Brazilian literature

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Brazilian literature,

the writings of both the European explorers of Brazil and its later inhabitants.

The Colonial Period

Upon the discovery of Brazil, the Portuguese began to describe the wonders of the new land. Brazilian literature began with the letter of Pero Vaz de Caminha announcing the discovery to the king of Portugal. That descriptive trend was continued in the 16th and 17th cent. in the works of European missionaries. José de AnchietaAnchieta, José de
, 1530–97, Brazilian Jesuit missionary, b. Canary Islands of Spanish parents. A tireless traveler and pioneer, he spread Portuguese control and settlement and was a founder of the city of São Paulo.
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 wrote in Portuguese about Brazil and is considered the father of Brazilian literature. The dualism of European tradition and New World feeling continued. Many consider the 17th-century Jesuit priest Antônio VieiraVieira, Antonio
, 1608–97, Portuguese Jesuit orator and missionary. Born in Lisbon, he grew up in Brazil. He was sent by the Jesuits to Portugal to salute the new king, John IV, and there he became court preacher and an ambassador.
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 (brought to Brazil as a child) the true master of Portuguese prose in the classic style.

In the late 17th cent. the first native Brazilian writer of note, Gregório de Matos Guerra, wrote poetry satirizing the society of his time. During the 18th cent. poetic "academies" sprang up in various parts of Brazil. The most famous was in Minas Gerais; it included José Basílio da Gama, author of the epic poem O Uraguai (1769), and Tomás Antônio Gonzaga, best known for his pastoral love poem Marília de Dirceu (1792). This group had helped introduce revolutionary ideas from France into Brazil.

Independence and Nineteenth-Century Literary Movements

Independence from Portugal in 1822 fostered national feeling and ushered in the romantic era, which is generally dated from the appearance in 1836 of volumes of poetry by Domingos José Gonçalves de Magalhães, and by Manuel de Araújo Porto-Alegre. The two major Brazilian romantic poets were Antônio Gonçalves DiasDias, Antônio Gonçalves
, 1823–64, Brazilian poet and dramatist. A leading writer of the romantic school, he is noted for his strong nativist feeling and his glorification of the indigenous people of Brazil.
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, who glorified the indigenous people and the native soil, and Antônio de Castro AlvesAlves, Antônio de Castro
, 1847–71, Brazilian poet. A disciple of Victor Hugo, he came to fame with Espumas flutuantes [tossing spume] (1871). Despite a wild bohemian lifestyle, he was intensely nationalist and socially conscious.
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, a leader in the fight for the abolition of slavery. Alves's social awareness introduced a new dimension into the nascent "Brazilianism." A more introspective mood was created by Alvares de Azevedo. The romantic era also witnessed the birth of the novel in Brazil, notably O Guarani (1857) by José de Alencar and the later Iracema (1865).

A realist note was sounded by Manuel Antônio de Almeida in Memórias de um sargento de milícias (2 vol., 1854–55) and by Alfredo d'Escragnolle Taunay in his novel Inocência (1872). The works of the man generally considered the greatest of Brazilian writers, Joaquim Maria Machado de AssisMachado de Assis, Joaquim Maria
, 1839–1908, Brazilian novelist, b. Rio de Janeiro. The grandson of African slaves, he was educated by a priest and became a typesetter, a proofreader, and finally a journalist.
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, were in the same realist vein. His novels and short stories are noted for their psychological depth and classic purity of style. Contemporary with Machado de Assis were the Parnassian poets, headed by Olavo BilacBilac, Olavo
, 1865–1918, Brazilian poet, journalist, and critic. He was the chief poet of the Brazilian group related to the French Parnassians. His writings have an enameled elegance as well as sensual richness that gained them enduring acclaim.
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, but theirs was an isolated trend. Seven years before the appearance of Bilac's Poesias, Aluísio de Azevedo had published O Mulato (1881), a novel that dealt in naturalistic fashion with the Brazilian scene.

The Twentieth Century

In 1902 Euclides da CunhaCunha, Euclides da
, 1866–1909, Brazilian writer. After his military service, Cunha became a civil engineer and a journalist. He wrote several historical works but is remembered for only one book, Os sertões (1902, tr.
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 wrote his masterly description of an uprising in the Brazilian northeast, Os sertões (tr. Rebellion in the Backlands, 1944). Canaan (1902), a pessimistic novel of ideas by José Pereira da Graça Aranha, appeared in the same year, and the children's literature of José Bento Monteiro Lobato also became popular. The strong nativist and sociological bias of many of these works was even evident in the modernismomodernismo
, movement in Spanish literature that had its beginning in Latin America. It was paramount in the last decade of the 19th cent. and the first decade of the 20th cent.

Modernismo derived from French symbolism and the Parnassian school.
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 movement. It began in Brazil as a poetic movement influenced by French symbolists and led by Mário de AndradeAndrade, Mário de
, 1893–1945, Brazilian author. Through his fiction, poetry, and wide-ranging essays, Andrade became a leading representative of Brazilian modernismo. Macunaíma (1928, tr.
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, whose prose work Macunaíma (1928, tr. 1984) made pioneer use of the vernacular; the movement was soon joined by other poets of stature, including Manuel Bandeira.

The social novel came into its own in the 1930s with the works of Graciliano RamosRamos, Graciliano
, 1892–1953, Brazilian novelist. His work is marked by psychological analysis and focuses on social problems in rural districts of NE Brazil. Bibliography

See his novel São Bernardo (1934, tr.
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, José Lins do RegoRego, José Lins do
, 1901–57, Brazilian novelist. His fame rests largely on his semiautobiographical "sugarcane cycle," dealing with social transformation in the Brazilian northeast. The first of the series, Menino de engenho (tr.
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, and Jorge AmadoAmado, Jorge
, 1912–2001, Brazilian novelist. Amado's works deal largely with the poor urban black and mulatto communities of Bahia. His early novels, such as The Violent Land (1942, tr. 1945), are marked by grim and violent realism.
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. Their concern with the Brazilian interior has been continued by writers such as João Guimarães RosaRosa, João Guimarães
, 1908–67, Brazilian novelist. In The Devil to Pay in the Backlands (1956, tr. 1963), Rosa combines naturalism with psychological analysis in his examination of Riobaldo, an outlaw from NE Brazil.
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, whose poetic novel Grande sertão: veredas appeared in 1956 (tr. 1963). At the same time, the more subjective trend continued with, among others, novelists Rachel de Queiroz, Érico VeríssimoVeríssimo, Érico Lopes
, 1905–75, Brazilian writer. Veríssimo lectured and taught in the United States. He wrote (in English) Brazilian Literature (1945). His best-known novel is Caminhos cruzados (1935; tr. Crossroads, 1943).
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, and Clarice LispectorLispector, Clarice
, 1920–77, Brazilian author, b. in what is now Ukraine as Chaya Pinkhasovna Lispector. She immigrated to Brazil as an infant when her Jewish family fled the Russian pogroms.
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, poets Jorge de Lima, Carlos Drummond de Andrade, Vinícius de Morais, and Cecília Meireles, and dramatists Nelson Rodrigues, Ariano Suassuna, and Alfredo Dias Gomes.

Reflecting the rise of military dictatorship, the themes of violence and repression, prominent in Brazilian literature since the late 1960s, run through the novels of Ignácio de Loyola Brandão, João Ubaldo Ribeiro, Lygia Fagundes Telles, Rubem Fonseca, and Nélida Piñon; through the poetry of Ferreira Gullar and Carlos Néjar; and through the plays of Chico Buarque and Gerald Thomas. The novels of Antônio Callado and Darcy RibeiroRibeiro, Darcy
, 1922–97, Brazilian anthropologist, statesman, and author. An expert on the indigenous peoples of Brazil, he wrote many books, notably the six-volume 1960s work, Studies of the Anthropology of Civilizations.
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 depict the clash of political and social forces and the collapse of traditional ways of life.


See A. Coutinho, An Introduction to Literature in Brazil (tr. 1969); D. T. Haberly, Three Sad Races (1983); D. Brookshaw, Race and Color in Brazilian Literature (1986); I. Stern, ed., Dictionary of Brazilian Literature (1988).

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