Is language progressive, reactionary or none of that, quite the opposite? – 12/20/2022 – Thais Nicoleti

One of those days, I found out that, in our virtual public square, an interesting debate was taking place on the Portuguese language, which, in short, boiled down to distinguishing between the progressive posture and the reactionary (or “fascist”) posture in relation to the language. The defense of learning the cultured norm fell to the “reactionaries”, while the attack on the appreciation of this formal record brought together the “progressives”. Put this way, the discussion falls into ideological polarity and the public tends to align themselves according to the position of their group (or their “bubble”), which, in general, shortens the debate, soon giving way to any other controversy.

According to the progressive thesis, what we call a cultural norm is the linguistic record of the dominant classes, which, precisely because it is so, would be “elitist” or exclusionary. Today, in addition to this idea, not even a good part of the Brazilian ruling class masters this norm perfectly, which would make it, to a large extent, an obsolete norm, an outdated standard or even “subservient to the Eurocentric colonizing model”. “.

If it is on the agenda to tell history from the point of view of the historically excluded and encourage concrete actions (burning of statues, destruction of symbols, etc.) to “retell” the past, analogously there seems to be an ongoing attempt to overthrow the cultural norm the pillar it still stands on and to promote “linguistic diversity”. In this case, each one would express himself as he thought best under any circumstances, a thesis that seems quite reasonable when seen only from the point of view of a certain political activism.

The progressive thesis is always more seductive (and would be more so if it weren’t so easily embraced by the system). Why say “we will” if the ending “-mos” carries the same information as the pronoun “we”? The wording “we will”, for example, is more economical, as it suppresses the redundancy, which is part of the concordance system. More than that, saying “we will” can be something libertarian or even revolutionary. It can, but only as long as it represents a counterpoint to an established norm. Once the norm is destroyed, “we will” becomes institutionalized and becomes the new norm. Or, as is apparently desired, the norms would all coexist in harmony, with the same weight. Will be?

To start the change, perhaps the texts could have a healthy percentage of deviations from the norm, another percentage of foreign words (those that perhaps did not have it spontaneously), a percentage of local slang, in short, the texts could be more “diverse”, reflecting the language actually spoken by society. Well, enough of the imagination.

Those who have to face the consequences of these debates are, in general, the teachers in the classrooms. It is up to them to take on the practical part of incorporating these libertarian theses into the everyday life of the classroom or hitting on the importance of mastering the norm of spaces of power and, at the same time, encouraging young people to read the authors of our literature, those who , with their intelligence and imagination, cultivated the Portuguese language in all its resources.

As is known, not all students will become literature readers, especially in these times of great haste to get nowhere. Those who venture into this dive, in which time is suspended and we are taken to other worlds, will certainly know how to value the language that, yes, we inherited from the colonizers – from which, by the way, many of “us” descend – and we cultivate in our own way, a language that is full of resources and whose knowledge is more than a luxury garment to frequent “elitist” environments.

Literature requires time and a little solitude. Reading a book makes us enter scenarios that are built with words and meet people also made of words, who leave us with nostalgia when the book closes. Writers turn words and phrases (the same ones we use in communication) into art, and thus we are brought to the enjoyment of language as we enjoy music or painting.

It is by reading the artists of the word that we learn the resources of the language and it is because we read them and live in depth the experience they generously share with us that we want to know more and more about the intricacies of this language that leads us to its soul.

Nobody should be deprived of the experience of reading novels, which is the best way to learn the language. Public debate could well break out of the surface and stimulate the advancement of knowledge. Teachers have the task of teaching students to read literature – and the language will be there in its splendor.

sad note

Since Saturday, December 17, we learned of the death of dear writer Nelida Pinionwhom I had the great pleasure of meeting a few months ago, when I was at the Academia Brasileira de Letras for interview professor Evanildo Bechara🇧🇷 Cheerful and communicative, she was the one who approached me and, praising a coat I wore in Rio’s July chill, wanted to know what I was doing there. It was a gift to me.

Lively, enthusiastic and with a lively intelligence, she spoke and didn’t skimp on placements, something that today many people are afraid to do. When taking a picture of my interviewee, in front of the statue of Machado de Assis, it was Nélida who stole the show. The academics who passed by all came to hug her – and there were hugs for everyone. There were many photos, telephone exchanges and, later, some conversations and the promise of a future interview about his most recent book (2020), “Um Dia Chegarei a Sagres”, which would become his last. When she left, Nélida was in Portugal, the setting of the novel.

She volunteered to publish the report on prof. Bechara, who later shared it on the WhatsApp group dos Imortais and, as he then assumed the interim presidency of the ABL, mentioned the matter in the plenary of the house. “I have a lot of enthusiasm for things,” she told me. She will be missed as a person, but literature made her immortal.

She leaves, in addition to all her family, friends and readers, her little dog, called Pilara Piñon, the name that her grandfather Daniel wanted to give her. Nélida, whose name is an anagram of that grandfather’s name, said that the name of her companion (“tremendous, brilliant, that makes my days happy”) was also a tribute to him.

I leave below an excerpt from his latest novel so that readers can experience a foretaste of that reading pleasure that is so important to cultivate. Through words, writing leads us to a unique experience, as we reconstruct what we read in our imagination.

“It was dawn, it was cold, and I covered my body with a worn blanket, the only one in the house. By the light of the candle, I saw the objects on the sideboard as ghosts that I chased away with sparse gestures. My will, they fight me, they form silhouettes on the wall that I cannot clearly identify. Life, which is precarious, pulsates in my chest, offers me a certain freshness that my memory, sunk in hell, refuses. Thanks to these memories I visit the village in which I was born and revived by force.

Despite my sad rebelliousness, I attribute deformed shapes to the breadcrumbs that are scattered on the table. As long as I eat the products of the land, which are few in the house, I live on crumbs. Without them, however, I wouldn’t be here, on this hill in Lisbon, one of the seven existing ones, which I wander around, leaning against the walls of the houses so I don’t fall over. After leaving my grandfather’s lands and settling in Lisbon, in Sagres, and later in the world, I returned here. Who am I without the ruins of human cities and without the pieces of my existence? Who am I without these stories, my rubble?” (In: “One Day I will arrive at Sagres”. Rio de Janeiro: Record, 2020)

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