For a New Christmas

From what I’ve already observed about Christmas–that it was the magna date of universal hypocrisy–when people claim to love each other. The time when the well-off publicize and make believe that the differences between men are over. And those rich in material goods suddenly become spiritual, and with their stomachs full belch out that the best salvation is that of the soul. To this I should note: the militants against the dictatorship added a theoretical reason for criticizing fraternity in their own homes.

We were reading Engels’ The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State in haste–as all our readings were. What he wrote: “in the family, the man is the bourgeois, the woman represents the proletarian”. And so, “the individual family must disappear, be overcome”, we told ourselves, and with those attitudes we moved on. Our anguish over the time of repression included the guilt of equally oppressed beings, our relatives. If God exists, our lack of understanding in those days must be forgiven. But we were also punished for the pain it gave us to repress feelings of domestic memory.

So the natural thing to do was to seek fraternity among socialist comrades. In the bars, on the beaches, at meetings and at our parties. Most of the time we found it. And so it was in the pages I wrote in the novel “Never-Ending Youth”, translated by Peter Lownds:

We are totally unprepared to face the evil of the world. We speak to each other about marvelous wines we have never tasted, ambrosial nectars, great banquets we will not attend. We want to storm the bourgeois castle like barbarians, using the drawbridge to cross the moat. ‘Set the table. Quickly, before they throw us to the crocodiles!’. We have no idea of the price that has to be paid for the acquisition of the luxury of the senses. In other words, how much we would have to deviate from the narrow path of conscience. We have not passed the first test in our apprenticeship to purity, although we are aware that social conformity rewards those who linger in enchantment. But this is not the same as giving up before the exam, or the ordeal. There is a luminous line, as fiery as a comet’s tail, that is going to cross that table in 1972 and travel with the speed of light to the 21st year of the new millennium. I am about to dive into the dust of that light.

Zacarelli stands up and raises his glass of beer as if it were full of champagne, ‘I propose a toast to our happiness’. We stand up on automatic impulse, like the public leaping to its feet after a concert. ‘To our happiness! To better days!’ we shout. People at the tables around us observe us as more than strange. But, this time, with a more sympathetic air. As if they said to each other, ‘They’re nuts but so what? We’re all pretty crazy.’ Our glasses clink noisily. We sit back down and smile at each other. We speak to each other in silence: Okay, what’s next? Whatever comes, we’ll roll with it. Then it occurs to me to speak like the devil who always arises when we feel good: ‘Do we really have the right to be happy?’

‘There is nothing in Marxism that prohibits happiness,’ Alberto says.

‘I know that. I’m asking myself if we have the right when some of our companions are miserable.’

‘Of course. We’re reinvigorating our strength for the struggle,’ Zacarelli replies.

‘But how can we enjoy life when most people are in such a terrible state?’

‘Man, the people fuck, the people drink, the people get so drunk they stagger,’ Zacarelli says.

‘Let us follow the people, comrade,’ Narinha says and winks at me.’

I rise: ‘To the people! A toast to the people!’ We accept the right of pleasure, together, without remorse. We are moved to recite the verses of Castro Alves[1], ‘gold and green flag of my land that the Brazilian breeze kisses and sways’ When we finish, we hug each other. Forming a circle of four, we spin and we jump to a different song than the one playing on the Wurlitzer, ‘“Alone Again.’

Zacarelli makes himself heard above the din: ’It’d be good if there were a world samba, a fellowship samba, my friends, a new samba’.”

That’s how it was, but that’s no longer the case. Those who survived that time, now mature, no longer read The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State lightly and superficially. Now they hug the people they love, in their homes and beyond. But we all still wish for a new Christmas of true fraternity. Which will come, or should come, only God knows when.


[1] Antonio Frederico de Castro Alves (1847-1871) was a romantic poet, in the mode of Keats or of musician/composer Noel Rosa (1910-1937), a fellow Brazilian, who blazed brightly in the socio-cultural and artistic firmament of their age and died of tuberculosis in their 20s. Castro Alves was born in Bahia but studied in Recife, starting at age 14. Manuel Bandeira called him “a truly sublime child whose glory is reinvigorated these days by his work’s social intention.”



Uriarano Moto is author of the novel “Never-Ending Youth.”