Literature and resistance



Commentary on the book by Alfredo Bosi

Although this book by Alfredo Bosi was not written, as it seems, according to a pre-established plan, I believe that it maintains a peculiar unity and, perhaps even because it does not follow a plan, it offers us an even more comprehensive reading, rich in reflections, conclusions and discoveries.

The book obeys a reading methodology that goes from the general to the particular, from the past to the present and, with that, teaches us how the questions that involve literature and ideology, history and individual creation, are at the very basis of our cultural formation.

In the XNUMXth century, the concepts of nation and progress, resulting from the rise of the bourgeoisie, were present, from a certain moment on, in the literature of Europe, but in countries like Brazil, where there was no bourgeoisie, they gained a specific color and greater weight. : revealed our lack and implied our affirmation as a people. This aggravated the need to submit the appreciation of the literary work to the ideological demands of nationalism and to understand the literary process not as the history of the works, but as simple moments of an evolutionary process.

Bosi shows us how this occurs and how the valorization of formal factors and the new aesthetic conceptions made the underestimation by theorists of the autonomy of artistic creation itself unsustainable. The first steps in this direction were taken, in Brazil, by thinkers who emerged with modernism, such as Mário de Andrade and Tristão de Athayde, whose reflection broadens and deepens, later, with Otto Maria Carpeaux, Antonio Candido and, I would add, the Alfredo Bosi himself.

Coherent with his thesis that the fundamental of the history of literature is the work as an individualized creation, it is devoted to the analysis of some books in which the author's attitude of resistance in the face of the forces that deny humanism, such as oppression, is exemplarily manifested. and racial or social discrimination. Here, too, he starts from historical precedence by focusing primarily on the kingdom of this world, a work in which Father Antônio Vieira resists the accusations of the Holy Office and reaffirms the prophecy of the advent of the Fifth Empire.

Go from there to Uruguay, by Basílio da Gama, an author who is led, contradictorily, to defend the extermination of the Indians by the colonizers at the same time as he condemns colonialism. In the walled, by Cruz e Sousa, notes the nonconformity with the discrimination against blacks, considered by the pseudoscience of the time as biologically inferior to whites. This discrimination takes on a more evidently social character in the novel Isaias Caminha, by the mulatto Lima Barreto.

Already in the prison memories, by Graciliano Ramos, in the 1950s, resistance takes the form of a witness to the arbitrariness of the Vargas dictatorship against the right to think and act politically. It is a moment when she expresses herself not only in the theme but also in the writing itself, in the literary style. Bosi expands the discussion of the problem by delving into the “age of extremes” – the current era – when some intend to present the literary work, no longer as a first creation, but as a mere citation or pastiche – which he refutes.

It would not be possible, in a simple “ear”, to try to summarize the wealth of knowledge and ideas that this book contains. For this very reason, I can only point out to the public the only possible way to enjoy it: to read it.

*Ferreira Gullar (1930-2016) was a writer, poet and playwright. Author, among other books, of Dirty poem (Companhia das Letras).


Alfred Bosi. Literature and resistance. São Paulo, Companhia das Letras, 2002, 304 pages.


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