With an original plot and dynamic reference to the current
social, economic and political issues soaring throughout Brazil, Fausto
Wolff’s latest book, A Mão Esquerda (The Left Hand) is sure
to secure his place among the best writers in the country. He is still
the same fiery iconoclastic writer who had to flee the country to avoid
Mário Gonçalves – Eckabe Press
It is a well-accepted fact that most pregnancies have a gestation period
of nine months. This is also the amount of time which journalist and author
Fausto Wolff, 56, took bearing the 572 pages of A Mão Esquerda
(The Left Hand) — a mixture of romance and auto-biography published
by Civilização Brasileira (Brazilian Civilization) in Rio
de Janeiro which anticipates an up-coming publication party in Porto Alegre,
capital of the state of Rio Grande do Sul, in the Southern tip of Brazil.
The papyrus-child generated by this Gaúcho (people originally
from that state) of German heritage, measuring close to two meters (6″6′
tall), took 40 years to reach maturity. But like the best of wines, A Mão
Esquerda has a distinctive and notable flavor.
The book recites the adventures of the Von Traurigzeit family, Wolff’s
own lineage in real life, from the sixteenth century up to 1995 through
the eyes of Pérsio, the single protagonist who is the author himself.
The narrative is construed in original form with continuing alternation
of characters in charge of the action, as well as the apparition of Mão
Esquerda, a particular character created in an article for Pasquim
(tabloid weekly newspaper published during the military take-over of 1964
which played a key role in the resistance against the regime being imposed
by the government) who proceeds to eliminate acquaintances, politicians,
bankers and newspaper editors. “He [Mão Esquerda] represents
the collective unconsciousness”, Wolff remarks jokingly.
The book breaks away from a strict chronological sequence, and frequent
parallels are made between the plot of the story and the current political
issues taking place in the country. Unpresumptuously, the author insistently
affirms he only agreed with the publication of the book after submitting
it to “several friends who write better than I do”. Among these
are Carlos Heitor Cony, Jânio de Freitas and Millôr Fernandes
(all well-established writers in the Brazilian literary community).
Born into an underprivileged family, Fausto Wolff learned how to read
at the age of five, and saw in that his only ticket out of poverty. Through
reading a considerable amount and variety of literature, he soon fell in
love with journalism. He was actively involved with both theater and film,
and also became fluent in six distinct languages. Wolff initiated his career
at the age of fourteen as a police reporter for Diário de Notícias
(Daily News), a local paper in the city of Porto Alegre.
A man with firm conviction, Wolff’s independence annoyed many, and in
42 years of his profession few were the times when he stood in good terms
with his bosses. Currently, however, this is certainly not the case. “The
book met all my expectations much due to Ênio Silveira — editor
of Civilização Brasileira who recently died and to whom this
book is dedicated — who so greatly desired to publish this work and to
Salomão who is building an exemplary publishing house. I feel good
working in an environment where the people value my work and pay me appropriately”,
The disagreements with the bosses did not deter Fausto Wolff from becoming
a renowned journalist. A number of his interviews, like the first the Palestinian
leader Yasser Arafat granted to a Latin-American reporter, as well as the
one with Mariel Mariscot done two weeks prior to the legendary criminal’s
death, have become part of the Brazilian press’ history. But it was in
Pasquim that Wolff got to experience total freedom in journalism.
“I left Brazil in 1968 and moved to Rome where I worked as an international
correspondent to Pasquim. The newspaper was spawned by journalists
and we were free to write. From a certain perspective Pasquim was
detrimental because never again was I able to write without such total
freedom”, he notes.
His relocating to Rome was not a personal choice. In 1968 the military
dictatorship imposed the AI-5 (Institutional Act no. 5 which granted the
executive branch of the government power over all issues. This Act followed
the Complementary Act no. 38, issued previously that same year, which shut
down Congress, destabilizing the balance among the Legislative, Executive
and Judicial branches of the government), leaving few-to-no options for
those who, like Wolff, opposed the regime. Politically active and engaged
— he supports communism and is filiated with PDT, Partido dos Trabalhadores
(Workmen’s Party) — Wolff discovered he was to be imprisoned and so headed
to the airport to escape. He also lived in Denmark, which he considers
to be his second home, traveled the world and only returned to Brazil in
Fausto Wolff firmly believes that his time in exile, and primarily the
long existence of the Brazilian dictatorship, could have been significantly
reduced if the press had taken a more aggressive stand against the regime.
“I think the dictatorship lasted as long as it did much due to the
appease of the press. The Brazilian press did not fight as much as it could
have”, he expresses. Yet, he opens a safety clause for those who did
put up a battle, himself among them. After the military took over in 1964,
Wolff expressed his discontentment by editing the first socialist newspaper
in Brazil — the Tribuna Socialista (Socialist Tribune).
Today, though distant from the press, Wolff remains attentive and with
the same independence which characterized his professional existence. “My
outlook on things has changed tremendously. I think we are in a swamp,
we’ve lost sight of the Brazilian citizen. The country has lost its culture,
its press, its music. As you open a newspaper or a magazine, you no longer
recognize the country portrayed. The current status-quo is much worse than
that of twenty years ago. The population was much more politically aware
and involved. Today, for instance, the columnists talk about New York,
about Paris. I don’t want to know about that. What interests me is the
12 year old girl who is falling victim of child prostitution throughout
the country, the homeless; that’s what I want to know. That is what makes
my country; those are the people who interest me. I won’t say it is for
these people that I write to, but it is in their behalf that I do”,
the author protests.
A Mão Esquerda is the manner Fausto Wolff found to contribute
to the ending of what he calls “the fear imposed by society”.
It’s his way to praise the freedom of mankind; and to that concept of freedom
he dedicates the poem “Viva a Liberdade” (Cheers to Liberty)
— a summary of opinions contained in the book — which he insists in not
publishing separately, depriving the readers of one additional opportunity
to enjoy the reading of his text.
Translation by Daniela Lace