reading and rereading



Commentary on the book by Walnice Nogueira Galvão

It is a collection of texts published between 1997 and 2018, in the style of the author who, from the controversial and, at the time, surprising cat bag[I], takes up texts, published in a given period, in different means of dissemination, re-presenting them in new sets that revealed and continue to reveal their relevance and the much that they still have to teach us, provoking and surprising. In fact, these writings encourage reading and rereading, since they were individually published in different vehicles—magazines, newspapers, and books, among others—until they reappear in this new set in which they end up gaining new meanings.

What we are offered there are questions, analyzes and interpretations of texts, here taken in a broad sense and always taking into account their contexts, without losing sight of the relationship with our present, but avoiding falling into anachronism. The text here must be taken in a broad sense, since, in addition to the more usual genres, to which literary criticism is dedicated – novels, short stories, poetry, chronicles – there are letters and other documents, patiently hunted in libraries, archives and museums. Along the way, the critical eye also lands sharply on canvases by visual artists and filmmakers. And even more, on walls, the case of haiku and graffiti, to which the author dedicates an erudite and sensitive commentary, offering us phrases like this one: “The haiku insinuates and whispers, the graffiti roars and roars.” (p. 452).

The book is organized into four parts and several chapters. In the first, entitled FIGURES, it deals both with renowned foreign writers, like Edgar Allan Poe, Marcel Proust, James Joyce and Fernando Pessoa, and with the silver of the house: from Castro Alves to Oswald de Andrade, passing through scholars of society, culture and of history: Gilberto Freire and Sergio Buarque de Hollanda. There is also, of course, the obligatory presence of Euclides da Cunha and João Guimarães Rosa, authors to whom the author dedicated, since the 1970s, more intense and extensive research, which resulted in theses, critical editions and periodic retakes of the faithful reader, that rediscovers them with each rereading.

Even among the most classic foreigners, we are reintroduced in new light to an active and sharp militant Victor Hugo, Thomas Mann, master of parody and irony, and a Shakespeare, whose “verb reverberates” poetically and socially. In this case, as in several other works of the author's wide bibliographic production, the republication of the text, months before stamped in the Caderno “Mais,” draws attention. by Folha de Sao Paulo, in another journalistic vehicle, much less conventional for a classic and complex author: the magazine Globo Rural [ii]

Taste and critical discernment result in comprehensive but demanding reading, as in the case of the best scholars and critics that Walnice also presents to us, seeking to learn and teach with her work and life examples. This applies above all to his (our) great master, Antonio Candido, to whom he dedicates almost the entirety of the second part of the book. But, already in this first part, there is room for two big ones; Edmond Wilson and Casais Monteiro. In this case, the author follows the trail of his journey from Portugal to Brazil, a journey that belongs to the scholar and also to a famous poet, on whom he worked a lot: Fernando Pessoa. Among other undeniable qualities, the way in which the author exemplarily handles one of the main aspects of literary theory and history is evident: studies of the diffusion and reception of authors and works.

Interest in the work of literary and cultural criticism reappears and is concentrated in the second part, called DUO, and dedicated to Gilda and Antonio Candido de Mello e Sousa. There we can read, under the concrete cases analyzed, the effects of the beautiful marriage of philosophy and literature, exemplarily embodying the open, multiple, serious and sensitive spirit of the former Faculty of Philosophy, Sciences and Letters of the University of São Paulo, in fact, very well illustrated in a collection of interviews, organized by the same Walnice Nogueira Galvão and originally presented as a special issue of Letters Magazine from USP[iii], which has just been re-released as a book[iv] of great relevance, at a time when public universities are being scrapped, especially in the case of Humanities and the so-called pure sciences.

This second part starts prioritizing D. Gilda[v], by resuming an Aula Magna that the author taught about her in 2006, and which came out in a collective book the following year.[vi] D. Gilda's trajectory is traced there, highlighting how much her education, at the same time, erudite and popular, without any margin for populism, owes to two great masters: Mario de Andrade – who guided her in her first discoveries and choices , as uncle, writer, musicologist, critic and teacher – and Roger Bastide, whose student he was in the first classes at the Faculty of Philosophy, Sciences and Letters, as well as other professors of the so-called French mission, including Claude Lévi- Strauss and Jean Maugue.

Giving due importance to this fact right at the beginning of the text, Walnice asks permission to make a parenthesis, in her own way, about the creation of this faculty and the context that made it possible and the formation of intellectuals of the caliber of Gilda and Antonio Candido, among other eminent future professors and researchers of the house. Only apparently distanced from the figure of Gilda, the text unfolds, focusing on each of the French professors mentioned above, and, more at length, on the remarkable profile of Roger Bastide, to finally return to Gilda, revealing her as his assistant for ten years and a former doctoral student in the area of ​​aesthetic sociology, becoming the founder and professor of the discipline of Aesthetics, in the Department of Philosophy, which she joined at the invitation of another notable professor: Cruz Costa. From then on, we followed the intellectual, ethical and political growth of this discreet woman in her unforgettable greatness, among other things for the wisdom, dignity and courage with which she knew how to direct the much sought after department in difficult times, in a way saving it from extinction. pure and simple.

Part II continues with smaller and more direct texts about Antonio Candido, his life and his work, focusing on his preferences as a critic. A curiosity is highlighted here, which ends up being a guide to deepen clues and intuitions about the path and method, supported by taste and intuition – without leaving aside rationality and political-social engagement for a more inclusive society and for a world, consequently, less unfair and less unhappy for all.

Curiosity leads Walnice to ask and try answers to the almost absence of Proust among Candido's writings, when he never hid that this author was one of his favorites or more than that, he had lived in him for a long time. Aside from this curiosity, which is very productive for unraveling the critic's paths and options, Walnice deals with militancy that is not necessarily in favor of the great master, who, however, participated in the founding of two political parties in his life, almost against his will, but out of duty as a citizen. .

The third part, called LANDSCAPES, goes from the Hinterland to an iconic street in the city of São Paulo and in the country, in times of dictatorship and resistance: Rua Maria Antônia, seen as an emblematic urban and cultural landscape. Not only the Sertão and the city are seen as a living and active landscape, but also the cultural movements, reviewed in a panoramic way, are revisited as a landscape to challenge us until today, among them, modernism, the theater of resistance, the presence of left at the University and its surroundings, without ceasing to applaud the resistance of women, in a still sexist world. This part is closed with a golden key by an inventive and erudite review of the book Libraries[vii], which gives rise to a seductive tour of important libraries in the world.[viii]

Finally, the last part, FLAGRANTES, takes up some of our paradigmatic authors, from Alencar to Manuel Bandeira, passing through Lobato, and opening up to include female writers and artists, such as the indomitable and often forgotten, Pagu and Frida Kahlo.

But this author and, consequently, this book does not live only from the arts and humanities. Nothing that is socially inhumane is foreign to it. That's why her gaze extends to books, problems and people, which shed light on other important aspects of life, such as the economy and economic policy. In this case, the review of the great little book by Aloysio Biondi, privatized Brazil[ix], which denounces, with solid arguments, based on very clear numbers and graphs, the first great neoliberal wave of privatizations, still in the 90s, with the sale at an almost symbolic price of the state company Vale do Rio Doce and others, such as the the case of Telefonica.

It would soon be evident, and today it is wide open, under the apparent “China business” for the Brazilian State, in addition to the financial losses in operations backed by rotten securities, the inefficiency in management and the disregard for the environment, consumers and workers, whose Lives are put at risk by unreasonable ambition and exploitation. The book demonstrates and the review highlights the importance of pointing out and denouncing our entry into neoliberalism, which, imposing the dogma of privatization, attacks, in the name of supposed efficiency and lying honesty, public control of public goods, among which national technology is included. Any resemblance to the recent proposals for the privatization of Petrobras, the Pre-Salt, electricity, water, as well as the Amazon Forest and the Pantanal, criminally burned (by Indians, of course!) will not be mere coincidence.

But it has to be nothing, because the author does not let us lose hope, by showing that the tropics are not sad, as Lévi Strauss thought and because, shortly before the end of this book, she brings us back to D. Sebastiao, who will help us to regain our almost irreparably lost sovereignty.

Dear Reader, dear reader, I hope I have been able to describe a little of what is in this book, which reveals itself as the work of an author who is already in full control of her knowledge, instruments and method of research, analysis and interpretation, which illustrates and proves clearly a vocation, a great talent and a high capacity to exercise what Antonio Candido called the “tasks of the critic”[X]. Certainly, after going through a few pages, dear reader, you will discover that this is a book to be visited and revisited, to play, learn and learn while traveling pleasantly through time and space, without leaving your armchair. Bon voyage.

*Ligia Chiappini is professor of Brazilian Literature and Culture at the Institute of Latin American Studies at Freie Universität Berlin. Author, among other books, of When the homeland travels: a reading of Antonio Callado's novels.


Walnice Nogueira Galvão. Reading and rereading. São Paulo/Rio de Janeiro: Sesc / Ouro sobre Azul, 2020, 512 pages.


[I] Saco de Gatos, São Paulo, publisher Duas Cidades, 1976.

[ii] rural globe, year16, no. 191, September 2001.

[iii] Language and Literature. São Paulo, year X, vols. 10-13, 1981-1984.

[iv] Galvao, Walnice Nogueira (org.). About the beginnings of the Faculty of Philosophy, Sciences and Letters at USP. São Paulo, EDUSP, 2020.

[v]As she was called, respectfully and affectionately, the eminent professor of aesthetics, researcher and critic of literature and culture.

[vi] Galvão, Walnice Nogueira. “Gilda, an intellectual journey”. In: Gilda- The passion for form, Sergio Miceli and Franklin de Mattos (eds.). Rio de Janeiro/São Paulo: Fapesp/Ouro sobre azul, 2007. Opening Master Lecture of the academic year at the Faculty of Philosophy, Letters and Human Sciences–USP (20.2.2006).

[vii] James WP Campbell and Thais Rocha. The Library - A World History, São Paulo, Edições SESC, 2015.

[viii] Here I cannot avoid a small complaint; I missed the important library of the Iberoamerican Institute in Berlin, perhaps the largest and most complete in Europe of its kind.

[ix] Biondi, Aloysio. Privatized Brazil: An overview of the dismantling of the State, São Paulo, Ed. Perseu Abramo Foundation, 1999.

[X] Cf. Antonio Candido. “Preface” to Walnice Nogueira Galvão, Disconversation. Rio de Janeiro: UFRJ, 1998. Republished as “The different tasks of the critic”, Journal of Reviews, no35, 14.2.1998.


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