Antonio Candido – final notes

Image: disclosure


Commentary on the film by Eduardo Escorel

“Clarity, the wind passing by. Clarity a breath of doubt. Bright light in the window. Clarity some music. Clarity the shadow of death. Clarity so lucid day. Clarity a rest of luck. Uncomfortable clarity” (Rodrigo Campos).


Who went to Espaço Itaú de Cinema on Rua Augusta on the date of the premiere of Antonio Candido – Final Notes (2024) watching the long-awaited film by director Eduardo Escorel about the ultimate testimony of one of the great – if not the greatest – literature critic immersed in the detours of the Brazilian experience, found an audience that was both homogeneous and heterogeneous in the hall of the entrance.

Basically, nothing that deviated from what was expected, since it was basically composed of people from universities and cinema, although marked by the exuberance of several generations. Furthermore, in the landscape, a practically incontrovertible arc of classes hovered in the air – not by chance related to the direction of what once, in another historical time, could be called by the honoree “middle class radicals”.

However, if attention were to dwell for a moment more on the trends of opinion than on that leveling condition, in the same room one would see antagonistic poles of an entity already worn out, but stubbornly recognized to this day as the left (also identified as such by enemies who do not consider nuances of strategy or principle or play on duty). If the reader agrees with such descriptive conditions, we can say that there was, highlighting the differences, a composition of coexistence that was as peculiar as it was routine for everyone to see in that modest waiting area.

To give you an idea, using an absurd hypothesis, if the cinema lights came on and, for some reason, the spectators interested in collecting the master's final impressions were summoned to an assembly position, the confusion, without a shadow of a doubt , it would be general. It could even occur in the tame register typical of the ruins of intelligentsia, but, despite the misunderstandings on both sides, the noise would all confess, in the background, the situation of a legacy in dispute.

I say this because characters ranging from a former government minister to young activists from the most recent incarnation of the autonomists on the São Paulo scene would be seen side by side. Something about this not-so-general jelly should hold a lively subject to be glimpsed. Something that, in fact, no one seemed to pay much attention to there and ended up dissipating like a joke as the wait ended and people settled into their seats.


After a brief initial thank you comment made by Eduardo Escorel, with the introduction of part of the team, the cinema lights went out and the long-awaited film came to light. Initially, the voice of a surprising narrator-character Antonio Candido summoned by Matheus Nachtergaele's precise gogó, immediately associated with the images of the apartment in which our flesh-and-blood literary observer lived.

Em off, the voice of, let's say, the narrator led us towards the knowledge of the date of his death and considerations about the reasons for that practice of intimate note-taking – a narration resource that gave the documentary a dose, already observed,[I] de Bras Cubas. With a literary memory like this, which will never be invoked innocently in the face of this tradition, a background irony was created: at best, almost in Brechtian fashion, the most attentive spectators were able to remember that the documentary's narrator could not be exactly reliable. In any case, this would be the master of ceremonies responsible for leading the public through the reading of excerpts from the notebooks that recorded Antonio Candido's final feelings in the years 2015, 2016 and 2017.

The first minutes on screen also delivered a good part of the stylistic resources magnetized to the editing structures: the images recorded to accompany the voice obeyed, for the most part, a leisurely rhythm. Mostly static, they appeared to the public's retinas like successive blocks waiting for meditation, almost like slides. Which, in a way, led to a predominance of photography over video.[ii]

Hence the sense of momentary fixation: the duration of each of these image blocks illustrated central reasons in the direction of emerging the perception of the free direction of daily notes, contributing to the articulation of their consequences. Thus, they provided the impression of synthetic images, suggesting relationships in the overall translation between the various records presented and their marks of temporality: in some of the best moments of the film, the memories presented, glued above all to old photos or films from the last century , were mixed with shocks coming from the ABC of catastrophes of those restless years, a true bottomless hole assimilated by the honoree as a frank collapse of living conditions in the country and in the world.

Interestingly, and here we step a little outside the documentary, a similar resource, although not at all attentive to daily earthquakes, can be seen in a more precarious, but spontaneous, way in homemade video productions hosted on open platforms. streaming. I'm referring to the background images mobilized in a vaguely somnambulistic way to entertain the eyes that search for audio from old records (sound media that are distant to a certain extent from the mixing required by the eye and that require improvisation) manually digitized and hosted discreetly and voluntarily.[iii]. However, if the reader is interested in evaluating this suggestion of convergence in the translation of times, don't misunderstand me.

The film by Eduardo Escorel, the house's best-selling filmmaker, is made up of strategic options that are not at all fortuitous. On the contrary, the selection of images serves a disturbing purpose. To give you an idea, if the entire temporal interval goes from memory records to newspaper facts, it covers a robust period that, ultimately, makes echoes of the 19th century rub shoulders with the catastrophes of the 21st century. However, the scenes that avoid such displacements suggest, for the most part, the spatial limitations in which he experienced the escalation of restrictions relating to the final stage of his old age.

In this wake, spectators are accompanied by the slow Proustian zigzags that invite the observation of small spaces specific to the critic's real experiences. Locations that range from, when away from home, the sidewalks on which he took increasingly shorter walks in the vicinity of his building (or bank, barbershop, pharmacy, etc.) to the discreet presentation of private spaces suited to the reproduction of the day (bedrooms, kitchen, living room, etc.). In addition to the intricacies of this dynamic between here and there, of course, there is the real meat promised by the film: the moments in which the public is shown the handwriting and newspaper clippings of the pages clipped inside the notebooks. It is, therefore, an entire field of vision to be understood as a proposal for form.

In view of this, if the suggestion of some clue to the reader in the direction of a general characterization of the film is inviting, perhaps the observation of the limits touched by the set of perspectives presented can awaken something of value: from beginning to end, the excerpts shown suggest the experience of an extreme old age lived in a reclusive manner in the midst of a vertigo-inducing historical context. An agonic conjunction that is not synonymous, to use the critic's own words, with a kind of clairvoyant testimony. On the contrary, following the scenes suggests that the conscious examination of doubt, exercised in the uncertain, would be the true key to understanding the honoree's final assessments.

They can be situated almost pendularly, in their results, between the melancholy of reviews of the past and the astonishment (serene or furious) in the face of the incalculable at the moment. All of this can be checked (without dualisms) in a way that is intertwined with the conditions of possibility of both the body of our literary observer and his resources for assimilating events. Impasses of old age that take us back to memento mori of a champion of the Brazilian critical tradition. Hence, in the place of clairvoyance, some moving sensation of conscious myopia, confused with the pertinacity of groping balances in the heights, at the top of the scale of the century: these are the not comfortable conditions in which the collapse of modernization coupled with the century of Antonio Candido took shape through to the years of his final testimonies – which does not mean that his lucidity was devoid, under these conditions, of sagacious intuitions. It's as if he, let's say, sought clarity from his out-of-focus experience.


To just get a sense of this, in 2008, and here we refer to an example outside the film, Antonio Candido denied a publication invitation proposed by an academic magazine for undergraduate students. In the letter in which he communicated his refusal, he even punctuated in a confessional tone the meaning of his stance towards that long period of life: “the time to speak is not indefinite. There is a limit, and common sense dictates that you observe it. I already feel limited and that's why I prefer silence, unless 'a higher power arises'”.[iv] Breathtaking, the will is valid for an entire generation and retains some family air with the tragic final phase of Mário de Andrade de April Elegy (1941), actually published for the first time in the magazine Climate, and the modernist movement (1942)

Clear similarity in excerpts such as: “Faced with the world and Brazil as they are, I am perplexed and somewhat bewildered, which leads insensibly to pessimism. And I, who have always been optimistic as a militant socialist, for whom the belief in the possible improvement of society and man is presupposed, would not like to express to younger people my somewhat negative state of mind, as well as the confession of my disappointments. Young men must believe a lot, so they can think straight and fight boldly.”[v].

So it is. Historical time spares no one and, sooner or later, leaves us nostalgic for some hope lost when we were young. Even more so in circumstances as dramatic as ours, wallowing in decreasing expectations. Until then, it's best to act. Not surprisingly, in the most recent conferences in which he took the honoree as the subject, Paulo Arantes referred to the portrait of the critic painted on canvas by Arnaldo Pedroso d'Horta[vi] in the fifties, commented in text by Ana Luisa Escorel, the director's wife, decades later. In it, the features of the honoree are portrayed in tones close to pale yellow and gray, with features on the face that refer to dark circles and stubble, in an environment in which the cold colors of the pool green sweater are aligned with the figure, next to a red tie, and the melancholic blue background.

Taken more or less in this key by the three, the painting suggests a portrait of significant discouragement. Endowed, let's say, with her own message, the curious thing is that she was left out of the film. Marked by political and personal lines, it indicates the withering away of something along the paths of crossing time. In an interview with the Museu da Imagem e Som about Oswald de Andrade, when asked about the temperament of the chatboys, our literary observer confesses: “we [from the group Climate] we were relatively studious, but they presented an entirely false image of us in São Paulo. We were, on the contrary, an extremely crazy and fun group. You can't imagine how funny I was when I was young. When I think about it today, I don't believe it. I could make ten people laugh all night. Until the Revolution of 1964, which took away my joy... Until the Revolution of 1964, which took away my joy, every night I put on a comedy show for my daughters. My daughters said: Daddy, stop, we can't take it anymore. He did comical numbers. Exactly the opposite of what was said about the chatboy. We were funny, irreverent, extraordinary[vii]”. A central perspective to keep in mind when, in the turmoil of the agony of the flesh and the country exposed by the film, the critic suggests counterpoints to this dimension. Either when, with some satisfaction, he shows an inclination towards serenity and good humor, or when he signals the value transformations in the living conditions of the popular classes given in the country through ambivalent political movements.[viii]

So. Properly delving into the few excerpts that came to light from the final three volumes of a set of seventy-four unpublished notebooks, attention is able to briefly dwell on some specificities worthy of note. As shown in the film, the volumes follow the succession of pages hand-numbered by Antonio Candido himself, in addition to being identified by dates. In them, two expressive resources seem to be central: comments motivated by newspaper publications and fragments of thought.

Unlike the first, a significant part of the second are accompanied by precise titles that refer, at the limit, to suggestions of genre framing: Verifications, ABC of catastrophes, Pensée de jour, Feeling, Léxico cassiense, Typology, Ó tempora, Omen, Memorável, Class and class consciousness, Intermezzo, The intermittences of the heart, The vices of the system, Le cerveau auderci, The self and the body, Schrecklich, Grave innovation, Mobility and immobility, Differential analysis, For the daughters, Ricordanze.[ix] Feelings, memories and observations from key moments of everyday life recorded in the midst of hardships.

In all the excerpts, it is possible to find recurring themes that point to the critic's taste for floating attention, but, in this case, it is worth remembering that their appearance is subordinated to the editing purposes of the film's script: throughout its eighty- seven minutes running, there are recurring comments about the conditions of old age and the proximity of death, shifting comparisons between body and mind, memories of the south of Minas Gerais, zeal for small daily events, attention to the direction of the Workers' Party, assessments of fermentation and the lost challenges typical of the last century, sayings about the detours in the itinerary of acquaintances, notes about the calamities of the present time, brief and rare comments on literature and moving reflections from widowhood in the face of the loss of Gilda.

Regarding this last point, something catches the attention to, hypothetically, suggest to the reader a perhaps protagonist sense (at least in those examples on the scene) of interlocution in the diaries: in most of the passages about his lifelong companion, the person being honored addresses directly to daughters and family identities. “Sometimes I feel your mother's reality so intensely that it's as if she were alive, cheering me on with her incomparable grace and charm. And I think, what am I still doing here?”

However, while still keeping the specificities of the assembly visible, those curious in search of a updating As for Antonio Candido's final positions, perhaps the most interesting passages are in the considerations he made regarding the social place assigned to black people. Basically, for those who follow it closely, there will be nothing new. But the proportions of what is presented, coupled with time, allow accommodations to be remodeled.

There were at least two notable moments in which the film led to this theme. Even so, in order to avoid confusion, a reservation regarding the critical tradition in which the critic is inserted would not be too much: his positions below should in no way be confused, out of nuance and place, with the skein of wool of lineages in accelerated transplantation that culminated in a criminal complaint against him of kidnapping of the baroque.[X]

The first of the two moments came from a comment on a review of “Women in Ashes” (2015), the first volume of the trilogy The Emperor's Sands, by Mia Couto. The evocation of Ngungunhane, powerful emperor of Gaza, led the critic to remember stories related to the character told directly by his gardener, a soldier from that region who fled to Brazil. The soldier-gardener and his wife, also a cook for the critic's family, were illiterate and asked the still young literary observer to read to them in Poços de Caldas Love of perdition (1862) by Camilo Castelo Branco.

The episode, a dramatic encounter of historic proportions between Portuguese literature, the Brazilian situation and the Mozambican combatant, allows those with a good memory to glimpse not only echoes of the notable essay/lecture “Direito à literature” (1988), but also the ambiguities inherent to the transplantation of lights and people regarding the specificities of the training theme that demand fine motor coordination to, say, ensure that babies are not thrown out with the bathwater amidst so many overlaps that require certain clicks of cunning.

To round off the memory, and this is where the comment actually ends, the scene leads the honoree to mention a family branch of great-grandfathers who became rich thanks to the slave trade, even though the fortune thus achieved did not prosper throughout the genealogy. An opportunity that made him courageously show that sinister web of interests that penetrates him from within. Not from, say, a cathartic self-immolation, but rather from a very peculiar sense of testimony focused almost empirically on the long term.

If the reader has patience to approach a second moment related to this subject, it would be worth mentioning a passage relating to the excerpt entitled “Class and class consciousness”. In it, the critic ponders about the transcendent traps related to the claims of formal apprehension of the problem of the same name and which, let's say, measures everyone up to their necks. Even if moved by good faith (and the comment written by the critic suggests how much it can deceive), that is, both by the desires of science regarding places in the world and by the results of impulsive intervention. “It takes a lot of experience, not just reading and theory, to feel and understand the extent to which we are conditioned by the social class to which we belong.”

The modest defense of prophylactic common sense against the underground ducts that involuntarily grease ideas and ideology unfolds, in a subsequent moment, to a curious reflection, in which he took part as a historical record, on the character of the democratic opposition of intellectuals against the Estado Novo . Taken from this perspective, the intentions stated by them in the name of the people, equipped with a supposed Enlightenment superiority, would ultimately serve to defend the class's own disinterested interests.

The painful review, which goes wholesale from the Faculty of Law of Largo São Francisco, passes through the Democratic Left until reaching the broad front of the First Brazilian Congress of Writers (Communist Party included), ends with the conclusion of a tragic disagreement: “we never arrived to correctly assess that, in Brazil, the target of social struggle is, above all, black people, who are still excluded today”. Investing strength in the current issue of the non-integration of black people in class society, this Antonio Candido grappling with the lost horizon of education gives the impression that he found too late the true key to a socialism adjusted to life in the country. “In this sense, the truth is that we failed. We didn’t know how to see what we were looking at and that was the basic problem for a policy with an egalitarian tendency.”

A problem that, for him, Cuba would have resolved once and for all, despite its drawbacks. A condition that reminds us of some of the verses of the late poet, somewhat aged by the way he faced these and other problems, when he says that life is the art of encounter, even though there is so much disagreement in life. Refractions.


Finally, in addition to the merits of the documentary, which deserve to be praised, it is worth mentioning that the literary observer's ultimate perspectives make your mouth water. Thirst that, yes or no, can be quenched through access to the contents of the notebooks. That's where the lump's angu lives. Something that will happen, if at all, only when and if the notes become public in some way. Perhaps this is the next courageous step to be taken in forwarding all that material that was generously shown to us in the film.

Despite the remarkable willingness of the Mello e Souza family to have made significant volumes of the collection pieces with books and personal documents of Gilda and Antonio Candido available in libraries throughout Brazil (and the part of the collection concerning the IEB at USP is transparent to point of offering for public consultation even documents relating to the couple's personal finances), the straw that the film showed around those monuments of more than Proustian scope glued to the passage of the years like a true peripheral novel transformed into a diary (in fact It is worth remembering that Proust and Goethe were authors of the honoree's favorite) keep in their mysteries of who knows how many pages not only notations of an intimate nature (data, in fact, well worked on by the film and that could also be well worked on in editions for publication ), but invaluable testimonies for understanding the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries in the world from Brazil from the perspective of one of our greatest masters.

If it is true, following Homero Santiago in his memorial, that a professor of the stature of Paulo Arantes taught in the classroom that Antonio Candido and Roberto Schwarz can be taken as “thinkers more inventive than a Habermas or a Derrida”,[xi] Taking the risk of restricting the access of such relics to the gnawing criticism of rats could be, with pardon for both blague and anachronism, a crime against Brazilian critical tradition. I mean, is there any volume on 1945? 1951? 1964? What about 1968? 1970? 1988? 2013? What they say? Questions for the next chapters.

*Lucas Paolillo is a PhD candidate in Social Sciences at UNESP-Araraquara.


Antonio Candido – final notes
Brazil, 2024, documentary, 83 minutes.
Directed by: Eduardo Escorel.


[I] See Luiz Zanin's review at

[ii] With the exception of the epilogue taken from an interview at the Federal University of Pernambuco in 1995, in the entire film we only see a moving image of Antonio Candido. This is a brief shot of walking next to a dumpster. Furthermore, the critic is represented only by photographs. I consider that this gives something to think about modes of recording in time.

[iii] Notice, for example, the relationship between image and sound in the following video, which, in fact, is present in the annotations and makes up the film’s soundtrack:

[iv] See “Letter from Antonio Candido” (2019) in the ninth volume of the magazine Humanities in dialogue:

[v] Id., Ibid.

[vi] See the closing conference given by professor Paulo Arantes in

[vii] Excerpt from an interview by Antonio Candido about the influence of Oswald de Andrade on the modernist movement recorded for the Museum of Image and Sound on 11.04.1990/274/1163 with the technical team composed of Sônia Maria de Freitas, Marco Antônio Felix, Daisy Perelmutter, Adilson Ruize and Maria Augusta Fonseca Abramo (registration number: 274; A.1163AXNUMX; A.XNUMXA).

[viii] To explore in a more balanced way this theme of a political nature mixed with partisan pranks, a theme that is sensitive to the editing of the film and its reception, there is nothing like reading the essay “Teresina and her friends” published in entiretyin etc. (1980). Or the comments about poor socialism in “Providences of a literary critic on the periphery of capitalism” by Paulo Arantes, published in Meaning of formation: three studies on Antonio Candido, Gilda de Mello e Souza and Lúcio Costa (1997), book written in partnership with Otília Beatriz Fiori Arantes.

[ix] Such were the titles that the author's eyes were able to capture hot with a notepad in the darkness of the cinema during the second presentation session at the Cinemateca. Ditto the transcription attempts that will follow. None of them can, of course, have an absolute claim to accuracy. Furthermore, it is worth mentioning that the use of quotation marks without indication in notes will, from now on, always refer to the film.

[X] For a proper reading of the following comments, it would be interesting for the reader to keep in mind the field of problems present in Feeling of dialectics in the Brazilian intellectual experience: dialectics and duality according to Antonio Candido and Roberto Schwarz (1992) or “French ideology, Brazilian opinion: a scheme”, collected in the volume Formation and deconstruction: a visit to the museum of French ideology (2021), by Paulo Arantes or in “Nacional por subtação” by Roberto Schwarz, an essay collected in What time is it? (1987)

[xi] View: Memorial (presented for the teaching competition for the History of Modern Philosophy I discipline in the Philosophy Department of the University of São Paulo) (2004) by Homero Santiago, quote taken from page number twenty-two.

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