“AS FOR YOU, have you noticed how the world is all corners and edges?” Caio Fernando Abreu’s narrator asks in the story “I, You, He.” “Have I called your attention to the scarcity of gentle shapes in the world? Everything is hard, and wounds.” It is seeking the gentleness in this hard, angular world—as much his own as his characters’—about which Abreu writes in the eighteen brilliant stories that comprise the collection Moldy Strawberries, published in Portuguese in 1982 and translated here into English for the first time by Bruna Dantas Lobato.
Born in 1948, Abreu began his career as a journalist, and in 1968 was put on a watchlist by the Department of Political and Social Order for ideologies that went against those of Brazil’s military dictatorship. Throughout the subsequent decades until his death—he learned he was HIV-positive in 1994 and died two years later—Abreu became known as one of the most vibrantly original literary writers in Brazil, publishing over a dozen books, virtually none of which have been translated into English. This translation of Moldy Strawberries—forty years after it was first published—finally offers to English readers this important work of world queer literature.
Abreu’s stories are most transcendent when they spring from a single, often mundane situation or encounter: a late-night phone conversation; a man’s journey in the rain to meet his lover across town. With these deceptively simple moments as starting points, Abreu’s work expresses its core themes poignantly and potently: longing, the desire for connection in a disorienting and fracturing world. Dreams figure prominently, as do feelings of disillusionment, perplexity, and madness, always presented in richly poetic, often symbolic language. In “Music Box,” a man plays a music box for his lover as he recounts a dream that becomes a metaphor for their relationship. In “Pear, Grape, Apple,” the quotidian paves the way for the uncanny as a psychoanalyst studies his own mismatched socks while his patient speaks of plums, funerals, and childhood games.
Giancarlo Latta is a violinist, writer, and composer based in New York.