To turn each of Pátria Amada’s pages, you need more than smearing a finger with saliva. Each of the pages of lawyer Vinícios Leôncio’s work is more than two meters high and written in size 22 Arial font.
So you can imagine the general astonishment when the Brazilian tax lawyer appeared at the National Congress in Brasilia in March 2014, carrying in some unusual way one of the biggest books in the world. It’s so big that instead of putting it in a display case, he can sit on it (or climb it).
What led Leôncio to undertake such a quixotic undertaking was his frustration with the excessive complexity of the country’s tax laws, which were literally driving lawyers and citizens crazy. So, he dedicated 23 years of his life to researching and gathering all the legislation into a single, absurdly large volume as a protest.
“What I have always wanted with this is to call society to a need for change in this legislation, which is immense and causes such legal insecurity, a real obstacle in the life of the citizen,” the lawyer told Globo.
“There are contradictory rules. The businessman, today, works for 30 years and wakes up and discovers that he owes all his life for bureaucratic matters,” he added.
Born in the city of Iguatama, in the state of Minas Gerais, Vinícios left for the capital at the 16 to become a lawyer, and a lack of money forced him to live on the streets and jump from one precarious job to the next to finally enroll in law school and fulfill his dream of opening his own law firm.
One day, a bold idea came to him: What if he tried to collect the maze of tax laws that were suffocating his clients and that he and his colleagues were so critical of? Since his intention was not to make an essay but to shape the ‘Mother of All Protests,’ it occurred to him that instead of publishing volume after volume, he would bring them together in a single book. However, he never thought it would become so big.
At the beginning, the patient lawyer dedicated five hours a day to research, but eventually it turned out to be insufficient and he had to hire almost forty researchers, jurists and trainees to help him in a project that would last more than two decades. In that time, Leôncio also had to invest one million reais (the equivalent of more than US$ 178,500) into the project.
It’s not n unreasonable amount of money if you consider, to create Pátria Amada, Leôncio had to rent a shed and import a printer from China with the ability to print billboards.
Along the way, life happened. Three heart attacks, a divorce and another marriage did not make him give up his adventure until he finished Pátria Amada — a book he considers a 7.5-ton proof of love for his country.
“The author of the book should have been the National Congress”, he said. Although he presented it publicly in 2014 to the amazed politicians and jurists gathered in Brasília, he admits that Pátria Amada is a work that is not yet finished, and may never be finished because at least 35 new rules are published under tax legislation every day.
So, this unmanageable book, this In Search of Lost Time of taxes is, moreover, infinite. The opposite of Brazilian taxpayers’ money.