Agualusa and Lygia Maria defend the right to be offended – 07/17/2023 – Itamar Vieira Junior

I had promised myself not to return to the subject, but the episode that involved me in the criticism of Ligia Gonçalves Diniz has already become a true case study.

In April of this year, Quatro Cinco Um magazine published a review signed by Ligia unfavorable to the novel “Salvar o Fogo”. Point. No comment from me for several weeks.

About 20 days later, she took to Twitter to accuse me of blocking her on social media. Detail: I do not use or have a Twitter account. In the tweets, she labeled me a “subject” (to put me down in relation to her and hers) and wrote that the act was “vanity” on my part. In response to a user, she also accuses me of “arrogance” and “mental laziness”.

One question: is it normal for a critic to insult an author on Twitter? Has anyone ever imagined Antonio Candido or Beatriz Resende cursing a writer in public? Do these words have the same weight for all people who make up the great ethnic and cultural diversity of the country? For historically subaltern bodies?

Yeah, Ligia Gonçalves uttered offenses that made me the target of hate messages on social media. Days later, I published a text in this Folha indirectly citing that violence, because that episode reminded me of an older one, when a white teacher tried to publicly humiliate me by saying that I had both feet in the slave quarters, and I only came to understand the meaning of that long after.

I reacted to the critics’ tweets, and not to its text, which casts doubt on the ability of black and mixed-race people represented in the novel to articulate more elaborate thoughts, or even that the approach to social and racial relations inevitably slips into Manichaeism.

The published review would not suffice for a reaction or response from me. Books defend themselves. Readers and critics will contribute to each one’s position in the history of literature. As for human dignity, the same does not happen, and that is why I needed to take a stand. If my ancestors didn’t rise up against slavery, it would still be normalized.

When criticism began to hurl insults on Twitter, I sought out the magazine’s editor to report what had happened. I ignored. So I decided to write about the offenses, because, in Brazil, black people are called “arrogant” and white people “assertive”. White people are not “subjects”, they are “writers”. Columnist Lygia Maria pretends not to know that even our language and our adjectives are racialized. Lima Barreto, Carolina Maria de Jesus and many others suffered the same.

The texts by José Eduardo Agualusa and Lygia Maria made me reflect on the whiteness pact: under the false argument of defending criticism, they basically defend the right of a white person to offend a person of color on Twitter.

And this text, once again, I repeat, is not a defense of my work, because I am not interested in refuting what is written about it. This text is the defense of my human dignity, which is threatened. I want the right not to be offended by adjectives in public, like any white author has that right. This episode made me understand that if I don’t defend myself, hardly anyone else will.

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