Alfredo Bosi – ruler and compass

Image: Lara Mantoanelli

By Julian Rodrigues*

Together with Antonio Candido, Alfredo Bosi constituted the canon of Brazilian literary theory, humanist and socialist masters who inspired generations

In 2017, the master of wizards is gone: teacher of teachers, sir Antonio Candido. Now we also lost Alfredo Bosi. I'm sure a bunch of good people out there have been gripped by a sense of orphanhood.

Here I already warn that there is no scientific intention, the article is just to record my subjective testimony of the intellectual influence – and I would even say moral, of Professor Alfredo Bosi.

Mineiro, starting the Literature course at the Federal University of Viçosa, in the early 1990s. A Concise History of Brazilian Literature, edited by Cultrix It became my bedside book. I even picked up the old copy now, to leaf through it, as I write.

I was lucky and privileged to be a student of extraordinary professors. But, a recurring joke among us students was: one day we're going to USP to see a class by Alfredo Bosi (because Antonio Candido was getting older).

“Being and Time in Poetry” it was a more difficult work to study, despite being less extensive. Grasping the layers of the texts, the formal-content syntheses – a huge challenge. Understanding the amount of knowledge that underpinned each of the author's analysis – that amalgamation of philosophy, history, sociology, aesthetics, linguistics, literary theory, essay, intuition.

Erudition and elegance – ideas presented in a synthetic way without arrogance or useless adornments. A paradigm of how to write.

However, for us enthusiastic, almost beardless undergraduates, an “epistemological” milestone was actually being able to read the recently released “Dialectics of Colonization”. What a book, ladies and gentlemen, what a book!

Each essay seemed to organize and give meaning to our readings about the historical formation of this Brazil of my god and its attempts to produce literature.

In perhaps less rigid language, perhaps even more elegant, the professor sort of explains almost everything.

I had never really understood what this colonial Brazil was like. And I am forever grateful to Bosi for having finally revealed to me the nature of Brazilian liberals.

Canonical the essay "Slavery between two liberalismss”, a little bit: “ideological filtering and temporization, these would be the strategies of our intra-oligarchic liberalism throughout the period in which the national State was being built”.

Nothing more current. Our clean liberals are now filtering Bolsonaro's neo-fascist raptures to maintain their privileges and the agenda of destroying social policies.

Possibly, considering the productivist criteria of the lath of today's life, a monumental book like this would score less than any article written in English - published in some international magazine full of little stars (although it's even worse, in the humanities area, there are even fewer magazine options starry).

The reverence for the master trainers – in addition to the revived memories, also cradles regret and appeal. A desire to go back to the times of delicacy, daring, courage to study and explain the world as a whole.

I keep remembering so many great people: Sérgio Buarque de Holanda, Pagu, Caio Prado Júnior, Celso Furtado, Nise Silveira, Florestan Fernandes, Antonio Candido, Darcy Ribeiro, Nelson Werneck Sodré, Paulo Freire, Alfredo Bosi, Octávio Ianni, Lélia Gonzales.

When crying for master Bosi and celebrating his life, it is inevitable to feel a bitter vacuum in the mouth. Has the university really turned into a collection of people researching minuscule things to industrially produce irrelevant articles?

Have we given up thinking big? Of having the healthily grandiose pretension – of reading everything, knowing everything in order to be able to contribute even a little bit – on this human road of knowledge, science, the arts?

Bosi: Catholic, humanist, theoretically eclectic was perhaps more radically humanist and anti-capitalist than so many out there. An icon.

Long live Antonio Cândido and Alfredo Bosi – who gave us ruler and compass. The challenge now is to step on, without wavering, without deviating from the course. Walking trails opened by our masters.

* Julian Rodrigues is a professor, journalist and activist of the LGBTI and Human Rights movements


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