Lula, Brazil’s Mr. Gardiner

        Brazil's Mr. Gardiner

own tele-idiot is very real and has already conquered Brasília.

Our President analyzes the political moment with shallow metaphors.
Talking about the changes he hopes to promote, he said, "It is
like harvesting fruit. It’s no use getting it when it’s still green".

Kosinski wouldn’t dare this much.
Janer Cristaldo


how about you, Mr. Gardiner, what do you think of the bad times in the
stock market?—asks the President of the United States.

Chance Gardiner knows about life is the garden where he was raised.
He feels obligated to a response, so he talks about the only thing he

a garden, there is a season for plants to grow. There is spring and
summer, but also autumn and winter. And then, spring and summer return.
As long as the roots are not cut, all is well and will continue well.

President seems satisfied:

Gardiner, I must confess that what you just said is one of the most
comforting and optimistic declarations I have had the opportunity to
listen to in a long time.

dialogue—which not only could occur in our days but in fact does
occur—actually belongs in the universe of fiction. Polish writer
Jerzy Kosinski, upon his arrival in the United States, created with
Being There one of the most disturbing characters of our times,
called Chance Gardiner. If you didn’t read the book, you can still catch
the movie, which screened in Brazil under the title Muito Além
do Jardim (Way Beyond the Garden), with a magnificent performance
by Peter Sellers.

Brazilian translator of the book had a moment of illumination when he
translated the American title as O Vidiota, that is, the video
idiot. Gardiner is a domestic servant of a mysterious master, identified
in the work as "the Old Man". Chance lives a life of reclusion
in the garden of the mansion and he only had contact with two people
in his whole life, the Old Man and the Old Man’s housekeeper. His name
is Chance because he was born by chance. He can’t read or write. His
only contact with the world outside is through the television. When
he doesn’t like what he sees, it’s simple: he turns off the set, or
he changes the channel with his remote control.

Old Man dies and Chance is thrown out in the world by the servants.
With only the shirt on his back, literally. When the wife of a senator
runs him over in the street and asks him who he is, he says: I’m the
gardener. And he becomes known as Chance Gardiner. Because he didn’t
carry any money or documents, the wife of the senator imagines that
it must be someone very important and takes him to her house. Chance,
who had never thought about the subject, is inserted into the power

who read the book or saw the film know the end of the story: by repeating
clichés he heard on television, Chance builds a brilliant career
in the media and starts being considered for president of the United
States. If you haven’t read Kosinski, please do it immediately: it is
one of the most profound parables in contemporary literature. With television,
any illiterate can have a more or less general idea of what occurs around
himself and in the world. Strictly speaking, nobody needs to read anymore
to understand—or to suppose having understood—the world.

the Kosinski gardener belongs in the universe of fiction, our own tele-idiot
is very real and has already conquered Brasília. Without a single
tinge of culture or logic, our President analyzes the political moment
with shallow metaphors. Talking about the gradual process of changes
he hopes to promote in the economy, he said, in the best Gardiner style:
"It is like harvesting fruit. It’s no use getting it when it’s
still green". Not even Kosinski would dare this much.

agricultural rethoric didn’t stop there. In a solemn speech to the members
of the Council on Economic and Social Development, the spirit of Chance
descended again. The President remembered that 15 years ago he bought
a jabuticaba* plant and planted it in his small farm, but the
tree never yielded any fruit. One day his wife, first-companion Marisa
Letícia, appeared with an identical plant, in a vase. Lula thought
it was impossible to grow jabuticabas in an apartment, in a vase.
But Marisa Letícia believed in the plant and cared for it, watering
it frequently. Our Chance’s conclusion: "the little jabuticaba
tree yields four or five times a year, something this Council can transform
itself into, if it so desires."

with his own words, he went on and concluded that the jabuticaba
tree in the farm had not yielded because he didn’t know how to care
for it, or because the soil had some problem. "She believed more
than I did. If we transform the opportunities we have in smaller things,
surely the Council will be able to represent the jabuticaba tree
in my farm. But, if we think big and take loving care of the millions
of Brazilians, men and women, neglected by everyone for many, many years,
surely this Council will be able to represent the jabuticaba
tree that Marisa planted in the apartment."

recently, the Planalto’s gardening apprentice decided to have a go at
fishing. Commenting on the juridical framework of the country, he uttered
the sentence: "In fact, any fisherman who is here today knows that
big fish take longer to catch with a hook. If Maluf knows how to fish,
he knows that catching a little lambari (minnow) is easier than
catching a pintado, or a jaú (large Amazon catfish)".

our Gardiner would stick to his garden, he could even pass as a sage.
But the man is fascinated by words and doesn’t hesitate even when confronted
with History. At the occasion of the inauguration of the new Polibrasil
factory, he lavished his erudition: "When Napoleon Bonaparte visited
China for the first time, he said that China is a giant and the day
the giant wakes up, the world will tremble". The phrase is, in
fact, from Napoleon. Pity he never went to China. For a man who has
stated that the Bible does not contain any instance of hunger, this
visit to China is trifle.

the government is not enough for our Gardiner. He already had his name
put forth for the Brazilian Academy of Leters, as well as for the Nobel
of Peace. This administration has barely started. Fun years await us
ahead. "Love, with faith and pride, the land where you were born!
Child! You will never see a country such as this one".

sure won’t.


Translator’s note: Jabuticaba (myciaria cauliflora)—grape-size,
blue-black, pulpy fruit.


Cristaldo—he holds a PhD from University of Paris, Sorbonne—is
an author, translator, lawyer, philosopher and journalist and suffers
São Paulo. His e-mail address is  

by Tereza Braga, email:



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