- from The Dionti Family
Alan Minas's first novel, A familia Dionti, is an elaboration on his award-winning film of the same name. Classified as a work of juvenile fiction in Portuguese, it follows the lives of two boys, Kelton and Serino, and their father, Josué, in the rural interior of Brazil. The mother has left to follow the byways of the world, leaving the boys with their remaining parent. As the presence of the mother and wife lingers in the memories of all three characters, the boys begin developing an awareness of their place in the world. As well as being a coming-of-age novel, the work examines, in poetic terms, the themes of rootedness, duty, and freedom in the isolated but changing community in which the story is set.
He was a thin man, full of bone, used to tilling obstinacies and pruning choices. His toes were like the teeth of a rake, abundantly knotted, a trap for his stumbling steps. He had deepset eyes, so deep that you couldn't glimpse their end. He was in constant danger of plummeting headlong into himself, which was why he always walked with arms akimbo. Josué was a short fellow—he wouldn't come up to your shoulders—but he was burdened with the shadow of a giant, which sapped his energy and was responsible for his plodding gait. He would escape through the back door when some intrusive sentiment came knocking at the front. He remained quiet to make it seem as if he wasn't there. He was a man with a short fuse, and would lose his temper at the slightest provocation. His vast brow was a barrier against whatever came at him, it would block the condensed waters of the heavens, along with any beauties circulating within them, except the ones he most desired. He was a man of many clouds. Josué swallowed winds, silences, pauses. And it wasn't that he had strong likes or dislikes. Josué Dionti was like everyone else in the world: in his emptiness, he felt an insatiable hunger.
That's my final say on the matter, my very last word. That's it! …
Josué Dionti was a self-contained man. A fellow punctuated by many full stops, whetted on the blade of many a certainty. For him, no was not a word open to endless translation and multiple reinterpretations. There were problems in this world ever more crowded with the vision of the inexperienced, but ignorant of our most time-honored precept: age draws us backwards every day. For Josué, the world feigned renewal, swathed in the superficial and the [End Page 124] modern: There's blah blah waffle waffle about all sorts of things, just to throw sand in our eyes. To hell with them! I haven't got time for such things.
To his way of thinking, what men lacked were real mirrors capable of revealing the undeniable truth. Time, our other inventor lining our faces and blurring our bodies, erases people. It persists in embellishing us all with the cosmetic of impermanence.
The old doesn't need to be rushed along. Everything reveals its true colors given time, no matter how long or how little it has lived. Have you ever heard of the night being persuaded not to fall, not to ignite its nostalgia? Well then! We are ruled by our great-great-grandmemories, dressed up as future dreams. That's all it is, exactly the same as it has always been, just as one plus one makes two. That's what enables us to see the wholeness of things.
Josué lived with his two sons in an isolated smallholding. But he had traveled the world and beyond on a truck, his life had notched up journeys measuring many a mile, until one day he stopped: I've seen all there is to see in places, every point and disappointment, and I've had enough. I've grown tired of roads that lead everywhere, that lead forever, and I can't take any more. This country has too many corners to it.