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Nolasco, Edgar Cezar, and Rodolfo Rorato Londero, eds. Volta ao Mundo da Ficcao Cientifica [Around the World of Science Fiction].

Nolasco, Edgar Cezar, and Rodolfo Rorato Londero, eds. Volta ao Mundo da Ficcao Cientifica [Around the World of Science Fiction]. Mato Grosso do Sul: Editora Universidade Federal do Mato Grosso do Sul, 2007. Paper. 167 pp. BRL $20. ISBN 978-85-7613-125-0.

One sign that sf is no longer being seen, at least by some, as a marginal genre in Brazil is the 2007 publication of the anthology Volta ao Mundo da Ficcao Cientifica (Around the World of Science Fiction). It constitutes the first book of non-fiction on the genre published in this country that brings together a group of authors and researchers who are specialists in the field. In a broader context, it is the result of an increase in the publication of sf being enjoyed in Brazil, but it also represents an unprecedented opening up of the university to its study as the object of serious academic inquiry, as well as demonstrating a renewal of Brazilian literary studies due to the work of a new generation of young scholars.

The book project was organized by Edgar Cezar Nolasco, a professor of Comparative Literature at the Universidade Federal do Mato Grosso do Sul (Federal University of South Mato Grosso, henceforth UFMS), along with Rodolfo Londero, who received his Master's in Literature at the same institution. They also contribute the first two articles of the study.

In "Clarice e a Ficcao Cientifica" ("Clarice and Science Fiction"), Nolasco posits the existence of links between the works of prestigious mainstream Brazilian author Clarice Lispector (1920-77) and sf. He bases this on the presence of "intimist" and quasi-metaphysical themes in her writing and on her work as a translator of Edgar Allan Poe, Jonathan Swift, and Jules Verne. Although it is an interesting effort, it does not go beyond being a curious exercise in literary exploration.

Londero works more directly with sf. In his essay "Nfveis de Recepcao da Ficcao Cyberpunk no Brasil: Um Estudo de Casos Exemplares" ("Levels of Assimilation (1) in Brazilian Cyberpunk: A Study of Exemplary Cases"), he offers an ambitious examination and verification of how the cyberpunk subgenre is assimilated by Brazilian literature. Through the analysis of different levels of assimilation such as direct, indirect, and analogic, he establishes a nexus between some of the works commented on and the literary mainstream. The author asserts that Brazilian authors parody the foreign tradition, but although he suggests more than that, he does not take it any further. What most calls the reader's attention is that Londero makes no mention of reflections on the topic already published in Brazil, such as the writer Roberto de Sousa Causo's concept of tupinipunk, (2) in which he offers a Brazilian way to approach cyberpunk themes more relevant to the specific social and historical realities of the country.

Alfredo Suppia's contribution, "Ficcao Cientifica e o Despertar do Interesse Cientffico: O Fator Eureka" ("Science Fiction and the Awakening of Scientific Interest: The Eureka Factor"), discusses how cinema can serve as an instrument to promote the general public's interest in scientific themes. Thus the notion of the Eureka factor; i.e., that which would seduce the spectator aesthetically or cognitively toward scientific matters related to those seen in films. This is another article that begs for a more in-depth investigation into this reasonably promising line of research.

The next text is "Historia e Representacao: O Jogo de Memoria e Realidade em O Homem do Castelo Alto, de Philip K. Dick" ("History and Representation: The Game of Memory and Reality in The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick") by Anderson Soares Gomes. It analyzes the relationship between real past and imagined narrative history in the novel cited and how this relationship makes possible a reflection about the historical question of the United States in the second half of the twentieth century. (3) The essay is sophisticated, but it deals mostly with postmodernism and little with sf. Although pertinent, it ends up veering off into secondary aspects of the novel's plot.

Next in line we have the writer and translator Fabio Fernandes, with "Para Ver os Homens Invisiveis: A Intempol (4) e Sua Influencia na Literatura de Ficcao Cientifica Brasileira" ("To See Invisible Men: Time Police and Its Influence on Brazilian Science Fiction Literature"). He asserts that the genre suffers from "cultural invisibility," an idea previously put forth by the journalist Dorva Rezende in the preface to the anthology Ficcoes (Fictions 2006). For Fernandes, the universe of the stories collected in Intempol--in which a time cop shares certain characteristics of some sectors of the Brazilian law enforcement establishment, such as inefficiency, authoritarianism, and corruption--could give more visibility to and even renew the sf genre. The article is almost journalistic, since it announces projects and puts forth arguments that at this point seem questionable, since the genre has not become more visible over time.

The following essay is "A Ficcao Cientifica no Cordel" ("Science Fiction in String Literature" (5) by the writer Braulio Tavares. In reality, it contains two timely pieces of research, in that it identifies possible affinities between two apparently distant genres. For Tavares, the points of contact between sf and string literature--stories written in verse, with an almost oral musicality, popular in the Northeast of Brazil--are less in the themes treated than in their common origin as popular literary expressions at the margin of the mainstream, similar to phenomena occurring historically in Europe and the United States.

In "O Poeta que Viu o Disco Voador" ("The Poet Who Saw a Flying Saucer"), writer Roberto de Sousa Causo analyzes the novella O 31[degrees] Peregrino (The 31st Pilgrim 1993) by Rubens Teixera Scavone (1925-2007). Based on fourteenth-century English poet Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, Scavone adds a thirty-first pilgrim to the original group and inserts him into the context of the original "story within a story," from a fantastic perspective, at the appearance of a UFO and a subsequent abduction. Causo successfully demonstrates the richness of the author's approach, both thematically and stylistically, looking at the contemporary mythology of flying saucers through the eyes of the past in one of the masterpieces of Brazilian sf.

Brazilianist academic Mary Elizabeth Ginway offers "A Cidade Pos-Moderna na Ficcao Cientifica Brasileira" ("The Post-Modern City in Brazilian Science Fiction"), in which she first situates the concept of post-modern city--in narratives of barbarity and reconstruction--in order then to discuss the characteristics of Brazilian cyberpunk--or the above-cited tupinipunk--in contrast to its North American version. Ginway qualifies the Brazilian approach as third-world, due to its emphasis on religious syncretism and its greater freedom in treating sexual themes. This article, then, dialogues with Londero's, but on a level lacking in the latter, because it seeks to understand the specificities of Brazilian cyberpunk not from the point of view of literary theory and an eventual assimilation into the mainstream, but as a dialogue within the genre itself, in more comparative terms.

The next article is by Ramiro Giroldo, "Outra Utopia" ("Another Utopia"). Its focus is on the novel Amorquia (Lovarchy (6) 1991) by Andre Carneiro, object of Giroldo's master's thesis defended at UFMS in 2007. He discusses the work from two angles: the ambiguity as to whether or not the work presents a utopia or a dystopia and the absence of a linear notion of time within the narrative.

Amorquia caused a major polemic when published, as the majority of critics and readers of fandom did not like it. The problems noted were a confused and sterile plot, unlikeable characters, and an aseptic atmosphere. Giroldo's interpretation sheds new light on both the work and the criticism of the time, seeing the novel through a more positive lens, albeit reinforcing previous arguments, since the book is, in fact, a sophisticated work, but one that falls short of its aspirations, unsatisfactory from the point of view of its narrative structure and the themes treated. The anthology ends, quite appropriately, with the suggestive short story "Pensamento" ("Thought"), by Andre Carneiro, dean of Brazilian sf authors.

In summary, Volta ao Mundo da Ficcao Cientifica is an interesting book because it brings a study of the genre to the academic stage, a tendency that is increasing little by little in recent years. In terms of content, the result is irregular, with some texts more relevant and of higher quality than others--those of Causo, Ginway, Giroldo, and Suppia in particular stand out. One may say that this is the case in the majority of anthologies, which is certainly true, but perhaps greater care could have been taken in the selection of the essays to achieve a greater equilibrium. Nonetheless, as a first effort at anthologizing non-fiction about sf, the balance is positive, and it may attract others inside--and also outside--the academic environment to the Brazilian cultural scene.


Tr. Dale Knickerbocker

Translator's Notes

(1.) My thanks to M. Elizabeth Ginway for her help in translating this and other problematic words. Any deficiencies in this translation are, however, most definitely mine.

(2.) "Tupini" is the name of an indigenous Brazilian tribe. Bruce Dean Willis explains that "The somewhat polemical term, based on 'cyberpunk,' was coined by Roberto de Sousa Causo, SF (science fiction) writer, editor, illustrator and researcher, and is analyzed in depth by M. Elizabeth Ginway in [her study] Brazilian Science Fiction."

(3.) The author is here referring to the United States' problematic (from a Latin American perspective) foreign policies during that time period.

(4.) The word "intempol" is a clever play off the name Interpol, inserting "-tem" to suggest the agents cross the boundaries not of nations but of time.

(5.) In addition to the characteristics mentioned by the reviewer, "cordel" (Portuguese for "string") literature constitutes one of the purest remaining forms of Western popular literature. It is thus named because small, inexpensively printed pamphlets are displayed in the street markets and fairs where they are sold by hanging them from a string.

(6.) "Amorqma" is another pun, combining the words for love and the ending "-archy" signifying a type of government.

Work Cited

Willis, Bruce Dean. "Science Fiction in Brazil. (Book Review)." Chasqui. 1 May 2005. AccessMyLibrary. Web.
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Author:Branco, Marcello Simao
Publication:Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts
Article Type:Book review
Date:Mar 22, 2009
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