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International Association of Lusitanists (AIL). (Appendix: FILLM--history and objectives).

Associacao Internacional de Lusitanistas

Although I may need to introduce our Association, a member of the FILLM since 1997, it is probably unnecessary to introduce the Portuguese language at the end of a year in which our culture has been much discussed, because of the celebrations for the 500th anniversary of the discovery of Brazil the proclamation of Timor's independence, and the award of the Nobel Prize for Literature to Jose Saramago in 1999.

Nevertheless, I shall begin by recalling that Portuguese is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world with more than 240 million speakers. Camoes is our Dante or Cervantes, but, in the 20th century and on both sides of the Atlantic, Pessoa and Jorge Amado have helped immensely to make our heritage known and valued. And is it necessary to mention the name of the author of bestsellers, currently the most popular worldwide, in order to prove how alive and fertile the Portuguese language is? It is the official language of Portugal and Brazil, but is also spoken in Asia (on Timor) and Africa (Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Sao Tome and Principe).

The International Association of Lusitanists is based at the University of Coimbra, one of the oldest European universities. In accordance with the terms of its statutes, its fundamental objective is 'to develop the study of the language, literature and culture of the Portuguese-speaking countries, to organize conferences, to publish their proceedings, to collaborate with national and international bodies'. It has more than 500 members in around 30 countries (Spain, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, UK, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Romania, Switzerland, Sweden, Russia, Denmark, Argentina, Brazil, Portugal, Canada, USA, Guinea, India, Japan, Mexico, Mozambique, Nigeria, Puerto Rico, Korea, Senegal) and has seen a spectacular flowering in the last few years, as was demonstrated by our most recent conference in Rio de Janeiro in August 1999.

To pick up on the aims set out by our current president, Professor Carlos Reis, I would say that our present policy represents a threefold intention to grow, to consolidate and to diversify: working both 'on a local and on a multi-continental level', we wish to recruit new members in the university world and also among those who disseminate culture, all those who love our language and literatures and are influential in any area of knowledge, information and even the economy.

Setting up working groups in the various countries where AIL is represented is, we think, a vital condition for success. We also wish to increase the number of cooperative agreements with other associations with a view to creating an international confederation of bodies involved and interested in the study of the language, literature and culture of the Portuguese-speaking countries. The Camoes Institute is a crucial element in the system that is in the process of being organized. I must also emphasize the important role the PALOP community (Pays africains de langue officielle portugaise--African countries whose official language is Portuguese) will play in this effort.

In addition to the specialist meetings arranged on a regular basis, our Association offers its members an information bulletin and a journal (Veredas) with Professor Sebastiao as editor-in-chief. Naturally we have a website, where all the relevant information about AIL, its statutes, members, activities, projects, is made available. Our Association would like to be of assistance too: it has helped and will continue to help build up bibliographical stocks destined, for example, for the Agostinho Neto Library in Luanda. Similarly we have agreed to extend our efforts to provide cultural assistance as far as Timor.

Our next conference will be held in North America, at Brown University (Providence) and will be organized by Professor Onesimo de Almeida, who has been teaching Portuguese culture there for more than 20 years. Without any doubt this will represent a new stage in the development and reach of our Association.

www.uc.pt/ail
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Author:Cordeiro, Cristina Robalo
Publication:Diogenes
Geographic Code:00WOR
Date:May 1, 2003
Words:647
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