- Hitler and Mengele in Brazil:The Testimony of Roberto Drummond
The recognized rise of popular culture in Brazil during the postmodernist era has incited many a polemic as to its value or place in relation to a more erudite, established, or aesthetically elitist culture. In a recent Veja interview the intellectual Sérgio Paulo Rouanet mercilessly attacked the role of popular culture in today's world: "There's a general tendency toward placing excessive value upon the so-called popular culture" (3).1 Rouanet's argument even dares to point to many intellectuals and their general inability to differentiate between popular culture and that of the elite. Within this context the work of an author such as Roberto Drummond, who professes to use popular language and popular forms within "accepted" literature and, moreover, blatantly defends the popular and its tenets, can serve as a viable reference point and a provocative arena for more discussion on the role of popular culture within artistic expression.
Roberto Drummond's adherence to pop or popular literature [End Page 427] as well as his respect for the general pop movement in art and culture have been recognized since his much-cited interview with J. A. Granville Ponce, where he stated: "I don't want to be an intellectual. I prefer that they accuse me of being a best seller like Zé Mauro de Vasconcelos, let me be a Vasconcelos, but then I'll do just that—create a truly popular literature" (5). This interview, included as a Preface to his first important and best-selling collection of short stories, A Morte de D. J. em Paris (more than 150,000 copies sold), explains Drummond's commitment to a popular brand of literature that "any elevator boy, during his free time, on holiday, can pick up and read and understand in his own way" (4). Despite the success of this collection, critics have been severe with Drummond's literary program, suggesting a trumped-up antiintellectualism with the intent of securing popular or commercial success. For example, Wilson Martins denigrates Drummond's pop aesthetics when referring to his second novel, Sangue de Coca-Cola (1980), and to his second collection of stories, Quando eu fui morto em Cuba (1982).2 Martins' critical view of Drummond's works is based upon the supposed contradiction between the latter's public defense of the popular in literature and his sophisticated craft as a writer of fiction. Martins, however, appears to be taking too literally the declared antiintellectualism and defense of the popular as the novelist's only base for his aesthetics. Drummond's stated "break" with traditional literature does not imply his total break with existing literary forms. In truth, the popular, a major aspect of Drummond's prose, is only one facet of his complex art of fiction in which he adapts old forms and invents new ones.
This study proposes to demonstrate Drummond's particular brand of fiction, that is, its aesthetic and ideological parallels with pop art as an artistic form of expression and its sophisticated interweaving of the popular, especially a popular or colloquial form of language, into the art of fiction. Drummond's use of the popular is innovative, creative, and artistic because it draws upon a pop ideology of popular forms and contexts—for example television, radio, sportscasting, and even gossip—and places them within the more "acceptable" framework of traditional literary forms and sophisticated narrative techniques. This combination is nowhere more evident than in Drummond's third novel, Hitler Manda Lembranças [End Page 428] (1984), where he confirms his artistic consistency as a writer sensitive to the use of pop as a literary style and stance.
This suprarealist narrative reflects all the characteristics of the pop art phenomenon of the late 1950s, the 1960s, and the early 1970s in its direct responsiveness to life, simple but creative language, anticonventional form, contemporaneity, and immediacy. As a sociopolitical commentary on the effects of Brazil's former authoritarian regime, this narrative singles out among its many archvillains Hitler and Mengele as blatant pop metaphors for the rampant evil in today's world. These Nazi figures, as threadbare symbols of evil, are...