Difficult to Digest: Rubem Fonseca’s “Intestino Grosso” [“Large Intestine”] as a Scatological Theory of Crime Fiction

Nicole Sparling Barco (Central Michigan University)


Brazilian writer Rubem Fonseca’s crime fiction has oft been examined through the lens of its blunt force, obscene and vulgar language, and harsh representations of violence. This aesthetic is characterized as self-reflective, meta-textual, brutalist, naturalist, indigestible, and even humorous at times. Yet, all of the arguments converge on one essential point, namely to attest to the historical and political significance of Fonseca’s writing as a critique of the military dictatorship in Brazil. Fonseca parodies the threat he, himself, poses, which, although real, is insignificant when compared to the overwhelming oppression of poverty within neoliberal capitalism, state-sponsored violence, and censorship that threatens to silence him forever. In this article Nicole Sparling Barco argues that, in order to fully understand the affect/effect of the bandit-poet’s aesthetic, a comparison must also be drawn from “O Cobrador” to the fictional work that is often considered to be Fonseca’s political and poetic manifesto, namely “Intestino Grosso” [“Large Intestine”] (1975). This strange title has strong metaphorical and explanatory power that organizes what the author calls Fonseca’s scatological theory of crime fiction, suggesting a reclamation, on the part of Fonseca, of “useless waste material.”

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