João Ubaldo Ribeiro Phoebe-Lou Adams - Essay

Phoebe-Lou Adams

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[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.