Bahian revolt made in China

Victor Mascarenhas criticizes the decadence of Salvador and the myth of "Bahianness for tourists to see" in a novel with a strong Gregorian accent

The quotes from Antonio Risério, in the anthropologist's criticism of Salvador's obligation to be happy 365 days a year and the letter of resignation from the governor-general and founder of Salvador, Tomé de Souza, who, movingly, begged D. João III to relieve him of the heavy duty, indicate what the reader will find in the brief 80 pages of Xing Ling – Made in China , the first novel by writer and screenwriter Victor Mascarenhas, released by Solisluna Editora.

Whether in the rapid rhythm of the words or in the angry and pamphleteer tone, with a clear political connotation, although non-partisan, the book refers to the mocking verses of the colonial poet Gregório de Mattos, but without forgetting the debauchery of the old Cuíca de Santo Amaro, who , when perched on market crates, he fired barbs at the powerful of the “City of Bahia” in inspired strings.

Xing Ling is anarchic even in its name, which refers to the technological trinkets pirated by the Chinese. But that doesn't mean it stops exposing the wounds of a Salvador on the verge of disintegration. The book, although entertaining with its whimsical tone and the wild narrative of an adventure film, has a more serious objective: to open consciousness, as much as the synthetic drug Eparrey! , a weapon used by a group of ragged guerrillas in the fight against the system – here represented by the great Bahian entertainment industry – that surrounds and squeezes the city idealized by the Portuguese to represent the power of the Crown in the Atlantic, just like the tentacles of a giant octopus.

In short, the work takes place in a hypothetical future, when Pelourinho – an architectural and cultural heritage of humanity by UNESCO – is transformed by a Chinese business conglomerate, into a kind of Costa do Sauípe Intramuros do Dendê. The Historic Center, the original nucleus of the founding of Salvador, is metaphorized in the heart of the capital, therefore, in a kind of center of gravitational force of its people.

The “Pelô” of Xing Ling is surrounded by electrified walls and moats that keep the native population away, while foreign and wealthy tourists open their mouths bored in front of the sumptuous baroque churches. Sacred art, Bahian women, capoeiristas and all sorts of mythical characters from that medieval setting, who amazed chroniclers and foreign travelers, such as Maria Graham and Maximiliano da Austria in times gone by, and who inspired Jorge Amado, are now nothing more than plastic imitations or actors hired and controlled by chips to entertain the “gringos”.

Outside the walls, a group of natives organizes and, using Eparrey! like the red pill from Matrix (the reference to the greeting to Iansã and the transcendence of Candomblé are not mere coincidences), they try to take back Salvador's heart and return it to his people, starting a civil war to rescue the legitimate identity of the Bahians and abolish the distortions of a fake Bahianity.

There is no shortage of ironies thrown at parties on the left or right that succeed each other in power and share the city sometimes with one business group, sometimes with another. Nor does the book fail to touch on the evils arising from the pasteurization of Bahian culture and its export-style repackaging. There are plenty of shots from Eparrey! for axé music and its derived rhythms and for religious fundamentalism that threatens civil liberties. There is still bitter criticism against the people of Salvador themselves, who, passive and anesthetized (like the population described in Brave New World and its doses of Soma ) by the promise of “eternal Carnival”, watch the city transform into a monster of steel, glass, chaotic traffic jams and social injustice.

Xing Ling , with its surprising and open-ended ending, is a personal outburst by its author, but which aims to represent the collective desires of a population that has lost itself in the exoticism of its own culture.

Victor Mascarenhas is a writer and screenwriter . Author of books, Caffeína , short stories and winner of the Braskem Culture and Art Award in 2008, and A insuportável FAMILY HAPPY , in 2011, after being one of the finalists for the Off Flip Award, which takes place in parallel with the Paraty International Literary Festival. Through Solisluna he published Xing Ling - Made in China and Um Certo Mal Estar.
In cinema, he was one of the screenwriters of Isso Moços (2010, José Araripe Jr.).

Review published on the literature blog of the portal A Tarde

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