Macunaíma is a 1928 novel by Brazilian writer Mário de Andrade. It is one of the founding texts of Brazilian modernism.
The novel follows a young man, Macunaíma, "a hero without a character," born in the Brazilian jungle and possessing strange and remarkable abilities (Mostly Shapeshifting), as he travels to São Paulo and back again. The novel employs a composite structure using elements of what would later be called magic realism and a number of dialects of both interior Brazil and São Paulo. It is based on Andrade's research in language, culture, folklore, and music of the indigenous peoples in Brazil.
Macunaíma was an attempt on the part of Andrade to write a novel which represented pan-Brazilian culture and language. At the time it was customary in Brazil to speak a language which was a combination of Portuguese and native Brazilian words, but the written word was done entirely in formal Portuguese. Andrade desired to write Macunaíma in the spoken language of Brazil. Macunaíma's catch phrase "Ai, que preguiça!" is a pun in both Tupi language and Portuguese as "Ai" is a Tupi word for sloth and "preguiça" is Portuguese for sloth. This is an example of Andrade using a fused language to write this text.
Considered a "rhapsody" by Andrade, Macunaíma is a melding of the cultures of Brazil. Most of the folk lore contained within the text is taken directly from native stories; and, as Lucia Sá has shown, Andrade's novel draws heavily on the narratives of the Pemon people that were collected and recorded by Theodor Koch-Grünberg.
In the tale, Macunaíma travels from his home tribe in the jungle to São Paulo to Rio de Janeiro and back again to his home in the jungle with chase scenes that go all over the country of Brazil in between. His purpose in traveling to São Paulo is to retrieve an amulet which he lost. The amulet had been given to him by his lover, Ci before she ascended into the sky to become a star. He encounters all sorts of folk legends and orixas along the way. The interactions which Macunaíma had with most of these characters was imagined by Andrade, though the essence of the folk lore remains true. After a long adventure and life Macunaíma climbs to the heavens where he becomes the Great Bear constellation.
In 1969, the Brazilian production company Filmes do Serro made a film based on the novel, but with a substantially different storyline. The story takes place in Rio de Janeiro rather than São Paulo, and is set at more or less the time the film was made.
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