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Volume 52 / Humanities

LITERATURE: BRAZIL: Crônicas


CHARLES A. PERRONE, Professor of Portuguese and Luso-Brazilian Literature and Culture, University of Florida

The introduction to the HLAS 60 Crônicas section opened with recognition of the lifetime-achievement literary award given to Fernando Sabino. His career-retrospective volume, Livro aberto (see HLAS 60:4170), subsequently won him another national publishing-industry prize, the 2002 Prêmio Jabuti in the category contos e crônicas. The present introduction opens by noting the passing in late 2004 of this distinguished author, who did so much to bring the genre of crônica into the new millennium with vigor and a sense of both past and future glory.

This distinctive type of writing known as crônica is now in its third century. The 19th century and early 20th century may be regarded as the phase of emergence of the genre (cf. item #bi2005005459#). Most of the 20th century, in turn, may be imagined as a long stage of consolidation. Finally, the late 20th century—decades marked by increasingly instrumentalized journalism and, especially, the technology of the Internet—and the early 21st century would form a new phase of diversification. Two main features of change since the late 1980s concern tone—there is clearly a much greater spread of attitudes in crônica, though familiarity and levity still predominate—and place of origin, as the historical dominance of Rio de Janeiro has given way to a wide range of places of publication, including virtually all provincial capitals of Brazil and émigré communities in Europe and North America. Geographical distribution is evident in the present batch of noncarioca publications from south to north: Porto Alegre (item #bi2004003848#), Florianópolis (item #bi2004003843#), São Paulo (items #bi2004003652# and #bi2004003841#), Brasília (items #bi2004003656# and #bi2005005454#), Salvador (item #bi2004003836#), and Recife (items #bi2004003655# and #bi2004003846#). One of the perennial re-editions of historically interesting compositions is about São Paulo (item #bi2005005460#), while another notable pair concern the venerable cultural capital of Rio de Janeiro (items #bi2005005453# and #bi2005005459#).

The interplay of convention and diversity catches the attention of a new generation of critics who ponder crônica. An online journal has archived a useful chronicle of crônica (item #bi2006000551#), while another virtual vehicle makes available a markedly poetic approach to the significance of the genre and its place in the national imaginary (item #bi2006000552#). The most important addition to the critical arsenal constitutes an academic thesis about the most widely renowned classical practitioner of the genre, Rubem Braga (item #bi2005005458#). A critic from a previous generation wonders about quality and issues of demarcation raised by re-editions with less considered criteria (item #bi2005005459#). In a review of a new book of short writings by a contemporary author (item #bi2005005453#), a professor of social communication argues that despite a metaliterary dimension (the point of departure is a prose piece by Carlos Drummond de Andrade) and an explicit focus on a central theme (the feminine universe) what is really in play is the plurality of subjects and casual aspects of daily life. This recognition, in wider vantage, confirms the degree to which the crônica is "stuck" to time and makes evident, in the short texts of the cronista, the "urgency" of the medium. Indeed, in a limited space, cronistas must live with both the purported objectivity of journalism and the inexorable subjectivity of literary creation to construct a new syntax of various narrative modes propped up by non-absolute truth, facts, and events. The periodical crônica is the place of the told tale par excellence. The Portuguese word relatar [to relate] implies that something is brought to bear a second time around and seen from different angles by someone who heard the news. Thus by privileging a new version of events that the daily news has overlooked, or reported without due care, the crônica may save facts from the condition of being merely ephemeral. Yet, given the transitory nature of the newspaper, the crônica remains a precarious product, and the genre must be open to all things. One cannot be too concerned with truth or falsity. What exists in it most fundamentally is fiction, and the art of inventing a mode of representation (Sérgio Mota,"O que os leitores procuram na crônica," Jornal do Brasil, Caderno Idéias, October 11, 2003).

This kind of reflection is particularly pertinent in this review because, due to the turn of the millennium and the celebration of the 500 years of Portuguese presence in the New World, there are more historically oriented titles than usual. Political and historical stock-taking marked the arts in the late 1990s and into the 2000s, and the crônica is no exception. Where historical legacies are concerned, a difficult topic like slavery was the rationale for a special-issue volume (item #bi2004003840#) and the quincentennial was addressed directly in several cases (items #bi2004003650#, #bi2004003842#, and #bi2004003844#). Whether reflecting whimsically on distant events or struggling to comment upon unpleasant current realities in pleasant prose, cronistas continue to confirm, in print and on line, the implacable appeal of the genre they practice in Brazil with no sign of abatement in readership.

The editor gratefully acknowledges the collaboration of Tarsila Reybitz on the preparation of most of the entries for HLAS 62.


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