Streets that Existed in Novels
from Revista da Semana – April 1941
There are streets in our city that are different. On them, characters from the most beautiful Brazilian novels lived, the first novels we read in our life. On one of them, Capitú finds her first boyfriend and on another was the Suburbano Cinema in which Ricardo, in a noisy matinee, exchanged a hidden, delicious kiss with Mariazinha.
Once in a while, those that really love the novels they read will stroll down these streets. On them, they find a little poetry, romanticism, and love. It was close to these banana leaf pages that Felipe gave his hand to Tereza, and on that Sunday afternoon, Serena and Infinita, the little kids played in a circle on São Januário street.
Oh, hidden streets, of Carioca neighborhoods and suburbs! You were truly loved by José de Alencar and Machado de Assis, Lima Barreto and Joaquim Manuel de Macedo, Manuel Antonio de Almeida and Aluzio de Azevedo. They felt the beauty that you possess and they placed it on the pages of their novels, and in the lives of their characters.
“He hesitated and acquiesced in accompanying them to the church square. The three walked, hurriedly ascending to arrive in time for the show. They were shuffling along on the narrow sidewalk, along the wall, from which they spied aligned banana leaves, green backyard sails, which the winds wear out. The church square – small and dry, attached to the bulwark on which the church rests – connects two hillsides. It’s soon encircled by an old, heavy house, shrunken and sad, leading down the hill.
Philippe became happy when on a stroll of the hillside, the impertinent view disappeared and they entered a street squeezed between walls and houses. From the gate of Thereza’s farm, they passed through the old flooring of the interior patio and went up the stone slope, lined with small palm trees, strange and crude in their harsh dryness.”
“The family element was in a small house in Aguas-Ferreas, in the aloof Boticário Square, a pure and delicious antiquated artifice, unbelievable with multi-story houses adorned with colonial tiles, a farm on either side, an almond and a mango tree in the middle. When Philippe entered there, all the exterior pleasure became spiritual delight. His mother and sister lived religiously. The house was a sanctuary”.
“Thereza smiled and stared at Philippe, who blushed without explanation. Thereza, palpitating, stood up to leave. She wouldn’t see Philippe’s room, which was above. The aristocratic reservation of D. Izabel confined the visit to the living room and, only on the way out, showed a view of the oratory, where a lamp burned, illuminating the old wooden saints. Philippe and Leonor accompanied Thereza to the automobile. D. Izabel came to the old window, below the balcony with a grating framed by Portuguese tiles. When the car left the square, Philippe retired to his new life.”
– Graça Aranha, A Viagem Maravilhosa
“One day he received the tip that a full “Papa, lele” was being planned for that night in a house on Conceição Hill, and he made preparations to catch the perpetrators in the act.
By virtue of this they dispersed in frustration and went to join the major at the bottom of the slope, at the place overlooking the entrance to the Aljube. When they gathered there they waited a long time without Leonardo’s appearing. The major began to turn the case over in his mind; he suddenly gave the order to ascend the hill. They did so and, now marching behind the major’s lead, made for the house in question. To the surprise of all, as they approached they saw lights and heard the strumming of guitars and the singing of songs. A full-scale fado was in progress inside.”
– Manuel Antônio de Almeida – Memoirs of a Militia Sargeant
“Luiz Campos’ house was on Rua Direita. One of these old-time mansions, square-looking and tasteless, whose severe and withdrawn atmosphere speaks in its silence of the rigors of old Portuguese commerce.”
– Aluizio de Azevedo, Casa de Pensão
“It has happened to me, here in Engenho Novo, one night when I had a bad headache, that I wished that the Central line train would explode way out of earshot, and block the line for several hours, even if someone died…”
– Machado de Assis, Dom Cassuro
“Ricardo Coração dos Outros lived in one of these suburban slums. It wasn’t one of the worst, but it was a suburban slum.
He’d lived there for years and liked the place. It was at the top of a hill and, from his window, he could look out over a sea of buildings all the way from Piedade to Todos os Santos. Seen, like that, from on high, the suburbs have a certain charm. The little houses, painted blue or white or ochre, set against the dark green of the mango trees or, here and there, a coconut tree or a tall, haughty palm tree, make a fine sight, and the absence of any sense of town planning lends the whole scene a nice feeling of democratic confusion, of perfect solidarity between the inhabitants.”
“On a sunny afternoon – March sun, fierce and implacable – at around four o’clock, on both sides of a deserted street in São Januário, the windows were suddenly filled with people. Even in the general’s house young ladies came to the window!”
“The buildings in the suburbs of Rio de Janeiro are the strangest of all the city. Part of this is undoubtedly due to the local topography, the capricious shape of the hills. The main cause, however, is the bizarre nature of the buildings themselves.
You can picture nothing as irregular, as erratic and as completely unplanned. The houses sprouted up like seeds that had been scattered by the wind, and the streets sprouted up alongside them. Some begin as wide as a boulevard and end as narrow as an alley; they meander along in fortuitous loops and resist being straightened out with implacable tenacity.
At times they run parallel, with irritating regularity; at others they draw away from each other, leaving large open spaces crammed with houses. In some places the houses are piled on top of each other, oppressively pressed together. Then suddenly a field opens out, stretching away as far as the eye can see.
The houses are laid out in this haphazard manner; and consequently so are the streets. There are houses for every taste, built in every possible style.
Walking down a Street lined with mean, humble cottages, each with a Street wall and a single door and window, one suddenly comes across a bourgeois villa, with stone vases atop an ornate façade, erected over a sturdy basement with iron-grilled Windows. Recovering from the surprise, looking around, one sees a wattle hut with a roof of corrugated iron or even thatch, with people swarming around it and, a little further on, an old farmhouse with a veranda and columns of a style that is hard to define, which appears out of sorts as it tries to conceal itself from that onslaught of preposterous new buildings.
There is nothing in our suburbs that remotely recalls the famous suburbs of the great European cities, with their grand, placid villas and their well-cared-for, tarmacked streets and avenues, nor even those well-kept gardens, pruned and trimmed, because ours, when they exist at all, are usually ramshackle and ugly.
The local government services are also erratic and inconsistent. There are streets of which some sections have pavements and others have none. There are important connecting roads that are paved while others are left in a State of nature. You will find a perfectly good bridge to take you across a dry river bed and then, a short way ahead, a few rickety planks to get you across a fast-running stream.
In the streets there are elegant ladies in silks and brocades, cautiously avoiding the mud and the dust so as not to tarnish the splendour of their dresses. There are workmen in clogs,1 dandies displaying the latest fashion, women in plain cotton dresses. In the evening, as they return from their work or their outings, this mixture of types can be seen in a single Street or block, and rarely does the finest dressed enter the finest house.”
– Lima Barreto, The Sad End of Major Policarpo Quaresma