From the Yearbooks to the Biennials: The Publisher’s Statement

By bringing together all the active publishing houses in the country (directly through interviews or advertisements or indirectly in the “bibliographic movement” section), the Brazilian Literature Yearbooks synchronized the catalogues representing the polarities that make up a publishing field that was emerging at a sustained pace. These publications were a “catalogue of catalogues”, a means of visualizing, measuring, and evaluating the editorial production of an annual cycle. This function anticipated that which in the 1960s and 1970s gave impetus to international book fairs.

One of Brazil’s newest publishing houses, owned by the intelligent and enterprising Pongetti brothers, saw the usefulness and opportunity of a coordinating body that was missing to complete this admirable outgrowth of the Brazilian book industry. The international book movement was interested. The Pongetti brothers knew that France, Italy, Germany, England and many other nations had almanacs and yearbooks that skilfully completed the constructive work of book publishers. Paying attention to the extension of the [Brazilian] territory and the great distances between its most populated and cultured centres, they perceived the need for a publication of this nature. It is a very important undertaking, the benefits of which are recognized by all. Booksellers, readers, authors, and the government itself have in the ABL an efficient assistant for the work of popular education.

(J. L. Costa Neves, ABL 1937: 6 - my italics)

The testimony highlights functions such as coordinating and calibrating national and international cultural production; to unite the cities of Brazil and to connect the country with the publishing world. The domestic market emerges by synchronizing it with the foreign. Although Costa Neves stresses that a private firm did business with a collective need, this would not be sustainable without parallel public policies in the area of culture. “It was natural” that a couple of years later the first publishing corporations were founded: the Camara Brasileira do Livro (CBL - Brazilian Book Chamber, Sao Paulo, 1942) and the Sindicato Nacional de Editores de Livros (SNEL - National Book Publishers Union, Rio de Janeiro, 1945). The years on which this chapter has focused encompass the genesis of the Brazilian publishing field; in other words, the unification of a market of national extension that began to function as a space of competition between distant agents (due to geographical location, economic and cultural interests) that were opposed and complemented by an exclusive activity that became independent of social, political, or external patronage to concentrate on the production and consumption of books. Thirty years later, the emergence of international book fairs completed this structure and modus operandi. The CBL (from 1971) and SNEL (from 1983) monopolized the emerging functions in the Yearbooks. The name Bienal for Brazilian international fairs inherit this annual cycle function that alternates between the poles of the Sao Paulo-Rio de Janeiro axis. What was in embryo, that is to say, as a rudimentary and not very differentiated function, was tested in the yearbooks, while in the biennials it was established as a standardized mechanism to regulate the practices and codes of a national market projected in a balanced way towards both the interior and the exterior. The doors to the national market were opened by INL’s public policies and the purposes of the ABLs. Their work was completed by the international fairs (Brazilian Biennials).

As in the fairs, each yearbook displayed representatives and representations of spaces of restricted production and spaces of mass production, launchings of novelties, and re-publications of already established problems, genres, and authors. As in the fairs, the most outstanding extreme was literature. This was followed by other genres, such as the sciences, that present a truly intellectual function (Cf. Foucault 1971). But not absent from its pages were questions related to school or religious books. In the contrast between fairs and yearbooks, a certain inverse relationship can be observed between the predominance of the expression of cultural capital and economic capital. The fairs begin with the exhibition of the large “mass” literature production companies. The annual publications began with analyses by the most renowned literary critics on the intellectual scene of the 1930s and 1940s.

By gathering information, representations and representatives of all the systems of specialists that gravitate around the book, yearbooks, and biennials disseminate knowledge of people and beliefs, establish hierarchies, and strengthen criteria for regulating relations between the various bodies of professionals involved in the book world. As rituals, they produce the times and spaces to forge the growing authority of the publishers among the remaining specialists who consume the culture of the book.

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