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A Escrituracao da Escrita: Teoria e pratica do texto literario.

A Escrituracao da Escrita: Teoria e pratica do texto literario (The Accounting of the Written Word: Theory and Practice of the Literary Text) is Gilberto Mendonca Teles's ninth book of essays, his third on literary theory, and many of the works are already in their third and even twelfth edition. One of the first, O Conto Brasileiro em Goias (The Brazilian Short Story in Goias), was reviewed in the pages of Books Abroad (Summer 1970). Since that time, readers of Portuguese, French, and Spanish have also discovered A Raiz da fala (The Root of Speech; 1972), Saciologia goiana (Socio/Leprechaunology from Goias; 1982), and Cone de sombras (Shadow Cone; 1995) in numerous Brazilian and Portuguese editions of the author's poetry as well as in French and Spanish translations. A number of Mendonca Teles's poems are currently being translated into English for "Under the Southern Cross: Contemporary Brazilian Writing and Graphic Art," a book issue of TriQuarterly: An International Journal of Writing Art and Cultural Inquiry to be published by Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. In short, with A. Bosi and Haroldo de Campos, whom he mentions in his study, Mendonca Teles is one of the most accomplished men of letters in Brazil today, a scholar, poet, and humanist also known for his superb editions of the work of some of his older contemporaries: Tristao de Athayde, Augusto Frederico Schmidt, Carlos Drummond de Andrade, and many others (see also Jose Alcides Pinto, "Literatura brasileira," "Livros" in O Sabado, Fortaleza, Ceara, 7 September 1996). Just recently, Mendonca Teles received an honorary, doctorate from the Universidade Federal do Ceara, and on two occasions he has been proposed as a candidate for the Brazilian Academy of Letters.

In our age of professional self-analysis it is not surprising that Mendonca Teles explains his reflexive title in the introduction to his book: "As we read in a dictionary of the Portuguese language, escrituracao is the action of systematically registering the deeds of a financial transaction or an estate as well as the act of drawing up a document, and also the collection of commercial books, such as diaries, daybooks, and cashbox accounts. Hence the meaning of manuscrever, the art of handwriting these books well, the ability to write clearly and correctly italics and notarial and chancellory type styles in longhand that computers are making a thing of the past. For this reason escrituracao (account/drawing up a deed) also points to a escrita (accounting) as well as to escritura (registering a title or a claim), terms which have different meanings in Portuguese but, through the common stem they share, may be taken as synonyms." The main parts of A Escrituracao da Escrita - "O Lugar da Critica e da Historia" (The Role of Criticism and History), "A Contemplacao do Poetico" (The Contemplation of the Poetic Process), "As Margens da Ficcao" (On the Edge of Fiction) - reflect all the concerns I have mentioned: language, literature, theory, poetics, and criticism. The examination, explication, and reception of a significant part of the nineteenth- and twentieth-century Brazilian and Latin American canonical texts also rank high: Cruz e Sousa, Machado de Assis, Manuel Bandeira, Jorge de Lima, Mario and Oswald de Andrade, Drummond, Abgar Renault, Rachel de Queiroz, Graciliano Ramos, and Cassiano Ricardo.

As such, it is appropriate that the essays range from "Some Problems of Literary Theory" (terminology, language, generic concerns, literary figures, et cetera) to the eponymous essay "A Escrituracao da Escrita: Uma leitura dos romances de Graciliano Ramos" (The Accounting of the Written Word: A Reading of the Novels of Graciliano Ramos). "Criticism and History," "The Process of Modern Brazilian Poetry," and "Surrealism in Brazilian Literature," three essays from the first part, also place Brazilian literature in the mainstream of critical theory as well as in the wider context of the European and Latin American avant-gardes at the beginning of the twentieth century. In addition, they define the nature and range of modernismo brasileiro, an inventory of the linguistic, literary, and theoretical contributions of Brazilian modernism, and conclude with an analysis of the various experimental movements of the fifties such as concrete poetry and Brazilian poetry in the decade of the nineties. "Criticism and History" and "The Process of Modern Brazilian Poetry" first appeared in Tubingen (1993) and Paris (1979) and were revised in their present format for a lecture at the Department of Romance Languages at the University of Chicago (March 1990), when Mendonca Teles served there as Tinker Professor.

In short, A Escrituracao da Escrita is an ambitious, significant, carefully crafted work by an author who is always attentive to the philosophical, philological, and esthetic implications of technical, legal, or archaic verbal constructs. Now that the Princeton University Press has published Antonio Candido's On Literature and Society, translated by Howard S. Becker. a translation of Escrituracao da Escrita should not be far behind. Both of these books are bound to help open the eyes and minds of North American and English-speaking readers to the language, literary tradition, and point of view of over 180 million speakers of Portuguese strategically located on three continents: Europe, Africa, and America. They also correspond to the point of view of a lesser-known Latin American reality, one of whose writers might well merit the next Nobel Prize in Literature.

Vera R. Teixeira Northwestern University
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Author:Teixeira, Vera R.
Publication:World Literature Today
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 22, 1997
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