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Evil in the Night – A Novel by Erico Verissimo

Get off, get off the damn world! (Outside the city)

John Updike, Endpoint and other poems2009

Erico Verissimo, who died in 1975 at the age of sixty-nine, wrote a strange, highly original novel in the 1950s, and the story attracts some attention if only because it is so different from any other important writing of the period. The novel in question is Noite (Night), an exciting page-turner, was published in 1954. In 1956, the story was translated into English by LL Barret and published by Macmillan in New York.

A lot happened in Brazilian literature in the three decades between 1930 and 1960, but we can assume that Verissimo’s contemporaries then dealt mainly with rural themes. Of course, Verissimo was always a little far from them in the climate and character of his novels. Since the beginning of his career, Verissimo’s works followed a different path: the urban narrative. Also, we must understand that his fiction did not remain static. Let’s not forget that Verissimo was a developer—a writer in progress who experimented to the hilt. In addition, unlike his more cosmopolitan contemporaries, Verissimo used his personal life experiences to write the impressive novels of his last literary phase.

While resting after the release of the second part of the saga O Tempo eo Vento (Time and wind) in 1951 Erico Verissimo finished the draft of his novel Noite. What becomes interesting about this novel is how some readers and critics misunderstand it by writing it off as a simply told tale of dragsters and whores. Instead, the story goes deeper than that. That’s part of the problem Nighta story about the madness of modern city life, it contains unusually bold scenes and characters, including scenes of overt sexuality and cynicism that were unusual for readers of Verissimo’s time and place. Night It tells about an unspeakable human tragedy in which ordinary people are unconsciously trapped by the loneliness of their lives – characters so tragic that they are real comic characters. In a sense, its theme is dehumanization, that is, not seeing or hearing all of us as human. Despite being a narrative about loneliness, there is plenty of humor in it Night.

It is clear that Erico Verissimo wrote a so-called grotesque novel for many people. One often hears this Night represents a strange interregnum in Verissimo’s work. However, today’s debate has rejected this simplistic view. To be sure, this portrait missed at least three things. First, this allegorical account of the dark night of the soul is not incongruous with Verissimo’s other works. This is especially true when we recall that his novels Caminhos Cruzados (CrossroadsMacmillan, 1943) and Musica or Longefor example, they also express the feeling of a “lost world”. Second, as Bordini (2006) notes, because Fantoches (Puppets) (1932), Verissimo’s first collection of short stories, he was fascinated by the macabre side of existence. Sure Night Verissimo sets aside the romantic language of his earlier novels. Because Night it is not specifically addressed to the general public. Third time with that Night the cycle of six novels about Porto Alegre comes full circle. According to Loureiro Chaves Night Verissimo’s best realist novel; says the critic Night to “social realism” from Verissimo’s fiction written between 1933 and 1943.

With two eloquent and effective metaphors, Night it depicts the loneliness of modern man. One is the city as a sort of hell machine that makes the anti-hero, simply called “The Unknown,” feel like prey. The city is alive and represents the meaningless life of the individualized human being. The Unknown must work to find solid ground, but the city and its emissaries won’t let him (“The city looks like a living thing.”). In this confrontation, the modern man, the man without qualities (Musil), certainly lacks psychological unity, as in the characters of Kafka, Woolf or Joyce. Another symbolic device used by Verissimo is the night itself, which represents hopeless time (“My God! – he thought – this night has no end…”). The narrative’s textual imagery highlights the antihero’s desperate, never-ending search for authenticity.

In this regard, it is important to see that, while Stegagno Picchio correctly notes Mann’s contribution to Verissimo’s fiction, he argues that: “(… ) la sua problematica resta al di qua di ogni invenzione che abbia alla sua origine il triangolo Joyce-Kafka-Proust.” For Picchio, the problematic of Verissimo remains below the inventions of the Joyce-Kafka-Proust triad. Even though their expressive innovations monopolize our view, we must go beyond the use of language or style. We should know that their themes are also similar. There is no doubt that his reading of Verissimo differs from that of Chaves and others, who see Verissimo as undertaking an enterprise in the tradition of the bourgeois literary novel represented by Kafka, Mann, and Musil.

Now let’s look back briefly at the differences between our author and his colleagues. It is indeed true that Verissimo still has a strong preference for dealing with the economic situation and the class conflict associated with the rise of capitalism. But although it is certainly so, we must not forget this Night he placed emphasis on psychological analysis. Thus Verissimo also writes a symbolic novel in which psychological analysis is exclusive. And yet, even where the story material is indistinguishable from its counterparts, the tone and treatment are subtly different.

We need to understand what Erico Verissimo was reacting against in the years after World War II. Stories of turmoil and conflict proliferated in Europe in the post-war period. Now the stories express the angst and fragile hopes of an entire generation. The stories shared a new flexibility of structure, and soon authors began to break down the boundaries between author and characters. Moreover, the spontaneity of personal responsiveness strengthened the connection between feeling and expression. In fact, Verissimo decried the emptiness of post-war life and Night specifically reacts to this epochal change. In a world plagued by ideological division and hostility, literature must signal the changes, and the reader must understand the significance of these signals.

The most interesting stories are those in which we can identify with the main character of the story – the hero or anti-hero. Of course, it is not difficult to put ourselves in the place of the Unknown, the anti-hero Night. But it should be noted that Verissimo’s anti-hero is not the around him like the modern man from Camus. He is certainly more like Sartre’s characters from the existentialist trilogy Les Chemins de la Liberté (1945-49). In fact, we find that Verissimo’s characters like Amaro, Vasco, Eugenio and this Unknown Mathieu Delarue suffer from a similar indecisiveness, among others Sartre’s characters.

Following the idea that philosophical problems are resolved in Verissimo’s work, Night it may be the first explicit tribute to French existentialist ideas. This is indeed a point that deserves further investigation. Anyway, we can find out Night some characteristics of existentialist literature, such as: evidence of a culture in crisis, the hero or antihero facing a “limiting situation”, the search for an authentic life, the consciousness of freedom. In other respects, however, in terms of mood and atmosphere, the novel seems like a folk tradition of detective fiction. It undoubtedly reminds us of a post-war novel like Léo Malet Il Fait Toujour Nuit (1948). Both are challenging, disturbing, and central to their characters is alienation. The threat builds gradually as the shadow of incommunicability looms ever closer in these stories.

Night guides the reader into a claustrophobic world where the amnesiac protagonist, Robert the Stranger, searches for his identity. Because this is the story of the Stranger, a desperate searcher for his own identity; and how he was guided through the terrible night by the dangerous people he met in a hot pub: Martin, the Master with his cynical and nihilistic outlook on life, and Claude, the dwarf, a psychopathic artist who strangely gravitates. towards his master, the cynical pimp. His companions manage to convince Robert that he is a murderer. The Brazilian critic R. Zilberman considers the main character a kind of “human Pinocchio”, as he seems to be lost in the hands of his companions, like the famous Collodi’s character. Robert narrowly escapes the trap of the two night birds when he meets Lili, a red-haired prostitute, towards dawn. Besides the anti-hero, he seems to be the only authentic human figure in the tale. After making love to her, he finally begins to remember the events of the previous day: his wife left him (“If he comes back, my God, if he comes back, I promise that everything will be different from now on.”).

The cast of Erico Verissimo Night they remain in our memory forever: they haunt us to this day.

References

Bordini, Maria da Gloria.. 2006. Por trás do incidente. In: Verissimo, Erico. Incidente em Antares . São Paulo: Companhia das Letras.

Chaves, Flavio Loureiro. The narrative da solidão. In: Verissimo, Erico. 1987 Noite . Rio de Janeiro, Globo.

Picchio, Luciana Stegagno. Storia della Letteratura Brasiliana . Turin, Einaudi, 1997.

Zilberman, Regina. 1985 Literature Gaúcha . Porto Alegre, L&PM.

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