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Brazilian Writer Ariano Suassuna Dies at the Age of 87

07/24/2014 - 09h18

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FABIO VICTOR
ASSISTANT EDITOR OF "ILUSTRADA"

Brazilian writer and playwright Ariano Suassuna has passed away at the age of 87 this Wednesday, July 23rd.

He was the one of the most well-known writers in Brazil, who wrote "Auto da Compadecida" and "Romance d'A Pedra do Reino".

The Brazilian writer had been admitted to hospital last Monday (21) with a hemorrhagic stroke and was submitted to emergency neurosurgery.

He was born on June 16th 1927 in João Pessoa, capital of the state of Paraíba. He had been living in Recife since 1942.

The proximity between the erudite and the popular is in the essence of Suassuna's work - or Ariano, as he is referred to in the state of Pernambuco.

He wrote plays, novels, poetry and essays, had 14 books published as well as translations of his works into a range of languages. He also worked as an artist and for nearly 40 years he worked as a professor of aesthetics at the Pernambuco Federal University.

His reworking of the aesthetics of northeastern popular art (cordel literature, violists, wood engravings, etc.) was influenced by Iberian medieval culture and classical schools such as the baroque stylistic phase, which is at the root of the Armorial movement coined by Suassuna in the 1970s, which featured manifestations across theater, literature, music as well as dance and the visual arts.

Armorial seeds can be seen in his first plays. His debut was "A Woman dressed as the Sun" ["Uma Mulher Vestida de Sol"], from 1947.

But it was his picaresque vein in "O Auto da Compadecida", from 1955, which put him in the limelight across the country.

Suassuna's playwriting is marked by the fusion of the sacred and the profane, by farse and the unforgettable clowns and rogues like João Grilo and Chicó who feature in "Auto da Compadecida" - adapted for the silver screen and television. Set in a village, the story tells the adventures of two friends whose mischief gets mixed up with the business of priests and bandits. Moral and religious dilemmas are taken to divine judgment.

In literature, his greatest achievement was "O Romance d'A Pedra do Reino", from 1971.

He recreates an episode set at Pedra Bonita, in a mythic and epic 19th century country, when Sebastian believers committed collective suicide in the bowels of Pernambuco state.

The Brazilian poet Carlos Drummond de Andrade (1902-1987) wrote: "It isn't any living man who can come up with work of this caliber".

His engagement with Brazilian popular culture and social causes means that he has always been associated with left wing politics.

He is remembered for contrasting the inequalities between the "real Brazil" of the poor and the oppressed, versus the "official Brazil"; and for regarding the socialist-religious experience during the War of Canudos, which took place at the end of the 19th century, as the most significant episode in Brazilian history.

He is survived by his wife, Zélia, his companion of 66 years (56 of which they were married) and whom the writer said was "the greatest icon" of his life, their five children (their first born passed in 2010) and 15 grandchildren.

Translated by CRISTIANE COSTA LIMA

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