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Reviewed by:
  • Leituras críticas sobre Boris Fausto
  • James P. Woodard
Gomes, Ângela de Castro, ed. Leituras críticas sobre Boris Fausto. Belo Horizonte: Editora da Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais; São Paulo: Ed. Fundação Perseu Abramo, 2008. 240 pp.

Among Brazilian historians whose books are long deserving of English translation, Boris Fausto ranks second only to Sérgio Buarque de Holanda. Three critically important monographs, a moving memoir combining family history and autobiography, a collection of shorter reflections on history and politics [End Page 172] both personal and polemical, a biography of Brazil's most important twentiethcentury statesman, and a textbook survey of Lusophone South America's five centuries of history – of these works only the textbook has received an English translation (and, via the translation, the textbook is the only one of these seven works to be reviewed in this journal). Leituras críticas sobre Boris Fausto offers no explanations for the relative neglect of this oeuvre in the United States (nor was it meant to), but the handsomely produced tribute will provide students and general readers with introductions to four of Fausto's most important books.

Ângela de Castro Gomes, the volume's editor, takes on the first and most famous of Fausto's books, A Revolução de 1930: historiografia e história (1970). Sílvia Regina Ferraz Petersen contributes a discussion of Trabalho urbano e conflito social, 1890–1920 (1976). Crime e cotidiano: a criminalidade em São Paulo, 1880–1924 (1984) is the ostensible subject of Sérgio Adorno's chapter, while Keila Grinberg examines Negócios e ócios: histórias da imigração (1997). The volume is rounded out by an introduction, an extended interview with Fausto, and a bibliography.

Of the four essays, Grinberg's is the one that focuses most intently on its subject and, as such, contributes most to potential re-readings of Fausto's work. This focus is in part a function of genre (the autobiographical Negócios e ócios versus the three monographs) and the relative recency of Negócios e ócios's publication, but it may also result from the kind of discipline and consideration incumbent upon the most junior of the volume's contributors (compare, for example, the ten pages of tedious throat-clearing that precede Adorno's fourteenpage discussion of Crime e cotidiano or the passages of Peterson's essay that unintentionally bring to mind the old saw about the enormous condescension of posterity [e.g., 55, 56–57, 62–63]). In any case, Grinberg's application of her own expertise in the history of immigration, acculturation, and ethnic identity, together with a carefully intuited sense of her subject's becoming a part of his city, should send those who have read Negócios e ócios back to their bookshelves and those who have not to libraries and bookstores.

It is Ângela de Castro Gomes's essay, however, that will likely be of greatest interest to readers, both because of the importance of A Revolução de 1930 (now in its sixteenth edition) and the eminence of the essayist (whose own A invenção do trabalhismo [1988], now in its third edition, should rank with Fausto's works on any English-speaking historian of Brazil's shortlist of potential translation projects). It is an able guidebook to A Revolução de 1930 from without (in its time of publication and its subsequent trajectory) and from within (in providing a blueprint of the book's internal structure and logic). Throughout, the author displays a sure command of her chosen text and the relevant post1970 historiography, as well as admirable grace in dealing with points at which Fausto's original formulations have been found wanting.

Of the supplementary materials, the painstakingly transcribed and annotated interview with Fausto is by far a greater prize than the bibliography, which [End Page 173] is incomplete as far as Fausto's own scholarly work is concerned and makes no attempt to include reviews or prefaces, much less Fausto's voluminous contributions to the non-academic press. It complements an earlier interview, published in José Geraldo Vinci de Moraes and José Marcio Rego's Conversas com historiadores brasileiros (2002), including...


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