Brazilian literature: The Twentieth Century

The Twentieth Century

In 1902 Euclides da Cunha wrote his masterly description of an uprising in the Brazilian northeast, Os sertões (tr. Rebellion in the Backlands, 1944). Canaan (1902), a pessimistic novel of ideas by José Pereira da Graça Aranha, appeared in the same year, and the children's literature of José Bento Monteiro Lobato also became popular. The strong nativist and sociological bias of many of these works was even evident in the modernismo movement. It began in Brazil as a poetic movement influenced by French symbolists and led by Mário de Andrade, whose prose work Macunaíma (1928, tr. 1984) made pioneer use of the vernacular; the movement was soon joined by other poets of stature, including Manuel Bandeira.

The social novel came into its own in the 1930s with the works of Graciliano Ramos, José Lins do Rego, and Jorge Amado. Their concern with the Brazilian interior has been continued by writers such as João Guimarães Rosa, whose poetic novel Grande sertão: veredas appeared in 1956 (tr. 1963). At the same time, the more subjective trend continued with, among others, novelists Rachel de Queiroz, Érico Veríssimo, and Clarice Lispector, poets Jorge de Lima, Carlos Drummond de Andrade, Vinícius de Morais, and Cecília Meireles, and dramatists Nelson Rodrigues, Ariano Suassuna, and Alfredo Dias Gomes.

Reflecting the rise of military dictatorship, the themes of violence and repression, prominent in Brazilian literature since the late 1960s, run through the novels of Ignácio de Loyola Brandão, João Ubaldo Ribeiro, Lygia Fagundes Telles, Rubem Fonseca, and Nélida Piñon; through the poetry of Ferreira Gullar and Carlos Néjar; and through the plays of Chico Buarque and Gerald Thomas. The novels of Antônio Callado and Darcy Ribeiro depict the clash of political and social forces and the collapse of traditional ways of life.

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