França Júnior, Oswaldo 1936-1989
FRANÇA JÚNIOR, Oswaldo 1936-1989
PERSONAL: Born 1936, in Brazil; died of injuries sustained in an automobile accident, 1989.
CAREER: Novelist and author of short fiction. Formerly a career officer in Brazilian Air force; forced to resign, 1964.
AWARDS, HONORS: Premio Walmap, 1967, for Jorge, um brasileiro.
O viúvo (title means "The Widower"), Autor (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), 1965.
Um dia no Rio (title means "A Day in Rio"), Sabiá (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), 1969.
O homem do macacão (title means "The Man in Dungarees"), Sabiá (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), 1972, translated by Gregory Rabassa as The Man in the Monkey Suit, Ballantine (New York, NY), 1986.
A volta para Marilda, Olympio (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), 1974.
O dois imrãos, Rocco (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), 1976.
As lembranças de Eliana, Codecri (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), 1978.
Aqui e em outros lugares (title means "Here and in Other Places"), Codecri (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), 1980.
À procura dos motivos (title means "In Search of the Motives"), Codecri (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), 1982.
O passo-bandeira (title means "The Airplane"), Nova Fronteira (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), 1984.
As laranjas iguais (stories; title means "The Equal Oranges"), Nova Fronteira (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), 1985.
Recordações de amar em Cuba, Nova Fronteira (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), 1986.
A árvore que pensava (for children), illustrated by Angela Lago, Nova Fronteira (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), 1986.
No fundo das águas, Nova Fronteira (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), 1987, translated by Margaret A. Neves as Beneath the Waters, Ballantine (New York, NY), 1990.
De ouro e de Amazônia, Nova Fronteira (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), 1989.
Author's works have been translated into Russian, French, German, and Spanish.
ADAPTATIONS: Jorge, um brasileiro was adapted as a film released by Transvideo (São Paulo, Brazil), 1988.
SIDELIGHTS: Brazilian author Oswaldo França Júnior began writing in the 1960s, and spent much of his career commenting on the military dictatorship that ruled his country from 1964 to the mid-1980s. His couching his criticisms in novels such as 1967's Jorge, um brasilieiro—translated in 1980 as The Long Haul—and 1969's Um dia no Rio, painting Brazil as a land where progress is waylaid not only through government restraints but through the very nature of the land and its people. More recent works include No fundo das águas, translated from its original Portuguese as Beneath the Waves. Expressing what Washington Post Book World reviewer Alan Ryan explained was França Júnior's "deep concern for ordinary people," Beneath the Waves also reveals its author's "passionate love for the warmth and variety of human life" in its story of a community who lose their valley town to a nearby river—dammed for the purpose of creating a lake—and leave submerged homes, businesses, gardens, and myriad memories. Reflecting on França Júnior's body of work shortly before the author's death in 1989, World Literature Today contributor John M. Parker noted that the novelist "constructed a literary edifice remarkable for the paradox of its economy of space and wealth of detail, novels whose extreme compression never sacrifices intelligibility and whose counter-rhetoric is the mark of a uniquely characteristic personal manner."
The Long Haul follows a truck driver as he guides a convoy of eight stranded trucks loaded with corn to the capital city of Brasilia in time for inauguration day. Torrential downpours, washed-out roads, engine trouble, sluggish workers, and a series of accidents make the journey arduous, and only through force of will is Jorge able to accomplish his task. Jorge, according to New Yorker commentator John Updike, is "an exemplary Brazilian, a doer, a pioneer," and the novel's popularity among Brazilian readers is a result of its protagonist's loyalty, work ethic, rough-and-ready resilience, and "can-do" spirit. Jorge's own efforts are seen in stark contrast to those of his employer, a corrupt businessman unworthy of such a loyal employee and a character who can be viewed as representative of Brazil's corrupt military regime.
Commenting on the censorship under which França Júnior and other Brazilian authors suffered under during the 1960s and 1970s, World Literature Today contributor E. Rodríguez Monegal noted that novelists like França Júnior, who "came of age" as writers during the early years of military rule, became "committed novelists not because they wanted to change society but because writing novels was in their society at that time a committed activity, almost a subversive one. … Ina society in which everything was censored, fiction became the only place where the news could be presented." According to Monegal, the novelist's Um die no Rio presents a subtle statement on the violence enacted by the government on protesting Brazilian college students. The author's most notable contribution, according to Monegal, was in Jorge, um brasileiro, where França Júnior "dared to write a book which said what the censored press could not say then: that the police were routinely torturing and killing students as a form of repressing all rebellion against authority." World Literature Today contributor Naomi Lindstrom characterized such early works as featuring "elegant narratives around humanly engaging characters and situations" while noting that with Aqui e em outros lugares França Júnior left such themes to weave stories of "tangentally linked lives" where characters become representational in spare, "universally recognizable tales of human anxiety and human resourcefulness," and require greater reader involvement.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, December 15, 1989, Brad Hooper, review of Beneath the Waters, p. 812.
Kirkus Reviews, December 15, 1979, review of The Long Haul, p. 1445; December 1, 1989, review of Beneath the Waters, p. 1696.
Kliatt, April, 1987, Lisa DiRocco, review of The Man in the Monkey Suit, p. 8.
Library Journal, February 1, 1980, Laura J. Miracle, review of The Long Haul, p. 423.
New Yorker, September 8, 1980, John Updike, review of The Long Haul, pp. 111-113.
Publishers Weekly, December 10, 1979, review of The Long Haul, p. 59; October 31, 1986, review of The Man in the Monkey Suit, p. 60; January 19, 1990, review of Beneath the Waters, p. 103.
Washington Post Book World, July 1, 1990, Alan Ryan, review of Beneath the Waters, p. 8.
World Literature Today, winter, 1979, E. Rodríguez Monegal, "Writing Fiction under the Censor's Eye," pp. 19-22; summer, 1981, Naomi Lindstrom, review of Aqui e em outros lugares, p. 442; autumn, 1983, John M. Parker, review of A procura dos motivos, p. 617; summer, 1986, John M. Parker, "In Search of Motives: An Overview of the Novels of Oswaldo França Júnior," pp. 417-421; autumn, 1988, Celso de Oliveira, review of No fundo das aguas, p. 637.*