Memories of Antonio Candido



A model to be unconditionally admired, but impossible to imitate

From the repertoire of jokes that Antonio Candido used to make, there was one that he repeated with pleasure and grace, when he remembered a friend who, after the death of his wife, had switched from the Communist Party to Spiritism. When commenting on the episode, Antonio Candido observed that, if heaven existed, his father, Dr. Aristides de Mello e Souza, who had died at the age of 57, would receive an almost centenary son in the Beyond!

Death has only started to be a more recurring theme in recent years, always soberly. But when he reached the age of sixty, at the time of his retirement from USP, for some reason, he began to think that death was close, and he commented on this with the students. It was the only period in which this subject was more present.

In October 2018, months after Antonio Candido's death, the magazine Piaui (no 145) published “O Pranto dos Livros”, an unpublished text[I] by Antonio Candido, discovered by Eduardo Escorel among more than one hundred notebooks – already almost mythical! – that his father-in-law had accumulated over the years. It was thanks to the kindness and sensitivity of Ana Luísa Escorel, Laura de Mello e Souza and Marina Escorel, the critic's daughters, that this material is now archived at USP's Instituto de Estudos Brasileiros, but is still in the process of being processed. It was they, once again, that allowed me to transcribe this short chronicle in full, attached right after this affective memory of the Professor.

“O Pranto dos Livros” is divided into two very symmetrical parts: the first describes the process of his own death, and the second, his relationship with books and the books with him. The text borders on fiction, the dead being narrated, in the best style of the Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas:

“Dead, locked in a coffin, I wait my turn to be cremated. The world no longer exists for me, but it continues without me. Time doesn't change because of my death, people continue to work and walk around, friends mix some sadness with the worries of the hour and remember me only at intervals. When one finds the other, the ritual of “look at that”, “what a shame”, “he was fine when I last saw him”, “also, he was already old”, “in short, it is everyone's destiny”.

“Newspapers will give mixed news of hits and misses and there will be conflicting information, including doubts as to the naturalness. Was he a miner? Was he from Rio de Janeiro? Was he from São Paulo? Is it true that he studied in France? Or was he in Switzerland? Was his father rich? He published many short-run books, most of which were out of print. He had importance as a critic for a few years, but he had long been outdated. Including his former assistants Fulano and Beltrano. The students liked his classes because he was a good communicator. But what stood out the most to him was a certain ease with which he lived, as he knew how to be pleasant with rich and poor alike. That was, when he could find him, because he was elusive and preferred to be alone, especially towards the end of his life. Some say that he was a foreigner, others that he was guilty of nationalism. He was on the left, but a little incoherent and too tolerant.

He was little active and in the PT he worked mainly as a medallion. In fact, there are those who say that he had the appearance of a medallion since he was young. Very conventional. But it is true that he shunned publicity, refused awards and medals when he could, and did not like honors. Contradictory, like everyone else. The fact is that there was a lot of wave around him, and it was even invented that it was a “national unanimity”. However, he was always attacked, in articles, books, statements, and against him there were sectors of ill will, as is normal. Finally, he died. It is about time that the earth be light for him.

But what was light was not the heavy earth, the stimulus of the wanderings of the will. It was the subtle, very light fire that consumed my clothes, my bald head, my shoes, my insipid flesh and my fragile bones. Thanks to him, it was quickly turned to ash, then put in a plastic bag with my name, the date of death and the date of cremation. Meanwhile, there were other beings who thought of me with the sadness of mute friends: books.

From various corners, in various ways, my carcass, which avoided decomposition through combustion, raises the regret of the thousands of books that were mine and my parents, who knew the touch of my hand, the care of my zeal, the the attention with which he cleaned them, moved them, bound them, leafed through them, donated them in blocks for the service of others. Books that stayed in our house or spread around the world, at the Faculty of Poços de Caldas, at Araraquara, at Católica do Rio, at Unicamp, at USP, at the Casa de Cultura de Santa Rita, at the former Economy and Humanism in addition to the who were stolen and God knows where they are – all feeling sorry for their friend crumbling to mere dust and remembering the times they lived with him, years and years on end. Then, from the corners where they are, on iron and wooden shelves, closed or open, well or badly treated, used or forgotten, they will cry invisible tears of paper and ink, cardboard and percaline, pigskin. and calfskin, of Russian leather and morocco, of parchment and cloth.

It will be the mute cry of books for the pulverized friend who loved them since childhood, who spent his life caring for them, choosing the right place for them, removing them, defending them from animals and even reading them. Not all, because one life would not suffice for that and many were beyond his comprehension; but thousands of them. In fact, he wanted them for more than just reading. He wanted them as a hope of knowledge, as company, as a joyful sight, as a background of precarious life and always on this side. For this reason, because he collected them for what they were, the books mourn the friend who delayed rent payments to buy them, who stole hours of work to look for them, wherever he went: in small and large bookstores in Araraquara or Catanduva, from Blumenau or João Pessoa, from New York or New Haven; in the used book stores of São Paulo do Rio, of Porto Alegre; at the parlors in Paris and the second-hand booksellers in Lisbon, wherever printed paper was on sale. The friend who, not being Phoenix, will not rise from the ashes to which he is being reduced, unlike them, who will somehow live forever.”

The cold enumeration accounts for an accelerated process of dissolution, of evanescence. One of his comments in recent years was that, with age, people's faces began to resemble animals. Of the rare complaints I heard about age, was that his legs were fragile and the fear of a fracture leaving him tied to a wheelchair. Fate wanted that not to happen; until the last few days, surprisingly, he does the daily walks. Let's say he was spared, as he never followed, as far as I know, recipes for healthy longevity, such as exercise, vitamins or special food. That yes, it was frugal in everything. The enormous amount of fruit in the kitchen, which surprised us, was actually always destined for the maid.

The initial consideration after the first sentence; of great impact, is that the world goes on: “The world no longer exists for me, but goes on without me”. Reminds me of the opening sentence of the famous The Aleph by Borges, in a translation by David Arrigucci, when the character Carlos Argentino Daneri records the death of his beloved (and traitorous) Beatriz Viterbo: “On the burning February morning when Beatriz Viterbo died, after an imperious agony that in no instant was lowered to sentimentality or fear, I noticed that the iron signposts in the square Constitution they had renewed I don't know what advertisement for cigarettes; the fact touched me, because I understood that the incessant and vast universe was already moving away from her and that that change was the first of an infinite series”.

The text stands out for the ironies about it. In the retrospective view afforded by death, Antonio Candido sees himself as “critical […] surpassed […] by his former assistants Fulano and Beltrano”. Elegant to the point of not mentioning names, we can think that these were his first assistants, invited by him, Walnice Nogueira Galvão, Roberto Schwarz, João Alexandre Barbosa and, later, Davi Arrigucci Jr. When portraying himself as a teacher, he says that he had “communicator skills”, as if he were the star of some TV show, no more than that, and that “the most outstanding thing was a certain amenity of socializing, because he knew how to be pleasant with others”. poor and rich”. In fact, elegance and affability were his personality traits, and could not be reduced to anything more than a “nice” gesture.

Yes, the taxi drivers at the stop on Rua José Maria Lisboa and Alameda Joaquim Eugênio de Lima, little less than idolized the teacher. When ideologically portrayed, there is much truth in the midst of successive ironies. Which was left-wing but “too tolerant”. In an old interview in the newspaper Theory & Debate, he commented that he was not a politician because he respected the word of others. And he always stressed that the real politician in his group was Paulo Emilio Salles Gomes. When he declares that in the PT he “worked mainly as a medallion”, we know that this is not true. That he was very active in the meetings that founded the party. When Lula came to the presidency, he stated, in a very curious way, that he would withdraw completely from political activities in the PT. I know he was even offered the Ministry of Culture, but, very consistent with his stance, he turned it down.

In recent years, he said that he no longer read the newspapers, but Folha de S. Paul of the day was always in the pile of newspapers and magazines in the living room. We also know that he never shied away from making an act of presence when he was called upon to defend some injustice or to support some cause or someone. When he tells that he “refused prizes and medals”, we have to highlight the exceptional fact that he never accepted to enter the Brazilian Academy of Letters. He was promised on three occasions that he would not have to campaign for votes, but even so, the refusal was maintained. I quote here Prof. Walnice Nogueira Galvão: “Indefensible to associations but faithful to its origins in Minas Gerais, the only one he agreed to participate in was Academia Poços-Caldense de Letras. Having to choose the patron for Chair 21, he nominated his high school teacher D. Maria Ovdia Junqueira, who had revealed to him the beauties of the Bible and Shakespeare, to which he would be attached forever. In such a tribute of gratitude, the master's signet appears in high relief”.[ii]

Something that always caught my attention was the speed with which he accepted or declined invitations. She knew exactly what she wanted, and she stayed true to her ethics. Many members of our Academy will be forgotten, and I cannot imagine Antonio Candido in uniform, or with a captive chair, or participating in teas, among the forgettable and forgotten. Speaking of Academies, the Nobel Prize committee itself committed serious injustices, including never awarding the prize to Jorge Luis Borges, but to Neruda, Gabriela Mistral, Gabriel García Márquez and Mario Vargas Llosa. I mentioned injustices but we could recall another type of police page.

Accepted, however, some titles Honoris Causa, among others, that of the Universidad de la República (Montevideo) and the Alfonso Reyes Prize, in Monterrey (Mexico), in October 2005, and at the age of 87, when I had the privilege of accompanying him. There were also Ana Luisa Escorel and Celso Lafer. Of course we asked her about her father when he told us that in the adjoining room he had woken up whistling. There are certain revealing intimacies of a personality in my view Sui generis.

This first part of the text, which opens with the affirmative phrase, closes with another no less peremptory and Machadoan: “Anyway, he died. He was already out of time and may the earth be light to him ”.

From the veritable mountain of critical tribute material over the decades (the most recent, Antonio Candido 100 Years, org. by Maria Augusta Fonseca and Roberto Schwarz); articles in newspapers and specialized magazines, I thought that this brief analysis of the last unpublished, interspersed with the personal experiences that my limited memory allows, could be something interesting for today's presentation. In recent years, visits to the master together with Berta Waldman have intensified. He never said he had a busy schedule: without an answering machine, he personally answered the phone, went to check the schedule, and confirmed. It fell to me, on one of the visits, to witness how he attended to a girl from telemarketing. He explained to her, with enormous patience and politeness, that he was of a certain age, but that he wanted the best of luck in research. In fact, no one that I know responds to irritating requests in this way. telemarketing!

Antonio Candido until the end, opened the door himself, arranged the armchairs, always sat down in front of us, and then we embarked, or he embarked on long conversations. A true Pandora's Box, in which new names and facts appeared, which had never been told before. Just as there is a total ear for music, AC had a total memory and from childhood onwards. An intelligent memory, not merely accumulative. There are few personal testimonies that do not mention this prodigious memory.

In the early years, we had tea in the living room or in the kitchen, in the company of D. Gilda, where everything was already arranged beforehand. Lately, he has started to serve delicious port wines, which avoids having to leave the room. I always regretted not being able to record the wonderful conversations (and I would never do that), but I left there with the clear feeling that he was dealing with an absolutely exceptional being and that it was my great luck to share his life. He used to say that what he was most proud of was not the work, but the students (!), an affirmation that we always found funny. And he also said that no professor at FFLCH had ever formed a group like his students. He lived a century, working until the end, and as Walnice said, it will take us a century to unravel his work.

I was part of the last group of postgraduate students, in 1971. I worked at Colégio Objetivo, taught English, the worst of all professional experiences, where I met Salete de Almeida Cara, and we both signed up for Antonio Candido's course. . I had just arrived from Jerusalem, where I did a degree in English Literature and Latin American Studies. I tell this to describe the candidate selection interview. The only question he asked me: which authors do I prefer. I spoke of the poetry of John Donne (an English metaphysical poet of the late seventeenth century), on whose work I had just taken a course. He didn't ask about a project, a demand that is made today. When I went to see the result, in my mambembe Portuguese, I confused “deferred” with “rejected”.

Even so, I went to the first class, asking if, despite the refusal, I could attend the course. After my insistence, he asked me to go to the Graduate Office! Only Freud explains. It was on that course that I also met Marisa Lajolo, Antonio Arnoni Prado, José Miguel Wisnik, Norma Goldstein and other colleagues from what is now a generation. At the same time, I started teaching in the Spanish course at USP, and I intended to do a master's degree on Roberto Arlt's fantastic tales. He suggested a comparative study with Murilo Rubião, O ex-magician, even brought me the books.

I also want to take this opportunity to highlight the true sense of freedom in guidance. I did my doctoral research at Yale, at the invitation of Emir Rodríguez Monegal. I did not know that Ángel Rama, a very close friend of AC, was Monegal's staunch enemy. Yet he never said a single word about this quarrel, which I actually had to put up with in New Haven with Monegal! The doctorate also followed a line of research different from his, establishing a poetic tradition from Modernism to Concretism. It had a lot more to do with the paideuma by Haroldo de Campos. I never knew if he liked it. He read everything, made corrections. As in the master's degree, he had shown such respect for my work (for the other) that it probably prevented him from indicating different paths, or even opposing them; it just wasn't like him. He came to guide the most diverse theses: from comics, by Antonio Luiz Cagnin, now deceased, to a doctorate on Borges, who was not the author of his repertoire. When necessary, AC did intervene directly, as was the case with a difficult thesis of a dear colleague, also deceased today.

When I started mentoring, I asked him what he recommended as a beginner that I was; he was adamant: if you have any doubts, don't accept them!

One last curiosity: knowing that Marcel Proust was his favorite author, and that he had an entire library dedicated to the French author, we were never able to convince him to give us a course on his work.

Returning to the second part of the text, it is dedicated to “dumb friends: books”; it is a song of love for books from death. Antonio Candido personifies them postmortem, like friends who mourn him, "all feeling sorry for their friend crumbling to mere dust." He describes the various places his books were kept throughout his life, and the extreme care given to them since childhood. There is also irony when he says that he “spent his life taking care of them, choosing the right place for them, removing them, defending them from animals and even reading them. Not all, because one life would not be enough for that and many were beyond his comprehension”. As a joke, we can even try to match our own libraries or attempts at libraries, and the fact that books surpass us, and always wait for us as faithful friends. In this figure created by Antonio Candido, that of the transience of life and the perenniality of knowledge through books, he concludes by concluding in third person that “the friend who, not being Phoenix, will not rise from the ashes to which he is being reduced, on the contrary theirs [the books], which somehow will live forever.”


1o May 2017, the last visit

Antonio Candido followed Oswald de Andrade's path from the first works, which he reviewed in a newspaper. But also through rehearsals and various testimonials, lectures, television programs, commemorative dates, which culminated in Flip's great tribute in 2011. In the countless private conversations, the memory was permanent, always with grace and joy, even if it was for talk about Oswald's difficult personality. Over time, there were comings and goings, all of them recorded by Antonio Candido, but the friendship and mutual admiration were preserved until and beyond Oswald's death in October 1954.

With the complete work now published by Companhia das Letras, thanks to the initiative of Marília de Andrade, the only living daughter of the poet from São Paulo, new proposals have emerged for each of the volumes in this new collection. Previous editions were by Difel (European Book Diffusion), by Civilização Brasileira (both under the coordination of Antonio Candido, his literary executor), and later by Editora Globo in São Paulo, on the initiative of his son Rudá de Andrade, in 20 volumes published from 2002 to 2014.

Gênese Andrade, coordinator with me of this new series by Companhia das Letras, transcribed one of the several lectures on Oswald recorded by her. Antonio Candido, upon reading the transcript, thought it was too colloquial; immediately brought a typescript from the office, which he considered ready for publication. He only asked for a few days to do a rereading. Weeks later, he handed me the typescript “The Oswald de Andrade I met”, with corrections, asking me to please write them down. When I visited him again with the text clean, he produced another typescript, “Rembrando Oswald de Andrade”, very similar, but, according to him, better finished. Both had eight pages each and the differences were minimal. He delivered the second version with corrections, which would once again be cleared. This occurred on the last visit made to Mestre, on the afternoon of Monday, the 1st. 0 of May. On Friday, I received the clean version from Genesis, not knowing that, the day before, he had been hospitalized with a health crisis, which would lead to the outcome days later.

On the visit he made during the holiday, accompanied by Berta Waldman, to whom he always gave a strong hug on arrival and another equally or stronger on departure, he was very wrapped up. It was one of those cold afternoons in São Paulo. Even so, he continued to draw from his infinite memory memories that we listened to in amazement, for never having heard them before, over the almost fifty years of living together: him as an eternal Master, advisor of our theses, and us as eternal students. We were the “girl”, as he liked to call it, now in our septuagenarians. That afternoon he remembered one of Oswald's many tricks: Otto Maria Carpeaux, the Austrian critic, suffered from a kind of stutter, and at the end of his speech he was affected by a rhythmic cough that he imitated. Magnificent, hilarious imitations of the most varied individuals (personally, I think Ungaretti's was unsurpassed). Returning to the stutter and the coughs at the end of the sentence: Oswald nicknamed him Otto Rino Laringo Carpeaux Morse. Maledicence of an infinite grace, like others that cost so much in his life to his friend Oswald.

That afternoon, he also recalled and imitated once more Oswald's reading of his own poetry. Although avant-garde, it was imitated by Antonio Candido in a grandiloquent tone typical of a bacharel das Arcadas, in a raised and tremulous voice, typical of the XNUMXth century, and which, paradoxically, had nothing to do with the spirit of modernity of the poem written.

A few weeks earlier, on the penultimate visit, I accompanied Marília de Andrade. She had in her hands a document signed by Antonio Candido, after Oswald's death, about the Confessional Notebooks, still unpublished. He promised to give full support to the publication. To my surprise, he transcribed ipsis litteris the document written by him more than half a century before, and he even copied his signature. At the time I drew attention to the fact that the handwriting and signature were identical, as if no time had passed. Something less than astonishing, for someone approaching a century old. He fulfilled his promise that afternoon, sending Marília the new document by mail. As we know, he personally went to the post office, and in the week before his death he even went to the bank.

I record all of this, before I myself forget, due to the action of time, these visits that always brought me a lot of emotion. And, although in the Latest, he continued in a perfect state of health and mental lucidity, my fear was that there would be no more the next visit.

Seeing the family and friends around, on the occasion of the wake and the final farewell at the Horto da Paz cemetery, I realized that we were all real beings. But that Antonio Candido hovered in another sphere, that of transcendence. A model to be unconditionally admired, but impossible to imitate. As Ana Luisa Escorel said, he was made from a different kind of clay than we do. And as Laura de Mello e Souza, the second of three daughters, observed, the world goes on, but one world has gone.

* George Schwartz He is a full professor of Hispanic-American Literature at USP. Author, among other books, of fervor of the vanguards (Literature Company).

Originally published in the book edited by Antonio Dimas & Ligia Chiappini Words for Walnice (Sesc editions).


[I] Accessible in .

[ii] In “Antonio Candido, 100 Years”, O Estado de S. Paulo, Caderno 2, 18 jul. 2018.

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