Beauty, violence, and saudade…
I picked up Senor Vivo and the Coca Lord sort of by accident, and read it quickly… as with the best any kinda of magical realism, the text is loaded with information – not necessarily fact. I learned a lot about South America, it’s sensuality and violence, it’s beauty and tragedy, thanks De Bernieres.
The novel concerns Dionisio Vivo, an impetuous and playful young philosophy lecturer, and the letters which he publishes in the national press. These missives are a little like the boy in the The Emperors New Clothes. They articulate the truths that everyone knows, but no one realises. Vivo’s letters concern the state of the (unnamed) country, and how it is in the hold of the drugs trade. Vivo’s truths awaken people, and revolutionise the government, bringing on mythical worship of young Vivo by the masses, and the hatred of the Drugs Lords.
But Vivo doesn’t care… he’s in love with the incandescent Anica, and living in a remote city, away from governmental hubub. The gangsters go spare. The more they try to kill Vivo, the greater his powers grow. Eventually, no one will attempt to kill him, as they think he’s a sorcerer.
So new insidious means of attack are dreamed up. Great loves are beseiged, and friendships attacked. Vivo wanders the streets with only two jaguars for company.
Beautiful, tragic, horrifying and hilarious, Senor Vivo and the Coca Lord drips with saudade. And it’s the first book in a long time that moved me to the point of (almost) tears. Beautiful stuff.
The famous saudade of the Portuguese is a vague and constant desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist, for something other than the present, a turning towards the past or towards the future; not an active discontent or poignant sadness but an indolent dreaming wistfulness.
– A.F.G Bell, 1912
Brazilians claim there is no equivalent word in English. The word may come from Portuguese navigators who discovered most of the world, and who spent long lonely years sailing the high seas away from their homes. The word “saudade” comes from the Latin word “solitas” (loneliness) and denotes “a feeling of nostalgic remembrance of people or things, absent or forever lost, accompanied by the desire to see or possess them once more.” Saudades are what we all feel for EA, Rio, Carnaval, as praias, aquela musica, as batucadas, Brazil, its culture, and for each other.
Definition courtesy of Dicionário Etimológico Nova Fronteira da Língua
Senor Vivo and the Coca Lord (Amazon.com)
Senor Vivo and the Coca Lord (Amazon.co.uk)