(Waldomiro Freitas) Autran Dourado Donald A. Yates - Essay

Donald A. Yates

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[A Hidden Life (Uma Vida em Segredo)] is a brief, poetic, but tightly controlled account of an inconspicuous existence so far removed from the broad social channels into which it might well have been directed that it seems, in a sense, a "secret life."… Dourado tells the story of Biela, a young country girl reared in [rural surroundings]…. Brought into town after [her father's] death to live with her uncle and his family, she is compelled to adapt to a new world.

The small crises of Biela's life are ticked off by the author with almost Olympian detachment: at first she appears to gain a sense of self and to blossom in the new environment, but something within her shrinks…. Gradually, Biela withdraws from the family circle and finds her place among the servants in the kitchen. They are like her. The years pass; she grows old. One day she finds a hungry stray dog and takes it home to live with her in the shabby back room into which she has retreated.

The similarities between Dourado's A Hidden Life and Flaubert's Un Coeur Simple are obvious, and extend even to the exalted mystical vision involving their pet that both self-effacing women experience…. There is no dramatically Brazilian aspect to the work, no fresh insight into life, no arresting characterizations. It is as if the author proposed to transfer Flaubert's simple tale to a milieu that he was more familiar with and rewrite it—as a sort of literary exercise.

Donald A. Yates, "Biela's Small Crises," in Saturday Review (copyright © 1969 by Saturday Review; all rights reserved; reprinted by permission), Vol. LII, No. 13, March 29, 1969, p. 28.