History and stories of a photograph



Several theorists of Aesthetics and writers have already established that a photo – as well as a lyric poem – is the fragment of a narrative. I add: of one, no; of several, although there is, of course, a key narrative that paves the way for the others.

The veterans (standing, from left to right): professors Antonio Candido, Alfredo Bosi, José Aderaldo Castelo and Décio de Almeida Prado.

Young people: (standing) José Miguel Wisnik; (seated, also from left to right) Zenir Campos Reis, Flávio Aguiar, Roberto Brandão, Amaury Sanchez, Antonio Dimas and Alcides Villaça.

Behind the camera (a German Voitgländer, model from the 50s), photographer: Lígia Chiappini Moraes Leite.

Location: on a corner, near the Administration building of the Faculty of Philosophy, Letters and Human Sciences of the University of São Paulo, Brazil.

Date: second half of December, 1976.

This photo has been circulating the virtual world since its release at the Ocupação Antonio Candido show at the Itaú Cultural building, in 2018. It has already appeared in some publications. It is part of the collection of Professor Antonio Candido, now at the Institute of Brazilian Studies at USP, and also of the collection of Professor Décio de Almeida Prado, at the Moreira Salles Institute (São Paulo). As the camera used was mine (a gift from my father), I provided the development and a copy (18 x 24) for each of the participants, including the photographer.

Several theorists of Aesthetics and writers have already established that a photo – as well as a lyric poem – is the fragment of a narrative. I add: of one, no; of several, although there is, of course, a key narrative that paves the way for the others.

In this case, the photo records the final moment of the selection process for young professors of Brazilian Literature at the Faculty of Philosophy, Letters and Human Sciences at the University of São Paulo. Lígia, who took the photo, did not belong to the discipline's staff; she was from Literary Theory, whose leader and professor was Professor Antonio Candido, by us academic seals, called the Master or simply the Professor. Lígia had appeared to fraternize with us. Professor Décio (who was not on the examining board) and colleague Nadia Battella Gotlib , who at the time belonged to the discipline of Portuguese Literature but who, later on, would join the Brazilian Literature department also appeared. Professors José Carlos Garbuglio and Helio Lopes, already effective, and professor Neusa Pinsard Cacchese, who did not take the exam, also belonged to the LB. Antonio Candido, Alfredo Bosi and José Aderaldo Castelo formed the examining board.

The contest was open to masters and doctors. Those with a doctorate were appointed to the position, which was for a master, but “jumped” to the position above, freeing up the vacancy. Thus, in the two years of validity of the contest, it was possible to hire all those who took part.

This story – that of the contest – is, however, only the tip of the iceberg, the surface of the photo.

The deep story starts a few years earlier.

After the disintegration of the former Faculty of Philosophy, Sciences and Letters at USP, between 1968 and 1969, provoked by the paramilitary attack by the extreme right against the building on Rua Maria Antônia, from the neighboring Universidade Presbiteriana Mackenzie, with the support of the , its departments were forced to move to the Campus of Cidade Universitária, neighboring the Butantan neighborhood, as it was written at the time. The disaggregation was consolidated with the university reform, completed in 1970, and from it emerged the current Faculty of Philosophy, Letters and Human Sciences, the FFLCH (called Fefeléch), in which the components were specializing in different departments: Philosophy; Social Sciences was divided into Sociology, Anthropology and Political Science; Literature was divided into Classical and Vernacular, Modern, Oriental, Literary Theory and Comparative Literature, and Linguistics. Initially Orientals, Linguistics and Literary Theory integrated the same department, due to the need to educate a certain number of doctors in its staff. Then there was the amicable separation.

The “Chair”, as it was called then, instead of “Discipline” or “Program”, in today's terms, of Brazilian Literature was Classics and Vernaculars. These departments spread across the Campus. The de Letras “hosted” in the so-called “Barracões”, which should belong to the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, and today house the Institute of Psychology. History and Geography stayed in the building that now bears his name. Philosophy and Social Sciences graduates stayed in the building that today also bears their name. Beside this, the slow construction of a building that should be the future of Letters began. And the Faculty Administration moved to the building at Rua do Lago, n. 717. As in a Greek tragedy, the Faculty that was seen as a major challenger to the Civil-Military Dictatorship was dismembered, shattered, in an authentic ritual of sparagmos, as with Pentheus, in “The Bacchae”, by Euripides.

This dismemberment had sources and defenders. One of these sources was undoubtedly the desire of the “System”, as the dominant political “Establishment” in Brazil was called, in its different dimensions (military, police, federal and state), to simply close the Faculty, particularly the departments of Social Sciences and Philosophy, which were literally decimated by the forced retirement processes in 1969, based on Institutional Act n• 5, which would also affect several university units at USP and throughout Brazil.

Another very strong factor was the desire, legitimate for many, to create independent institutes, as were the graduates of the former Faculty of Maria Antônia, in the field of exact sciences. This is not the place to go into the academic merits of this debate. I register that these impulses generated a contrary movement, of “protection” to the most persecuted departments. Even professors who would be in favor of the creation of an Institute of Letters, for example, positioned themselves against this movement, in the name of protecting those most affected by the will of the dictatorial regime.

At the same time as all this, a “secret system” for assessing new contracts was institutionalized, embodied in the secret presence (ma non troppo) of an agent from the National Information Service (SNI) in the Rectory building, next to the Rector’s office. . All new contracts should pass through the sieve of that master with the tether and cleaver over them. Not a few contracts were wrecked in the murky waters of that accursed room.

One of the effects of the University Reform of 1969/1970 (under the auspices of the infamous MEC-USAID agreements) was the increase in the number of vacancies throughout the higher education system. Procedures for new hires began to be set up – including at FFLCH, also at Letters and, of course, at Brazilian Literature. At that time, hiring was done by invitation from the remaining Professor (from the old system) or Holder (from the new career). And that was how, in 1972, three graduate students of Literary Theory, at master's level, were invited by Professor Castelo to join LB: me, José Miguel and the late João Luiz Machado Lafetá. Zenir, who was doing postgraduate studies in Brazilian Literature, was also invited on this occasion. Lafetá declined the invitation: he had always wanted to be a professor of Literary Theory. Me and Zé (sorry for the intimacy…), plus Zenir, accepted. I had been recommended by professor Décio to work with him in the area of ​​Brazilian dramaturgy, since my master's work was on the gaucho playwright Qorpo-Santo (with guidance from professor Walnice Nogueira Galvão).

There was a catch, however. It was common, at that time, especially in the areas of Humanities, for guests to give classes – sometimes for years – free of charge, because contracts dragged through the labyrinthine drawers of USP – and stopped, “due to lack of funds”. As a matter of friendship and also of “labor and union unity”, me, Zé and Zenir signed a pact, which we communicated to Prof. Castelo and the other members of the “Cadeira”. We would teach, yes, without receiving, while our contracts “walked” through the bureaucratic intricacies of the University. If they stopped “due to lack of funds”, we would stop teaching – a threat of a sui generis strike, before any contract: an unemployed strike…

No sooner said than done. The contracts were processed. They were approved in the Department, in this Commission, in that Commission, in the Congregation of the Faculty and bam! Due to lack of funds, they were shelved. And we announced that we would suspend our participation in classes.

We were branded crazy. Postgraduate colleagues told us: “you will lose the nomination! Prof. Castelo will indicate others! The other teachers of Brasileira will not be able to handle the overload!”. Professor Castelo, I must say, was a conservative country man. Integrity. Whole. How I miss those conservatives of yesteryear, people with straight spines and clean faces, in the face of today's worms! Professor Castelo gathered the members of the “Cadeira”, and the decision was unanimous: 'let's support the boys”. And he, who represented the “Chair” in the Department Council and in the Congregation, sustained it. As a matter of fact, I reiterate that, even when defeated in voting on the subject, Professor Castelo always supported collective decisions in higher instances.

With the impasse created, the drawers moved – and the budget fell from heaven or rose from hell, I still don't know. We went back to work and finally the contracts were signed – at the end of the following year, 1973, retroactive to March 8 (to this day I don't know why this day). It was a party, a victory. Since then, “voluntary teaching”, as usual, has fallen into disuse. I think, with absolute modesty, that me, Zé and Zenir (another who left prematurely for the eternal hunting grounds!) would deserve a bronze plaque somewhere, even if it's in the hearts of today's hires...). I must also say that the support of our graduate advisors – Walnice, in my case, was broad, total and unrestricted.

Other contracts followed: Alcides and Amaury. Professor Bosi, who was from Italian, was also moving to Brazilian. The broth began to thicken, in a good way.

The new hires for the Letters departments came at an extra political cost. The Rectory conditioned the granting of funds to the transfer of courses to the former CRUSP. There was an assembly in which only full and full professors participated. As in the old Iliad or at the beginning of Zé Bebelo's trial, in “Grande Sertão: Veredas”, only the chiefs had the right to speak.

The proposal was accepted by a difference of one vote. Thus, we became a kind of “Occupation Army”, to prevent CRUSP from becoming a student residence again, something banned by the dictators on duty. The classrooms – which are still called Colmeias, due to their hexagonal shape – were built at the same time and we, the teachers, occupied the apartments in two of the residential blocks, C and D. This transfer was also part of of the idea of ​​dividing the Faculty, with the creation of some specialized institutes, among them, an Institute of Arts.

However, in a way the plan backfired. In 1974, the proposal to separate Arts from the rest of the Faculty was formalized. A new assembly was held. But this time there were no more conditions to bring together only the “greaters”. The call had to be open, “under pressure from the grassroots” for all teachers. The plebeian Riobaldos became demanding. And the presence of younger people tipped the balance, or rebalanced it. By a large difference, the proposal to remain in FFLCH won. The proposed division would return to the agenda several times in the following years, without success. But that would be the subject of another article.

I will now tell you a picturesque detail. Professor Décio and I shared the same apartment, with a bathroom with shower and everything, on the third floor of Block C at CRUSP. One day he came up to me and said: “Flávio, we are colleagues now. You no longer need to call me 'sir'. Call me 'you'.” Of course I obeyed. That lasted three months. At the end of this time, I went to the teacher and said: “Décio, you are going to allow me something. I can't keep calling you 'you'. I will continue to call you 'Sir' and 'Professor'.” So it was said, so it was done. He laughed a lot. We became friends forever.

There were other mishaps. USP used an unusual legal figure to hire new professors: the “precarious contract”. Valid for three years. And it had to be renovated. Furthermore, in the Humanities areas, as was also said at the time, the practice was that contracts were “Part-Time” – twelve hours a week – because the prejudice prevailed that research was not done in these areas, with one exception: Sociology, because it also dealt with numbers, “exact” things, etc. In Literature, “chalk and a blackboard” was enough, as they said. The struggle to make the Regime for Full Dedication to Teaching and Research a universal right was a long one, consuming “blood, sweat and tears”, but ended victoriously in the 80s.

In 1974 came a firecracker towards me. He lived in Parque Continental, behind USP, and without a telephone. I get home one afternoon and find a message: Professor Antonio Candido had been there, taken by Ruth Terra (another one who left too soon!), and asked me to get in touch with him immediately. He had left his home phone number. Damn! The “Formation of Brazilian Literature – Decisive Moments” – had come to meet me in person. I ran to the nearest payphone, called, and we arranged to meet the next day at USP.

He filled me in: he had been warned by prof. Erwin Rosenthal, that there was a “list” in the Rectory, with five names from the Faculty, two from Arts, including mine, it was not known for what purpose. It could be that we would be arrested… After a few days, the reason was known: our contracts had to be terminated. “Orders from Brasilia”, it was said, through the notorious SNI agent.

I had my skirmishes at DOI-CODI, that must be it. The Professor offered me a place of refuge, a certain farm in Minas Gerais… Delicately, I refused. We decided to pay to see. Or see to pay. A defense committee was formed. Prof. Décio, Prof. Castelo, Walnice, as well as others, sought out Prof. Eurípedes Simões de Paula, hero of FEB, and he sought out the then rector, Orlando Marques de Paiva. Talk from here, talk from there, the prof, Eurípedes got an appointment. Contracts would be maintained but not renewed. A termination, even in those dictatorial times, would cause serious legal problems for the university. As USP's so-called precarious contracts were illegal, we could file a labor lawsuit, and win compensation, for example, since no one was impeached or retired by Act 5. And everything continued as it was, at least temporarily, just with more adrenaline in the veins.

However, the old world is without a gate and goes round and round. Some big things happened next. Still in 1974, in the national election, the opposition won in the sum of votes, leading the then president Geisel to plan the “slow, safe and gradual distension”. Although he only put it into practice after the Massacre da Lapa, in December 1976, when members of the leadership of the PCdoB, the last guerrilla group in the country, were murdered.

At the beginning of 1975, the professor of History, Eduardo d'Oliveira França, took over as director of the Faculty. During his management, the procedures for obtaining vacancies for the 1976 contest began. However, he did not warm up to the chair of the board. Too democratic for the regime of exception, he was called to the lines by the then Secretary of Security of the state of São Paulo, Colonel Erasmo Dias. His sins: Professor Angelo Ricci, impeached by the dictatorship at UFRGS, of whom I had the honor of being a student, had participated in Professor Boris Chnaiderman's doctoral committee, which was prohibited. And Professor França refused to denounce “subversive” students. Colonel Erasmo literally forced him to resign. Professor Eurípedes resumed as director.

In October of that year, journalist and professor Vladimir Herzog was murdered on the premises of DOI-CODI, and in January 1976, it was the turn of metallurgist worker Manoel Fiel Filho, in the same place. Herzog's murder provoked strong commotion at USP, with the outbreak of institutional protests throughout the university, including at FFLCH. At this time I was a representative of teaching assistants in the Congregation of the Faculty. Led by veteran professors such as Antonio Candido, the Congregation vehemently approved a protest to be sent to the University Council.

In this meeting there was an unusual fact. The Congregation room was literally invaded by a large delegation of students and professors, headed by none other than Professor Maria Isaura Pereira de Queiroz, one of the Deans of the Faculty and herself a first-class academic institution in Brazil and in the world. A sharp dialogue ensued between her and Professor Eurípedes, director of the FFLCH and president of the Congregation. He demanded the protesters withdraw, threatening to suspend the meeting if this did not happen. She and the others said they would only withdraw after the Congregation approved a note of repudiation of Herzog's murder. Already at that moment, no one in their right mind believed the official version of suicide. There was mediation on the part of Antonio Candido and other professors, guaranteeing that the Congregation would approve the note, and the cortege withdrew. As a ship's captain, teacher Maria Isaura was the last to leave. The note was unanimously approved by those present.

In January the new murder, this time of the worker, provoked the somewhat dramatic resignation of the Commander of the Second Army, General Ednardo d'Ávila Mello. Manoel Fiel Filho was murdered (also “suicide” in the official version) on January 16th. On the 19th, General Ednardo received an apparently formal visit from General Dilermando Gomes Monteiro, then Head of the Army's Education and Research Department, and a man of Geisel's confidence. Upon being received, the “visitor” General informed the “host” that he, Dilermano, was the new commander, by appointment of the President of the Republic, and that a car was waiting for Ednardo at the exit of the building, to take him directly to the airport, where he should board for Brasilia. His luggage would follow later. It is said that General Ednardo lost his voice for a few hours. I know these details because General Dilermando was related to someone very close to my then family. O tempora, o mores!

On the other hand, new threats emerged at USP, this time reaching prof. Paulo Emílio Salles Gomes, at the time assigned to Literary Theory. Again: they were “orders from Brasilia”. Paulo Emilio was very experienced, courageous, and had a warm back. He had no doubts: he went directly to Second Army Command. He managed to be received by a Colonel. He laid out the case and wanted to know what was against him. The Colonel called him after a few days and was adamant: nothing had come from Brasília, not a single order. And so began to dismantle one of the great farces of USP. Everything – the lists, etc. – had been forged within the university itself, of course, with the complicity of that SNI agent in the little room. Some time later, the so-called “SNI advisor” was photographed entering the Rectory building, in an authentic ambush set up for him by Perseu Abramo, then a journalist on the board of Folha de S. Paulo, with the help of leaders of the newly created (or recreated ) Association of Professors of the University of São Paulo, ADUSP, of which Antonio Candido was the first elected vice-president. There that arbitrary excrescence actually began to end.

And so the five on that 1974 list stayed at USP, and my contract was renewed at the beginning of 1976. I was therefore able to participate in the contest at the end of the year. And so the photo can happen, with my camera, a gift from my father.

Then came other photos, and other adventures. But these are for another.

* Flavio Aguiar is a writer, retired professor of Brazilian literature at USP and author, among other books, of Chronicles of the World Upside Down (Boitempo)

PS Thanks to my colleague Antonio Dimas who gave great writing suggestions and helped me jog my memory.

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