Painful way and friendship



Salute to Zitelmann José Santos de Oliva.


Perfection disdains our praises, ignores our gestures. We venerate perfection, it's obvious; but we can only celebrate imperfect things, mixed things, mixtures, condemned as we are to live like broken vases, stretched ropes, ruins that barely allow us to glimpse the architecture perhaps inhabited by unlikely gods. We thus celebrate those who represent, or rather, those who know how to see such limits; finally, those who know they are condemned to the most earthly dimension and, nevertheless, never renounce the search for the sublime.

The preservation of the names of our confreres, however precarious this form of immortality may be, depends on these gestures of celebrating uniquely human existences, through which we can rescue virtues through the exercise of a collective memory. And behold, today we gather to celebrate Zitelmann José Santos de Oliva. Our effort, then, paraphrasing a dedication he once made to his mother, is to pronounce his name today not as a simple memory, but rather as a permanence.

The celebration of this centenary echoes another tribute, the jubilee of an elderly young man, greeted then by Jorge Amado and João Sá (a prince of letters and a leader of the business classes), at a dinner on January 31, 1974, at the Clube Baiano de Tennis, attended by more than 300 prominent personalities from the business, academic or cultural world.

Of these personalities, I take the liberty of naming those who, for all time, have a seat at the Academy of Letters of Bahia: Adriano Pondé, Ari Guimarães, Carlos Eduardo da Rocha, Dom Avelar Brandão Vilela, Edivaldo Boaventura, Godofredo Filho, Itazil Benício dos Santos , James Amado, João da Costa Falcão, João Eurico Mata, Jorge Amado, Jorge Calmon, Josaphat Marinho, José Calasans, José Luiz de Carvalho Filho, José Silveira, Luís Henrique Dias Tavares, Orlando Gomes, Wilson Lins and Zélia Gattai Amado. And witnesses of this extraordinary moment were the confreres Edvaldo Brito, Fernando da Rocha Peres and Florisvaldo Mattos, who were there.

A warning is necessary. Edvaldo, Fernando and Florisvaldo witnessed that moment, in relation to which my speech is now a mere shadow. Except for texts, documents and testimonies, I did not have any contact with Zitelmann. Therefore, I can barely guess the presence of his spirit in the materiality of his word; I will, however, try to do the best I can, dealing above all with the written word, which, however, never holds anything completely certain and firm, as Plato states in his Phaedrus, through Socrates: “For there is something terrible in writing, Phaedrus, and it really resembles painting. Because the products of this are presented as living beings, but, when questioned about something, they remain in solemn silence. And the same happens with speeches: it will seem to you that they speak thinking for themselves, but when you interrogate them wanting to learn whatever they have said, they always indicate one and the same thing (...), and they don't know with whom should or should not speak.” (Plato, 2016, p. 137-138.)

In short, Zitelmann can no longer defend himself. Only a fragment of speech can come to the rescue of the interpretation of another fragment. Meanwhile, apart from my time (perhaps even more than my ideas), I am not the best apostle sent on the mission of preserving his memory or reestablishing the meaning of the word. I believe, however, that, together, we can recover much of the evidence of his writing and, I would add, the living testimony of his family and friends.

The word, having become a shadow of itself, now seeks to evoke something still significant for those who, having lived with Zitelmann, would not even need it. However, however fragile the written word may be, the signs left are many and eloquent. Even this jubilee that I now mention is extraordinary in itself, not least because its documents record the reaction of someone who was so intensely celebrated.

At just 50 years old, Zitelmann de Oliva was at the center of the center of the universe, which is our Bahia. And, before everyone, a member of the elite in so many senses, the documents left on this and other occasions allow us today to recognize a Christian on high and on the ground, accomplished and deeply incomplete, living within the limits, in an excellent way, his Christian way of life and the blessings inherent to the many demonstrations of love and friendship.


Zitelmann was certainly a moralist. In the words of Alceu Amoroso Lima, who reviewed his first book, “a moralist in the highest sense of the expression” (in Oliva, 1962, p. XII), as he placed himself in a “Mirante”, his position as a writer in the Bahia newspaper, of which he could discern the highest in the most trivial and, as his friend João Batista de Lima e Silva noted, he always sought, “sometimes dramatically, to defend, affirm, and propagate a scale of ethical values ​​as a condition of his own being in world” (in Oliva & Calasans, 1970, p. 12).

What is the basis of this moralizing turn? I believe it was a deep and painful consciousness of the human, in the midst of which he preserved a commiseration for our precarious existence; the intense feeling of a burden, of a destiny, of an obligation, in a man guided by commandments. Among his categorical imperatives, first of all, a work ethic stands out, the value of work as a measure and justification: “I never stayed in the comfort zone – he emphasized. From a very young age, as a boy, I learned that working is necessary. And I exercised different professions. It's worth listing because it's just one road: home milk delivery, coal deposit manager, homemade sweets maker, beadle at the Ginásio da Bahia [hosted by Isaías Alves], bookseller of foreign books [some clandestine], inspector of the agricultural credit portfolio of Banco do Brasil, debate writer for the Legislative Assembly, managing director of a printing press, journalist, founder and director of a newspaper, deputy and attorney at the Court of Auditors of the Municipality of Salvador, university professor, and today, because banking, I was elevated to the position of deputy director of Banco Econômico S/A. [and then to other highly prominent positions in the Economic Group, as we well know]”. (AAVV, 1974, p. 27-28.)

Outlining a common and truly moralizing feature of this path, Zitelmann added: “All this was exercised with probity, with zeal, with dedication, with the decision to do the best in everything, without impostures, without concessions, truthfully” (AAVV, 1974, p .28).

Compelling testimonies and confessions, I am forced to read this “truthfully” with strong colors. Zitelmann finally admits harshness in his attitudes, brusqueness in certain gestures and even a certain rudeness in some expressions, motivated however by his “repudiation of indignities”, his “declared non-conformity in the face of error”. I can imagine the degree of demand he placed firstly on himself, but also, due to his “essential submission to reason”, on those with whom he worked and perhaps even more so on those he truly loved (AAVV, 1974, p. 30).

Here, I observe the obvious: I cannot make judgments, I have no right or elements to do so. I just take him at his word. It is natural, moreover, for the commentator to take himself as a measure, which is usually inevitable for all of us. I therefore do not need to agree with Alceu's judgment that, at a very young age, Zitelmann missed the mark when he directed his faith towards revolutionary socialism. I would be being false; but I must admit that the same spark accompanied him in all his transitions.

In every face of this man we will find the implacable moralist. In the heat of novelty, called to appreciate an author whose dimension soon moved away from the trivial, Alceu Amoroso Lima perhaps fails in some details, although he gets it right in general. I just can't judge, considering the stuff Zitelmann was made of, that he would have gotten lost if he had followed any other path. From being precocious, after all, he only had maturity and gravity.


This rigid work ethic is associated with another, as a counterpoint. An ethic of friendship and, even, let's say without reservation, an ethic of love for others. This severe leader, guided by extreme rigorism, also admits: “I am a man of only tenderness and recognition” (AAVV, 1974, p. 30).

We could consider it equally risky to take his own statement literally. This devotion to others could be a rhetorical outburst. In fact, the testimonies of your friends are much more important here. They are the ones who emphasize and reinforce this other trait. In his singular painful path, Zitelmann found support in the defense of friendship.

Friendship, stated Jorge Amado, was “his battle shield”, asking: “what other friend could surpass him in devotion?” (AAVV, 1974, p. 24.) Indeed, friendship is currency for Zitelmann, but it is also something thought, it has content and form, that is, a true phenomenology. Here, once again (as, indeed, throughout this speech), I try to make your own words resonate.

Man, he will say, traces his destiny between living (which takes place amidst obstacles “in the dark forest of subordinate interests”) and coexistence (“the daily exercise of overcoming his weaknesses”). Friendship, “kaleidoscopic”, is beneficial in all its forms, and thus seeks to speak “not only about friendship-concept”, but also “about friendship that is characterized by giving an outstretched hand, a supportive shoulder, an attentive ear, present-support, forgiveness-always, at all times and in any circumstances” (Oliva, 1968, p. 13-14).

Friendship is the horizon of action; it must always be cultivated, as a constant and necessary effort, very difficult, “in these harsh times of ingratitude, of genocides, of betrayals” – in another formula, quite appropriate to the year 1968, “in these reckless warped times” (Oliva, 1968 , p. 15).

His taxonomy of friendship is not, however, a pure abstraction. It unfolds into descriptive subtleties of concrete actions, as if recalling personal ties, and gains even greater materiality when translated into examples, namely, a vast list of friends, which, in his book Friendship every day, describes in quick, impressionistic brushstrokes. For example, “Dom Jerônimo, so apostle, so singularly good and so calmly firm; José Calasans, so current, full of life and understanding; (…) Dom Timóteo, this holy monk, so participating, so active and who for Bahia was a gift, an admirable gift from the Holy Spirit; (…) Luiz Henrique, just worry about his friends.” (Oliva, 1968, p. 18-19.)

A few names from an extensive list, of which I would also like to highlight one mention, with a special hug: “Edvaldo Brito, with his presence as an Ethiopian prince, his modesty, his competence and his mute suffering” (Oliva, 1968, p. 20) .

This way of grasping the human substance in a network of predicates is a mark of the writer's style. In several texts, he approaches the individual through his reverberations, as if the human essence were nothing more than the game of appearances, the place he inhabits, the contingency of customs, the outbursts of a nervous personality or the traits of culture. Sometimes, he only reveals the character's name at the end of the chronicle, as if to insinuate that no individual is completely hidden or may be more than what is revealed by their gestures. After all, thought cannot live without words, the painter without his paints, nor does the good man present himself to us without his morality incarnated in actions.

In this phenomenal field, a kind of metaphysics of friendship emerges in his work, as if it could anticipate the substance of another plane, one that perhaps no longer consists of mortal trifles. In the midst of the crossing, therefore, without losing sight of this transcendent horizon, he states: “what counts, what is good throughout life is to make friends, which are in truth, and in truth I tell you, the unfolding of ourselves ourselves, our encounter in the crowd, our integration in the multiple and the earthly realization of the Christian ideal that others, when close, are our growth, our fulfillment and our joy”. (Oliva, 1968, p. 22.)

“Suffering is a constancy, almost a permanence.” (Oliva, 1962, p. 39.) After all, the “contradictions that surround all humanity are terrible, contradictions that (…) cause, at least, anguish, affliction and anxieties” (Oliva, 1968, p. 27). The painful path therefore pervades all humanity, and there is no life without anguish. And the list of causes of our anguish is varied: “the cowardice of the weak, the betrayal of the cowardly, the envy of the frustrated, the vileness of the wealthy, the lies of the cynics, the slander of the shameless, the coldness of the weak, the excessive ambition , without checks and balances, of the careerists”. (Oliva, 1968, p. 35.)

I cannot help but notice that such causes of pain, suffering, frustration, are immemorial. They are not tied to a specific time. For this reason, they reinforce the moralizing double aspect of a work ethic and an affirmation of friendship. It is not by chance that Jorge Amado was able to conclude his greeting like this, which, to be honest now, in no way seems exaggerated: “Love is your word, Zitelmann, and I pronounce it here at this party of friends so that it illuminates and warms our hearts ” (AAVV, 1974, p. 24).


It is impossible to understand Zitelmann de Oliva without his story and even less without his conversion. This conjunction gives us the right measure of revolt and containment so typical of his complex condition as a man whose shadow is shown in the world and who, however, is dedicated to the measures of eternity.

May Dom Emmanuel forgive me at this point in my speech for any possible heresy, as I now dare to comment on the religiosity of a convert to Christianity at the hands of the Benedictines, who Zitelmann will say were his guides and friends. Praise for the Benedictines is, in fact, frequent and very strong, as in their ecstasy upon receiving a gift from Dom Jerônimo in 1960: “I won the Rule of Saint Benedict. I haven't received a gift with such joy in a long time. Yes, with great joy, because I am so linked to the Benedictines that every thing that brings me closer to these admirable preachers of the truth is always a reason for contentment.” (Oliva, 1968, p. 134.)

So forgive me for any possible absurdity. After all, despite my well-known religious aspects, I am a bit of a materialist and quite a Marxist, although I am also a Wittgensteinian; Also, I am given to political activism and, moreover, the son of a suicidal woman and, therefore, never truly at peace with the dogmatic severity of a church that, in 1963, refused him his obsequies. Furthermore, if I am religious and given to many abstractions, I can only be so in my singular waterfallan way, that is, irremediably lost among terreiros, churches and academic spaces (all of them sacred), still following, full of enchantment, both the procession of Senhor dos Passos and that of the Brotherhood of Boa Morte.

Let us return, however, to Zitelmann's conversion. If Marxism essentially affirms the idea that history has a meaning and that the proletariat is the universal class, that is, the only one capable of realizing the most properly human values ​​through this history, I believe that, whether we disagree or not , Zitelmann would have finally understood, certainly with the help of the Benedictines (good left-wing Catholics), that no class alone is the bearer of the human (be it the bourgeoisie or the proletariat, be it the peasantry or the aristocracy), that in addition the meaning of humanity it is beyond any history and perhaps that history itself, when you think about it, doesn't really have any meaning.

There is consistency in this man who visits extremes. As José Calasans concedes, “on the journey of youth or on the journey of maturity, you were, coherently, faithful to your historical destiny, not trying to hide, in the respective times, the hammer and sickle, the rosary and the missal” (Calasans , in Oliva & Calasans, 1970, p.

The transition from Marxism to Christianity, however, does not seem merely theoretical. It's visceral. Zitelmann seems to want to exorcise a personal flaw, as if the commitment to freedom depended on the determined refusal “of stuffiness, mystification and Marxist aberration, which only and above all fallaciously draws attention to the miserable riches of this world” (Oliva, in Oliva & Calasans , 1970, p. 26). Zitelmann's words, essential to his journey, purging himself, immolating himself of what he considered an adolescent mistake and, therefore, a venial sin.

Many have noticed the intensity with which Marxism has been discarded, but all grant it the permanence of a commitment, lived with entirety and integrity. In his words, a activism for freedom. Thus, with great personal involvement, Zitelmann finds his authenticity in Christianity.

“In this meeting with Xto. I was able to quench all my thirst for justice, realize all my love for my neighbor, realize the desire for a single fraternity, appease all the desire to give to others and see in full light that all interest in others is only discovered when we stop aside from the ties to hatred and the subordinations to the calcined conscience and by obeying only the determination to be fully supportive, as only the Christian can be essentially and sincerely revolutionary”. (Oliva, in Oliva & Calasans, 1970, p. 26.)

Without any individual or even a class holding the truth of history, we would all experience on this ground the unfinished saga of freedom, sharing the very burden of the human condition, namely: “It is inescapable that man, because he is marked by original sin, is not only virtues and not only greatness. We all have at least seven faces. We are not monolithic. We have our weaknesses, our falls, our obscurations and even the disadvantages of grace.” (Oliva, in Oliva & Calasans, 1970, p. 39.)

This perspective of a new man, “sun coming out of a blue eggshell”, to use an image of Cassiano Ricardo, is not simple. No one would now escape the burden, the difficult journey, no one would have the right answer to the enigma of life, but those who are not futile or frivolous would know and feel this. In any case, it is worth emphasizing, his desire to see in the precariousness of the human the unlikely presence of the eternal did not distance him from the world, nor did it make him silent in the face of patent inequities. Allow me two examples from the difficult year of 1968.

Student Edson Luiz is killed on March 28, 1968, at the Calabouço Restaurant. Zitelmann cannot contain his indignation and does not remain silent: “innocent people cannot be killed with impunity”! His answer is Christian, without a doubt; but the revolt is simply civic and carries its characteristic moralizing aspect: “Edson Luiz's death must not have been in vain – he writes. And may its immolation awaken in everyone, especially those in power, the sense that power is only valid if it is born from the desire of the people and only gains authority if exercised with dignity, humility and magnanimity. Let everyone remember that the blood of the innocent stains and is stained forever.” (Oliva, 1968, p. 114.)

We see Zitelmann even more outraged by the murder of Martin Luther King. The writer finds himself touched personally, challenged in his feelings, led to reflect on his own reactions. We can see him emerge from a revolt that would call for the application of the law of Talion (“wound for wound, bruise for bruise”) to the lesson of the Exodus, that is, the restraint that would lead us not to follow even the crowd, if for perpetuate evil.

“Being a Christian does not mean being the same at any time. There is also a time of revolt, and this is courageous, embodying in it the meaning of a struggle that no longer concerns a particular cause, but the whole of humanity:

Martin Luther King is a presence. (…) It’s time to mourn his death. But let's not just lament. Now and while there are murders and injustices, the time is for struggle. Let us fight against all inequities. How he fought. Let us fight against all injustices. How he fought. Let us fight against all discrimination. How he fought. Let us fight against the fanatics of death. How he fought. For it is certain that 'every human death diminishes me because I am part of humanity' (Devotions, XVII, John Donne)”. (Oliva, 1968, p. 277.)

A unique critic of Marxism, Zitelmann never prevented his children from participating in demonstrations against the dictatorship, many of them led by Marxists, nor did he fail to honor, in his public demonstrations, the best democratic principles. (Salles, 2015, p. 421.) This is how, in his inauguration speech at this Academy, in 1970, with pride and courage, he uses the word to denounce how many “in the enjoyment of command eclipsed freedom, transforming power of the government into a simple police power” (Oliva, in Oliva & Calasans, 1970, p. 26).

Zitelmann, courageously, did not remain silent. Let us remember that job as a beadle that was given to him by the work and grace of Isaías Alves. His gratitude was immense. However, upon succeeding him in this chair, he did not fail to denounce in that same inauguration speech (in a rare moment that was not very indulgent) a gross error on the part of Isaías, who, already a mature, experienced man and, therefore, capable of rational judgment, had adhered to the version typical of fascism, integralism (Oliva, in Oliva & Calasans, 1970, p. 38) – by the way, a supposedly Catholic manifestation of the extreme right.

Zitelmann's moral gravity did not allow him to remain silent. In favor of Isaiah, I must add two things in this regard. First, Isaiah was not alone in this adherence. Hundreds of thousands of Brazilians, with names of great prominence in our history, adhered to integralism, perhaps revealing an intimate face of our country, which from time to time flirts more directly with obscurantism. Second, Zitelmann himself had the joy of recording in this same speech that Isaiah knew how to do penance for such an error in human time, with the promise of the remission of sins being certain for all of us. (Oliva, in Oliva & Calasans, 1970, p. 39.)


The keys to friendship and love are severe. In Zitelmann, they are life guides in the midst of the journey. A moralism that has become religious certainly protects it at all times from the bourgeois amoralism of environments of pure competition, which were not foreign to it either. After all, he was a mix of businessman and intellectual. In the words of his friend João Sá, “a mixed man of action and thought” (AAVV, 1974, p. 17). Having worked hard, he became a man of the elite in two senses, so that, also according to João Sá, his conversations could take place “at the fireside of the business and intellectual families of Bahia” (AAVV, 1974, p. 15 ).

I'm not prepared to talk about the businessman. Certainly, this can be done in other ways, by people who are more prepared and more accustomed to this profile. However, the documents allow me to guess his extreme practical acumen, his immense analytical power, when he turns his gaze to a reality that, modesty aside, I believe he knows a lot about, the Federal University of Bahia.

Travel Around a Report, or Problems of a University: precious text, is a refined commentary on the report presented by rector Miguel Calmon to the UFBA University Assembly in 1965. The text reveals a fine perception of the university reality, problems of our University that, mutatis mutandis, remain current.

Before touching on its content, let us praise the writer's philosophical and ironic verve, as he begins by making considerations about the nature of the analyzed text itself, namely, a report. After all, reports are written not to be read. These are works made for a few readers, who are those who read them out of professional obligation – the typists –, those who read them due to personality deformation – the sycophants –, those who read them out of a duty of office – the opponents – and, finally, the that devour them by organic imposition – moths. (Oliva, 1965, p. 3.)

Fortunately, reports can also be read by good critics. In this case, criticism of the report allows us to highlight the virtues of the manager capable of seeing beyond private interests, alongside the gongoric virtues of the writer cultivated in Bahian prose, who is not in a hurry to abandon his leafy style, nor does he seek to follow the advice of Alceu Amoroso Lima, according to which he would benefit from becoming brief and escaping the overabundant influence of Rui Barbosa. In protest, registration, and passant, my gongoric solidarity with Zitelmann, realizing furthermore that there is, in his case, a happy agreement between content and literary form, since the baroque tension serves to perfection whoever finds in the world a kind of separation from himself, a latent contradiction, a joyful sadness in life itself. (Oliva, 1962, p. 248-249.)

Let's look at the content of your travel. This 1965 text offers us a vigorous diagnosis of a University yet to be created, as it is above all a prisoner of a significant fragmentation, that is, an institution that: (i) has not yet completed the convergence movement based on common interests, being marked by the particular interests of the units that precede it and, therefore, lacking a university spirit capable of overcoming the prevalence of particularistic spirits; (ii) had not yet reached a level of excellence that was well distributed and, furthermore, integrated into interdisciplinary activities; and (iii) it had not yet established itself as a seat of humanism, since, of all human institutions, “in a world agitated by bewilderment and frustration and dominated by discouragement, the University represents the security of the spiritual continuity of man who there is nothing to fear” (Oliva, 1965, p. 13).

The fragmentation of units, gives us the example of buying four or five British Encyclopedias “when two would be enough to meet the needs of the University” (Oliva, 1965, p. 6), if the Central Library was valued and each unit did not seek to have its own complete library. Or the multiplication of precarious teaching laboratories, when we could have collectively shared equipment, were it not for the dubious feelings of school leaders who believe that it would be “a loss of prestige to move the teaching of these subjects from their units to the institutes” (Oliva, 1965, p .6).

From academic fragmentation, gives us the example of centers dedicated to the same discipline, but which “work without any connection between them, rather in a silent hostility, with no longer the possibility of working as a team and exchanging experiences” (Oliva, 1965, p. 7). With this, the teams of an organization thought of “in function of the creative work of science” (Oliva, 1965, p. 7) would be separated, and it is worth mentioning here that this repair becomes even more current, if we think about the implications of this separation for a desirable interdisciplinary work.

“This deformation makes the University unable to assert itself and allows the existence of dying organisms, which live a life far below the real possibilities of its members.” (Oliva, 1965, p. 7.) The fact that Zitelmann can then highlight a handful of professors (21 names, although others were also renowned), shows by this very highlight how far we were from an authentic center of researchers, in which there would be no place for an “ankylosed knowledge” that was here and there stratified “in the harsh lines of compendia made to the taste of the frustrated and obedient to the passivity of established notions” (Oliva, 1965, p. 9).

From the poverty of horizons, he gives us the example of the large number of students who do not really place themselves at the center of the university mission, since they only compete for diplomas, or even of teachers for whom only the title matters. Against these lesser feelings and, nevertheless, so present, the challenge of never being like the lukewarm that must be vomited up would be placed as a duty, an admonition and a task. A truly current task, therefore, for all who understand the university as a critical institution; for those who, therefore, do not wish to see the university “postponed, injured, humiliated and vilified, who do not want to see it despised or belittled, who do not admit its demoralization, its etiolation, its disintegration” (Oliva, 1965, p. 14).


The critique of Miguel Calmon's report is an extraordinary document. Historical and also current — albeit for other reasons. The affirmation of the administrative and academic need for sharing resulted from the strong affirmation that UFBA was, then, a “poor university, in a poor land” (Oliva, 1965, p. 5).

In a sense, Zitelmann, how our UFBA has changed and grown! You who loved her so much and dedicated yourself to her so much will certainly like to know. It no longer makes sense to think of sharing information as a management challenge. British Encyclopedias or teaching laboratories. Our research today is thriving and our research infrastructure has a significant scope. UFBA even decided on a unified coordination of laboratories, even though it still needed to overcome some atavistic resistance. And such equipment is not just intended for teaching, as it serves research of high quality and public interest.

To give some examples of equipment shared today, whose global value is in the order of several million dollars, we have the regular sharing of transmission electron microscopes and scanning electron microscopes, nuclear magnetic resonance, high-performance liquid chromatographs, performance coupled to a high-resolution mass spectrometer, cell for determining phase equilibrium. Equipment whose operation I can barely discern, in its abundance of proparoxytones; but also pianos, pianos of the best quality, which I mention here, Zitelmann, to remember and affirm that our UFBA continues to have one of its centers in a wonderful orchestra.

Furthermore, alongside a significant infrastructure in buildings and equipment, today there are hundreds and hundreds of our outstanding researchers. Our real estate assets, which are often targeted by birds of prey in the real estate market, are also considerable. Furthermore, UFBA today has a significant number of undergraduate courses and a consolidated postgraduate course, having undertaken a bold expansion.

Despite all this difference, Zitelmann, despite advances amid setbacks, I can confide in you. To our sadness, our rich university often finds itself impoverished. Or rather, it has been experiencing a lack of resources and, for this reason, its integrity, completeness and authenticity are threatened. After all, the resources that, by legal obligation, should be allocated to its full maintenance and sufficient guarantee of its final activities, are trapped within unacceptable limits.

We are living in a situation of penury, more or less serious, more or less aggressive, which has been going on for a decade, in which the provisions of article 55 of the Education Guidelines and Bases Law have failed to be complied with: “It will be up to the Union to ensure , annually, in its General Budget, sufficient resources for the maintenance and development of higher education institutions maintained by it” – remembering that our institutions, as stated in the Federal Constitution, must inseparably carry out teaching, research and extension or, by definition, they are not authentic universities.

Additional resources have occurred, in fact, through two mechanisms that, under normal conditions of temperature and pressure, with their regular functioning being guaranteed, may even be welcome, supplementing actions through a type of parliamentary patronage or through terms of decentralized execution (TEDs), through which other government bodies would bring good challenges to university academic intelligence. In fact, resources could even be raised beyond the public sphere itself, if the university, not being on the ropes, does not see freedom of thought and research threatened, nor has its autonomy compromised.

However, in the current situation, in which there is far from being such a guarantee of sufficient and common resources for university life, supplementation becomes dangerously disruptive to both the unity of the institution and its autonomy, with academic energy being simply hired – in in our case, especially by the State itself, with any benefits rendered inconvenient and the losses, of great magnitude, much more than predictable. As a consequence, the integration of the institution and its necessary universality are compromised, thus affecting the very aura of the institution and, consequently, tarnishing its magnificence.

Zitelmann's voice still resonates, in response to our fears. Arguing her analysis, she associated the administrative fragility of the institution, the conflicts between isolated groups and the still incomplete integration of units into the university as a whole, an unfortunate picture of the living conditions of teachers, once condemned to do a “profession of poverty” — a profession of faith whose vows have now been sadly renewed. A priesthood that, let's face it, could or may still ennoble the devoted, but also committed us and commits us to dedication as mortals which, believe me, we also are.

Zitelmann's lesson remains, as it relates to principles, even though our reality is different. “We live committing inequities”, stated Zitelmann. (Oliva, 1962, p. 254.) It is a human contingency, both in private life and in the exercise of public functions. Therefore, our work must be incessant so that we never allow the sublime to be measured by what may be the most petty.

This is, I want to believe, a lesson from someone who, having been the right and left hand of rector Miguel Calmon, was able to see and defend the university as a whole. In fact, whoever loves the university needs to place himself in this position as guardian of its aura, having the duty to affirm the very nature of the university every day, beyond any contingency, and never allowing pragmatism to take over. as a measure of wisdom nor long-term values ​​being dominated by the immediate interests of groups, parties or individuals.


I conclude, finally, to everyone's relief, mentioning once again the collection of sacred passages, of which Zitelmann had fourteen. As I said previously, perhaps he was just “signaling, through contrast with the sublime example of Christ, the common trajectory of those who convert and, in the exaggeration of the paradox, begin to subject their earthly lives to a daily investment in high values” ( Salles, 2015, p. 421). This collection has always impressed me, as if I were still in a procession in Cachoeira, the very center of the center of the universe, with the journey suspended by Verônica's song:

Oh, you all,

That you travel along the Way,

Come and see

If there is pain similar to mine!

These collections now seem to me to be a sign of something much broader, as if each of your books portrayed different seasons, different steps. I feel that each book supports us after possible falls and lifts our gaze with each manifestation of hopelessness. Even though he is among the most fortunate, with the support of his family and his many friends, in each of his books we see, on the one hand, a burden, a shadow, the presence of the human condition and, on the other, in the midst of such a conjunction of pains, the possibility of a dignified existence, perhaps towards the fifteenth station – the step to which, after all, all of Christendom would aspire.

If the Christian is the one who hopes and also seeks in the harsh daily life the redemption of the world, he is even more deeply Christian who is aware of his shadow, who sincerely suffers his own burden, who finally knows the price of the human condition. Zitelmann was thus profoundly Christian, even for walking his painful path in the faith of the final station, which would lead from the cross to the resurrection, being clear that the man who, on the contrary, loses his shadow and ignores his opacity, is condemned to a life inauthentic. When we read him, therefore, between differences and encounters, we discover him human at some stage of a Way of the Cross, always grasping the cold flame of humanity – which is challenged every day by the severe call of the divine.

At 50 years old, he was celebrated for the greatest expression of our letters and the fine flower of the business community. It seemed almost perfection. Perfection, however, we said at the beginning, is not celebrated. On its centenary, we once again celebrate this earthly expression of a spiritual journey. And celebrating his name today is extending the tribute to his family, in which we can feel a reverberation. May this never fade, as it is an effect of the concentric circles of those who knew how to sow good seeds of love and friendship.

My mission ends. The challenge, beyond any difference, was trying to grasp what, however, always eludes us. Today, with Drummond, I believe we simply ask:

What mystery is man?

What dream, what shadow?

But does man exist?

And perhaps we have learned that such abstract questions can only be answered with concrete examples. If our work has not been in vain, we must be able to say that there is at least one being who satisfies the concept of man. We must be able to point out an individual, with their weaknesses and virtues. So, for all that is human, without risk of error, I believe we can say. Yes, there certainly was and continues to be a man, Zitelmann José Santos de Oliva, and his shadow is dense.

*Joao Carlos Salles He is a professor at the Department of Philosophy at the Federal University of Bahia. Former rector of UFBA and former president of ANDIFES. Author, among other books, of Public university and democracy (boitempo).

Speech in honor of the centenary of Zitelmann José Santos de Oliva, in a session of the Bahia Academy of Letters, held on June 13, 2024 – anniversary of the Faculty of Philosophy and Human Sciences of the Federal University of Bahia.


AAVV. Zitelmann de Oliva's 50th birthday. Placard from 1974.

OLIVA, Zitelmann. A man and his shadow. Salvador: CEIOB Editions, 1962.

_____. Travel Around a Report, or Problems of a University. Salvador: Estuary, 1965.

_____. Friendship every day. Salvador: Estuary, 1968.

OLIVA, Zitelmann & CALASANS, José. Speeches at the Academy. Salvador: Estuary, 1970.

PLATO. Phaedrus. São Paulo: Penguin / Companhia das Letras, 2016.

SALLES, JC “The invention of the writer”. Magazine of the Academy of Letters of Bahia, v. 53, 2015.

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