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Volume 64 / Humanities

LITERATURE: BRAZIL: Crônicas


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

SIGNS OF VITALITY OF THE GENRE of crônica in the first decade of the 21st century come in the form of unrelenting conventional print publication, ever-increasing internet activity, academic studies, and public events. In 2006, the Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil (in downtown São Paulo) sponsored sequential public forums on the genre in different contexts. The name of the expertly curated series, "Cronicamente Viável," is a play on the title of the film Cronicamente inviável (Chronically unfeasible, Sérgio Bianchi, 2000), which examined recurring problems in Brazil. This clever title nicely suggests, in contrast, the ever viable strength of the genre, the nation's favorite. The monthly programs at the cultural center, featuring journalists and writers, considered a spectrum of themes from the rise of the genre in the 19th century to its relationship to the military regime (1964–85) and the current generation of virtual-realm cronistas. Aspects debated in the series included the perennially popular sport variety (essentially creative journalism about football-soccer, the nation's prime diversion), humor, manifestations in music, and the most pressing present-day perspectives in terms of situating and contextualizing the genre, electronic media and the "new crônica." These topics are reflected in the items reviewed in this section.

Most prominently, perhaps, the Internet continues to diversify the reign of crônica. Virtual versions of weekly contributions to newspapers and magazines may also appear on line, and strictly on-line appearances by cronistas are possible. Bloggers whose entries approach, in length and style, the traditional crônica further blur the distinctions between what is and is not (cf. especially item #bi2008002701#). Symptomatically, the site "WebwritersBrasil" has included, in the section Literatura/Arte, a 19-point "guide" to the writing of crônica (http://www.webwritersbrasil.com.br/). As with many other fields, a significant portion of criticism regarding the crônica has migrated to reliable Web sites. In the Internet environment, essays about the genre may appear alongside actual examples or in a purely critical context (e.g., item #bi2008002704#). Academic interest in the crônica (theses and subsequent research and publication), both in North America and Brazil, has tended to focus on canonical writers, notably Machado de Assis (items #bi2007000668#, #bi2007000669#, and #bi2008002758#) and João do Rio (items #bi2008002702# and #bi2008002755#), with some comparative formative-years and modernist incursions as well, profitably encompassing Spanish America (items #bi2008002750# and #bi2008002758#). The most notable new edition of classics presents the prose of Olavo Bilac, Brazil's "Prince of Poets" in the 1910s (item #bi2008002700#).

As has been the case in the last few decades, the greater part of reprint editions included here gather the most satisfying periodically published articles of an author in a defined time frame (usually three to five years). As always, collections include the crônicas of noted fiction writers (items #bi2007000667#, #bi2007000654#, #bi2007000660#, and #bi2008002757#). In terms of critical reception and market success, greater attention is afforded to carefully produced anthologies of the best of crônica by select authors over three centuries (items #bi2008002753# and #bi2008002756#). Several collections are valuable as historical literature concerning the country's two main cities, Rio de Janeiro (items #bi2008002700#, #bi2008002702#, and #bi2007000668#) and São Paulo (item #bi2007000664#), or for other regions (e.g., item #bi2007000670#). The sense of "Brazilian-ness" that has concerned writers variously since Romanticism emerges with some frequency, often tied to awareness of misperceptions of the nation and its citizenry in the international imaginary (items #bi2007000660# and #bi2007000667#). Such views may even be related to titles in which humor is the key element (items #bi2007000657# and #bi2008002751#). By contrast, several new collections present authors who are not afraid to adopt philosophical or analytical stances (items #bi2007000666# and #bi2007000661#) unlike the established propensity toward a more "light" approach in the genre. Lastly, a special-interest publication on crônica by the cultural diffusion arm of a major Brazilian bank offers teachers and students evidence of confidence in the utility and attractiveness of this ever-evolving type of literature (item #bi2008000756#).


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