Forbidden Books

More than a source of foreign books, Brazil served as a provider of forbidden literature. While references, such as the ones above, made in different accounts of the period to clandestine Brazilian translations are usually very vague, they are not uncommon, which suggests the omnipresence of such publications at the time. The writer and journalist Antonio Mega Ferreira (1949-) has recalled how, after the 1974 revolution, Antonio Barata, a well-known Lisbon bookshop owner, offered him as a present a number of Brazilian translations which had been forbidden and subsequently withdrawn from his bookshop during the Estado Novo period:

After the 25 April I worked for the Minister Raul Rego in an operation to return to Lisbon bookshop owners the books that had been removed and, for years, kept out of their bookshops. This took place in Pendao, close to Queluz, and that labyrinth-like warehouse (the boxes full of books were like partitions and bookcases) was any booklover’s dream. There were thousands and thousands of books in this place, in Portuguese, French, Spanish and English. For two days, I was able to confirm that Antonio Barata was, by far, the bookshop owner that had had the largest number of withdrawn books. [...] I brought from Pendao, offered by Antonio Barata, Sartre’s essays, Henry Miller’s novels [...], some volumes by Camus. But also Brazilian editions of classics by Marx and Lenin.

[Depois do 25 de Abril, fui delegado do ministro Raul Rego numa opera^ao de restitu- i^ao de fundos apreendidos durante anos dos livreiros de Lisboa. A cena passava-se no Pendao, para os lados de Queluz, e aquele armazem labirintico (os caixotes cheios de livros faziam de estantes e divisorias) era o sonho de qualquer amante de livros. Havia ali milhares e milhares, em portugues, em frances, em espanhol e em ingles. Durante dois dias, pude comprovar que Antonio Barata era, de muito longe, o livreiro que reconhecia maior numero de apreensoes. [...] Trouxe do Pendao, oferecidos por Antonio Barata, os ensaios de Sartre, os romances de Henry Miller (os Tropicos e a trilogia), uns titulos de Camus. Mas tambem edi^oes brasileiras de classicos de Marx e Lenine.] (Ferreira 17)

In this particular instance the books were not only removed from Barata’s bookshop, but are also likely to have been the subject of a censor’s report stating the reasons why they were not allowed to circulate, as it usually happened. In their study of similar reports written in the 1950s, Seruya and Moniz (8-9) have found that Brazilian translations were only a small part of the books that had caught the censors’ attention. Out of about 1,897 works considered by the censors, only 159 were Brazilian translations.[1] However, these numbers refer to reports written during the 1950s alone, and they do not correspond to the total number of reports of the period, since a large number of them is missing, as Seruya and Moniz themselves point out.

As the General Society Library case illustrates, forbidden foreign works translated into Brazilian Portuguese might have easily escaped the censors. Censorship mechanisms have the paradoxical effect of promoting a parallel market and, in the case of Portugal during the Estado Novo period, that small market relied, at least in part, on the clandestine circulation of Brazilian translations. In a personal account published in the United States in the Portuguese-speaking periodical Portuguese Times, Eurico Jose, a member of the recreational club Academia Almadense, in the city of Almada, recalls being able to read such versions:

I belonged to Academia Almadense, the library of which was created by Romeu Correia. That was where I have learnt to love books [...] and in spite of the fact that PIDE [Policia Internacional de Defesa do Estado - the Portuguese political police] kept Academia Almadense and other similar groups under the radar, I had the chance to read, for example, the forbidden Brazilian translations of the Russian Mikhail Sholokhov, and the trilogy Subterraneos da Liberdade, Jubiaba and other works by Jorge Amado

[Eu era da Academia Almadense, cuja biblioteca foi criada por Romeu Correia e onde ganhei o gosto pelos livros [...] e apesar da PIDE manter a Academia Almadense e as outras colectividades debaixo de olho, tive oportunidade de ler, por exemplo, as proibidas tradu^oes brasileiras do russo Mikhail Sholokhov e a trilogia Subterraneos da Liberdade, Jubiaba e outras obras de Jorge Amado.] (jsola02, n.d.).

Further testimonies can be found in the censors’ reports themselves. In 1956 two censors expressed their opinion regarding the French translation of Caryl Chessman’s book Cell 2455. Death Row (Cellule 2455. Couloir de la mort) and even though no Brazilian version was under scrutiny, one of the censors thought it appropriate to mention it too. The first censor decided to “authorise the sale [of the French translation] to scholars who might be interested in it”, but added that “the unrestricted sale [and advertisement] in bookshop windows should not be allowed”. He added that there was “no interest in translating the book into Portuguese given that all those who might find study and meditation material in the book would be able, due to their cultural knowledge, to read it in the original language or in translations already available” [“autorizar a sua aquisi^ao aos estu- diosos interessados. [...] nao devera ser permitida a venda livre nos escaparates e [...] nao interessa a tradu^ao, visto que, para todos os que nele podem encontrar materia de estudo e de medita^ao, por for^a da sua cultura, podem faze-lo na lingua de origem ou nas tradu^oes existentes.”]. The second censor fully agreed with these decisions and noted in his report: “the translation shall not be allowed in our country, nor shall Portuguese language translations published in Brazil” [“assim nao sera permitida a tradugao no nosso pais, nem a entrada nele de tradu^oes em lingua portuguesa editadas no Brasil”][2] (Seruya and Moniz 19-20). The fact that the censor was careful to pre-empt the possibility of a Brazilian translation being brought into Portugal suggests that the circulation of Brazilian versions and, in particular, the import of Brazilian versions of forbidden or “problematic” books was a common practice.

Two examples of Brazilian translations that were forbidden in Portugal after arriving in the country are the 1967 Brazilian translation of C. R. Boxer’s Race Relations in the Portuguese Colonial Empire, 1415-1825, which was banned in 1970 (Terenas 30-46) and the 1948 version of William Faulkner’s Sanctuary - San- tuario, translated by Ligia Junqueira Smith and published by Instituto Progresso Editorial, S.A. (Marques dos Santos 21-29). Santuario was banned in 1953 after the Portuguese postal services (CTT) had intercepted the book, most probably upon its postal arrival in Portugal, and sent it to the censors. The Brazilian connection identified for Sanctuary establishes a clear parallel with neighbouring Spain and the instrumental role that Spanish-speaking South American countries, namely Argentina, played during Franco’s regime in the Spanish book market in general and the Spanish reception of Faulkner in particular. The arrival of these translations in the country was decisive for the Spanish intellectuals, who frequently mention them when recalling the difficulties experienced during that time in terms of access to books. Jorge Luis Borges’ 1940 translation of The Wild Palms, for instance, “would be read widely in Spain, as would the remainder of the translations done in Argentina in the 1940s” [“se leera mucho en Espana, asi como el resto de las traducciones realizadas en Argentina durante el decenio de los anos cuarenta] (Bravo 24), while for more than forty years the Argentinian translation of Simone de Beauvoir’s Le deuxieme sexe, published in French in 1954, was the only version that could be read in the Spanish-speaking world (Vazquez 135-7).

  • [1] 1,897 works in total, which included: 469 Portuguese; 996 in a foreign language (French, Spanish, Italian); 268 Portuguese translations; and 159 Brazilian translations (Seruyaand Moniz).
  • [2] Underlining according to the original.
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