Wanderlino Arruda
Djalma Souto


Euclides will never die

Wanderlino Arruda

Only the divine can be more important and have more worth than man and the earth on which he lives. Beneath the divine, rests the power of creation, great in itself…cosmic plasticity and telluric mortar. But of even greater worth than the transcendental and divine…is the poet! Only he is able to discern and make clear, completely new viewpoints on life. So great are poets, that Benedeto Croce suggests that they are not just interpreters of their time or country, but to quite the contrary, are critics of their age and surroundings, always in ferocious discord with the accepted standards and common mentality, as were Dante Alighieri, Miguel Cervantes and Johan Wolfgang Goethe. That is also how Euclides da Cunha stood. He was the eternal inconformist, perpetually transubstantiating the miserable human condition of that time in pure art, both social and literary.

Euclides da Cunha, the great poet of “The Sertões”, never surrendered. He was a man of the earth, a humane, but fighting man. He was a scholar and an able cartographer; dissecting the parched, destitute lives of the impoverished in northeastern Brazil. An implacable witness of strength and weakness, geologist and geographer of the arid desert land and souls of its inhabitants. He was a genial magician, hypnotizing us with his words, a far-west explorer of the mysteries and mysticism of Canudos and of the medieval spirit of Antônio Conselheiro. Euclides da Cunha was a harsh man belonging to a harsh land, to the fauna, flora and desert of his long suffering hinterland. Euclides, denizen of that barbarous, inhuman land, personified both hope of rain and the despair of implacable droughts. Euclides was the ethnologist, the sociologist, the historian, the eternal traveler, devourer of horizons. He was at the same time, worst enemy of the hated military soldiers and the greatest ally of the northeastern desert bandits.
In “The Sertões,” the earth is an analysis, a panoramic view of the northeastern region, in the saddest part of the state of Bahia, graphic upside-down funnel formed by the dry soil of Pernambuco, Alagoas and Sergipe, a dried, and cracked stretch of Vasa Barris. Canudo is an unknown land, entrance to the forbidden hinterland, a hell of dryness of the land and of the men, a secular martyrdom of hunger and ignorance. The cracked surface of the scalding clay carries the same biblical mark that with the years of life and work marked the faces of the Hebrew slaves of the Egyptian deserts with; the eternal traces of purgatory suffering of human existence. It’s the land of the convulsion of the rough, of the sharpest, cutting angles, of the most aggressive landscape, of the jagged, splintered edges of rocks: the gravel, the nude stone, the rocky escarps, the towering cactuses, the spines and daggers, the tree trunks, twisted by unending thirst, the rending hardship, and finally…the dust. There are clay walled huts, the houses made of mud and lathe, humble straw serving both as roof and as shelter.

In the interior of the terrible land,…man: the mulato, the bandit, and the cowboy. Inside the man in his soul and in his flesh, rest his superstitions. There is slavery, and mystic madness, driven even madder by the ascetic madness of Antonio Conselheiro, rude preacher of the desert wilderness. There exist no adjectives with which one can qualify the war of Canudos, just as there are no adjectives to describe the works of Euclides da Cunha. In Euclides there are no sweet words or domesticated phrases. Everything in him comes straight up to the boiling point at white heat, everything merging together in the tremendous force of violent emotions, the heat of effervescent tragedy. Only in Euclides, does the impossible, become reality. Canudos did not surrender. It was struck down while standing. The “Sertões” of Euclides da Cunha will never fall, to the contrary, they will live forever!

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