A young short story writer hails from Brazil. Really, the beautiful Marcella Mattar was born in Scotland but grew up in Brazil. Brazilian achievements in the short story have commanded international respect by critics of the importance of John Updike, Susan Sontag, and Harold Bloom. We can remember two women who are considered Brazil’s greatest writers in the 20th century: Clarice Lispector and Lygia Fagundes Telles. In her debut collection of short stories (O Movimento do Oceano, 2012), Ms. Mattar deals with situations of primarily psychological interest, like Lispector and Telles. In fact, she deals with the failure of human relationships and the consequent loneliness that have become common in urban society. This collection consists of seven fluent narratives which are linked by the metaphysical restlessness of its protagonists. The essential theme of the stories of Marcella Mattar is loneliness – the “white and lifeless spectrum” – which runs through the stories. But the loneliness, as a character recognizes, can also be “liberating and beautiful”.
Few writers, nowadays, would think it proper to present a whole and coherent view of the world. Ms. Mattar accepts the open form. The human behavior seems less and less tractable. For this partial and fragmented view short stories seem appropriate. Short stories are nicely vague, said someone. The antiheroes of this volume of stories share the same sense of isolation. They try to face the vicissitudes of the loneliness that inhabits them and that eventually will “open up in madness”. To run or not run? But they fight against the strength of destiny and seek some form of transfiguration. That’s the case of Anita in the short story “Ipanema”. For the protagonist, the meaning of life is not to seek: “The meaning of life is to find when you least expect it”. The writing style exudes authenticity and passion. Anita’s friend concludes: “Maybe it makes a lot sense to be here”. The images are accurate. The movement of the inner world accompanies the movement of the ocean, sometimes oppressive, sometimes luminous. The being identifies itself with a wave of the ocean. The revelation of personality, of conflict, of reciprocal emotion is conducted in a subtle way that we are not quite certain what the characters are up to. There are no love stories that follow an expected course. Let’s remember here the famous dictum uttered by Socrates: the unexamined life is not worth living. So, in dealing with intimate conflicts and inner discourse, psychological time is more important than linear time.
Last but not least, the narratives are written in a correct and vivacious style. Through plots and transitions, images of memory, remembrance of love, conflict with their own selves, Ms. Mattar’s characters contemplate despair amidst an “immense desire to sink in any ocean other than this one”. At a time when almost everything seems shattered, we resemble those shipwrecks in search of the beach, sometimes close, sometimes distant. I’m sure Ms. Mattar’s creatures will remain with me for a long time.