Looked and looked and looked among my books, on the desk in my office, in the bookshelves, on the living room table, on the bedroom table… And I couldn’t find it. This truly is the nature, I thought ironically, of the object of desire: to never give itself up completely. I was looking for Goethe‘s Trilogy of Passion, beautifully translated by Leonardo Fróes. I have it, I am completely certain, I can see it perfectly before my eyes, a small formatted book, the cover is kind of yellowish, but where is it, really?
I found various other books that I remember looking for previously, weeks or months ago, that I also hadn’t been able to find, but today they didn’t interest me. I wanted the Trilogy of Passion just because I wanted it. I couldn’t find it. One of these days, when I’m no longer interested, I will find it, easy, easy, under some other volume. Isn’t it a good metaphor for love? Doesn’t something similar happen in our love stories? Well, for me it is more or less so. As, I believe, it was for Goethe.
Goethe was a man in love, love being a recurrent theme in his work – a theme to which he had an almost scientific devotion (see Elective Affinities). The most famous of the three poems that comprise the Trilogy is Elegy, also known as Marienbad Elegy, in homage to the location where the great poet, then aged 74, wrote the verses after getting dumped by the young Urlike von Levetzow, then 19. It hurt.
In his extraordinary essay, Leonardo Fróes comments on Goethe’s sexual audacity, mentioning that the sexual male organ was recurrent in his poems, leaving no doubt about his profound, non – platonic feelings in relation to his loved woman. This shocked German society. Tracing a parallel, I then ask myself if such boldness can be found in Brazilian literature’s formative period.
Yes, there is Gregório de Matos, but it’s not quite the same. Boca do Inferno (Hell‘s Mouth – also his nickname) is basically satirical. Then the novel about Iracema, the virgin with the honey lips, comes to my mind. More experienced readers know which lips de Alencar is referring to… But what surprises me, drawing from memory – and, reader, correct me if I am mistaken – is the apparent absence in our literature of Brazil’s national fetish and preference. Yes, I know, we have the “lovers” of our regionalism in literature and also the nonsense of Jorge Amado (an absolutely secondary writer, who made a caricature of Bahia), but where – frankly – is the ass, so loved by the crowds?
Today it can be found in music, in dance, in all of the newsstands. And just enter in any erotic chat room to confirm a true national obsession with the ass – just like the Americans have for breasts (maybe psychoanalysis can explain the origin of these choices; and maybe this is the most fundamental difference between the two countries, which can explain all of the others). The ass is completely assimilated into the sexual vocabulary of the Brazilian.
If for the people of my generation (I am 45) anal sex, when we were young, required a certain negotiation, today, among the people who are younger than 30, it is given and without any, or almost any, morally degrading or even perverse connotation. An extra something for your mutual pleasure and enjoyment. I don’t remember sodomy in an explicit way in our modern literature, only punctually. However, I perceive it (this is maybe the main point) in a violent or platonic way in the literature from the last decades of the 20th century to today. Anal sex seems like a rape in a Maria Amélia Mello story and in Cabeça de Papel (Paper Head) by Paulo Francis, like fantasies of repression, fetish or pastiche in Marcelo Marisol (his Joana à contragosto or Joana Against The Will is a masterpiece) and like the metaphor in O Cheiro do Ralo (Drained ) by Lourenço Mutarelli.
It is curious that the subject seems to be treated in a more natural way by our Latin-American neighbors, who are really much more square than us (the impression that it gives me is that they are always, at least in terms of behavior, a decade behind – with the exception of the Mexicans – but the globalization has erased this quickly). In Pantelão and Visitadoras (Visitors), in 1973, the main character created by Mário Vargas Llosa is a military man charged with organizing feminine visits for the soldiers who were isolated in an advanced station in the Peruvian Amazonian rainforest. The Brazilian women are special because they also make the “back doors” available. And in the more recent Memória das Minhas Putas Tristes (Memory of My Melancholy Whores written by Gabriel Garcia Márquez (and sloppily translated by Eric Nepomuceno), the main character without much ado or subtlety periodically sodomizes the maid against the wash tank.
Obviously, in the Brazil of the past few decades there is also the emergence of the homosexual theme, and in O Bundo , by the poet Waldo Motta, the ass, if I remember well, appears strongly loaded with eroticism and desire for another (not a mere object to which the other is reduced). Well, maybe, initially, all desire is demeaning and every object of desire is exactly this: an object. But still there is a new Iracema to be written, in her erotic sense, idealized, yes, but desired as a complete woman, full of virtues, not reduced to her lips of honey. Or, in today’s case, to her sweet ass.