The aim  of this article is to  try to demonstrate,  albeit  in a simplified  exposition,  how  social  reality  can be compared  to imaginative  “reality,” as seen from  a twofold   perspective:  the  first   as   referential   data causing  indignation  on the part of  society; the second,  by producing, in most  cases,  catharsis,  due to feelings  of   indignatiom,  disapproval,  hatred and collective instisfaction  on the  larger  part  of Brazilian civilian  society, especially  as far  as   the present   Brazilian Republic is concerned.  To account  for this imaginative “reality,”  I  have recurred to a poem,  precisely  the poem  “O Bicho“ (“The animal,”)[1] written  by  Manuel Bandeira(1886-1968), a Brazilian poet. Further  in  this  article  I will comment on  it.

 THE FIRST PERPECTIVE:  Hunger as a chronic Brazilian  problem.   

        I  really know how hard it  is to approach  the  hunger issue    in  current  Brazil’s   administration  led   by  president Jair Messias Bolsonaro, a man  whose  popularity   has fallen off  continuously,   according to the latest opinion  polls surveys  carried out by  Brazilian  private statistical institutions which deal with popularity  perfomance rate of  candidates   who  intend  to   run for a campaign  for a second  presidential mandate.

        On the other hand, I  would like to antecipate  that the   reader might  enjoy the above-mentioned  poem   not only as an  esthetic  literary  artifact, but also,  and  mostly,  as a reality  understood, in terms of literary  interpretation, in its  innermost  and complex  social aspects imbued with   the absurdities and contradictions  and  deep contratrasts. i. e., assymetries [2] in  Brazilian  social pyramid    so far maintained  as steady as a  rock by the country  high  social rank, as seen  in the economical    elite referred  to as  the “owners of power “  an expression  based  on a well known book written by  Raimundo Faoro, a distinguished  Brazilian  sociologist and historian, entitled Os donos do poder (The owners of power) [3]    

    The lack of social justice in the early Brazilian  society, which  came  down from generation to generation like the old  well  known social life  status quo of the-called  establishment  by Portugal Crown, the so-called   hereditary  captaincies  of  Colonial   Period.  A reality  which, somewhat,   mutatis mutandi,  sitll  puzzles people  nowadays. This almost unchanged reality  over the years    has still  left  visible   traits in   contemporary  Brazil’a  political  and social hierachy  structure.

    Thus, as time went by, after the aforesaid   hereditary  captancies, little   has susbstancially changed socially speaking,  even with the establishment in the country  in a sequence, respectively  of  vice-kingdom, having  Dom  John  VI  in the hands of Portuguese   control and, later,  two monarchic  goverments, the first   in the hands of   his son, Pedro,  who  turned Brazil  independent  from Portugal ties, and  became the first  emperor of  the country, followed by his son,  also named Pedro,  a Brazilian  born, who inherited  the  throne   under  the name of  Dom Pedro II.

     From the shift  of  a Monarchy (1822-1889)  to  a Republic ( from 1889 onwards)  regime,  one might  notice    that in this relevant   historical  cirucumstance  little has  changed in Brazil social life  with the exception  of the abolition of slavery (1888) still  during Dom Pedro II’s Empire, i,e, the elite   goes on in other  forms politically speaking, while  the common people,  goes on  with the  well-known hardships and sufferings.       

    However,  progress and modernization ideas  in  Brazil, roughly speaking, date back  to  1922,    literally  symbolized by Modernism Movement,   the landmark of which   was the so-called  " Modern Art  Week" which   took place at the Municipal Theater   in São  Paulo, (date  which, in turn,   coincided with the commemoration of the Centennial  Anniversary of Brasil’s Independence, an official  national holiday  which  takes place on September the  7th) carried out  by  the supporters  of new forms  of  writing  literature  in Brazil. Then again,  the country  regrettably  still shows a very gloomy   reality,   so to  speak,   social   inequalities  seem to drag  on forever.  Actually, this kind of high social status of privileged groups of people have remained somehow   an unsolvable question,    always  ready to raise continuous  harsh and firing     debates   by Brazilian society as a whole.

    To begin with, the country now brings again  the  ghost of poverty afflictions  on a large scale, mainly provoked by  unemployment and the aftermath  of pandemic, unfortunataely wrongly treated by federal authorities and worsened by a disatrous federal government management   under the  command of the ruling  president of   the Brazilian  Republic. 

       By practising   an erroneous economical   policy which    alllows  a kind of  laissez-faire  price increase, as   well as  of skyhigh  cost of living, not to mention  the return of  inflation problems in the  economy of the country.  Why,  by imposing, manu militari,  a  wrong  economical   policy,  the consequences of which,   as  it was easily forseen, have been hunger and  other social  evils, i,e.,   more violence, more homeless, beggars and  people living   forlorn  on the streets of big cities,  such  as  São Paulo,   Rio de Janeiro  and all over the country. The federal  government  disregarded anything  that could  stop Brazil’s    escalating  cost of living.  He got stuck to his stubborness and off hand  attitudes,  mainly as regards oil price imports  practices  paid in dollar as though Brazilian  currency had the same  value  as the American.  

      Of course, he, as well as president  Bolsonaro,  are to  be held responsible  for  this  unfair  and cruel  practices in the  current country   economical sphere. Sheer insanity and insensivity  of these  two Anti-christs (this definition of his personality  is not mine, I read it  in  an article  of a Brazlian  writer).   Bolsonaro is a mandatory that governs his country against sciences, as it was the case of putting off  fighting  the letal  Covid-19. Bolsonaro  has revealed himself   incompetent as soon as he began  to administer   the country with his  outdated and too conservative  practices  of a wrong and disastrous economical   policy and   other forms of managing a complex  country like Brasil,  a nation that, more than never,  needs a competent and human man  to take care of its most  pressing  problems, especially  hunger and  violence.

     The presiident governs  us  stubbornly and off hand, i. e.,  as a bad politician  who cannot  be classified as a stateman. Far otherwise. He is the worst example of a  Chief of State. His way  of  ruling the country   is addressed to the well-to-do  people rather than to solve out  the poor  inhabitants of the country. All these   traits of  his government might be defined  as a wet blanket person,  as an  example of an    extreme right-wing  man. No more than  this,  unfortunately.   In my view,   Bolsonaro  is the worst president  Brazil has ever elected  so far.  Like his friend Donald Trump, his days are counted and his  end, politically speaking,  is a said one: self exile, or better saying, banishment. 

   In other  words - it is mandatory  to  point out  over and over -.   president Jair Bolsonaro’s current failed  administration has, to some  extent,  helped to  bring  about  the return of  hunger,   homeless and unemployed counted, at present, by  thousands  of people unable to make both ends meet.

 However  a  paradox  is revealed, as  far as the present  way of life in  Brazil  is concerned  -  and this particularity, in my view,   ought  also to   be emphasized  here over and over :  food  today, as it was in  not so remote a  past, historically   and economically regarded, is found abundant   in our  supermakets shelves,   teemed with  a variety  of  items  on sale  and, at the same time, essential and basic   items, but  completely  out of reach  of  consumers  who  can scarcely   buy  the minimum for their  survival.And what is more serious,   poverty reached  both  lower middle class and even middle class  properly said.

    Obviously, only higher middle class  and the wealthy  have not been  reached by  lack of money  and purchasing power. To sum up,  one might  say  that  Bolsonaro’s  mandate  has one purpose:  to govern  espcially  for  the higher social ranks,  as  it can be inferred from the successive  misdoings   praticed by  the super-minister of  Brazilian economy, the all-powerful  Mr.  Paulo  Guedes, an extemly neoliberal econmist  who, in the past, rendered  services, as an economist,  to   the  bloodthristy Pinochet military  dictatorship   in Chile.     

   What  is worse to be  underlined: even the minumum  of  food products, better  called “shopping basket,”  in most cases, cannot be   bought by poor people,   as seen  in  newspapers reports and  also  on a  TV  program,  such as   the well-known “Brasil Urgente,”( “Brazil’s ” Breaking News”) exhibited by TV Bandeirante, and presented by the  courageous, rather boisterous  and  popular TV presenter Mr. Datena, in São Paulo city.

   A program with a large audience, preferably watched by lower middle-class population, and generally avoided by  the biased elite or  higher middle-class people that   connsider  it  the gutter press or also  called  formerly in newspapers   the “yellow press” or “yellow journalism,”  which came  with  the  invention of TV programs, perhaps chiefly  due to  dealing   with all sort of   crimes  reports daily shown by him.       

   Terrible  and ghastly exhibitions  of  scenes of people literally  eating  remains   of  garbage (litter)   collected   on some open air  grounds or even on some    streets of  São Paulo city   have become  a constant scene. What is still worse, people  trying to  find eating leftovers and   picking  them up  together with   starving   street mongrels, thus  vying with  hungry  human beings.That’s the pink limit.” 

   Of course,   such scenes  can  be seen mainly in some  underdeveloped countries  the wrold over  such  in  Africa and in Latin America, South America and in the Caribbean, even   in North America, i.e., both  in emerging  countries,  like Brazil    and in developed ones,  where social injustice still  remains steady  as an  everlasting   plague due to lots of  reasons (political,  geopolitical,  civil wars and countries  devastated by  dictatorial government systems) such as, it  now happens in Afghanistan, Syria,  Venezuela,   Cuba etc.

      Just to  mention a single example among others scattered around the mistreated and  devastated planet Earth, now suffering several environmental  evils, among others,   the high  level, just in one or two years of    deforestation in the area of Amazonia,  a bad   example  given by the  current ruling federal Brazilian  government  as far as     Amazonia  Forest is considered.  And  abroad, including   Brazil, threatening climatic changes have been relentessly  brought about  by very  high   rates of  carbone oxid (CO2) released by chamneys   in factories  mostly in China, Russia, India,  the United States  resulting in threatening     increase of  greenhouse effects    and  ruin normal  life conditions  on Earth.

    Should the present  world leaders of all nations   keep on  releasing  pollution  on the air,  nature,  seas, rivers.   lakes, cities etc.,  owing to an unprecented  greedy world   cosumption growth  level,  our  planet  will be wholly sacrificed  and  nothing will  remain  on it   to tell  the  story, as  mankind   will be wiped out  from  Earth.

   Our planet has to react  as  urgently  as possible  by reducing  considerably  the greenhouse effects in every country, especially in  those  cited above.  Let us defend what is left  for us still intact,   unfortunately  not so much.      

    Hunger  nowdays, to  be quite frank - it should be reminded of  -,  is not  at all  a life condition of present Brazilian. Poverty in this country  is almost a chronicle  problem never  solved  out yet, roughly speaking,    over  the past  twenty years,  i,e,  including both   last  century and    mainly  down  to the present  federal government,  which,  unfortunately,  has even   worsened it, as I have shown  in  lines above. [4]

    Especially  now,  the situation of the poor and those below  the line  of poverty, mixed with  the pandemic,  crucial  social  problems with all their drawbacks: jobless  workers,   erroneous and  cruel  economical   policy practices  by current  minister  of economy, Mr. Paulo  Guedes, already cited,   have proved   harmful  to Brazil’s  social  life and  to poverty-stricken  inhuman  prevailing  conditions. Therefore, I cannot  see, so far,   any   hope or  devise any Utopian perspective   of a  better life in  the country. I also  cannot  envisage    but  a  gloomy  and sad reality for my  country,  almost  in all its aspects, even considering  it   a possibility in midium term, let alone  in  a short term.


THE SECOND PERSPECTIVE:  Hunger as seen in the   poem   “O Bicho” (The Animal”)


        As I  have referred to  in   the beginning lines  of this  article,  I picked out the poem “The animal,” written by   one of the  most  remarkable   Brazilian  poets, Manuel Bandeira, who was also an essayst, a chronicler, a   literary historian  and a prolific   translator.

        The poem  under discussion belongs to one of  Bandeira’s   poetical  works, Belo Belo (Beuatiful Beautiful)  It was   the seventh   book of poetry published by him.  He was born in Recife, capital of the state of Pernambuco, Northeast of Brazil. in 1886 and died in Rio de Janeiro, in 1968,  Bandeira  began as  a traditional  poet with his  book As Cinzas das Horas (The Ashes of the Hours), publiised in  1917. With  this  work along with the subsequent one,  Carnaval (Carnival) (1919), it was easy  to forsee  that Brazilian poetry   was before a potential and  high quality  verse-maker.

         Bandeira, as soon as the Modernist  Brazilian  Literary Movement  started in 1922 with  the famous  literary landmark event  called    "Week of Modern  Art" that took place at the Municipal Theater in São Paulo, he  did not delay to join  the writers  and artists who  shared the same ideas about a new form of writing both in prose and in poetry or producing    other   new forms of arts, such as painting, music, dance   etc.

        It is important to point  out  again  that the  the Movement  of Modern Art  was   held to commemorate   the 100 years of Brazil''s Independence and at the same time   that landmark had in view to open up an opportunity for writers  and artists   to go deep into the country  identitity, to explore updated  forms  of arts,  but with an inbiased glimpse in our  social and cultural   reality. i.e., to  present  the  public  with a   modern look at what really the country meant as a nation  thinking for  itself in terms of literature  and arts in general, no more tied to Eurocentrism of "art and politics". The main purpose of Modernism was to break up with the past, chiefly  literarily speaking. Therefore,  to sum it up,  to abolish  outdated   forms and themes   of makimg  literature. music or any kind of art. Bandeira soon   adhrered  to this new poetry by publishing the book  Libertinagem  (Libertinism, 1930).

On the other hand,  one cannot  see Bandeira's poetry as a  monolitically verse-maker.Obviously,   his following books were grounded n the main traces of modernist authors, sometimes even  more  radical  in his experimenta  forms  of a lyricism. However,  there is somethging to be reamrked  in his verse: he was an orignal  poet with a great  skill  to change ways of  making  poems. In a way, one might say  tha Bandeira  was a multiple  poet,  able to  write a modernist  poem,   as well as  produce poetry  after the fashion of  Medieval poets of  Portuguese  literature, just like the  Brazilian  poet  Da Costa e Silva (1885-1950),   born  in  Amarante,  State of  Piauí,  skillfully did  when writing  his "Vilancetes" as seen in his book Pandora (1919), an   experimental    strategy employed by Da Costa e Silva.   On this specfic  aspect, he  preceded Manuel Bandeira. Furthermore,   Bandeira was,   thus,    a kind of  poet one might  define as those  poets who   had different personae like,   mutatis mutandi,  the  great  Portuguese  poet Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935).

         Below, I present  to   the reader,   in Portuguese,  the  poem  ““O  Bicho, ”  followed by my translation into English:

                     O Bicho

           Vi ontem um bicho

           Na imundicie do pátio

           Catando comida entre os detritos

           Quando achava alguma coisa,

            Não examinava nem cheirava:

            Engolia com voracidade.

            O bicho não era um cão.

            Não era um gato,

           O bicho,   meu Deus,  era um homem. (Rio, 25-2-1947) ()

                        The animal

             Yesterday  I saw an animal

              In  a  filthy yard

              Picking up food among  leftovers.

              When finding something to eat

              It  neither checked them  nor smelt them :

              It  greedly swallowed them.

               The animal wasn’t  a dog,

                Nor a cat,

                Nor a    mouse either.

               The animal, my God, was a man. (Rio, 25-2-1947)


     As one can see  from the reading of  the  poem  hereto  concerned,   its  lyrical subject  focuses on an abominable  human condition   regarded  universally.  Bandeira’s poetry diction,  as it can be seen, is   straightforward, colloquial,   humble[5]  and has a profound  oral  tone. As  it is, Banderia’s poem is  a paradigmatic  example of a brilliant  modernist  poet, whose inflection   was,  in this specific  poem,  a prototype of  one of the worst    chronic  social  evils  of Brazilian life.

     The wealth of  strategical   devices skillfully  employed  by the poet  to achieve   its  aesthetic  aim in the reader’s   emotion and feelings  would certainly show   underlying  componentes   in the composition  of this poem,  the analysis of which  would  require a larger  space, which is not the case here.   




[1] BANDERIA, Manuel. Belo Belo. In: Poesia completa e prosa.  Organizada pelo autor.Rio de Janeiro: Nova Aguilar S.A., 1986, p.283-284.

[2] PORTELLA,  Eduardo  et  alii. A modernidade. Revista Tempo Brasileiro, 89: 5/9; Rio de Janeiro, 1986.

__________.    et  alii . Premissas,  promessas. Revista Tempo Brasileiro, 130/131: 5/10. Rio  de Janeiro, 1992. Tempo Brasileiro, 1997.

__________.   et.  alii.Qual modernidade?  Rio de Janeiro:  Revista  Tempo  Brasileiro, 111: 109/112.  Rio de Janeiro,  1992.

__________ et alii. Sentido(s) da modernidade.  Revista Tempo Brasileiro, 76:  118/127. Rio de Janeiro, 1984.

[3] FAORO,  Raimundo. Os donos do poder. – formação do patrimônio  político brasileiro. Porto Alegre: Editora  Globo, 1958.

[4]  For a summarized  view of  Brazil’s  most momentous  problems,   such as  hunger,  inequity,   income inequality  and violence, just to mention  a few  ones, it is worthwhile consulting  the  brief work:  ROCHA, Jan. Brazil –  a guide to to the people, politics and culture. For an   in-depth study of  Brazil,   I refer the reader to FAUSTO, Boris. A concise history of Brazil. Translated by Arthur Brakel. Cambridge University Press,1998.

[5]  For  a remarkable study of  Manuel Bandeira’s poetry,   I would  mention   the following  book:  ARRIGUCCI JR., David. Humildade,  paixão e morte : a poesia de Manuel Bandeira,. São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 1990;