Brazilwood Manifesto – 100 years

Tarsila do Amaral, Abaporu, 1928
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By MARIA LÚCIA OUTEIRO FERNANDES*

The reception of the Manifesto, in general, was marked by intense discomfort, like everything that the modernists of the most radical group said and did.

The Pau-Brasil Poetry Manifesto, written by Oswald de Andrade and published in Correio da Manhã, on March 18, 1924, must be understood in the process of modernization that was being developed by a group of intellectuals, writers, artists, journalists, through debates in the press, articles in magazines, literary or not, and, mainly, for the production of literary and artistic works, in which authors put their proposals into practice, in order to achieve a series of purposes.

Among these purposes, three topics stand out, among the most relevant. Firstly, to break with the art that was made in Brazil, which they generally called pastism, a term that sought to disqualify art that followed traditional models, imported from Europe via Portugal. Secondly, look for the country's cultural characteristics, which should guide the creation of an eminently Brazilian literature, which would free the country from cultural colonialism in relation to the former metropolis (it is never too much to remember that this cultural debate arises in the context of broader, about the centenary of Brazil's political Independence from Portugal).

Finally, another essential topic in the debate and in the experiences promoted by the modernists, was the need to find new forms and new languages, that is, new creation procedures, more in tune with the experiences of the avant-garde, which were stirring up the field of arts in Europe, as well as the Brazilian way of being, its culture, its customs, its language, which is already so far from the language spoken in Portugal.

Relevant moments in this process were the Modern Art Week, the launches of modernist magazines, of which the Horn, Purple Land and Other Lands and Anthropophagy Journal, as well as the launch of the two manifestos written by Oswald de Andrade, the Pau-Brasil Poetry Manifesto, whose launch is completing 100 years, and the Anthropophagous Manifesto, published on May 1, 1928, in Anthropophagy Journal.

The study and analysis of these events needs to focus both on the texts of those involved in this broad movement of modernization of the arts in Brazil, and on their reception by other artists, intellectuals and writers, who did not share the modernists' project, and, also, by the general public. The reception of the Manifesto, in general, was marked by intense discomfort, like everything that the modernists of the most radical group said and did, which grew up around the emblematic figures of Mário de Andrade and Oswald de Andrade.

Like other events linked to young people that promoted Modern Art Week, the Manifesto also generated an embarrassing impact. The Pau-Brasil Poetry Manifesto contributed to the widespread scandal that the group was causing, both in intellectual circles and among the general public. It was even possible to verify a certain consensus regarding two points, which were the need to modernize literary and artistic language, as well as the need to nationalize Brazilian productions, giving them authenticity and originality.

But there was tremendous disagreement about how to make this change; regarding what was understood by Brazilian cultural identity; regarding the need to radically break with the past; regarding the composition processes and types of language to be adopted. There were also political and ideological implications in the interpretations regarding how the modernization of arts and literature in Brazil should be carried out, as confirmed later with the entry of some leaders, such as Oswald de Andrade, into the Communist Party, and the by others, such as Plínio Salgado, in the development of an integralist current, with a Nazi-fascist bias.

These divergences did not only occur between modernists and pastists. They divided the very group that worked in the fight for Modernism. From an early stage there will be a very clear internal split between the group formed around the magazine Horn, with Mário de Andrade and Oswald de Andrade as main leaders, which will later become known as the Pau-Brasil group (precisely because of Oswald de Andrade's Manifesto), and the group of Menotti Del Picchia and Cassiano Ricardo, which will become known as Green yellow.

The modernist legacy for Brazilian poetry

The first group defended a radical renewal in terms of language and preached an eminently critical nationalism, proposing a review of the History of Brazil itself, in order to rescue and correct the damage caused by Portuguese colonization to the country's population and culture. The second group preached a jingoistic nationalism, adopting a language that continued to be shaped by Lusitanian models of rhetoric and a worldview that did not stray too far from the harmful utopia of colonialism, placing itself squarely opposed to avant-garde experimentalism in form and language, as well as the revisionist critique of the historical, political and cultural context, proposed by the Pau-Brasil group.

The launch of Oswald de Andrade's Manifesto, in 1924, marked a critical moment in the internal split of the modernists. However, the greatest contribution of the Pau-Brasil Poetry Manifesto was to mobilize writers and artists around the importance of experimentalism and the break with past productions, to create an art and literature that translated in an original and critical way. the complexity of the Brazilian reality.

The Manifesto encouraged the search for cultural elements neglected by the academic culture of the time, in popular culture, in the culture of indigenous peoples and the population of African origin. From the Manifesto onwards, writers will strive to produce literature that would no longer be the result of imported models and formulas, but that would have enough originality and strength to guarantee the quality of a product for export, according to the words of Oswald de Andrade . The aesthetic and ideological changes proposed in the Pau-Brasil Manifesto can be found, directly or indirectly, in the works of the main Brazilian writers of the 20th century, mainly poets.

Characteristics, intentions and consequences of the Manifesto

The Manifesto adopts a language that already mobilizes, in formal terms, the radical changes proposed by the writers of the Pau-Brasil group, such as the rejection of the traditional concepts of mimesis and verisimilitude and the valorization of anti-illusionist procedures, contrary to realistic language; the rejection of pre-established academic forms and modes of expression imported from Portugal; the assimilation of oral language and forms of expression typical of the Brazilian people, considered errors from the point of view of Portuguese normative grammar; the exploration of an inventive language, which deals very freely with language, exploring sudden cuts, fragmentation, simultaneism, chaotic enumeration; the adoption of a worldview close to the original peoples, which was called primitivism at the time; the use of metonymic associations, imitating cinematographic language, irony, critical spirit and humor.

Despite all these resources having been appropriated from the proposals of European avant-gardes, this is what Oswald de Andrade calls, in the Manifesto, export poetry. How does it differ from the imported poetry practiced in the Brazilian colony in previous decades? Firstly in freedom of research, as Mário de Andrade will point out in the famous conference given by him, “The Modernist Movement”, in the celebrations of the 20th anniversary of the Week, on April 30, 1942, in the Conference Hall of the Library of Rio de Janeiro. Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

This freedom opened the way for each writer to seek their own means of expression, choosing the forms that were most suited to their objectives, creating their own language and modes of composition. Secondly, in the critical review of Brazilian history and reality, which emphasized issues of national identity.

The publication of the Pau-Brasil Poetry Manifesto and, later, the Antropóphagus Manifesto placed Oswald de Andrade in a leading role in the modernist movement. Oswald managed to systematize, in these founding texts of Modernism, the proposals that had been consolidating among the members of the magazine group Horn, the first relevant publication of the modernists, which circulated from 1922 to 1923.

There was a need to point out paths signaling the points that should mobilize writers and artists in the midst of so many discussions. It was a way to prevent dispersion, an effort to direct actions and the creation of works within the proposals for change. It was also a way of defining a difference between this group of Horn and the other, who had been positioning himself critically within the movement itself. There was also a need to clarify and make common newspaper readers aware of what they were proposing in terms of art and literature in the context of national culture.

*Maria Lúcia Outeiro Fernandes She is a literature professor at Unesp-Araraquara. Author, among other books, of Brand new: aesthetics and ideology in the 1920s (EDUSP).


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