging their condescension toward him, to authoring a newspaper column on the same object, but now for all his newfound admirers to read.

Attention to detail is enhanced by ample simile and tempered by occasional (caustic) humor. Repeated recourse to "aggressive", comic-book-like capitalization and, above all, to an engaging story-within-a-story format further enriches this innovative, secondhand catharsis and helps register A Suavidade do Vento as a sound addition to Cristovão Tezza's already promising bibliography.