The Thrushes of the Chronicle

Alberto da Veiga Guignard, Portrait of Lili Corrêa de Araújo, Oil on canvas, 61,00 cm x 85,00 cm, 1930.


Excerpt from the Organizer's Preface to the newly released anthology

group portrait

Most of the newspapers, magazines and publishers that published these chronicles disappeared. The bars, nightclubs and restaurants celebrated there closed their doors. The chroniclers themselves have already kicked the bucket. But anyone who skims through these pages will realize that the texts have withstood the passage of time.

The Thrushes of the Chronicle arose from a beautiful idea by the editor Maria Amélia Mello, who, inspired by one of the photos taken by Paulo Garcez – at Rubem Braga’s coverage, in Ipanema, in the summer of 1967 –, imagined bringing together in an anthology the same writers who appear in the photo essay. , commissioned to publicize the first titles of the newly founded Editora Sabiá.

The chroniclers, always free, unadorned and colloquial in language, appear all in suits and ties, shoes in the cracks, a very rare cigarette and no glass in their hands: Vinicius de Moraes, Paulo Mendes Campos, Sérgio Porto, José Carlos Oliveira, Fernando Sabino and Rubem Braga. Breaking with the professionalism of the portrait, in some photos, a mockingbird flutters in sports clothes. The young composer Chico Buarque de Hollanda appears in the middle of a band, already rehearsing to fall into the live wheel, a play that would later be published by the publisher.

Faithful to the original project, I organized the anthology so that it corresponded, textually, to a group portrait. Perhaps, because of this, the set has acquired the configuration of a panorama in which the totality of the texts reveals themes and plots that refer us to the fundamental characteristics of a novel of formation. The ninety chronicles that make up the volume cover a historical arc that goes from 1930 to 2004, when Fernando Sabino passes away.

Making use of montage procedures, I tried to reconstruct a historical plot whose strength resides in the intense exchange of collective experiences and in the long learning that the writers extract from the most heterogeneous relationships: work, class, race, friendship and love life. In general, biographies and essays dedicated to individual trajectories tend to relativize aesthetic advances engendered by group sociability, attributing inventions and literary contributions to the originality of a single author.

In the opposite direction, this anthology places greater emphasis on elective affinities, on shared passions, on the bohemia of high alcohol circles, on rotation through the editorial offices of newspapers and magazines. All without robbing the reader of the pleasure of sipping and savoring each of the texts separately.

The Thrushes of the Chronicle combines two perspectives. The first, historical and diachronic, proposes some chronological reading itineraries: the volume opens with old Braga and closes with the youth chronicler Carlinhos Oliveira; the fifteen chronicles reserved for each writer range from debut works to posthumous collections, from hometown to obtaining citizenship in Rio, etc. The second, literary and synchronic, always starts from a reflection on the craft, projecting a broad thematic prism capable of bundling the thrushes around common nuclei: the sentimental ethnography of neighborhoods and bars, dialogues with music and cinema , profiles of artists and friends, versiprosa, bird stories, football, urban types, among others.

The emphasis on assembling the texts is fundamental for understanding the group portrait. While every anthology has a dash of personal taste, this one's purpose was to set up a historical and cultural framework that incorporated the constructive movements of friendship. Different personalities and worldviews come to the fore and, despite aesthetic, social and political disagreements, they do not prevent the enrichment of collective reflection.

If, from a current critical perspective, friendship seems to many to be a kind of idealization, it is interesting to observe how the sense of humor of these chroniclers allowed them to easily move from lucid conversation to ludic retort. There was a lot of invention, breaking conventions, openness to new ways of life.

The chronicle benefits from this exchange between the various facts newspaper and personal experience. It seeks new territories, absorbs the common currency of slang, explores new articulations. I think that this anthology will be able to achieve part of its objective if, in addition to reserving surprises for the historian of journalism, the music critic, urban planners, ecologists and gastronomy lovers, it brings back a certain literary breath.

Writers do not always escape the imperatives of the fashions and ideologies of the time. However, by virtue of the contrast, we can identify the unequivocal marks of the originality of each one, whether by the degree of contestation, or by their adherence to differences and heterogeneity, manifested in the uniqueness of their chronicles.

By rejecting the traditional selection criteria, The Thrushes of the Chronicle seeks to give voice to the chroniclers themselves. Thus, at the end of each set, the fifteenth chronicle recalls the famous nightcap: when leaving, the chronicler toasts the next fellow worker with the last chorinho.

If the history of Editora Sabiá is encoded behind this photograph, it would not exist without the trial balloon of Editora do Autor, which, in turn, dates back to the mysterious Editora Alvorada, with a catalog of only one title, paper flute (1957), by Manuel Bandeira… If we want to understand all the paths taken until we arrive at this group portrait, we need to go back in time, summon new characters. For this reunion marked in a photo, in a chronicle, in a book to be complete, I ask the reader for a certain poetic license (and patience).


The capital of the chronicle

The history of the chronicle began to be written recently. There is a certain critical consensus around three cycles. The first, from 1852 to 1897, corresponds to the founders of the genre: Francisco Otaviano, José de Alencar and Machado de Assis. The second, from 1897 to 1922, to the chroniclers of Belle Epoque: Olavo Bilac, João do Rio, Lima Barreto and Orestes Barbosa. The third, from 1922 to 1945, belongs to the modernists, bringing together a corpus rich and varied: Mário de Andrade, Oswald de Andrade, António de Alcântara Machado, Manuel Bandeira, Carlos Drummond de Andrade and Cecília Meireles.

In this last cycle, there is an effort to go beyond Rio's borders and themes. Armed with a reflective language and essayistic decantation, some chroniclers delve into history, revisit our colonial past, others travel through different regions and try to translate the contrasting social and cultural reality of the country.

The comment makes no restriction whatsoever on previous cycles, on the contrary, it only intends to accentuate the unavoidable centrality of Rio de Janeiro, during the Empire and the Republic. Such centrality is built by structural elements that, from the mid-nineteenth century until 1920, mirror the political, economic and social interests of the ruling class, concentrating in the capital the main newspapers and magazines, theatrical tradition and cinematographic protagonism, public transport system and the first automobiles, the big exhibitions, the hotel chain, restaurants and bars, the carnival party and the fashion for conferences. Everything converges to the formation and expansion of a reading public.

The Thrushes of the Chronicle corresponds to a new cycle. From the end of World War II, in 1945, to the closure of Editora Sabiá, in 1972, we witness the intertwining of three generations: Rubem Braga and Vinicius de Moraes are from 1913; ten years later, Paulo Mendes Campos [1922], Fernando Sabino and Sérgio Porto [1923]; another ten, José Carlos Oliveira [1934].

Vinicius and Sérgio Porto, from Rio de Janeiro. Fernando Sabino and Paulo Mendes Campos, from Minas Gerais. Rubem Braga and Carlinhos Oliveira, capixabas. But, for the majority of readers, they all acquired a dual literary citizenship, increasingly identified with the Carioca way of being. This group of writers helped make Rio de Janeiro once again the capital of chronicles.

Such historiographical parameters project a line of continuity that runs through the three generations. In the midst of the great transformations that affect all social strata – the passage from the rural universe to the urban world, from radio orality to television visuality, from popular culture to mass culture –, the chronicle matured into an everyday language and, in In the wake of the main modernist achievements, it considerably shortened the distance between spoken and written language, incorporating contributions from different segments of society and preserving records of popular culture in the midst of the so-called erudite manifestations.

A thrush alone does not make a summer. They were arriving slowly. Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, they began to meet, with the right to come and go, in a zigzag between literary vocations, incursions into journalism and diplomatic careers. The first to migrate was Rubem Braga. After finishing secondary school at Colégio Salesiano, in Niterói, he entered the Faculty of Law in Rio de Janeiro. Restless and involved in politics, he spends time in São Paulo, Recife, Porto Alegre and Belo Horizonte, where he completes his course, and returns to Rio. And even there, he wandered around in an infinity of neighborhoods, from Vila Isabel to Catete, until he finally landed on his penthouse, in Ipanema. The aloofness perhaps made it difficult to perceive how much he acted as one of the main links between the modernists and the new generation.

Rubem Braga paves the way for the inconstant soul of the chronicle to be fixed in a book. She is at the center of his concerns. He thinks about it in a centripetal way: poetry, war reporting, quasi-stories and the agitated tide of memory always bathe on the shores of the chronicle. From a young age he used to call himself “old Braga”. He has experience reserves.

Vinicius de Moraes plays a contrary and complementary role. Always starting from poetry, he radiates, expands, takes his lyricism to the limit of other aesthetic forms. In his hands, the chronicle crosses the borders of short stories, popular music, theater plays and film criticism. At any moment, the tasty broth of his prose dissolves a feijoada recipe in the cauldron of the poem. The extraordinary plunges into the everyday and the prosaic flows into the sacred.

Vinicius matures in the company of increasingly younger lovers and partners. He defies all convention. The artist and the man walk towards stripping.

In 1942, Vinicius had two decisive encounters: one with the filmmaker Orson Welles, for whom he would be a cultural guide and companion in the parties and filming, in Rio de Janeiro. The other with the American writer Waldo Frank, whom he takes to get to know the favela of Praia do Pinto and the Mangue area and, subsequently, will accompany him on a trip through the Brazilian Northeast that will radically change the poet’s political vision: “I left a man of right, I came back a man of the left”.

In the wake of the post-war period, France will lose space for English language culture. As a poet and double chronicler, Vinicius represents an openness to cinema, jazz and whiskey. Between 1946 and 1950, in his first diplomatic post, vice-consul in Los Angeles, he helped break down some resistance to the growing North American influence. Among other initiatives, in 1949, he launched two issues of the magazine Movie, in partnership with filmmaker Alex Viany.

I think that a fourth cycle of the Brazilian chronicle begins around 1945. Under that date, we can align historical facts such as the end of the Second World War (September) and, internally, the end of the Estado Novo and the deposition of Getúlio Vargas ( October). From an intellectual perspective: I Brazilian Congress of Writers (January); the death of Mário de Andrade (February); visit of the poet Pablo Neruda (June); publication of With FEB in Italy, by Rubem Braga. Times were of great political mobilization.

Seen from this angle, the literary scene could lead to the opposite conclusion. Never before have so many writers chosen to work or pursue a career abroad: Clarice Lispector, Fernando Sabino, João Cabral de Melo Neto, Guimarães Rosa, Vinicius de Moraes. However, challenging this apparently rarefied and mismatched atmosphere, the dialogues acquire density.

In April 1944, Vinicius sent a “Message to Rubem Braga”, through the pages of the Academic Magazine. He still works as a war correspondent in Italy, when he decides to travel 900 kilometers by jeep in the middle of winter to find Clarice in Naples. Upon returning to Brazil, he introduces the writer to Sabino, the two begin to correspond, she in Bern (Switzerland), accompanying her diplomat husband, he working at the Brazilian Commercial Office and, later, at the Brazilian consulate in New York (USA). , both observe from a distance the critical repercussions of sagarana [1946], by Guimarães Rosa.

In 1947, João Cabral assumes his first diplomatic post, in Barcelona, ​​where he will combine the activities of poet, editor and typographer, printing fourteen books in his manual press, under the stamp “O Livro Inconsútil”, among them, an edition of fifty copies of “Pátria minha”, a long poem by Vinicius. The friendship wheel sets books and letters in motion. Paraphrasing “Quadrilha” by Drummond: Rubem Braga writes to Vinicius who writes to João Cabral who writes to Clarice who writes to Sabino who writes to Otto Lara Resende who writes to Paulo Mendes Campos who never wrote to Antônio Maria who has not yet entered history, etc.


Belo Horizonte

When they still resided in Belo Horizonte, the young thrushes already gravitated around the personal mythology of Rubem Braga and Vinicius de Moraes. In 1943, Fernando Sabino, Paulo Mendes Campos and Otto Lara Resende made their first contact with Vinicius, at the head of a delegation of intellectuals who, at the invitation of Mayor Juscelino Kubitschek, visited the capital of Minas Gerais. Once the day's agenda was over, a group headed for the Municipal Park and, out of nowhere, a guitar appeared and the poet began to sing. Stormy Weather under a dazzling moon. As a practical result, in 1944, Fernando Sabino moved to Rio de Janeiro. The following year, Otto Lara Resende and Paulo Mendes Campos took the same route.

“I read that Pablo Neruda was in Rio, visiting his Brazilian friends, including Di Cavalcanti and Vinicius de Moraes. That was in 1945, shortly after the fall of Getúlio. Neruda's coming to Rio was not just a poetic act – it was also a political act. I came to meet Neruda, about whom I had already written several articles. Articles that the poet Gabriela Mistral, who was then residing as a diplomat in Rio (Consul General of Chile), sent to Neruda. So he already knew my articles, which is to say he already knew me by name. I stayed in Rio for a month, living at Vinicius' house, where Neruda used to appear. By the way, it was at Vinicius' house that Neruda read me an excerpt from the General sing, which I would translate later, a beautiful passage, the one where he talks about the heights of Machu Picchu” (Paulo Mendes Campos).

The following year, Rubem Braga and Paulo Mendes Campos shared an apartment on Júlio de Castilhos, in Copacabana. Otto also shares an apartment with a friend from Minas Gerais, in Praça Serzedelo Corrêa. Fernando Sabino leaves for New York, where he strengthens relations with the mythical Jayme Ovalle and with Vinicius de Moraes, in Los Angeles.


Chronicle passed in review

The fate of the chronicle has always been linked to the transformations in journalism. In the beginning, they had a fixed address in the newspapers. To the News Gazette, Machado de Assis, Olavo Bilac and João do Rio were the house's chroniclers. However, with the advent of the Republic, at the turn of the XNUMXth century, we witnessed the irruption of illustrated, monthly and elite magazines, such as Kosmos [1904-1909] and Brazilian illustration [1909-1915] or weekly and popular such as Magazine of the Week [1900-1959], the mallet [1902-1954], phon-phon [1907-1958], Mask [1908-1960] and For all [1918-1932]. Thanks to the modernization of the press, chroniclers conquered a wider audience and began to circulate in new spaces.

If the monthly periodicity introduced by the magazines allowed the columnist to keep a certain distance from the facts and the report, on the other hand, even in the weekly ones, he is forced to compete for the readers' attention, page by page, competing with a modern visuality, led by by the photographic image. The writing technique opens up to different temporalities, from the automobile to the cinematograph. And the chronicler starts to flirt with literature and fashion, wandering between criticism of customs and political satire. Lima Barreto, Álvaro Moreyra, Benjamim Costallat and J. Carlos, each in their own way, reigned in the weekly magazines.

After the Revolution of 1930, we witnessed the recrudescence of censorship during the Estado Novo, the political control of the press and the regression in graphic accuracy. Visible both in Carioca [1935-1954] and Let's read! [1936-1948], publications by the company A Noite, and in clearly left-wing magazines, such as Reading [1942 and 1968]. Exceptions are due to The Cruise [1928-1985], edited by Diários Associados, by Assis Chateaubriand and, to a lesser extent, by Globo magazine [1929-1967], in Porto Alegre.

In the early 1950s, Rio de Janeiro experienced a new expansion of the magazine market. In most of them, the chronicler occupied a prominent place, right at the entrance door or on the “last page”, the name of the column that Rachel de Queiroz honored and enshrined between 1945 and 1975, in The Cruise. When printed in the middle, the chronicles were usually accompanied by illustrations by promising or recognized artists.

To get an idea, after hiring the French photographer Jean Manzon, in 1943, at the peak of popularity leveraged by his photojournals, The Cruise achieved, in the 1950s, record print runs ranging between 500 and 700 thousand copies. But, little by little, it lost the battle to what would be its main competitor, the newly founded Headline [1952-2000], by Adolpho Bloch, which broke all of its rival's records, ranging from 700 to 1 million copies.

In the fight between the two heavyweights of the national press, a decisive chapter was reserved for the thrushes. According to the musical chronicler Fernando Lobo, they barely had time to recover from the hangover caused by the closure of the weekly Rally, when they were enraptured by a surprising invitation: “The magazine The Cruise pontificated as the best publication of its kind. […] When the day of circulation of The Cruise, was a rush on newsstands in Brazil. It was the best there was, journalistically speaking. One fine day, the magazine appears in the square. Headline, with the air of someone who wanted to fight the giant. The first numbers, directed by Henrique Pongetti, were melancholy. There was a lot of color, a lot of pictures and no pith. It was when Adolpho Bloch painted in our nest, the table at the Vilariño bar, in search of ammunition. It was a flock: Rubem Braga, Sérgio Porto, Lúcio Rangel, Darwin Brandão, Antônio Maria, Paulo Mendes Campos, Joel Silveira and Ibrahim Sued flew to Rua Frei Caneca, where the magazine's editorial office was located”.

In that period, journalists and columnists wandered through so many companies and jobs that, today, a historian, sociologist or literary critic faces enormous difficulties in systematizing a minimally reliable professional panorama. The ideological tangle was cunning. The successive changes in command were cunning and the purchase, sale and resale operations involving the government and newspaper owners were beyond tricky. So, how to identify a logical line of continuity or unravel ideological strands that can correctly guide the historical reading of the facts?

But the scene of Adolpho Bloch's prey and the image of the flight of chroniclers to the editorial office of Headline could not be more appropriate to our narrative. There is no room for luck or the work of chance. It is a founding scene that defines the direction of our chronicle.

It would be risky to concentrate all the interpretative hypotheses in a single testimony. Despite recognizing that the literary grain is a leaven used with great freedom by Fernando Lobo, I decided to dig deep until I touched on the reason and roots of that meeting in Vilariño. Today I can say that he sealed the future of most of the chroniclers present there. The permanence of thrushes in Headline unequivocally translates a reciprocity of expectations.

Paulo Mendes Campos remained faithful to his marriage for thirty-nine years. Fernando Sabino was happy for fifteen, with the right to relapses, signing the columns “Ladies and gentlemen”, “Waiting room” and “Daily adventure”. For five years, Rubem Braga lived in a regime of total bigamy, keeping double pages with a variety of sections: “Poetry is necessary”, “People of the city”, “It is written in books”, etc. Afterwards, he returned to the bachelor chronicle. Sérgio Porto and Antônio Maria quickly filed for divorce.

But if Headline represents a turning point in the professional trajectory of thrushes, what would have been the starting point?

*Augusto Massi Professor of Brazilian Literature at USP. Author, among other books, of Erase (Typography by Zé).



The thrushes of the chronicle: Rubem Braga, Vinicius de Moraes, Fernando Sabino, Paulo Mendes Campos, Stanislaw Ponte Preta, José Carlos Oliveira. Organization: Augusto Massi. Belo Horizonte, Autêntica, 2021, 350 pages.

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