The story is this: a influencer supposedly ventured into the darkness of obsession that is that monument of literature called “Moby Dick”. Yes, the much-quoted and little-read Herman Melville classic. When faced with racist passages, however, he could not stand it and ran. Where? For social networks. Is there a better place to affect virtue and take that dose of acceptance so dear to the addict?
“I wanted to ask something for those who truly understand literature”, he begins in the tweet I had access to through a friend who, I suspect, doesn’t like me very much. “I saw deeply racist paragraphs in ‘Moby Dick,’” he continues. Wow, paragraphs! And here we already see a problem. Seeing is not the same as reading. I have it for myself that anyone who sees a book is only interested in being seen with the book. But perhaps the experience has made me too cruel.
Further on, the influencer says that he continued “reading the book with a twisted nose”. Look that. I knew a book had an ear, but… a nose? It must be one of those pop-up edits. “I’m really bothered”, he vents next. The “vent” is my interpretation. I imagine the boy in his thirties pouting. Honestly sad. Or rather, tisti. And running to show all his anti-racist impetus to the crowd.
Finally, Felipe Que Não É Senior, Filho, Jr. Or Sobrinho appeals to the well-known and recognized common sense of social networks to ask fans who perhaps “truly understand literature” and are distracted: “what is recommended in cases like this?”.
I confess that I was never bothered by “racist books.” Last week I reread “Angústia”, by Graciliano Ramos. I reread “O Beijo no Asfalto”, by Nelson Rodrigues. No crooked nose. Nor did I despair to the point of going around asking what I should do with these and other books. Racist dialogues or descriptions (or sexist, misogynist, homophobic, ageist , fatphobes, etc.) never tickled me. Nor did they ever awaken any perversity that I had hidden in a closet. But I’m reasonably normal. I guess.
That’s why I had to interview experts in Literary Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (LPTS) “Incinerate the book immediately”, taught me a girl who lives here in the apartment. the one to the side and that, from the blue hair, I prejudicedly deduced that it was woke. Was. Playing devil’s advocate, I asked if burning the book would contribute to climate change. In doubt, she gave me the phone number of the teacher who was guiding her in writing a thesis on who-knows-what (I didn’t pay attention). And she returned to the comfort of her Harry Potter.
I continued my search for answers to this important text of public interest. After much insistence, I was received at the house of a friendly blind teacher who emphatically recommended that the book be burned (“Mother Gaia will understand”). Then, still talking to the walls, she said that the ashes should be buried and the ground, salted with pink Himalayan salt.
I was already satisfied and was about to say goodbye when the teacher seemed to have remembered something. “This part is very important,” she said, and I pricked up my ears. “Sprinkle your eyes with alcohol, then dry off in the midday sun,” she suggested, brandishing her cane menacingly. I was scared, but not very much. I was already in the elevator when I saw her approach, the rather irritating tec tec tec pointing the way.
“Just one more thing”, she announced. I paused as if pulling a pad out of my pocket, but decided to make a mental note. “Go ahead,” she said, after pretending to be looking for her pen in one of her pockets. “Tell your friend to smoke the house well with rue, guinea, rosemary, boldo (boldo is always good) and mulatto catinga”, she suggested. I widened my eyes, but she didn’t see. Ah, this racist botany… “And, above all, don’t despair!”, he concluded.
The honest answer to the influencer question is something like: keep reading. Read more. Read better. Read without contemporary neuroses. In the specific case of “Moby Dick”, imagine yourself on a whaleship commanded by an obsessed man. Feel the freedom of the sea and the prison of the vessel at the same time. The prison of our conscience. Of our certainties. From our wishes.
Read the most uncomfortable parts to current hyper-sensitivity and go back in time in order to learn from mistakes for which you are not to blame. Admire all the changes we’ve gone through since the book was written. Behold the man enslaved for a cause! Glimpse one of the expressions of idolatry. Anyway, read and understand the distance that separates Melville’s genius from the mediocrity that is reducing classics of literature to “racist books”.
Based on on this tweet by friend Alexandre Soares Silva.