João Ubaldo Ribeiro Essay - Critical Essays

Ribeiro, João Ubaldo


Ribeiro, João Ubaldo 1941–

Ribeiro is a Brazilian novelist and short story writer.

Phoebe-Lou Adams

[Sergeant Getúlio] is a tale of heroic dedication to an ideal of conduct told entirely through the thoughts and occasional conversations of the dedicated hero who is, ironically, a very bad man indeed. Sergeant Getúlio is an ignorant, quarrelsome, foul-mouthed frontiersman, a policeman who moonlights as hit man for a crooked politician, a torturer if excuse arises, an abominable brute by any standard of decency…. It is Mr. Ribeiro's intention to make the reader accept this wretched fellow as intelligent, amusing, pitiable, and ultimately a true epic hero—an astounding project, brought off with brilliant, astounding success. (p. 93)

Phoebe-Lou Adams, in The Atlantic Monthly (copyright © 1978 by The Atlantic Monthly Company, Boston, Mass.; reprinted with permission), February, 1978.

[Sergeant Getúlio is an unusual tale] of a grisly mercenary's fulfillment of a mission to transport a political prisoner despite the armies sent to stop him and even a retraction of his original orders. Employing the thoughts and conversations of Sergeant Getúlio in a stream-of-consciousness style, the story is broken midway with a dialogue. It is at this point, when Getúlio defies the new orders in an attempt to righteously pursue his goal, that he begins to turn from a ghastly, violent figure into a sort of moral hero. The novel, though difficult in style and steeped in violence, is a rewarding vision, touched with sardonic humor, of an age-old conflict. (p. 977)

Booklist (reprinted by permission of the American Library Association; copyright 1978 by the American Library Association), February 15, 1978.

Barbara Probst Solomon

[In "Sergeant Getúlio," the] secret narrator is the Brazilian backlands. Nature is as much a force for Ubaldo Ribeiro as low town life is for Mr. Vargas Llosa.

The narrative takes place entirely in the crazed, childlike and savagely moral mind of Getúlio, who is a gunman for hire. (p. 11)

As Jorge Amado points out in his brief introduction [see excerpt below], "Sergeant Getúlio" is very much a novelist's novel. The book belongs neither to the dreary school of social realism from which Brazilian letters has long suffered nor to its now fashionable word-game elite. (p. 30)

Barbara Probst Solomon, in The New York Times Book Review (© 1978 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), April 9, 1978.

Jorge Amado

Among the works of fiction published in Brazil in the last decade, few have been as important as João Ubaldo Ribeiro's Sergeant Getúlio for the development of our fiction. The importance of this novel is, among other things, that it makes possible the harmonious development of the literary art by preserving and deepening the most significant traits of a literature characterized throughout its history by its persistent concern with exposing both individual and social problems; in other words, a literature free of all gratuitousness.

Another reason for the novel's importance is the language of Sergeant Getúlio, the fruit of a literary idiom which has been taking shape for a long time, based upon creative work with the vital, popular, rich and free language that is Brazilian Portuguese, so distant from the Portuguese of Portugal in spite of their common roots. (p. ix)

Sergeant Getúlio is a novel that not only avoids the alienation process, but also points to the way in which Brazilian literature should evolve, experimenting and innovating. In developing an extremely rich narrative voice, the novelist makes use of his deep knowledge of the language spoken by the people, of the most profound reality of our people, and so his literary language is a fertile and powerful instrument of creation, competent and faithful in its artistic representation of the life of the Brazilian man….

The language in Sergeant Getúlio, artistically molded on the speech of the people, is often terse, hard, and cruel…. And this language gives very proper expression to the strong substance of the book, which is treated with extraordinary ability in original technical solutions. Among the mass of books published in Brazil in the last ten years, Sergeant Getúlio stands out as one of the few works contributing to the development of a literary art that is genuinely Brazilian. (p. xi)

Jorge Amado, in his introduction to Sergeant Getúlio, by João Ubaldo Ribeiro (copyright © 1977 by João Ubaldo Ribeiro; reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company), Houghton, 1978, pp. ix-xii.