A Sudden Beginning
The personality of Victor Giudice can be traced back through the autobiographical vestiges contained in his literary work. He was his own declared and implicit materialization, of characters like the mutant being of the short story O homem geográfico (The Geographic Man), the daughter mesmerized by the family mysteries of Minha mãe, the solitary man with a passion for Haydn in A criação: efemérides (Creation: Ephemerides), the grandfather who recites poetry locked in the bathroom in Os banheiros (The Bathrooms) or the narrator of the unfinished Do catálogo de flores.
Victor was given his first opportunity to publish in 1969, when the writer José Louzeiro, who edited Jornal do escritor at the time, published O banquete (The Banquet), the first of his very short stories, a format he would progressively sophisticate over the coming years. Louzeiro just barely managed to save hundreds of other typed pages that Giudice had thrown out believing them to be worthless.
The second short story published, In perpetuum, tells of a bank employee who spends 30 years seeking 30 cents gone amiss in the accounts. Thus was born one of the main themes of Giudice’s literary creation, fed by his experiences as an employee of Banco do Brasil for over 20 years (see The Life). This was also his source of inspiration for O Arquivo, one of the Brazilian short stories most widely known around the world, published in eight countries.
O Arquivo begins Victor Giudice’s first volume of short stories, Necrológio (1972), starting with the book’s cover. Victor didn’t want to lose any time during this sudden beginning of his career as a writer. The book received wide acclaim from critics. Experimental and daring, it subjected the text to a ferocious segmentation, used the page with concrete interventions and proposed a polyphonic text, where one could “hear” an instigating simultaneity of "voices". The short story Carta a Estocolmo (Letter to Stockholm) would come to be published in the prestigious magazine Antaeus (winter 1983, Nova York), beside a text by Gabrielle D'Annunzio, and considered one of the best science fiction stories to appear in the United States that year.
Affirmation in Three Books
Despite the success of his first published work, it would take Victor seven cabalistic years to give the public his second book, Os banheiros, in 1979. Brazil was in the midst of its short story phase. In a book review published in Veja magazine, Caio Fernando Abreu lauded the establishment of Giudice as "definitely one of the most expressive names in contemporary Brazilian fiction". This book left no doubt as to Giudice’s passion for detective stories, his fascination for the mechanisms of this genre. This framework would underlie a large part of his work. At the beginning of his career, he had published several short stories in the Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. Victor also organized the Enigma Collection of detective stories, for Editora José Olympio.
A Narrativa do número um (The Narrative of the Number One), included in Os banheiros, was in truth a trailer for the novel Bolero, which Giudice would later publish in 1985. A clown gifted with the ability to produce silver spheres by sheer power of imagination takes on airs of a metaphor for power of thought against oppressive order and domination. Brazil was finally extricating itself from a dictatorship that lasted two decades and Giudice was presenting us with a powerful novel (see excerpt), addressing without idealistic zeal the issue of the Brazil of that military nightmare, the profound inequalities and false changes. To the critic, Valentim Facioli, readers had “before them a bizarre and obscure literary puzzle, at once serious and dramatic, and yet comical; intensely current but enduring, while history is the prehistory of the Great Bourgeois Circus".
In 1989, Giudice returned to the field of short stories with Salvador janta no Lamas, which won the annual award of the São Paulo Art Critics’ Association in the fiction category. This volume’s short stories present an extremely visual style, within the boundaries of the film plot. O Homem Geográfico could easily figure in an anthology of the cut (in the cinematographic sense of the word); Bolívar is but a small detective story film, in which cinema is repeatedly, and significantly, mentioned. There, the words generously, and desperately, offered themselves up to be viewed and felt. Moreover, Salvador consolidated two traits of style that the author imported from his own life: recurrent references to the city’s concrete facet (thereby anticipating, to a certain extent, Paul Auster in relation to New York) and, starting with the book cover itself – a tarot deck on a bar table -, his attraction for the esoteric (see The Life).
All his previous efforts had basically been paving the way for the book that many consider to be Victor Giudice’s masterpiece: O museu Darbot e outros mistérios (1st and 2nd edition). It contains nine exquisite short stories that reveal a writer in full control of his craft. The various different paths of Giudician fiction seem to converge in these stories: familial fantasy (A única vez, A história que meu pai não contou), obsessions in the enjoyment of the arts (A criação: efemérides, O museu Darbot), mystery incorporated into daily life (Cavalos), the narrative of detective stories (Jurisprudência), the political metaphor (O hotel), the satire of an imaginary nobility (A festa de Natal da Condessa Gamiani) (Countess Gamiani’s Christmas Party) and the very short story (Relatividade em nome de Borges) (Relativity in the Name of Borges). The book received Brazil’s highest honor, the Jabuti Award of 1995, given by the Câmara Brasileira do Livro.
Whereas Bolero was created over a long seven-year period with several fragments previous published, Giudice’s second novel was written in one single outpour that took no more than 52 days. The plot of O sétimo punhal (The Seventh Dagger) published in 1995, was thus presented by the poet Susana Vargas on the book’s overleaf: "A woman dealing with six (or would that be four?) crimes and a marriage of long standing. A criminal aboard a grey Monza, and the grey story of a strange courtship". In O sétimo punhal, the writer achieves maturity in the use of the ingredients of detective stories, a relatively rare genre in Brazil, in which he established himself as one of the best.
Giudice’s third novel, Do catálogo de flores, was left unfinished. It is the story of a Brazilian writer in his 70’s at the center of a mysterious plot in the London of the year 2018. The writer had been the only friend of a certain Pedro Maravella, an unknown Brazilian poet who had written, in the previous century, a series of poems called The Flower Catalog. Then a strange relationship is discovered between Maravella’s sonnets and the scientific research being conducted by a British foundation. "The story demonstrates how a fraud can point to the truth", the author defined in a synopsis.
Poetry, Theater, Critique
Maravella’s sonnets are but an echo of the poet Victor Giudice himself. In the intervals between his books, Giudice maintained a marginal production of sonnets, most of which were unknown to the reading public and even to his closest friends. In the 80’s and 90’s, he and several friends participated in a type of poets’ society in which all correspondence was made in the form of sonnets in decasyllabic verses. His pseudonym did little to hide the author’s identity: Judicis Marinus. To a series of a social nature he gave the sonorous title of Sonetos do operário e do patrão (Sonnets of the Laborer and the Employer).
Giudice also produced plays, reflecting another of his great passions. In 1991, the Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil produced his monologue Ária de serviço, under the direction of Marco Antonio Braz, in which the female lead was played by Bete Mendes, in the part of the unhappy housewife who is preparing her state of mind for her husband’s arrival home after a day of work. His short story Bolívar was staged by Domingos Oliveira at the Biblioteca Nacional as part of the event Teatro do texto in 1991, and he did an adaptation of Molière’s Don Juan for the students of Uni-Rio. He also exercised his talents as a composer writing musical scores for plays (see The Music). Giudice left behind the unpublished text of the play O baile das sete máscaras (The Ball of the Seven Masks), another demolishing incursion into the bourgeois universe to which he himself belonged in his own peculiar way.
The critic and literary essayist emerged in the 70’s in the newspapers of Rio de Janeiro. Carlos Drummond de Andrade used to send him notes thanking him for his reviews. Writers like Machado de Assis, Arthur Schnitzler and playwright Nelson Rodrigues were the subject of enlightened essays. Alas, Alas, his stint as a critic and literary essayist was incidental, and basically characterized by his love of reading and the independence of his opinions. In fact, this last quality also garnered him reprisals at least once. In July 1988, he published a derisive review in the newspaper O Globo regarding the success of a bestseller from the same publishing house that was examining his originals of the collection of short stories O último coração da noite (The Last Heart of the Night) at the time. The next day, the publishers returned his texts with a cold letter refusing to publish them. The book would be published the following year by the publishing house José Olympio Editora, under the title Salvador janta no Lamas.
For a writer who drew his inspiration from the hypocrisy and dysfunctional nature of contemporary society, episodes such as this did not set him aback in the least. On the contrary, they provided him with new ideas that he immediately committed to paper. In Victor Giudice, life and craft drank of the same well.