The Third Bank Of The River by João Guimarães Rosa, 1967
The magic trick:
Showing the narrator losing grip on his sanity the longer he stands by his father’s strange decision
We’re headed to Brazil this week. Let’s hope it’s a journey that doesn’t last quite as long as the trip taken in this story by the narrator’s father.
The narrator begins his story in the most normal of ways. We hear about his father, his family, his community. And even as his father makes a very odd decision, the narration remains realistic. People react the way you might expect. It’s not that crazy.
As the story goes on, and the father remains on the river, our narrator falls further and further away from what we would consider normal. He alone sympathizes with his father. He respects his father’s decision. By the end, we’re left questioning his sanity.
But isn’t that just how families are? We accept. We reject. We comply. We inherit. We struggle. It’s not particularly sane, when you think about it. And that’s quite a trick on Guimarães Rosa’s part.
He didn’t seem to care about us at all. But I felt affection and respect for him, and, whenever they praised me because I had done something good, I said:
“My father taught me to act that way.”
It wasn’t exactly accurate but it was a truthful sort of lie. As I said, father didn’t seem to care about us. But then why did he stay around there? Why didn’t he go up the river or down the river, beyond the possibility of seeing us or being seen by us? He alone knew the answer.
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