- (Des)Conexões entre Portugal e o Brasil: Séculos XIX e XX by Tânia Martuscelli
In (Des)Conexões entre Portugal e o Brasil: Séculos XIX e XX, Tânia Martuscelli undertakes the formidable task of tracing the history of contacts between Portuguese and Brazilian writers and artists, from Brazil’s independence from Portugal in 1822 through the mid-twentieth century. Given her project’s wide chronological scope, Martuscelli wisely chooses to focus on discrete examples or moments of Luso-Brazilian contact, addressing topics such as nineteenth-century Portuguese novelist Eça de Queirós’s not uncontroversial reception in Brazil, the transatlantic Luso-Brazilian journals that flourished at the fin de siècle, and the contacts maintained between Portuguese and Brazilian modernists beginning in the 1910s. Taken collectively, these examples present Luso-Brazilian literary communication as the norm, rather than the exception, over the nearly two centuries in which Portugal and Brazil have dealt with one another as independent countries. This is, to my mind, the principal contribution of Martuscelli’s book: it upends the stubborn critical myth of Luso-Brazilian literary disconnection, which has been enshrined by simplistic readings of the Brazilian Romantics’ and modernists’ aspirations toward national cultural autonomy, but which has been challenged over the past two decades by scholars including Arnaldo Saraiva and Beatriz Berrini.
The strongest chapters of the book focus on periods in which Luso-Brazilian noncommunication is more or less assumed. In a chapter devoted to fin-de-siècle-era transatlantic publications, Martuscelli skillfully analyzes how journals such as Portugal-Brasil (1899–1914) and Atlântida (1915–20), which counted important writers from both countries as editors and contributors, amounted to a shared “projeto luso-brasileiro” and proposed “uma nova forma de união sócio-cultural entre pares,” even as Luso-Brazilian relations were destabilized by the advent of the Republic in Brazil (1889) and Portugal (1910) (73, 75; author’s emphasis). And in her comparative discussion of Portuguese and Brazilian modernism, Martuscelli demonstrates how even those Brazilian modernistas most associated with the assertion of their country’s cultural autonomy from Portugal maintained an interest in Portuguese literary and cultural production, and corresponded and collaborated with contemporaries in the Portuguese avant-garde. As Martuscelli notes, in March 1925 Oswald de Andrade proposed to the Portuguese writer and cultural promoter António Ferro, a veteran of the journal Orpheu, that they write an ultimately unrealized, historically-themed “Luso-Brazilian” theatrical work, to be titled As 2 irmãs gloriosas–Ato de Bravura. In a particularly well-argued and provocative passage, Martuscelli shows how Andrade’s poem “Erro de português,” conventionally interpreted as a humorous poke at Portuguese colonialism and an example of Brazilian modernism’s irreverent brand of cultural nationalism, may be read against the grain as a lament that the Portuguese colonizer, in not adapting himself to the Brazilian environment and to the indigenous cultures he encountered, failed to become a “um europeu mais sul-americano” (189).
While Martuscelli more than illustrates the persistence of Luso-Brazilian literary connections, she does not bring an entirely convincing theoretical framework to bear on the materials she analyzes. Martuscelli’s reading of Luso-Brazilian literary relations in the post-independence era draws heavily on the notion of hybridity as developed by post-colonial scholars such as Albert Memmi and Homi Bhabha. Here hybridity refers not to the combination or fusion of two distinct but at least somewhat related phenomena (as in hybrid organisms), but to differential self-definition through “translation and negotiation,” as Bhabha puts it in The Location of Culture (1994), or to the “constituição mútua [de] caráter,” in Martuscelli’s words (33). In practice, hybridity, in both its conventional and post-colonial connotations, seems unsuited to explain many—though not all—of the instances of Luso-Brazilian influence, dialogue, and collaboration that Martuscelli describes. For instance, in an early chapter, Martuscelli states that widespread Portuguese participation in the nineteenth-century Brazilian press occurred...