Antonio Candido, reader of Nietzsche

Rubens Gerchman, Tropical Cyclist, 1997.


The genesis of “O Carrier”, a classic article by the Brazilian literary critic about the German philosopher

To Jeanne Marie Gagnebin, my source of rigor, integrity, and style.

In 1947, two years after the end of World War II, Antonio Candido published one of the most emblematic texts in the history of the reception of Nietzsche's work in Brazil, “O Carrier”. Almost thirty years separated the original publication of the essay from its entry in the collection organized by Gérard Lebrun, with a translation by Rubens Rodrigues Torres Filho, in 1974, the volume Nietzsche from the Os Pensadores collection.

A period that, in a certain way, can account for the absence of previous references to the essay, in earlier studies, and even today it would not be an exaggeration to say that it remains on the margins of Nietzsche-Etudes in Brazil, although it is always remembered with deference. In the current political context, that is, under the yoke of the so-called “Bolsonarism”, Antonio Candido's text resurfaces as a fundamental document to reflect on fascism in Brazil. If “O Carrier” speaks for itself, we use here, in addition to him, a privileged aid in this revisitation, a testimony from Antonio Candido himself.[I]

Back in May 2007, when Unifesp's Guarulhos campus was still taking its first and uncertain steps, I received an invitation from Professor Ana Nemi, from the Department of History, to accompany her in an interview with Professor Antonio Candido. It was an interview with a pre-defined theme, which should revolve around the Escola Paulista de Medicina, an institution that is at the origins of the Federal University of São Paulo.

My colleague was involved with the team that prepared the aforementioned book The Federal University of São Paulo at 75 years old and the interview would in principle be conducted by her, as indeed it was. I would already be satisfied with just being a listener, but my acceptance was not disinterested. I intended to wait for any moment, a pause in the main theme to ask Professor Antonio Candido about his readings of Nietzsche, and mainly about the famous text “O Carrier”; the chance was unique and unmissable.

Let us remember how he begins his defense of Nietzsche in the text written in 1946: “It is necessary to remove, in relation to thinkers like Nietzsche, the concept of war, propagandistic or naive, who sees him as a kind of finer Rosenberg [Alfred Rosenberg, theorist of National Socialism] and seeks to see in his thought the precursor of Nazism. This staunch anti-Germanist must be seen for what he really is: one of the greatest inspirers of the modern world, whose lesson, far from being exhausted, can serve as a guide to many problems of contemporary humanism.”[ii]

If even today we need to remove “the concept of war” from the horizon of studies on Nietzsche, how could it not have been at that moment, between 1946-1947, in the immediate post-war period, twenty years before the publication of the critical edition Colli-Montinari and decades before of all the efforts that would follow to recover Nietzsche from the hands of Nazism? A challenge, to say the least. We will see later that even names linked to the left, in the political spectrum at the time, discouraged Candido in his resumption of Nietzsche's work in that context, which, obviously, did not dissuade him, for various reasons, some of which I present below, especially from your own words.

Before that, perhaps it would not be necessary to reiterate here the generosity and kindness of the reception we had that afternoon, a treatment that is always mentioned in the testimonies of those who were with Antonio Candido in person. The truth is that it was not easy to be in front of him, and we feel the real dimension of it when we sit in front of him, some inevitable gaffes with dates and events show my nervousness throughout the recorded conversation, whose transcript ipsis litteris of the critic's words the reader will find below.

What I present here are fragments of that meeting, remnants of a long interview that lasted more than two hours, whose topics revolved around many subjects, especially those directly related to the subject of the interview, the origins of the Paulista School of Medicine, but also with ample space for the teacher's observations about the Portuguese spoken from north to south of the country, the role of libraries in student life, about friendship, references to Nietzsche and, in the end, there was still time for Antonio Candido to remember, with much affection, the figure of another master, the critic and teacher Benedito Nunes, who died a few years after the interview, in 2011.

Resuming his observations about Nietzsche was the way I found to honor him, but also, and above all, because I know of no record where the critic has commented in detail on the origin of a text so important for Nietzsche readers in Brazil, as This is the case of “The bearer”. This privileged and precious information could not remain longer protected from public knowledge.

More than ten years after that meeting, and three years after his disappearance, it is impossible not to think that his absence is irrecoverable, especially at a time when Brazil is taking big steps towards a reconciliation of authoritarianism, anchored by a significant number of of citizens, although, in its ridiculous fascist composition, since devoid of any intellectual elaboration and materialized in the rough figure of Jair Bolsonaro, it is no less dangerous and catastrophic for the destiny of the country.

Finally, it should be said that I avoided commenting on the observations made during the interview with Professor Antonio Candido, except when it came to adding some information that was only hinted at in his speech, but which in no way changes its meaning. If there is a method here, it is only in the sense of trying to create a parallel between “The Carrier” and the observations of its author throughout our meeting, exactly sixty years after the publication of the text in the Diary of São Paulo.


There was a moment, at the beginning of the conversation, when we were talking about libraries and donations, that Antonio Candido mentioned Nietzsche for the first time, spontaneously, without any of us mentioning the philosopher's name: “Donation [of books][iii] it is fundamental, what happens is that from time to time someone of prestige dies and the university buys it. I remember when Professor Raul Briquet died, Mr. Raul Briquet was a doctor who was very close to my father, my father's classmate, the most cultured doctor I've ever seen in my life, my father was the second. He is the first. My father was a Nietzschean, in love with Nietzsche, he read Nietzsche”.

It was the chance that was missing to introduce the theme and ask about the motivations of the essay “The Carrier”, mentioning the initial collection of the text in the edition of the Os Pensadores collection, and the fact that his disapproval in favor of Nietzsche has always been a reason for pride for the philosopher's readers and scholars in Brazil. He then replied that “that was written right after the war, in 46, and it still gave me a lot of headaches, because they thought I was… [he paused and then clarified the reason for the “headache”]. Nietzsche was seen as synonymous with Nazism, one of the sources of Nazism”.

Before we could comment on the serious observation, Candido himself amended a surprising sentence: “I said this: my father died very young, and I cannot admit that one of my father's gurus, my father's main guru, is a leader of Nazism. When Halévy's book came out,[iv] the second edition of Halévy's book on Nietzsche, I took the opportunity and made two long footnotes on that article, to say that Nietzsche was not a pre-Nazi. It was written in 1946.[v]

His perception of the “Nazi question” in Nietzsche, in the text published a year after writing it, was unequivocal: “Even rejecting the content of his ideas, we must retain and consider his technique of thought, as a propaedeutic to overcoming individual conditions. 'Man is a being that must be surpassed', he [Nietzsche] said; and what he proposes is to incessantly go beyond the being of conjuncture, which we are at a given moment, in order to seek more complete states of humanization” (p. 79).

As we have seen, the entry of this text in the collection The Thinkers it would only happen almost 30 years after its composition, in 1974. When I mentioned this fact, Candido confirmed and recalled the moment: “Much later, much later. I don't know... 20 years later, or more, he [possibly the organizer of the volume, Gérard Lebrun, or perhaps the translator, Rubens Rodrigues Torres Filho, or even the editor himself, it is not possible to know] asked to put in The Thinkers".

It seemed like an ideal moment to delve deeper into the subject of reception, asking him for a comment on the arrival of Nietzsche's work in Brazil and its multifaceted reception, but the figure of his father once again imposed itself on the memory: “But my father was a fanatic for Nietzsche ; he did not read Nietzsche in German. He spoke German, he even took courses in Germany, but he only knew medical German and never bothered to read German literature. So that Nietzsche he had all in French. He had many books on Nietzsche, all in French.”

In “The Carrier”, French references are frequent, always commented within an already quite advanced view of Nietzsche’s work, as when Candido mentions the way in which we receive “data that we incorporate into the routine, we passively revere and become obstacles to personal and collective development” (p. 79). Against this immobility, the philosophical task of going beyond our time, as Nietzsche said in the wagner case, Candido commented in “O Carrier”: “in order for certain principles, such as justice and kindness, to be able to act and enrich, they must emerge as something that we actively obtain from overcoming the data. 'Get yourself' – is the Nietzschean advice that the old Aegean gives to his son, in the theseus, by [André] Gide. It is for this conquest of the most legitimate [authentic] virtualities of being that Nietzsche teaches how to combat complacency, the lukewarmness of acquired positions, which self-indulgence calls morality, or something else that sounds good. In his conception, there is a permanent struggle between the life that asserts itself and that which vegetates; it seemed to him that it was emboldened [enlivened] by the routine values ​​of Christian and bourgeois civilization” (p. 79-80).

At the moment when these same values ​​are invoked in the name of a supposed preservation of life, it is necessary to reread Antonio Candido with redoubled attention. What he said, agreeing with Nietzsche, was exactly the opposite of what Bolsonarist minions of religion, family and “values ​​of good” want to impose on our social life as a whole. It is these bourgeois and Christian values ​​that, manipulated by elitists who are bad readers of the Bible, prevent life from being lived at its full power, which meant not only an individual achievement, but a humanist principle.

Let us read Candido as we read Nietzsche, that is, word for word: “Really, if we submit to a rigorous analysis the way in which we shelter spiritual values, we will see that in our attitude there is more of complacency and moral flaccidity than properly active and fertilizing belief. . We accept, through integration, submissive participation in the group, tending to transform gestures into simple automatic repetition. We do it to avoid the adventures of the personality, the big cards of life, believing that we are putting into practice values ​​we have conquered for ourselves.

Well, Nietzsche's work intends to shake us out of this torpor, showing the ways in which we increasingly deny our humanity, submitting ourselves instead of asserting ourselves. Seen in this way, the exaltation of the vital and unprejudiced man is, on the one hand, a rectification of the often naive humanitarianism of the 80th century; on the other, as a vindication of the complexity of man, against certain rationalist and simplifying versions” (p. XNUMX).

Throughout the essay, and also in the statement, Candido speaks several times of “humanism” or “humanitarianism”, taken as synonyms. In the final stretch of the passage above, we find an important differentiation between humanism as a movement, as it was presented in the XNUMXth century, as a legacy of the French Revolution, and a “Nietzschean humanism”, averse to Nazi barbarism, as read by the critic, who reiterates – as today, everything indicates that it was necessary to say the obvious at that moment – ​​that the philosopher would never agree with the concentration camps, that his work should be seen as an overcoming of modern man.

At this point in the interview, I mentioned the critical edition by Colli and Montinari, highlighting the role of this project in definitively correcting the many mistakes that had occurred in the various previous editions, including the worst and most compromising one, the Nazi appropriation, which in the end was decisive for that “The bearer” was written.

Certainly, Candido's text was not the first to point out the mistakes, since, among us, the debate on the issue of Nietzsche's assimilation by the Nazis began reasonably early, around the 1930s. Authors such as Mário Ferreira dos Santos, who translated Thus spake Zarathustra e the will to power, or Dalcídio Jurandir, author of the novel series “Extremo Norte”, also took a stand against the equivocal political appropriation of Nietzsche, each in their own way.

Therefore, Antonio Candido's considerations dialogued not only with the French reception, through the biography of Nietzsche written by Daniel Halévy, but also with the Brazilian reception that preceded him. Even so, the impact of his intervention must have been widely felt, given the importance of his work and its prestige at that time.

When we were talking about the various editions of Nietzsche’s work, Candido mentioned his working edition, the “edition Schlechta, in three volumes,[vi] and made a point of mentioning that he still had it and that access to it was “a revelation”: “When I took the philosophy course, I took the social sciences course; there were three years of philosophy in my time in social science. And my second year, I had a semester on Nietzsche, with Professor Maugüé,[vii] and he explained to us will to power, a book that was terrible.

When I arrived at Schlechta, we found 'Materials for the study I don't know what', [i.e.] there's nothing like a book, it was his sister's crook with that other guy over there whose name I forgot” [possibly the teacher was referring to his brother-in-law Nietzsche, Bernhard Förster, tasked with implanting the colony "New Germania” in Paraguay].[viii] I asked if he was referring to Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche's husband, Nietzsche's brother-in-law, Bernhard Förster, but he was thinking of a third person, whose name he couldn't remember.

At that point, it was not necessary to insist further on the subject, as the professor had already temporarily changed the course of the interview. It was also at this point in the conversation that Antonio Candido made one of the most surprising observations in the statement: “(…) I couldn't accept it, I can't admit that the man my father read… every Sunday my father read philosophy. It wasn't just medicine, he was very caxias. He was always reading Nietzsche, he wouldn't stop reading Nietzsche. Nietzsche and Dostoevsky, he always read. How is it that my father's guru is a forerunner of Nazism? This business is bad. I wrote that article that a lot… [pause] on the left of a lot… [another pause] was that 'oh! quite frankly!' Friends of mine used to say 'look, this is not the time to talk about Nietzsche, Nietzsche after all is… [third pause]'. It's nothing, Nietzsche has nothing to do with that! He was against Pan-Germanism, he was not anti-Semitic, he was a friend of the Jews. None of that, quite the opposite!”

The surprise was not the fact that the physician Aristides Candido de Mello e Souza, father of the critic, read Nietzsche and Dostoyevsky, but the fact that the left-wing circle around the critic reverberated the biased interpretations of Nazi-fascist appropriations and tried to demote the critic from the task of reposition the philosopher. The three pauses, rare throughout the interview, leave room for a quick speculation about the disappointed tone with which Antonio Candido recalled this anomaly of his political colleagues, but it is symptomatic when seen from a distance.

The left is not always ahead of its time and it was often wrong throughout the XNUMXth century, and why not say more recently, in decisive moments. But it is not surprising that Candido, and his father, anticipated a whole set of studies that would confirm not only the crass error in the interpretation of Nietzsche's work in alliance with totalitarian regimes, but also his repudiation of anti-Semitism in the XNUMXth century. , information that is well known, but simply ignored to the right and to the left.

Let us remember, in this regard, what he wrote in “The Carrier”: “[Nietzsche] states at length in his work (almost systematically in the first part of Beyond good and evil, for example) that man is more complex than norms and conventions assume. Long before the modern currents of psychology, he analyzed the strength and importance of dominance and submission impulses, concluding that there is in us a loose animal that also makes up the personality and influences the behavior. In that work, he insists on the presence in the fabric of human life, of those components that morality and convention seek to eliminate, after having condemned them” (p. 80).

The discernment of Antonio Candido's reading seems to be originally supported by the exercises of interpretation that go back to his father, before any work was imposed as an academic reference – remembrance is frequent in the testimony, as we can see. However, everything indicates that “O Carrier” was not simply a reparation in favor of the paternal memory, as shown in the comment above.

As expected, Candido's text develops from a rigorous reading of Nietzsche's works. It was this direct reading, the personal exercise of interpretation, which assured him the certainty of the need to take the lead in favor of Nietzsche in the tense moment of the post-war period. However, this reading was not passive, free of tensions, as can be seen in several passages where the critic separates rigor from a paltry agreement. For this reason, shortly afterwards, he made a point of remembering that, despite the need to separate Nietzsche from Nazi history, he believed that “inside Nietzsche’s work there are many elements that you can easily pick up and distort, which is that Superman thing, which I always interpreted completely differently. Also because I took a Nietzsche course with a Marxist professor, who was Jean Maugüé, who read things differently. Now, I always thought that [I should follow] my father's ideas: the Superman is a superior man that you can bring out from within, to dominate what you have below, as an animal, that's the real thing , you rise above you. If you cultivate the good, the beautiful, the fair, then you approach, you would be the Superman. I've always seen it like this. Not like the laurel of the Germanic race. Nietzsche had a tantrum about this purebred blond German thing. He was always at odds with Wagner largely because of the glorification of all those bloody gods. O Ecce Homo I think it's beautiful, one of Nietzsche's books that moved me the most was the Ecce Homo. He's already a little crazy; so it was the lucidity of the madman, wasn't it? 'Why do I write such good books', 'why am I smarter' than others, 'why am I so smart', that's great”.

In fact, even today, the mention of the Ubermensch, whose most up-to-date translation into Portuguese is usually “Além-do-homem”, – precisely to avoid exulting something superhuman – can still lead to misunderstandings. In the 1947 text, there is a long reflection on the Ubermensch, fundamental in the political context we are going through and in which we are trying to insert that advanced reflection. Let us return to Antonio Candido once again talking about Nietzsche: “His theory of consciousness as surface, an outcrop of obscurities that are not felt, announces psychoanalysis, as we can see in the long expositions of the will to power.

From this angle, and despite the distortion of the expression, the superman appears as a superiorly human type, – a being who manages to manifest certain life forces, mutilated in others because of the partial notion that psychology and conventional morality offer of us. . Amidst the hypocrisy, the weakness of conscience in the European bourgeoisie at the end of the century, the crafty humanitarianism with which he sought to numb the feeling of guilt, Nietzsche sometimes assumes the stature of a vigilante.

And an example of the irony that lurks in posterity in the ideas of philosophers is the fact that many of these virtues of propaedeutic hardness were incarnated, in the twentieth century, by a race of men that he always considered the progeny [descendant] of slaves. At elite revolution that implanted socialism in Russia, there were, like the impressive realization of a prophecy, the qualities of implacable rectitude that he attributes, in will to power, to the 'Legislator of the Future', – who prunes mercilessly in order to favor full expansion, and whose apparent hardness is, deep down, constructive love for men” (pp. 80-81).

From a strictly Nietzschean point of view, this is the most daring thesis presented by Antonio Candido. We can only assume what this idea, of the 1917 Revolution – which gave rise to the Soviet Union – as a realization of the Nietzschean program, may have raised among left-wing intellectuals around the critic, the same ones who thought the resumption of Nietzsche was precipitated. The unusual and courageous philosophical-political connection forces us to revisit another essay, written by Davi Arrigucci, on Antonio Candido.

The text is called “Movements of a reader: essay and critical imagination in Antonio Candido”. The beginning of the second section begins like this: “A certain desire for intimate annulment, in favor of a more generous movement of humanization, which can be perceived in Candido's works, immediately makes one think of some of his favorite or at least remarkable readings. (…) This is the case with regard to Nietzsche, for example, who proposed a brilliant and unusual reinterpretation in 1946, a moment when the thinker was abhorred as a precursor of Nazism”.[ix]

I do not intend to discuss the interpretation of Nietzsche developed by Antonio Candido in “The Carrier” and re-elaborated throughout the conversation in 2007. Not that it is not of great interest, but because I do not consider that his essay on Nietzsche can be treated as one of the many philosophical exegeses produced among us. The text was not written to enter into the strict debate about Nietzsche as it takes place in the university space.

As I am reading it here, it is a historical document before anything else. However, it would be disrespectful to the critic to solemnly ignore the depth of his bold reading. The testimony makes it clear that he did not accept the gratuitous praise of the essay. That's why I approach another great critic, whose essay on Candido occupies a fundamental role from now on. In it, we discover that Nietzsche's place, not only in Antonio Candido's youth formation, but also in all of his later critical work, was greater than we can imagine and that, therefore, "The Carrier" is far from being an isolated text within the set of work. Arrigucci's comments help us create a fundamental balance between “Antonio Candido's Nietzsche” and the broader context of Brazilian reception.

By recovering, throughout the second section of the essay, the place of Nietzsche for Antonio Candido, Arrigucci carefully analyzes the place of “The Carrier”: “Already then [in 1946] he demonstrates, through complete fearlessness, the independence of his spirit critic and the breadth of his comprehensive vision. (...) The Nietzschean idea that man is an entity to be surpassed gives him the thread of this reinterpretation and somehow shows itself as one of the beacons of his own intellectual behavior. (…) In this pioneering essay, in fact, several profound furniture are found that attract the gaze of this critical reader, but also allow us to understand much of his way of being and the movements that he imprinted on the very form of his essays”.[X]

Arrigucci's theme is precisely the independence of Candido's reading, at the age of 28, in a movement, as he quotes more than once in "O Carrier", which should lead to "obtain yourself", another way of saying/translating the “become what you are”, in the autobiographical formula of the Ecce Homo, which was, in Candido’s words, “one of Nietzsche’s books that moved me the most”.

It is then no longer necessary to find strange the reading paths of the then young critic in relation to Nietzsche at that delicate moment, as Arrigucci assures: “(...) the points highlighted by Antonio Candido’s vision, in addition to being important for the understanding of the thinker, seem extremely revealing about their own critical position. By recomposing the Nietzschean ideal of the thinker who walks freely through life, refusing to take creative activity as an intellectual obligation and seeking to overcome the gap between knowing and living, the critic emphasizes, in the same way that he accentuated the harsh ethics of combating routine, self-indulgence, the lukewarmness of acquired positions and the acceptance of the merely given, the life-giving kinship of the thinker with the adventurer.[xi]

This did not just free Candido from academic constraints – the essay would be, as is known, the way par excellence of presenting his ideas – but in the case of Nietzsche’s recovery it meant taking a singular and independent position, which is expressed above all in a connection operated in “O Carrier” that explains everything that Davi Arrigucci defends in the essay. Candido, after attributing to the movements of Russian socialism a Nietzschean ballast, goes even further: “If Marx attempted to transmute social values ​​into what they have as a collective, he [Nietzsche] attempted a transmutation of the psychological angle, – of man taken as a unit of species, for which he is decisively marked, without ignoring, of course, all the equipment of civilization that intervenes in the process. These are attitudes that complement each other, as it is not enough to reject the bourgeois heritage at the level of production and ideologies; it is necessary to research the personal subsoil of modern man taken as an individual, revolving the conventions that are incorporated into him, and on which his mentality is based” (p. 82).

This passage is reminiscent of a comment by the critic, who shortly after this passage states that Nietzsche gave “a sentence of Pascal for all of metaphysics” (p. 80). By extension, Candido's essay is worth, when read today, many hesitations from specialists in Nietzsche, who always seem to regret the non-engagement of the philosopher with the economic-political demands of his time. It is not by chance that people revere “The Bearer” more than they read it.

The final point of this fine reading becomes increasingly clear, because recovering Nietzsche for Antonio Candido was not just a get yourself, – as many read the free spirit type, that is, as an anti-modern and solitary hero – but above all to guarantee that “all progress towards the realization of the superman means collective wealth, insofar as these affinities act secrets that, by linking it to everyone, enrich everyone through the communication of the sap” (p. 82). Candido transforms the model of Ubermensch in a humanist project. And it does so by turning the data with unfettered courage, emphasizing “Nietzsche's revolt against the mutilation of the spirit of adventure by official doctrines and his quest, on the plane of thought, to reproduce the free steps of the 'for hikers' [wanderer]”.[xii]

It is important to try to build this parallel between “O Carrier” and the statement, because many times Antonio Candido confirmed certain ideas contained in the 1947 essay, in an unequivocal act of rectitude. At a certain point in the conversation, I tried to say that “The Carrier” was one of the most important texts in terms of Nietzsche's reception in Brazil, but he modestly retorted the flattery: “that's an exaggeration”.

Then, however, he added that it was "a positive view of Nietzsche as a great humanist, as a great humanizer of men." Candido was obviously aware of his collaboration, since he did so precisely because of a mistaken context of reception, taking a firm, but always cordial, position against a facet of the establishment political and against any moral traditionalism that perhaps permeated the debate. His courage went even further, as when he stated that Nietzsche's books, “which teach how to dance, do not emanate from a professional philosopher, but from someone far above what we are used to conceiving in this way. Like few others in our time, he is a bearer of values, thanks to which knowledge is embodied and flows in the gesture of life” (p. 85). The word carrier appears for the first time right here. Nietzsche is the true bearer of the title of the essay. But what does he really carry?

Candido clarifies: “There are, in effect, beings carriers, which we may or may not find, in everyday existence and in readings that subdue the spirit. When this happens, we feel that they suddenly light up the dark corners of understanding and, unifying the mismatched feelings, reveal possibilities of a more real existence. The values ​​they bring, eminently radioactive, pierce us, leaving them translucent and often ready for the rare heroisms of action and thought. Usually, we are dazzled for a moment when we see them and, without the strength to receive them, we quibble and dodge them. The opacity is then restored, the average regains control and all that remains is the memory, of variable effects” (p. 86).

A slow conquest, which the critic mirrors in Antero de Quental's sonnet (And seated among the imperfect forms / Forever I was pale and sad🇧🇷 But he advances and does not stop, like the wanderer in the poem printed a few pages before “The Carrier” in the volume of Os Pensadores: “Os carriers, which electrified for an instant, through the mysterious participation that Nietzsche speaks of, these, continue, as he himself continued, restless and irremediable (p. 86).

In this regard, I recover a last passage from Davi Arrigucci's essay, without which much of what I present here would not be supported: “The simple exposition of these points of view, extracted from Antonio Candido's reading of Nietzsche in a youth essay, is enough to to understand how much they could have influenced the critic's own behavior, when his later trajectory is taken into account. In fact, this 46 essay rescues not only the Nietzschean view of man as 'the truth and essence of things', which had become evident in the young thinker's approach to the Greeks and which seemed to the critic, at that time, fundamental in the task of historical reorganization in the post-war world, which no longer had a divine appeal, but also concentratedly illustrates a certain critical perspective that this reader would adopt from now on”.[xiii]

At a certain point, the professor asked to resume the main subject of the interview, and started talking again about libraries and donations made to him by Sérgio Buarque de Holanda, mainly literary criticism books, when Sérgio would have said that from that moment on, only I wanted to know about history.

I would already be more than satisfied with everything I had heard, but Nietzsche would return soon after, again spontaneously: “My wife and I donated, I estimate 12 volumes to Unicamp, when we sold our house in Poços de Caldas. Dad's Nietzsche is all at Unicamp. We donated three thousand five hundred volumes to Unicamp”. Antonio Candido even mentioned Nietzsche a few times, but at moments that were unimportant for the discussion of “The Bearer”.

There was still time to talk briefly about another professor and critic, Benedito Nunes. The subject arose thanks to Candido's reference to his personal library, "a madness like any other", since at times, according to him, a book only serves to prepare a class, sometimes "10 pages" and the book returns to the shelf. I mentioned a visit to Professor Benedito Nunes's “house-library” in Belém and, straight away, Candido said that “Benedito must have 20.000 volumes, something like that”.

It was the necessary motto for him to remember his colleague affectionately: “I like him very much. His uncle who lived here, Carlos Alberto Nunes, author of the poem “Os Brasileidas”, an epic poem, has 20 cantos, blank verses about the conquest of the Amazon. He was a medical hygienist here in São Paulo. It's crazy. He translated all of Shakespeare's work, he translated Plato, he translated Kant, a tremendous guy. Carlos Alberto Nunes lived on Rua Canuto do Val, he didn't have any children, he had an apartment here and an apartment in front, the apartment in front was... Benedito is a real guy! I like Maria Silvia's boy very much. When I was director here in Campinas, I invited Benedito and he gave a course here. He came with Maria Silvia”.

As was to be expected, if there was any disagreement or theoretical issue with Benedito Nunes, it made no difference in that memory, leaving only the memory of friendship, the passion for knowledge and the humanist vision that united them – Benedito was another advanced reader of the Nietzsche's work. These brief moments, which I have tried to summarize here, obviously do not replace the reading of “The Carrier”. Its strength remains and takes on even greater symbolism after the disappearance of the essential figure of its author. It is not a paltry impression when a feeling of helplessness overtakes us after such a loss. The impression that even the most advanced clarification may be insufficient to stop the advance of authoritarianism is one of the great obstacles that we must face as readers and teachers. To lose him was to lose part of our certainties, together now that Brazil needs lucidity as never before.

In the immediate post-war period, when no redemptive belief was possible, Candido finished his text by reading Nietzsche, interpreting him with the same finesse that he did with all the literature that served as a source throughout his life.

“The Greeks were the opposite of all realists, because, to tell the truth, they only believed in the reality of men and gods, and they considered all of nature as a kind of disguise, masquerading and metamorphosis of these god-men. For them, man was the truth and essence of things; the rest was nothing more than a phenomenon and a mirage”.[xiv]

About this passage, he comments: “In our time, when the first phase of history opens in which it will be necessary to reorganize the world without appealing to the divine, what better thing could be said to install man in his pure humanity?” (p. 87). Today, a few decades after “The Carrier” was published, when man was reduced to a perishable fact, to a residue of what we called humanity, when the Bible gained a bench in the National Congress, it is not enough to repeat the final call of “O Carrier” (“Recuperemos Nietzsche”), we must turn to our great readers of Brazilian life, perhaps our only chance to meet again.

Let's get Antonio Candido back.

*Henry Burnett is a professor of philosophy at Unifesp. Author, among other books, of Nietzsche, Adorno and a bit of Brazil (Unifesp Publisher).

This article is part of the Henry Burnett collection. Music alone: ​​texts gathered. Brasília, DF: Selo Caliban/Editora da UnB, 2021 (in press).


[I] The interview in which Antonio Candido commented on “The Carrier” was given to Professor Ana Nemi (EFLCH/UNIFESP) and me in May 2007. Excerpts from the interview were published in the book RODRIGUES, J., org., NEMI, ALL., LISBOA, KM., and BIONDI, L. The Federal University of São Paulo at 75 Years: essays on history and memory [online]. São Paulo: Unifesp, 2008. 292 p. ISBN: 978-85-61673-83-3. AvailablefromSciELO Books: The excerpts about “The Carrier” remained unpublished until the publication of this text.

[ii]Antonio Candido, “The bearer”. In: the literary observer (3rd edition, revised and expanded by the author), Rio de Janeiro, Ouro sobre Azul, 2004, p. 79 (I quote, from here on, only the page numbers of this edition). Regarding the interview, the reader will notice the absence of pagination and the clear difference in tone.

[iii] Notes in square brackets are attempts to make some passages clearer and are my sole responsibility.

[iv] Daniel Halévy, French historian and essayist, published his biography La vie de Frédéric Nietzsche for the first time in 1909, by Calmann-Lévy, Paris. Halévy's book aroused the fury of Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche, since it aligned with the Basel tradition against the spurious use of posthumous. Antonio Candido's reference concerns the volume Nietzsche, published by Grasset, in Paris, in 1944. It is a 2nd edition, which incorporated the updated debate on Nietzsche, such as the Nazi question. The Brazilian translation, published by Editora Campus with a translation by Roberto Cortes de Lacerda and Waltensir Dutra, is from 1988. About Halévy, see Jacques Le Rider. Nietzsche in France. From lafinduXIXe. siècleautempsprésent. Paris: PUF, 1999, pp. 111-115.

[v] Certainly the “two long footnotes” are a reference to the two parts of the text, as they appeared in the Diário de S. Paulo in 1947, as indicated in the research by Vinicius Dantas. The text was originally published under the title “Notes on Literary Criticism – A Brief Note on a Great Theme” (parts I and II), the first on 30/1/1947 and the second on 6/2/1947, “Republished , this and the previous one, with the title 'The bearer', in NIETZSCHE, Friedrich. Incomplete work (selection and texts by Gérard Lebrun). São Paulo: Abril Cultural, 1974, pp. 419-24, up to the 3rd ed.”. Vinicius Dantas, Bibliography of Antonio Candido, Col. Critical Spirit, São Paulo, Duas Cidade/Ed. 34, 2002, p. 80.

[vi] Karl Schlechta was responsible for one of the most important editions of Nietzsche's works, today designated as SA, “Schlechta-Ausgabe” (Edition-Schlechta), published in 1954 by Carl Hanser Verlag of Munich. The reader should note that the 1st edition of Schlechta comes after the writing of the essay “The Carrier”, which indicates that Professor Candido initially worked with the French translations of Nietzsche's work. We certainly don't need to incense Antonio Candido's text, which speaks for itself, but the fact is that, by all indications, he never owned the German critical edition. If the Schlechta-Edition has undeniable merits, we know that despite having eliminated the will to power of the framework of Nietzsche's works, kept the posthumous fragments out of chronological order. All these problems did not compromise the critic's accurate reading, not only from a historical point of view, but above all from a philological point of view.

[vii] French professor Jean Maugüé taught at the former Faculty of Philosophy, Letters and Sciences of the University of São Paulo, between 1935 and 1944.

[viii] In the only note in the text, inserted in the 1st edition ofthe literary observer, Candido informs: “Today, after Karl Schlechta’s work and edition, we know for sure that the will to power, as it was published, especially in the latest editions, called complete, is nothing more than an arbitrary ordering of fragments that had not been intended for any systematic work. O work and its specious implications were born from the fraudulent interest of his sister and their collaborators, naïve or conscious accomplices (Note of 1959)” (p. 83).

[ix] Davi Arrigucci, “Movements of a reader: essay and critical imagination in Antonio Candido”, Folha de São Paulo, Letras section, 23/11/1991, p. 6-4.

[X] Ibid.

[xi] Ibid.

[xii]  Ibid.

[xiii] Ibid.

[xiv] The excerpt belongs to the book Philosophy in the tragic age of the Greeks, quoted with minor variations.

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