No último minuto (‘In the last minute’)

Editor’s note

An experimental story about futebol written in Brazil under military rule, “No último minuto” presents what might have happened had a goalkeeper been the protagonist of Groundhog Day. The invention of video replay may have been the goalkeeper’s nightmare realized. The anxiety-ridden last defender, from that moment forward, was doomed to reexperience match- and life-altering miscues from multiple perspectives, with critical commentary as overlay.

Sergio Sant'Anna

Sant'Anna

According to critic Cristovão Tezza, the story, by Sérgio Sant’Anna, may be the first creation in Brazilian letters to feature videotape as a structural element (“A narrativa envergonhada,” Revista Cult, Aug 1997)—a characteristic innovation from a member of Brazilian literature’s avant-garde. Sant’Anna’s literary agent describes him as a “master of parody, an incisive polemicist against the publicisation of the private, who, in the role of mischievous onlooker, is well able to entertain his readers when the upper middle-class begins to flounder.”

The story appeared in the collection O moderno conto brasileiro: Antologia escolar (The Modern Brazilian Short Story: A School Anthology) (Rio de Janeiro: Civilização Brasileira, 1978), edited by João Antônio and Antônio Bulhões, and also in Sant’Anna’s Contos e novelas reunidos (Collected Stories and Novellas).

Four times Sant’Anna has won the Prêmio Jabuti (Jabuti Prize), the prestigious Brazilian literary award named for the turtle. Two of his works have become feature films, Bossa Nova and Crime delicado (Delicate Crime). He has been a visiting writer in the Department of Portuguese and Brazilian Studies at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.

The English translation, by Richard McGehee of the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies (University of Texas, Austin), navigates several of the Brazilian Portuguese idioms that have developed around futebol. Most interesting among these is the derogatory term with which the goalkeeper imagines he will be forever saddled: frangueiro. McGehee explains why it is difficult to translate literally:

Frango is chicken. In soccer a frango is a goal that should have been defended easily. So the goalkeeper can carry a chicken, eat a chicken, let another chicken get by him, etc. It carries the image of somebody ineptly trying to grab a chicken that’s dodging around trying to get away, leaving the unsuccessful grabber disconcerted and humiliated. So a frango is a humiliation for the goalkeeper. A frangueiro then is an unskilled goalkeeper who allows easy goals.

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