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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Mediating Language, Translating Experience: Negotiating the Postdictatorial Metropolis in Duas Praças


In his 2005 novel Duas praças, Ricardo Lísias addresses the quotidian violence of contemporary São Paulo, a metropolis increasingly segregated by socio-economic classes, spatial distances, and physical barriers, as well as the concerns of truth, memory and reconciliation haunting Brazil and its neighbors in the postdictatorial years. The novel alternates between the stories of Maria, a resident of the periphery who lives within her mental fantasies, and Marita, an Argentine graduate student and suspected child of the disappeared gone missing within Brazil. While language facilitates the articulation of characters and events within the novel, it cannot render them perfectly and instead breaks down in the face of pain as Elaine Scarry reminds us or begins to stutter in the terms of Gilles Deleuze. Given its possibilities and limitations, language becomes a preoccupation for Lísias and one of the most intriguing ways to enter his fiction. Language plays a critical role in the parallel lives of Maria and Marita as they attempt to impose structure on their thoughts and experiences, a constructed spoken or written order that eventually verges towards collapse. The breakdown of language reveals the psychological states of the characters, while also indicating the limitations of translation and transnational communication between Brazilian Portuguese and Argentine Spanish. Through a closer analysis of language and translation, this paper examines Duas praças as an intervention in and commentary on the disjunctive democracy transforming Brazilian metropolises into cities of walls and the politics of memory continuing to plague postdictatorial societies throughout the region.

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