‘The Christmas Turkey’ by Mário de Andrade

The Christmas Turkey by Mário de Andrade, 1956

The magic trick:

Brilliantly charming and disarming narrator

Great Christmas story today that manages to be both warm and cynical at the same time. The narrator’s voice is amazing. It certainly doesn’t recall the 1950s. It feels incredibly modern. George Saunders would be proud. I can’t exactly put my finger on what makes it so good, but I think it has something to do with the frank tone. He’s just telling you how things were. He does not acknowledge that it might be odd or even off-putting. This is just how they are. This is what happened one Christmas to my family. It’s disarming and very charming. And that’s quite a trick on de Andrade’s part.

The selection:

My father died, and we were all very sad, etc. As we were getting close to Christmas I still couldn’t get that obstructive memory of the dead man out of my mind. He still seemed to have systematized the obligation of a mournful memory at every meal, in the most insignificant act of the family. Once, when I suggested to Mama the idea of going to see a movie, the result was tears. Where had I ever heard of such a thing as going to the movies during a period of deep mourning! Grief was already being cultivated for appearances and I, who’d only liked my father according to the rules, more out of filial instinct than any spontaneous love, saw myself getting to the point of hating the good dead man.

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