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Two Trips to Brazil
Hans Staden

Hans Staden


Faith Against Chaos and Barbarism 

By Ricardo P Nunes

   À humanidade sempre fascinou saber, querer ver, como se vive em terras alheias e distantes. É como se, desde que o mundo é mundo, precisássemos de um parâmetro para calibrar nossos próprios sucessos e infortúnios. Creio que do mesmo modo que hoje se cogitam infinitas possibilidades de formas de vida nas imensidões do espaço astronômico, desconhecer as próprias medidas da Terra estendia o mundo imaginário da antiguidade em dimensões propícias a toda sorte de maravilhas e monstruosidades. É provável que só com o advento dos impérios, de uma hegemonia sobre vastos territórios continentais, o estreitamento de suas fronteiras, é que fomos chegando ao denominador comum de que constituíamos uma mesma espécie habitante de um espaço contínuo.  


The reckless fascination with land and unknown people

    Humanity has always been fascinated by knowing, wanting to see, how people live in foreign and distant lands. It's as if, since the world began, we needed a parameter to calibrate our own successes and misfortunes. I believe that in the same way that infinite possibilities of life forms are considered today in the immensities of astronomical space, not knowing the Earth's own measurements extended the imaginary world of antiquity into dimensions conducive to all sorts of wonders and monstrosities. I think that only with the advent of empires, hegemony over continental territories, the narrowing of borders, did we arrive at the common denominator that we constituted the same species inhabiting a continuous space.  





   The adventures of the Argonauts, like those of the Aeneid, for example, indicate a still fantastic psychological cosmovision; a kind of "science fiction"avant la letter,for his contemporaries. While, a little later, in Herodotus or in Seneca the description of bizarre customs already begins to sound like a kind of proto-anthropological cultural relativism. At the same time, finding an alternative to the constriction of this scarce and profane orb was what redeemed Virgil, Boethius or Dante among men. Before the great voyages “through seas never sailed before” rekindled that old fascination, relegated to theology or degenerated into entertainment, Marco Polo's legendary voyages were perhaps his last aftermath. Even with Camões and Magalhães, what was left afterwards was a full plate of hypothetical utopias and dystopias, such as those of More and Hobbes.

   This silent series of ancient storytellers, real or fictional, whose missteps or vanities gave rise to the recording of agonies and splendours, could constitute an outline for a possible bibliography that would engulf the account of the German shipwrecked Hans Staden. But I believe that very little of the mythical, literary or philosophical content of this bibliography is worth anything other than a verbal or merely chronological reference. Hans Staden lived and survived accidentally, out of urgency; your itinerary composes a kind ofvia crucisseafaring between the mercenary and the devotee as his meager past biography distances itself from his acts in the testimonial voice of his account, which assumes a tone between skimming and ultimate gratitude. His style is almost that of a confession. His detractors may claim that his book was just another gimmick for his adventurous farce, but when you finish reading it, the feeling is that this format was a useful means for him, but against his will. That his nightmares, his cannibals, his banishment, his religious ecstasy, everything was too visceral for the futility of any vainglory.


   As in life, throughout it, of what we read or that we are told, we can intuit its truth or falsity not only through the events or impressions that the text links. It seems that, more often than not, what really convinces us resides in a kind of metalanguage, in something previous, in a certainty that we only hope to verify. Hans Staden's account, however eccentric its subject may be, bears this prior and intimate confidence. Behind the pages there is an echo that he would have preferred to speak to us aloud. Touched in his genuine fervor by the constant imminence of death,Two Trips to Brazil  (posthumous title attributed to it by successive editors) is also a libel of hope and faith in the face of fatality and barbarism. 

(Post scriptum: to declassify him and his story, the first appanages that current biographical dictionaries profile after his name are “adventurer” and “mercenary”, as if in the 16th century, in fact, as much as today, the individual was totally sovereign when choosing his predilections and his moral or aesthetic attributes. Hans Staden would have laughed, in order not to cry, in the face of the self-styled modern “anthropophagic” literary aesthetics, a puerile play on words by children, as they say, raised with grandmother And his testimony becomes incomprehensible if we pretend to ignore his circumstances, as well as the living conditions of Cunhambebe, his indecisive Tupinambá executioner, who once declared to him, not without empathy, holding a scorched human leg:iawá esché!*


*In trFree adduction of Tupi-Guarani: "I'm not a person, I'm an animal!"



Cunhambebe: not a man, but a superb jaguar

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    Como na vida, ao longo dela, daquilo que lemos ou que nos contam podemos intuir sua verdade ou falsidade não somente através dos eventos ou impressões que o texto encadeia. Parece que, no mais das vezes, o que de fato nos convence reside numa espécie de metalinguagem, em algo anterior, em uma certeza que apenas esperamos constatar. O relato de Hans Staden, por mais excêntrico que seja seu tema, traz essa prévia e íntima confidência. Por trás das páginas há o eco de que ele teria preferido nos falar à viva voz. Tocado em seu genuíno fervor pela constante iminência da morte, Duas Viagens ao Brasil (título póstumo que lhe atribuíram seus sucessivos editores) é também um libelo de esperança e fé diante da fatalidade e da barbárie. 

(Post scriptum: para desclassificá-lo, a ele e a seu relato, os primeiros apanágios que os dicionários biográficos atuais perfilam após seu nome são “aventureiro” e “mercenário”, como se no séc. XVI, aliás, tanto quanto hoje, o indivíduo fosse totalmente soberano para eleger seus atributos morais ou suas predileções estéticas. Hans Staden ter-se-ia rido, para não chorar de lamento, diante da estética literária moderna dita “antropofágica”, um pueril jogo de palavras de, como se diz, adultos mimados por vó. E seu testemunho se torna incompreensível se fingirmos ignorar suas circunstâncias, assim como as condições de vida de Cunhambebe, seu indeciso algoz tupinambá, que lhe respondeu uma vez, não sem empáfia, brandindo uma perna humana chamuscada: iawá esché!*)


*Em tradução livre do tupi-guarani: “não sou gente, sou um bicho!"

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