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LUIS FERNANDO VERÍSSIMO

"Texts by Gaúcho writer and humorist Luis Fernando Veríssimo, 49, display all the efficacy and charm of old jokes – the ones that make us laugh even though we know the punch line. In the case of A Mãe de Freud (Freud’s mother), his 19th book – a collection of short stories published in the national press or in the state press here in Rio Grande do Sul – the writer’s efficacy becomes the reader’s good fortune. In this latest collection, Veríssimo has abandoned his most famous characters – the psychoanalyst from Bagé and the little old lady from Taubaté – to concentrate on anecdotes addressing political events (like the tale in which Brazilian economists administer hell’s financial matters); changing customs (the story of the boy who had never seen a live chicken); and how we view sex (the Fast-Service Team, which undertakes emergency sex missions using an Express Care Unit known as Unisex).

The best of the book’s 44 stories are those in which the humorist blazes the trail of the absurd, imagining, for example, what Brazil’s National Information Service is really like (Shhh! Who’s that singing?/Is it the NIS?/You must be crazy/We’re not even here), or the tale of the ubiquitous Silva family (A name in any phone book/in Pharaonic proportions). Or when he describes the all-out war between smokers and non-smokers. The smokers army will be defeated on the battlefield by their insufficient oxygen supply and cardiovascular complications,’ says Veríssimo, pointing out that non-smokers will be attacked with lighters and burning cigarette butts. A Mãe de Freud only loses its rhythm in two texts, one that talks about the suicide of Minas Gerais writer Pedro Nava and the other exploring the situation of desaparecidos in Argentina. In both of these cases, what Veríssimo seeks first and foremost is pathos rather than laughter. The stories appear a bit out of place in a book in which, fortunately, humor is the prime goal. When Veríssimo aims at laughter, he always hits the bull’s eye."
Mário Sérgio Conti

"Everyone knows just what to expect when they open a book by Luis Fernando Veríssimo. And this doesn’t exclude surprises. The intelligence and levity that LFV employs in describing his impressions are like the taste of our favorite food: no one grows tired of eating the same dish year after year. Thanks to this writer’s imagination and creative production, the banquet has grown. Now the ROBERTA 347 dated short narratives compiled in A Versão dos Afogados, released by L&PM Editores, have been added to the menu.

A good measure of the texts deal with politics. For one thing, Veríssimo whips up on the president. But of course a gourmet like Veríssimo doesn’t serve the gruel that only a campaigning politician can swallow without having a fit. Veríssimo handles the incongruities of presidential power with the same style he devotes to his satires on the day-to-day life of ordinary citizens. Public life, at least in LFV’s writings, has the same weight as private life. Both are addressed fairly: as comedies. (Parenthetical statement: with the caveat that the author is very much aware of the seriousness each merits.)

What this book guarantees is fun accompanied by reflective thought. To boot, Veríssimo shares bits of his knowledge, like delicacies worthy of being devoured by famished minds. Few are the hosts who can set the table with considerations regarding Gilles de Rai, Joan of Arc and Shakespeare, all in support of their view regarding the thesis of the detail and its possible influence on the history of Brazil. Put in these terms, it sounds like nonsense, but read it and savor.

The good gourmet, like the good journalist, has to have a nose. LFV’s sense of smell, for example, allows him to sniff the scent of Eau Minerale de Carbonnieux (a crafty nickname invented for a wine tasted by a Muslim in Turkey) within FHC-ian social democracy. For those who disagree, in addition to clever wit, what we have here is at the very least the observation that deep down, the sultan’s artifice simply showed how we live under the power of words.

Veríssimo is here to play. But that doesn’t mean he takes nothing seriously. Some things are too serious to be addressed with deep seriousness: we would run the risk of releasing a fatal charge of electricity. So why not address these topics with the caution they deserve and with pinches of irony – the spirit’s finest spice? Laughter (even restrained, slipping thinly out one corner of the mouth) is, yes indeed, the best medicine for our digestion."
Ricardo Carle, Revista Zero Hora, 1997.