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Rain Forest Literatures: Amazonian Texts and Latin American Culture

Lúcia Sá
Volume: 16
Copyright Date: 2004
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 360
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  • Book Info
    Rain Forest Literatures
    Book Description:

    In this unprecedented study, Lúcia Sá approaches indigenous texts as creative works rather than source material. She offers a historical overview of the impact of these texts on mainstream Spanish-American and Brazilian literatures, detailing comparisons with native sources and making close analyses of major instances, such as Mário de Andrade’s classic Macunaima (1928) and Mario Vargas Llosa’s The Storyteller (1986).

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9581-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Note on Translations
    (pp. ix-ix)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. x-xi)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. xiii-xxviii)

    Sheltering almost half the earth’s living species, the rain forest and tropical lowlands of South America are also home to indigenous peoples who speak many different languages and have diverse customs. These peoples are quite defined in themselves, yet they have never been pristine units living in complete isolation from each other, as anthropologists have sometimes wanted us to believe. For millennia, they have been in contact with near and distant neighbors. They have always traveled, fought, made and broken treaties, and traded goods, shamanic knowledge, cures, songs, speeches, and narratives. This was certainly the case before the European invasion,...

  6. Part I. Roraima and the Carib

    • chapter 1 Pacaraima Texts
      (pp. 3-34)

      In October 1911, as he was about to leave Koimelemong to visit the great Mount Roraima, Theodor Koch-Grünberg was contacted by Mayuluaípu, a Taurepang Indian “dressed in a clean linen suit” (1: 138). Mayuluaípu (or José, his Brazilian name) offered the German naturalist his services, which included his wide knowledge of different Pemon dialects and a good command of Portuguese. A few weeks later, the expedition would gain yet another important member: Mõseuaípu, better known by his nickname Akuli (agouti orcutia,a small rodent), a young Arekuna shaman who could not speak a word of Portuguese. This encounter between...

    • chapter 2 Macunaíma (1928)
      (pp. 35-68)

      Eleven years after the encounter between Koch-Grünberg and the two Pemon Indians, in February 1922, a group of (mostly) young men and women from São Paulo organized a series of presentations in the Municipal Theater of this city—the bastion of high culture for thepaulistaelite of the time. The presentations included performances of avant-garde music by the composer Heitor Villa-Lobos; exhibitions of paintings; conferences on avant-garde poetry and art; and readings of poetry by Oswald de Andrade, Manuel Bandeira (who sent the poem “The Frogs” from Rio to be read for the occasion), Menotti del Picchia, and Mário...

    • chapter 3 Penetrating the Dark Interior
      (pp. 69-88)

      The impact of Pacaraima Carib literature on Spanish American writing occurs later and is less radical than in Brazil. It dates back to the novels of the Venezuelan Rómulo Gallegos and comes through principally in the works of the Cuban Alejo Carpentier,¹ midway through the twentieth century. More recently, Eduardo Galeano chose to begin hisGenesis,the first volume of the trilogyMemory of Fire,with theWatunnacreation story, which is followed by passages from the literature of the Macuxi and other Caribs of the region.

      Both Gallegos’sCanaima(1935) and Carpentier’sThe Lost Steps(1953) take place in...

  7. Part II. The Great Lowland Territory of the Tupi-Guarani

    • chapter 4 Tupi-Guarani Texts
      (pp. 91-114)

      Among native literary traditions of South America, that of the Tupi-Guarani is one of the best known and most widely studied. Tupi-Guarani texts have had a recent but powerful effect on Spanish American writing, while they have been a feature of Brazilian literature ever since colonial times and the Romantic period, and they have exerted a major influence on theModernismoof the 1920s, and on novels and short stories published after the sixties.

      Approximately forty Tupi-Guarani languages and dialects are spoken by indigenous groups all the way from northern Amazonia to Río de la Plata, and from the Atlantic...

    • chapter 5 Romanticism and After
      (pp. 115-152)

      It is impossible to discuss the impact of Tupi-Guarani texts on South American literature in Spanish and Portuguese without first making some reference to Romanticism. In Spanish America, it is precisely the dearth of texts during a period by definition attuned to native America that is of interest, and which now in modern times is being powerfully compensated for. In Brazil, by contrast, the Tupi occupied the center of the discussions about identity after Independence, and the key role then attributed to them, along with the ensuing negative reaction, has ever since affected writing about Indians in American Portuguese.


    • chapter 6 Maíra (1976)
      (pp. 153-170)

      Like the Peruvian José María Arguedas, Darcy Ribeiro was both an ethnographer and a novelist. Several of his ethnographic works had been published and translated into diverse languages by the timeMaíra(1976) came out. In this novel, his first, Ribeiro creates the fictitious tribe “Mairum,” which, as he explained in an interview, combines characteristics of distinct cultural groups:

      Homer took the whole of pre-Hellenic literature and created Greek mythology, that marvel, that beauty. What I do is the same: I take the whole of native mythology and create a mythology that is probable. Any Indian would accept that, just...

  8. Part III. Confluence in the Rio Negro

    • chapter 7 The Upper Rio Negro: Jurupari and the Big Snake
      (pp. 173-204)

      The first non-Indian accounts of the rituals identified with Jurupari were published by Alfred Russel Wallace in hisTravels on the Amazon and Rio Negro(1853).¹ What Wallace called the “Devil-music of the Indians” (241) is in fact a complex cultural phenomenon that permeates most aspects of life on the upper Rio Negro, whose tea-black waters, poor in fish, are dyed by roots. Indeed, Jurupari effectively defines this multilingual region, on the map and in history. As a phenomenon, the Jurupari rituals, narratives and songs are perhaps the most important markers of its striking coherence.

      Lying along the borders of...

    • chapter 8 Snake Norato (1931)
      (pp. 205-220)

      The Amazonian Big Snake made its way into one of the finest products of theAntropofagiamovement, Raul Bopp’sSnake Norato(Cobra Norato1931). Agaúchosoutherner, Bopp is rarely associated by critics withAntropofagia,a term that in Brazilian cultural studies has become inextricably linked to Oswald de Andrade and his 1928 “Manifesto” (see chapter 5), and has been reduced to being, at best, the invention of Oswald and his then wife, the painter Tarsila do Amaral. In fact, the movement was far broader than that. Manager of the first phase ofRevista de Antropofagia,and one of the...

    • chapter 9 The Green Stage
      (pp. 221-238)

      In the 1970s the Amazon made world headlines thanks to the highest-ever rate of destruction of its natural habitat. Thousands of acres were being burned every day, while satellite images of interminable amounts of smoke and cleared forest areas invaded the homes of Europeans and North Americans, who were now obliged to add the term “rain forest” to their list of social preoccupations (Hecht and Cockburn). The generals who governed Brazil from 1964 to 1979 were responsible for this dramatic change in the rate of destruction of the world’s largest forest, and their example has been followed by all the...

  9. Part IV. The Arawak and the Uppermost Amazon

    • chapter 10 The Machiguenga and Their Heritage
      (pp. 241-250)

      Largely unnoticed in Brazilian literature, the rain forest peoples of the uppermost Amazon have increasingly attracted attention in Spanish speaking America. In the opening section of Galeano’sGenesis(1982), the first part of his continental trilogy,Memory of Fire,the Huitoto, the Pano-speaking Cashinaua, the Arawak, and other groups from this part of the rain forest are prominent in telling the “true” story of Genesis: the flood, the finding of food (manioc, and the maize shared with the highlands), and humankind’s close kinship with the other animals (tapir, armadillo, monkey, jaguar).¹ In the highland countries of the Andes they have...

    • chapter 11 The Storyteller (1987)
      (pp. 251-274)

      In 1996, the German Book Trade presented a peace prize to Mario Vargas Llosa, thus provoking a worldwide wave of protest.¹ The reasons for the protest become patent in Vargas Llosa’s essay “Questions of Conquest,” published inHarper’s Magazinein 1990 and reworked as “El Nacimiento del Peru” inHispania’s1992 commemorative issue:

      Indian peasants live in such a primitive way that communication is practically impossible. It is only when they move to the cities that they have the opportunity to mingle with the other Peru. The price they must pay for integration is high—renunciation of their culture, their...

    • Epilogue
      (pp. 275-288)

      Of all the texts studied here, Vargas Llosa’sThe Storytelleris the only one that meticulously modifies indigenous sources in order to deny native cultures the right to remain as they are. Yet his fatalistic view that the contact between Indians and non-Indians will necessarily result in a complete cultural suppression of the former is shared by the great majority of the nonnative authors whom we have read, whatever their ideological positions may be. Most notable is the case of Darcy Ribeiro, whose novelMaíra,for all its sympathetic depiction of indigenous knowledge and ways of life, ends with an...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 289-298)
  11. Works Cited
    (pp. 299-314)
  12. Index
    (pp. 315-326)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 327-327)