incomplete work

Tarsila do Amaral, Portrait of Oswald de Andrade, 1922, Oswald de Andrade Oil on canvas, 61,00 cm x 42,00 cm


Commentary on the collection of books by Oswald de Andrade, edited by Jorge Schwartz

The publication by Edusp of the incomplete work by Oswald de Andrade is an event. An event not only for the possibility that it opens up for reading his work, but for the long and rare decantation process that made it possible.

Managed since 1985 by Jorge Schwartz, the project proposed by Haroldo de Campos for the publication of “Poesia e manifestos” for the iconic Archive Collection turned over the years into a vast discovery of work manuscripts (especially the poems and two novels) and unpublished texts (some still remain) that give an unimaginable dimension to an author seen as impulsive and little used to the work of written.

There are versions and more versions that show a kind of continuum of Oswald's work, as if throughout its more than 1500 pages the internal dynamics of Oswald's work were revealed, which, in a no less revealing way, became the method and form of organization of this edition incomplete work.

There is something of the order of the unfinished here (and not the unfinished), of an internal tension whose questions still produce effects in Brazilian culture. Hence the question that drives the project: how to make a complete edition of a work that is based on the “dynamic routing of destructive factors”, on a rarefaction of references, on a game of cuts and montages that never allows the transformation to be paralyzed continuous from taboo to totem?

This is the challenge we see in the extraordinary treatment of his poems by Gênese Andrade, which reveals poems within poems, making genetic criticism an instrument of discovery and wonder between “the erasure and the ready made“. It is also revealed through a refined critical apparatus, the historical and intertextual context in which the ready made operates and how the strength of its agency depends on the cuts and rewrites throughout the process of elaborating the poems.

We thus see how the poems unfold among themselves from within themselves, producing palimpsests that gradually compress themselves, but beyond that, we also see how poetry unfolds in prose by replicating the coherence of this method of synthesis and condensation, spontaneity and rewriting in the setup of your novels Sentimental Memories of João Miramar e Seraphim Ponte Grande.

In this logic of unfolding, another finding of the edition is to show the complexity of the manifestos of Oswald de Andrade that appear in its several editions as potent poems that articulate the dynamics of the processes of its own writing factory, constituting in themselves one of the great moments of the modernist adventure.

In this archaeological game of reconstruction of a writing situation, a decisive autobiographical gesture gains great relevance, reinforced by Antonio Candido's unpublished preliminary note. Oswald de Andrade's work bears the marks of social status and the “brilliant and unpredictable” aspect of a writer entangled in the bonds of his genius cultivated between “Oropa, France and Bahia” with the provincial milieu of Paulicéia. From this clash, the strength of his work remains, especially when the ironic verve gains strength.

Between ready made and erasure, autobiography and rewriting, history and personality, we are thus thrown into the fermentation process of Oswald de Andrade's fine biscuit for the masses, to which is added, in the second volume, an extensive chronology and bibliography, as well as portraits and self-portraits and a beautiful notebook of pictures. More than that, we also have a vast series of critical texts, most of them written for the edition and which, seen today, are one of the greatest portraits of Brazilian literary criticism in the second half of the XNUMXth century about the same author who we have news.

Having made this first flight over this vast territory, from which many other and diverse readings will certainly emerge, we would like to highlight some points that particularly called our attention. The first of them, without a doubt, goes to the first modernist poem written in the 1910s by Oswald de Andrade, “The last ride of a tubercular person through the city, by tram”.

As part of a textual archaeological plot, the poem was not found, but it remained with a kind of primordial text in absentia to which all of Oswald de Andrade's work tended in a kind of melancholy of the future or as the virtualization of a past that he projected into the future, a lack that announced itself and that he endlessly rewrote.

In yet another tasty Oswaldian paradox, the future of Brazil and of Brazilian literature already carried this melancholy ballast, a difficulty of losing the future in plots with a conservative and aristocratic trail, as if this loss of Futurist realization itself, its precariousness, marked the penalty of “Not finding / That Poem / That I made / Before everyone else” and that remains as a “retarded chisel” in the gears of the modernist machine.

This complex and diffuse temporality, worked on in layers and layers of writing, as Jorge Schwartz shows, is a trace of a loss that opens up as becoming and marks the very intrinsic incompleteness of Oswald de Andrade's work, that is, as the Muiraquitã of Macunaima, it is a paradoxically absent poem that “generates a permanent and varied process of rewriting”.

More than that, it is as if Oswald de Andrade's own process of rewriting, always rarefiing and ciphering references, was itself a technique for producing absences, ellipses, spaces that opened up to the reader the possibility of constant re-enunciation and reinvention, as if the impossibility of the existence of that modern poem in the provincial context created a tangent that opened writing itself as a highly potent space to produce another historicity in the very heart of autobiography and historical vicissitudes.

It is by producing its own time that writing crosses time. It is by opening up to the other that it gives social meaning to specificity. This is how writing produces another voice that speaks beyond itself. It is by transforming oneself – as in the magnificent discovery of africa that closes the first volume – that “rhythm replaces eternity”.

Because it is not just the writing and the work that are incomplete, but the human experience itself, that “incomplete animal” always in search of an impossible adaptation based on its devastating ideals. But even these ideals that guided the colonization process prove to be flawed for the joy of our history, an incomplete catechesis that produced a civilizational amalgam that has not yet found its maximum power, precisely because of its idealistic and violent dreams of completeness.

Anthropophagy thus appears as that “epic of misunderstanding” that Oswald de Andrade tells us about Don Quixote and Sancho Panza in The March of Utopia. A science of incompleteness, an endless work of mourning and re-elaboration, of loss and search, which is also constantly open to the other. More than that, anthropophagy itself is transformed throughout Oswald's work and his readings. As if it were possible to anthropophagy anthropophagy, from boutade modernist to cultural devouring, from ritual anthropology to philosophical utopia.

If we put together the pieces of the Oswaldian jigsaw puzzle as one of the possible constructions, we will see the pivotal core of the anthropophagic vector as a very specific reading of our “cordiality” as openness, transformation, corporality, multiplication of points of view, but also its petty bias. , egocentric, extractive, violent, simply reducing the other to the same. Staggering between high and low anthropophagy, we hear and see throughout Oswald's work the hallucinatory joy and the macabre choreography of this circle dance called Brazil. As we read in An anthropophagic aspect of Brazilian culture: “The 'cordial man' brings his own opposition within himself. `He knows how to be cordial as he knows how to be fierce´” and it is this double aspect that can only be resolved by anthropophagy that at the same time understands life as devouring (the fierce aspect), but knows how to symbolize it through the rite making it communion . Or, once again, the continuous transformation of the taboo into a totem that marks Oswald de Andrade's thought and writing practice.

At this point, see Benedito Nunes' emphasis on a utopian unfolding of anthropophagy, supported by a matriarchy that would result from the subsumption of manual work by machinic automation. Or even more, see in one of the first approximations of Oswaldian anthropophagy with the perspectivism of Eduardo Viveiros de Castro, how Sara Castro-Klarén shows the difficulties of a direct relationship between them, irreducible, for example, to the matriarchy-patriarchy dialectic, but attentive “to a position in a universe always in flux”, “passage through an infinite and endless alterity”. Oswaldian anthropophagy proves to be much more intricate than many want to show.

Among the great merits of incomplete work, is the possibility of keeping this fracture open, that is, not erasing the complexity of possibilities and hardships that run through Oswaldian poetics. As if having touched this zone of indetermination of the pivotal core of the poetic voice and its anthropophagic density, Oswald de Andrade's writing becomes the stage where any gesture or verse could suddenly change the whole story to one side or the other.

“Verse yes”, as Oswald de Andrade says, “no sonnet, nor elegy. Verse only”. Just like the chapter or sentence in novels. The disjunctive synthesis of manifestos. The question that remains is how to move from Oswald de Andrade's poetic conception, of which anthropophagy is the best known gesture, to poetic practice? In the incompleteness of these volumes, we have several clues here.

The first is that the writing process, as pointed out by Gênese Andrade, takes place through an overlapping of layers of writing that are cut in such a way that the connections between them become pregnant at the same time that, as in the first modernist poem , produce absences that encode the scene. Haroldo de Campos had already pointed out something similar, this cut that produces a parataxis of relations reduced to a minimum, but the interesting thing is to note how the process that leads to this construction depends on a production of indetermination either by the possibilities of writing evidenced by the erasure, or by that indetermination of the pivotal core of the voice that allows writing to be taken anywhere.

More than that, if, as shown by Antonio Candido, the game that makes the best and the worst is played, we could add that its scope depends on the ability to tension the layers of the poetic act: speech, writing, enunciation situation, intertextuality, autobiography, history, etc etc etc. Added to these layers are the many speech and writing scenes subtly performed in the course of the text itself. In addition, the text dialogues with its speech or writing supports (the notebook, newspaper, letter, postcard, telegram, radio, typewriter etc etc etc) which in turn create metonymic relations with the marvels of modern technology ( car, plane, skyscrapers etc etc etc).

Now, what the manuscripts show is that the Oswladian cut, the verse, the sentence, are a crossing of these semantic and syntactic layers, as well as their supports and their means, their situation of enunciation and their context, showing the deep relationship between them and making them vibrate on their contact surface. They are “mobile antennas”, like mobiles (by Calder) that are assembled and disassembled by crossing the often contradictory planes, like assembling and disassembling the worlds that he puts into play. For reasons that still need to be better elaborated, it is in the manifestos, of which unfortunately no manuscripts have yet been found, that this clash of worlds is most evident.

Modernity would be this crossing of worlds, of speeches and writings, of times. Since irony is nothing more than the knot where more than two series, two senses, two cultures, two worlds intersect.

Here we touch on the difficult form of modernist poetics, because nothing is more difficult to approach critically than this place where things could actually be different. Place of ethics par excellence that Oswald de Andrade, contrary to what it may seem, took to the limit. There is only possibility of ethics in writing when its possibilities have been taken to the limit. Thus, the superimposition, the shock and the cut, far from a simple formula, are modules capable of self-organizing by the very power of their flow, that ever-to-be-done that marks their incompleteness.

Oswald de Andrade forever changed what we understood by culture and nature and by virtue of incompleteness the very nature of language and writing. He also brought calligraphy to the limit of drawing and explored the limits between writing and image in manuscripts and books. But we insist one last time that the secret of these transformations lies in the passages from one series to another, from one sense to another, from one field of experience to another.

Yes, published only in 2022, incomplete work remains an event. An event of critical resistance, a provisionally definitive snapshot of intelligence and invention at a time in Brazil when everything is for yesterday, for today or for tomorrow, but rarely to last and articulate these temporal dimensions, as happens in this incomplete work from one of our greatest writers.

*Roberto Zular Professor at the Department of Literary Theory and Comparative Literature at USP.


Oswald de Andrade. incomplete work. 2 volumes. Coordination (ed.): Jorge Schwartz. São Paulo, Edusp, 2021, 1656 pages.

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