Gilberto Freyre

It seemed like pleasant work, getting the house ready for the cleaner and rearranging books so I could finish my paper, but I got to a more total rearrangement, recycled a lot of journal issues, and got other books and papers corralled for recycling and reduction.

There was a review essay on Freyre in LARR 43:1 (2008), by David Lehmann. Casa-grande e senzala (1933) caused Joshua Lund et al to publish an edited collection on GF and LAS (Pittsburgh: ILLI, 2006); there was also a book on Freyre as Victorian (Ma. Lúcia Garcia Pallares-Burke, UNESP, 2005).

Lund et al: as we know, Freyre’s book caused even the Estado Novo to embrace mixedness, and to call it Brazil’s true nationality. And GF may be “racist,” but with all these non-white identifications he has, is he really white? He wasn’t thinking about the European immigrants in the South as Brazilian at all. And he did NOT say Brazil was a “racial democracy.” And since about 1990 Brazilian scholars have been less worried about GF’s “racism” than before, and more interested in other, more subtle vertientes of his work. Yet the question of privatization of power — coronelismo, patriarchy — get less attention, and Freyre himself knowingly leaves these contradictions unresolved [I am quoting/paraphrasing from p. 213 of the article].

Pallares-Burke’s book on GF’s early intellectual development is important and very well researched. She shows how undigested his influences (if they are influences and not just quotations of recortes) are. He also kept revising his texts, and the translations are not always accurate since they are to some extent also revisions. He is both a progressive and a decadent Victorian. Although he appreciated very much the non-white Brazil, he gave it no protagonic role; candomblé did not catch his notice, and “strategies and purposes [of self-conscious race mixture and identity-mixing] are the preserve of the [elites]” (217). Freyre “avoided any intellectual arena save that which he could control” (217).

ALLCA put out a critical edition of C-G e S in 2002. GF is incoherent, although interesting, says Lehmann, and Lund’s collection is not so arranged as to get the essays it includes, and their insights, into the public eye; but Pallares-Burke’s book is brilliant. The article has much more in it than I have indicated here, but I’ve linked to it, so I can recycle my paper copy and think about all of these things.


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