Oswald de Andrade's unprecedented daring



Book excerpt One hundred years of Modern Art Week

In an unexpected gesture within the scope of our cordial academic practices, a professor at UFRGS, Luis Augusto Fischer, scholar speaking from outside the prestigious USPian circuit, became public, a few years ago, through Folha de São Paulo, finding it strange the central role that the 22 movement came to occupy in Brazilian culture. He then attributed the magnification of his importance to the imposing force of the São Paulo cabinet. And I noticed, on the same occasion, formulating it loud and clear, perhaps for the first time so frankly, in an open arena, after the traditional institutional interventions also outside the walls of the group of concretists, that the impressive force of the Week on us did not separates itself from the pedagogical force of the critical current emerging from the first literate ranks of our first university. That formation that, retaining the late Mário de Andrade who repudiates the intellectual orgy of the past and proposes a new political charter of principles, jealous of a committed art, endorses and disseminates it.

Along with this, he also dared to point out the existence of a certain “blind spot” in the work princeps by Antonio Candido, the Formation of Brazilian Literature. Namely: a certain direction in the examination of the process of our literary maturation through leaps in quality or “decisive moments” explained there that will make it end before Machado de Assis, that is, so to speak, before the end. The examination taking us to word artists considered by founders that Oswald would call sleepy, it should be added.

The professor thus dared to relativize the size of such a maximum reference to dominant critical currents referred to it, since the 1960s, dating from the first works of Roberto Schwarz, which a thinker from the same university in São Paulo, Paulo Arantes , you could say of her, in the nineties, in The meaning of training, which is “the “highest moment of literary theory in the country”. An assessment that continues Schwarz's notes on the degree of elaboration of Candido's analysis, when he establishes the link between literature and social reality, which is his greatest hallmark.

In fact, Fischer not only notes that it is the interpretative model of Basic which makes us recognize, from north to south, what is a national literature worthy of the name. Or that it is in accordance with the type of understanding of a Brazil that is finally literary genuine, or of a literature that is finally genuinely Brazilian, proposed there that we start teaching, at all undergraduate and postgraduate levels, what is or is not possible artistic expression of a country like ours. But it is surprising that the book ignores the greatest Brazilian writer, summing up to deposit, as it deposits, in the Arcadian and romantic painters of the local color the virtue of making us join the tram of the history of the West, which we have already caught walking , by the hands of Antonio Gonzaga and Gonçalves Dias.

If it is true that we have never disagreed, in any national forum, regarding the absolutely central importance of the author of Dom Casmurro, even if, for these critics, its great value lies in the way it stands up to the contradictory country, with its ideological comedy, while, for those others, all its greatness concerns more technical things such as the use it makes of Swift's irony or Flaubert's indirect speech, which is what would have earned him, in fact, for one of the lines, the vaunted narrative volubility that the other attributes to him, on the other hand, it is a fact that Candido's system does not go without triggering an instigating disagreement about the status of our colonial productions. With less or more repercussion by literature departments, editorial circuits and philosophical cafés, he goes towards seeing them either as no more than foreign, Portuguese and separate, or as universal as it is, for example, despite the roots Shakespeareanism, French romanticism.

The divergence encompassing, here, that sense of nation and nationality which, according to the supposed best thesis, will end up endowing creative works with preponderant qualities such as the feeling of place and local themes, there, a perception of the poetic function or formal paradigm that contests content and the Brazilianization of muses. Hence, you can find Basic, that the manifestation of nativist themes gives rise to our “true literature” and that this is “a historically most beneficial frame of mind” for the “literary incarnation of the national spirit”. While, in other theoretical-critical devices such as Ttheory of concrete poetry, we have already found that these are the words that have “personality and history”.

One hundred years after Modern Art Week, it is perhaps high time to consider the prior presence of Oswald de Andrade, with his crooked spoon, in the discussion. Or to reopen a certain lesser-known part of the anthropophagic archive, which continues Oswaldian topics previously only brilliantly summarized in the axioms of the manifestos such as the crisis of messianic philosophy and the march of utopias. To see that, already in the thesis presented in 1945 to the chair of Brazilian Literature at the Faculty of Philosophy, Sciences and Letters of USP, entitled “A Arcádia e a Inconfidência”, a document today found among the poetic-doctrinal essays in volume VI of the Obras Completas , published in 1972, organized by Benedito Nunes, it already takes the path that would become that of the criticism of Candido's criticism.

Since he already maintains there, faithful to his more anthropological than sociological way of investigating what comes before dated beginnings, or linear histories, that there was, indeed, literary life in the illiterate colony, and a most honorable one. That even it would have been more subtle than the one that took place in Brazil in the 18th century, with these “tasteless” verse writers, with the names of Greek shepherds, who are the Arcadians, and these “boring” lyricists who are the romantic poets, to whom Candido gives up all the space. When from Oswald's angle, they bring nothing really new, they are in the most obedient descent of ancient lyrics well implanted in Portuguese classicism, via France. In the author's fierce language, in general, they are nothing more than manifestations of a band from Minas Gerais of “new poor people of love”. Always dreaming of his “girlfriend”, who has now taken on the appearance of the young girl from Vila Rica, Marília de Dirceu, who, yes, appears in the window of our city… but “with the air of an ancient nymph”.

In fact, it exists in this final part of Oswald's work, and it has yet to be properly appreciated - whether by readers who did not go beyond the manifestos of the heroic phase, or by observers unprepared for his shock rhetoric, of which the very first Candido de light brigade said, in the 1940s, that it is “verbal gogorism” and the result of “easy stylization” _, an entire review of this first Brazilian literary crop with which the aesthetic sociology of Basic so much play. And this is one corpus so much more interesting for the researcher of the events of 22, destined to be covered by the success of Mario de Andrade's esteem, as it occurs basically in the same terms as the good fight to be bought in the future, within the same revisionist spirit, by Haroldo de Andrade. Campos, in this critical volume from the 1980s, practically ignored in well-thinking departmental spheres, which is O Kidnapping of the Baroque – The Gregório de Matos case.

Since this last Oswald we are talking about hits the exact same chord as Haroldo who restores Gregório de Matos to the canon. Whatever: it is the earrings of the kidnapped poet's Luso-Bahian gongorism that are great literature, in the general context of our initial written productions, because they imply an “inner migration” and have “verbal magic”. While the “get-togethers” of Arcadianism are “spiritless” and the love atmosphere of Romanticism is “senseless”.

A worthy thinker of his time who is familiar with Marx and Freud and who, moreover, at the time of the 1950s, was reading Sartre and Lévi-Strauss, as can be seen from his quotations, Oswald opens with perhaps the most incisive, scathing and, above all, essay part of the collection _ the one called “Arcádia and Inconfidência”, describing the position of Minas Gerais within the framework of the Portuguese economy, throughout the XNUMXth century. In this step, he dedicates himself to noting how the entire grandeur of the Metropolis, at the time in the midst of the gold rush, was dependent on fiscal oppression over the colony, and how, from the middle of the century onwards, with the exhaustion of mining, poorly equipped and poorly managed, and the reduction in the collection of contributions charged from Brazil, the “Derrama dream” is emerging in Ultramar. Circumstances aggravated by the fact that Portugal, having won its autonomist struggles against Spain, fell under the sphere of influence of imperialist England, leaving it with its “vocation as a dock”.

It is in this situation of decline, when Portugal tightens its siege on Brazil, trying to recover economically through its bailiff governors - writes Oswald, moving from context to text, and not the other way around - that the poets' camouflaged word insinuates itself- shepherds. Who are imbued with such a fear of harming the established order that they hide behind those “precious and idyllic pseudonyms” and those “harmless verses”.

Oswald's scrutiny is increasingly cruel there. It is amidst all this “yawning” of this circle of minor poets _ the essay follows _, that the first “romantic spasms of the future Inconfidentes” appear. At the University of Coimbra, they had acquired a good Gallic taste, a measured virtuosity, and along with that, they had come to despise Gôngora. More concerned with liberating Brazil than with problems of expression, and attached to the “Kestrel” protocol, they will not significantly break with the insipidity of pastoral poetry, but will continue it, at the level of what matters, the form, falling into the “fastidious reverence of Arcadia”, making “the old aesthetic wheel” turn. Apart from the difference between their “amorous sweetness” and the courtship of their loved ones, the verses remain old.

From Oswald's perspective, not even because the context is independent is there revolt transferred to the expressive plane. The political era does not necessarily coincide with the literary one, as in Candido, by making the chronology of ideas and dates coincide. The Mineira School is that of the Revolution, yes, but the nativist romantics are less revolutionary for their art and more for the cause they defend, at least until they are exiled, when we will see them change their faith and loves. The essay ends with disturbing phrases, which also ask to be seen as precursors of the Frankfurt philosophers' critique of the administered Enlightenment world, such as this: “The Inconfidentes indicated to future generations in Brazil the role of the intellectual in the struggles for human progress”. And this other one, which is the corrosive golden closure of the chapter: “The Inconfidentes are poets at the service of human progress and the future”. We already know what Anthropophagy thinks about human progress and the future.

In fact, there was an outline, more or less half a century in advance, of the main repairs to the Hijacking of the baroque to a Brazilian romanticism that, if for Candido and his readers it is the starting point of a gradual historical process of recognition of the country through literature, for an Oswald worshiper like Haroldo, it exists much more in a historical perspective than an artistic one. Admitting that recognizing a literature is not quite explaining its way of being in the real world, in this case the periphery of capitalism, but highlighting its way of shortcutting the languages ​​from which the arts of words are made. Historical presence is no guarantee of poetic pregnancy. There is not necessarily a contradiction between poetic presence and historical absence.

The interesting thing about all this is that Oswald and company dare to suspect the quality of a poetry that, despite being fatal for Candido and his apprentices, only seems worthy of note when tied to the air of time. Reason enough not to enter forcibly, as intended by the Basic, among those that stand the test of time. The ones we call classic, in the sense of eternal. .

According to Oswald, literature is always oracular, it comes from the depths of time, reviving its Arch. Judging by the dizzying new stories of the resurgences, which are now, more than ever, taking the past as contemporary, to draw transversal lessons from it, what might still be intriguing about the Week, a hundred years later, if revisited with Oswald and company, It is precisely the actuality of the transtemporal vision of Anthropophagy, which vulgar Marxism exchanges for the notion of progress.

As the Anthropophagous Manifesto: “Against the stories of man that begin at Cape Finisterre. The undated world.”

*Leda Tenório da Motta She is a professor at the Postgraduate Studies Program in Communication and Semiotics at PUC-SP. Author, among other books, of One hundred years of Modern Art Week: The São Paulo cabinet and the conjuration of the avant-gardes (Perspective). [https://amzn.to/48ZzRJ8]


Leda Tenório da Motta. One hundred years of Modern Art Week: the São Paulo office and the conjuration of the avant-gardes. Perspective, 136 pages. [https://amzn.to/48ZzRJ8]


FISCHER, Luis Augusto. “Schwarz Taught Machado de Assis to Read the Country, but Thesis Runs into Limits”. Folha de S.Paulo, São Paulo, 11 Nov. 2017.

FISCHER, Luis Augusto. “Down with São Paulo Modernism”. Interview. Folha de S.Paulo. São Paulo, 23 Aug. 2008.

ARANTES, Paulo. “Providences of a Literary Critic on the Periphery of Capitalism”. In: ARANTES, Paulo; ARANTES, Otilia. Meaning of Formation: Three Studies on Antonio Candido, Gilda de Mello e Souza and Lúcio Costa. São Paulo: Paz e Terra, 1997.

CANDID, Antonio. Formation of Brazilian Literature: Decisive Moments, v. 1: 1750-1836. Belo Horizonte/Rio de Janeiro: Itatiaia, 2000.

CANDID, Antonio. Light Brigade and Other Writings. São Paulo: Editora da Unesp, 1992.

ANDRADE, Oswald. From Pau-Brasil to Anthropophagy and Utopias: Manifestos, Competition Theses and Essays. Introduction by Benedito Nunes. Rio de Janeiro: Brazilian Civilization, 1972. (Obras Completas, v. 6.)

ANDRADE, Oswald. Pau-Brasil Poetry Manifesto; Anthropophagous Manifesto. In: SCHWARTZ, Jorge. Latin American Vanguards: Manifestos and Critical Texts. São Paulo: Iluminuras/Edusp/Fapesp, 1995.

CAMPOS, Haroldo de. The Hijacking of the Baroque in the Formation of Brazilian Literature: The Gregório de Matos Case. Salvador: Casa de Jorge Amado Foundation, 1989.

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