For a man of my generation, this is a moment in which to remember how much we owe to FCE. In the 1930s, 1940s and even 1950s we had little bibliography in the humanities apart from specific studies on Brazil. Spanish-language publishers, such as Losada and Espasa-Calpe from Buenos Aires, but above all Fondo de Cultura Economica, gave us the great works of culture, great texts of philosophy, sociology, economics, anthropology, history, art theory. They were works by Max Weber, Mannheim, Тоёпшев, Dilthey, Cassirer, Ermatinger, Alfonso Reyes, and so on. The colourful covers of the books were unforgettable: green, red, yellow, blue, pink, white, forming a kind of great cultural rainbow that symbolically linked the countries of Latin America.
(Candido 1993: 54)
Antonio Candido reminds us that there was a scarcity of books in the humanities and social sciences translated into Portuguese before the 1940s. Essays on Brazil in Portuguese made up a significant publishing genre (Sora 2010), but “universal knowledge” was not often translated in the Luso-American country. Fie also explains how the overlap of the different Latin American national cultures became more prominent after the Spanish Civil War and during the Second World War, in large part due to the continental projects of a small group of Argentine and Mexican publishers. In a moment in which university life was progressively institutionalized, the new intellectual generations across the continent were trained with certain shared readings: literary series by Argentine publishers (e.g. the Austral series published by Espasa-Calpe) and FCE books about the humanities and social sciences. Indeed, as we saw in Chapter 1, there was a certain division of literature and social sciences between Argentines and Mexicans in the continental market. Candido remembers the episode that frames this chapter thus:
I would like to make special mention of a memory that indirectly situates me at the origin of Fondo’s activities in Brazil: in January 1943, Argentine lawyer Norberto Frontini was here, on a mission sent by his friend Daniel Coslo Villegas to stimulate the production of Brazilian works for the Tierra Firme series, that great achievement of fraternity and continental knowledge. Frontini was first in Rio de Janeiro, from there he came to Sao Paulo, bringing me a letter of recommendation from the historian Octavio Tarquinio de Souza and another from Astrogildo Pereira to Caio Prado Junior. He wanted me to bring him closer to Mario de Andrade and the French professors of the Faculty of Philosophy, where I was starting my academic career.3 I remember taking him to Roger Bastide and Pierre
Mombeig. I already forgot what happened with the first one. Fron- tini suggested Mombeig write a geography book about Brazil, but Mombeig claimed that he had neither the time nor the disposition. Frontini insisted vehemently, saying that it was not about wanting or not wanting, having or not having time: it was a duty, because the understanding, the mutual knowledge of the countries of Latin America was at stake. And concluded that it was necessary to make the book: ‘Hay que hacerloV But nothing came of it. With Mario de Andrade, to whose house I took him, he was happier, because although he did not take up the task, he was very interested, indicating that his disciple Oneyda Alvarenga would write the requested book on popular music in Brazil. On this occasion, Mario made his first reading of the dramatic poem “Cafe” he had just written in his office for five people: Frontini, Oneyda, her husband Silvio, Gilda de Moraes Rocha and me. Caio Prado, accepted the invitation addressed to him by Astrogildo and wrote another classic, destined for the greatest success, Brazilian Economic History, in addition to becoming a close of Frontini’s. The contacts in Rio resulted in a greater number of books for Tierra Firme, but I believe that not all were made specifically for the catalogue as the two from Sao Paulo were, they had already been published in Portuguese. Of the titles that Frontini managed to get, I remember the following: Interpretation of Brazil by Gilberto Freyre; Roots of Brazil by Sergio Buarque de Holanda; Jose Bonifacio by Octavio Tarquinio de Souza; Food in the Tropics by Josue de Castro and The Palmares War by Edson Carneiro. As Norberto Frontini’s trip is little known, I thought it was worth recalling it at this moment, as it is a significant evidence of the first major Brazilian participation in FCE programs.
(Candido 1993: 55 - my italics)
The presence of French professors Roger Bastide and Pierre Mombeig in Sao Paulo confirms the extent to which the social sciences were, throughout Latin America, an imported product.4 It would remain that way for another decade. Making a virtue of necessity, Latin American intellectuals limited themselves to writing essays interpreting their nations or the continent in historical perspective. The Tierra Firme series is a clear proof of this statement. Although the writing of texts such as Historia Economica do Brasil (Brazilian Economic History) by Caio Prado Junior cannot be attributed to Frontini’s proposal alone, or that of the Tierra Firme series, Frontini’s trip is a significant - and forgotten - element in the story that captures the place of international relations in the genesis of ideas and works representative of national cultural histories (Miceli 2003; Jurt 2006). Frontini travelled to Brazil two years after Daniel Cosio Villegas had travelled to Buenos Aires to launch the series project and present the FCE as an Americanist, international company. Candido’s memoir reveals a grid of names behind FCE projects. This complex network, woven with inexhaustible energy, reveals the series as a social project, a Durkheimian manifestation of the material conditions for the circulation of any idea. Accordingly, this chapter focuses on the individuals intertwined in a continental cultural project, in order to examine how publishing practices created the conditions for a transnational written culture.