LETTERS

By Plínio Marcos was 22 when he wrote Barrela, his first play,
in 1957. Fame, however, would only come in 1966 with Dois Perdidos numa Noite Suja,
the crude-language tale of two men in a room acting as if they were in a boxing ring.

He never finished third grade, but this didn’t prevent him from becoming Brazil’s most
important playwright besides Nélson Rodrigues. He had abandoned school unable to cope
with the pressure from his teacher who forced him to write with his right hand even though
he was left-handed. Plínio Marcos de Barros, who died from a heart attack at the age of
64, on November 19, created a world Brazilians weren’t used to hearing about peopled by
cynical and tough characters from the society’s under-world: prostitutes, criminals,
drug-addicts, and transvestites. The writer was diabetic and had undergone four bypasses
in 1995. In August a stroke impaired his memory. He died in the Instituto do Coração of
São Paulo’s Hospital das Clínicas.

Born on October 29, 1935, in a lower middle-class family in the coastal city of Santos,
state of São Paulo, Plínio Marcos had a series of odd jobs before and after becoming a
celebrated author. He was a clown known as Frajola (Tricky), a soccer player at Portuguesa
Santista, a soldier, peon, and handyman. He confessed being as a child "envious of
the clown’s power of seduction over women." He admits, however, the job of street
peddler was the only one he did with proficiency.

The playwright was 22 when he wrote Barrela in 1957. It was his first play,
which was first staged in 1959. Barrela, a story inside a jail, was made into a
movie and is being shown now at the Teatro de Arena in São Paulo. Fame would come in 1966
with Dois Perdidos numa Noite Suja (Two Lost Men on a Dirty Night), the
crude-language tale of two men in a room acting as if they were in a boxing ring.

His most staged play, Navalha na Carne (Razor in the Flesh), appeared in 1967.
Its crude language and story about a prostitute and her masochistic relationship with her
gigolo irked the censors who forbid the play to be shown. Reporting to his chief, one
censor wrote that he had found a "profusion of obscene sequences, dirty terms,
anomalies and morbidity." The text was only exonerated by the intercession of
respected actress Tônia Carrero, who argued, "If I am doing the play it cannot be
pornographic."

Neville de Almeida adapted Navalha to the cinema in 1997 with actress Vera
Fisher getting the juicy part of Neusa Sueli, the story’s prostitute. Tônia Carrero once
again was praising Plínio after his death: "He deserves all the honors of a great
author, which he is and always will be. Few people wrote as well as he did. Nélson
Rodrigues had a broader view and Plínio was more local. No one better than him knew how
to describe the poor of Brazil.

During the ’80s, although his plays continued to be performed, Plínio Marcos used to
sell makeshift editions of his own plays to survive. He also started to read Tarot
cards—something he learned during his stint in the circus. The author received his
clients at his single flat in the Copan building, in downtown São Paulo, where he lived
for two decades. The bohemian and prostitution area was the favorite for his plays. For
many years he was a mascot of plushy restaurant Gigetto, where he could drink and eat
without paying.

Only in the last two years, his wife, journalist Vera Artaxo, convinced him to move to
a bigger apartment in the exclusive neighborhood of Higienópolis, the same are in which
President Fernando Henrique Cardoso owns an apartment. He also started to dress a little
nicer after years of walking the streets like a bum. Plínio Marcos was able to buy his
apartment only because writer Márcio de Souza, as president of Funarte (a foundation
dedicated to promote art) acquired the copyrights of his work for a ten-year period. The
playwright had three children with his first wife Walderez de Barros, one of whom is actor
and writer Léo Lama.

Plínio Marcos wrote more than 40 plays as well as novels and short stories. Brazzil
published an excerpt of his novel, O Assassinato do Anão, in August 1998
(https://www.brazzil.com/shoaug98.htm). All of them had a problem with the censors and
Plínio Marcos was jailed several times because of his writing. Barrela, the first
play he wrote, for example, was only released in 1980, like most of other works written in
’60s and ’70s. Plínio was already 32 when his first play was staged. It was Dois
Perdidos numa Noite Suja. But after a few presentations it was also closed down by the
military censorship. The author was often confused with the characters he created and the
image he himself portrayed in interviews. While he used to call himself an illiterate,
Plínio Marcos was a self-educated man who devoured books.

His most famous plays:

Barrela (1958): The action based on a true story happens inside a prison. After
being raped by his cellmates a young man kills one by one all of the rapists.

Dois Perdidos numa Noite Suja (1966): The two lost souls in a dirty night are
Paco and Tonho. The first resigned to be a criminal, the latter struggling to be an honest
person.

Navalha na Carne (1967): The love and hate relationship between a prostitute,
her violent gigolo and a homosexual.

Abajur Lilás (Lilac Lampshade) (1975): Giro is a homosexual sadist and Dilma, a
prostitute, whose young son is a prude. The action is set in a whorehouse.

A Dança Final (The Final Dance) (1994): At their 25th wedding
anniversary a husband notices that he has become impotent.

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