37a. Carlos Drummond de Andrade, Jorge de Sena and International Prizes: a Personal Correspondence (1)

Frederick G. Williams
Drummond entre seus livros

No ano em que completaria 110 anos de vida, Carlos Drummond de Andrade foi o grande homenageado em Paraty, na 10ª edição de sua Festa Literária Internacional — a FLIP. Uma elogiada exposição, livros e leituras de seus textos presentificaram o poeta na cidade histórica, e nas diversas sessões da programação intensa. Fazendo eco à homenagem, aqui trazemos um ensaio de Frederick Williams que nos desvela o diálogo entre Jorge de Sena e o poeta mineiro, com especial privilégio dado à correspondência. E esta, dos anos 70, deixa claro o empenho de Sena em convencer Drummond a seguir incontornáveis passos que permitissem a indicação de seu nome com vistas a “conquistar-se para a língua portuguesa um grande prêmio internacional”.    
In the year in which he would have reached 110 years of life, Carlos Drummond de Andrade was largely honored in Paraty, at the 10th edition of its International Literary Festival – FLIP. An acclaimed exhibition, books and readings of his texts reminisced the poet in the historic city, and in several sessions of intense programming. Echoing the tribute, here we bring an essay from Frederick Williams, unveiling to us the dialogue between Jorge de Sena and Drummond, with a special privilege given to the correspondence. And this correspondence, of the 70s, makes clear the commitment of Sena to convince Drummond of following the unavoidable steps that would allow the indication of his name in order to “gain to the Portuguese language a major international award.”
1980 was an important year for Luso-Brazilian poetry in the English-reading world, for the leading contemporary poets of the two oldest Portuguese-speaking countries – Portugal’s Jorge de Sena (1919-78) and Brazil’s Carlos Drummond de Andrade (1902) – were each published in English translation in separate volumes [1].

The similarities between the two poets are striking. Beyond a shared language, similar poetic themes and the satiric tone common to their work, both have higly prized freedom of expression, and each has lived according to a strict code or personal integrity. Their personalities, however, are quite different. Drummond never travels away from home. He is shy, modest and soft-spoken. He considers himself a simple man from a small, interior town, and he tries to avoid controversy. Sena, on the other hand, travelled extensively and estabilished homes on three continents. He was outspoken (though inwardly shy and modest), had a warm and friendly though erudite and cosmopolitan air about him, and often engaged in polemics. For a brief time the’ylived in the same country and there associated on a limited basis. The relationship between these two major poets is chronicled over a thirty-two year period (from 1946 to 1978) in half a dozen letters, several inscribed books, and a few published articles and poems. The major topic in their exchanges concerns international literary recognition for authors who write in Portuguese, particularly as it involved Carlos Drummond de Andrade.

Before taking up that topic, however, and in order to place their relationship in perspective, we will first summarize what Brazil and the generation of Carlos Drummond de Andrade meant personally to Jorge de Sena. Scrupulously honest, Sena has left the record quite clear by noting in his various essays and prefaces the debt of gratitude he owed Brazil. Among other favors, Cecilia Meireles included the young Sena in her anthology of Portuguese poets [2], and Ribeiro Couto was directly responsible for the publication of Sena’s second volume of poetry [3]. Years later, Brazil became a haven for Sena, as it had for other Portuguese intellectuals and politicians in exile during the Salazar regime. But more than a home, Brazil provided the needed literary opportunities Sena was seeking. Acquired through great personal sacrifice and tremendous dedication, Sena received his doctorate and Livre Docencia degrees there in 1964. He obtained a professorship, and most importantly, he received financial support to carry out his research [4]. Brazil also gave him an opportunity to openly challenge Salazar, in the form of editorials and political programs published in Portugal Democratico (Democratic Portugal), a Portuguese political newspaper with headquarters in Sao Paulo.

Sena went to Brazil in 1959 when he was an energetic forty and filled with a zest for living. He immersed himself in his work and in less than five years produced the major studies of his literary criticism, most of his literary prose (including the short stories, novelette and novel), as well as his monumental works on Camoes. It was a heady period and his gargantuan creative output is reflected in his poetry of this period as well. Although extremely busy with his scholarly research and writing, teaching at the University of Sao Paulo, the raising of a large family (all the while pursuing his doctorate and concerned with his own creative prose and poetry), Sena made time to maintain a personal association with literary talents in Brazil. I have checked the Brazilian collection in his library and can report that he received autographed books from all the major figures of the day: seven from Ribeiro Couto, eight from Murilo Mendes, ten from Manuel Bandeira, and twelve from Carlos Drummond de Andrade, with multiple books from such other luminaries as Cecilia Meireles, Cassiano Ricardo, Raul Bopp, Marques Rebelo, Jorge Amado, Erico Verissimo and Graciliano Ramos [5].

Long before he went to Brazil, however, Sena had been in personal contact with some of the writers in Portugal or >,England, and had correspondend with others. More significantly, he had reviewed Brazilian books and authors in the Portuguese press, trying to acquaint Portuguese readers with the work of their Brazilian counterparts. In this capacity, Sena wrote on Drummond three times in 1946: a note and two review articles which appeared in the newly established Lisbon weekly Mundo Literario (Literary World). The first, entitled «Uma arte poetica» (A Poetic Art), explores the poet’s artistic credo as contained in the poem «Procura da Poesia» (In Search of Poetry» [6]. The second, entitled simply «Carlos Drummond de Andrade», is a bio-bibliographical note which attemps to define the poet’s style [7]. The third is a review of Drummond’s fifth volume of poetry, A Rosa do Povo (The Rose of the People). In this review Sena writes:

Em presença de um poeta como Carlos Drummond, a atitude de um crítico, que não seja poeta só nas horas vagas, é de contínua e sobressaltada admiração. Que a admiração, de poeta para poeta, não se suspende apenas das perfeições, mas das imperfeições paradoxals e imprevistas. Tudo menos o seu tão pessoal sentimento do mundo e imprevisto na poesia de Drummond.

In the presence of a poet like Carlos Drummond, the attitude of a critic, who may not be a poet just in his off hours, is that of continuous and startling admiration. For the admiration, from poet to poet, is not merely interrupted by the poems’ perfections, but by their paradoxical and unforeseen imperfections. Everything, except his very personal sentiment of the world, is unforeseen in the poetry of Drummond [8].

At this point it is probable that Drummond had not yet read any of Sena’s poetry. Although Sena’s first volume of poetry, Perseguição (Persecution), had been published in 1942, it had not received wide exposure even in Portugal, and with the constraints World War II placed on the circulation of books abroad, it is doubtful Drummond had seen it. In any event, the earliest autographed book received from Carlos Drummond de Andrade makes no reference to Sena being a poet and gives no real hint of what his feelings are towards the Portuguese poet’s talents. The book was Poesia até agora (Poetry to Date) 1948; the inscription is simple:

A Jorge de Sena,                           To Jorge de Sena,
a admiração, a simpatia               the admiration, the affinity
e o abraço de                                 and the embrace of

Carlos Drummond de Andrade
Rio de Janeiro, jan. 1948
Rua Joaquim Nabuco, 81.

This friendly expression is in sharp contrast to the enthusiastic letter Drummond wrote Sena upon receipt of Coroa da Terra (Crown of the Earth), 1946, Sena’s second volume of poetry:

Rio de Janeiro, 4 de julho, 1949

Meu caro poeta Jorge de Sena:

Venho agradecer-lhe a grande poesia de «Coroa da Terra», de uma altura e de uma profundidade que me causam uma sensação de vertigem. Seria difícil extrair mais essência poética das coisas deste nosso mundo incoerente. Sua poesia é participação e superação da vida. Eu sinto nela uma sabedoria dramática, de raízes dolorosas, mas atingindo a mais pura e concentrada beleza.

Toda a admiração e fiel estima de
Carlos Drummond de Andrade.

Rio de Janeiro, 4 July 1949

My dear poet Jorge de Sena:

I come to thank you for the great poetry in Crown of the Earth, of such height and depth that it caused me a sensation of vertigo. It would be difficult to extract more poetic essence from things taken from our incoherent world. Your poetry is participation in and the overcoming of life. I sense in it a dramatic wisdom, of painful origins, but achieving the most pure and concentrated beauty.

All the admiration and faithful esteem of Carlos Drummond de Andrade [9].

Four more books with inscriptions would follow from Drummond before the two poets were to meet. In response to Sena’s third volume, Pedra Filosofal (Philosopher’s Stone), 1950, Drummond sent him Claro Enigma (Clear Enigma), with the following lines:

A Jorge de Sena,                        To Jorge de Sena,
Caro e grande poeta, em          Dear and great poet, in
fraca retribuição a sua               weak retribution for your
belíssima «Pedra Filosofal»,    most beautiful Philosopher’s Stone,
com um abraço amigo de         with the friendly embrace of

Carlos Drummond de Andrade
Rio, Janeiro de 1952.

Two more books were sent that same year, Contos de Aprendiz (Beginner’s Stories), 1951, and Viola de Bolso (Pocket-Guitar), 1959. In the latter, Drummond responds to having received Sena’s verse drama O Indesejado (The Unwanted King):

Caro Jorge de Sena:
Aqui estou para agradecer-lhe
O Indesejado. É um grande,
fascinante momento de sua arte.
Toda a admiração e afeto do seu
Carlos Drummond de Andrade
Rio, 15-3-52.

Dear Jorge de Sena:
Here I am to thank you for O Indesejado. It is a great, fascinating moment of your art.
All the admiration and affection of
Carlos Drummond de Andrade
Rio, 15-3-52.

In December of 1954, Drummond sent his latest book, Fazendeiro do ar e Poesia até agora (Farmer of the Air and Poetry to Date), 1955, with a quadra or popular four-line verse form:

Deste fazendeiro
(não da terra, do ar),
o humilde celeiro
se vai dedicar

ao caro e grande poeta Jorge de Sena,
com um abraço do Carlos Drummond de Andrade
Rio, Dezembro 1954.

From this humble farmer
(not of earth, but of air),
this humble storehouse silo
is offered to the care

of the dear and great poet Jorge de Sena,
with an embrace from Carlos Drummond de Andrade
Rio, December 1954.

As Sena was often wont to do when someone wrote to him in verse, he immediately responded in kind [10]. Not having access to Drummond’s files, I don’t know whether Sena’s quadra was sent to him at the time or not, but it was published posthumously in 40 Anos de Servidão (40 Years of Servitude), 1979. Sena’s quadra, probably written as soon as he received the book (one to two months being the normal time for surface mail to arrive in Portugal from Brazil), reads as follows:

Drummond, fazendeiro                           Drummond, humble farmer
do ar, mas bem sentes                            of air, but well you sense
que as dores da poesia                          that the pains in poetry
sao as evidentes [11].                             are what’s in evidence.
8 Fev. 55                                                    8 Feb. 55

The Sena verse not only makes reference to Drummond’s book, Fazendeiro do ar (Farmer of the Air), but to his own work As Evidências (The Evidences), published that same year. The final lines in the last poem of the twenty-one sonnet sequence, contain a similar idea:

Por nós, por ti, por mim,                          For us, for you, for me,
falou a dor.                                                who spoke was pain.
E a dor é evidente —                              And pain is always evident —
libertada [12].                                           when freed.
16/4/54                                                      16/4/54

To this point the poets have not yet met. But in August of 1959, Jorge de Sena leaves Portugal to make his home in Brazil. Although Sena establishes himself in Araraquara in the interior of Sao Paulo, and Drummond continues to live in Rio de Janeiro, the two meet occasionally. A reference to their having met is made by Drummond in the short lines he wrote in 50 poemas escolhidos pelo autor (so poems chosen by the author), 1958:

Ao meu querido e grande                                                 To my dear and great
Jorge de Senna (sic),                                                         Jorge de Sena,

com a alegria do seu conhecimento pessoal, o           with the joy of knowing you personally,
Carlos Drummond                                                              Carlos Drummond
Rio 25 VIII 59- _                                                                   Rio 25 VIII 59-

Three more books by Drummond are sent to Sena while he is living in Brazil: Poemas (Poems), 1959, with an inscription containing a reference to Sena «feeling» poetry; Lição de coisas (Lesson of Things), 1962; and Antologia poética (Poetic Anthology), 1965. This last book was inscribed with a heart-felt expression of gratitude for the various books he had received over the years from Sena. It was a fitting tribute to a departing friend; in a matter of weeks, Sena would leave for the United States:

Meu caro Jorge de Sena:
Esta é uma bem mofina (e atrasada!) retribuição ao muito que você me tem dado em poesia, em ensaio literário, em crítica, em conto, em tudo que é inteligência e imaginação criadoras, e que é lida e guardada com o máximo interesse por este seu mal-agradecido mas afetuoso amigo, que o abraça fraternalmente,
Calos Drummond de Andrade
Rio, Maio 1965

My dear Jorge de Sena:
This is a very poor (and long overdue!) retribution for the many things you have given me in poetry, in literary essay, in criticism, in short stories, in everything that is intelligence and creative imagination, and which is read and kept with maximum interest by this your ungrateful, but affectionate friend, who embraces you fraternally,
Carlos Drummond de Andrade
Rio, May 1965

The next series of exchanges between Sena and Drummond came in 1972 while Sena was living in Santa Barbara and teaching at the University of California. On May 20, 1972, Sena surprised Drummond with a two-page letter which begins by noting the lapsed time between their last communication:

Meu caro Carlos Drummond de Andrade,
Não temos nestes anos tido qualquer contacto, sobretudo desde que sai do Brasil vai já para sete anos. Mas, evidentemente, que sempre segui a sua obra (desde que uma primeira vez, há quase trinta anos, escrevi a seu respeito), por a sua poesia ser o que e é me interessar duplamente, como poeta e como crítico, e por ela necessariamente fazer parte, aqui na América, de cursos meus sobre a Literatura Brasileira ou a poesia em especial.

My dear Carlos Drummond de Andrade,
We have not had any contact these past years, especially since I left Brazil, now going on seven years. But obviously, I have always followed your work (since the first time I wrote about you, almost thirty years ago), because of your poetry being what it is and because it interests me doubly, as a poet and as a critic and because it necessarily forms part of my classes on Brazilian literature or poetry in particular, here in America.

Sena then moves into the main reason for his letter, which was that he, Sena, had been named to the international jury that would select the next recipient of the prestigious Neustadt International Prize for Literature, sponsored by the then Books Albroad (now World Literature Today). The first recipient had been Giuseppe Ungaretti (1970) and Sena was desirous of nominating Drummond for the award. Knowing that Drummond shies away from awards and conferences, Sena appeals to his sense of duty to the Portuguese language:

Era e é uma primeira ocasião única de conquistar-se para a língua portuguesa um grande prêmio internacional (criado para desafiar o Nobel que a ela nunca foi atribuído e que pode a ela abrir-se ulteriormente por efeito desta retumbância), que eu não podia nem devia, em consciência, deixar que se perdesse.

It was and is the first and only occasion to conquer for the Portuguese language a great international prize (created to challenge the Nobel which has never been attributed to anyone in Portuguese, but which may be open in future, due to the resounding effects of this award), which I should not nor could I, in good conscience, allow to be lost.
Next Sena points out the intrinsic worth of the writer’s work, which he feels is above that of other Portuguese or Brazialian writers, even though some of them may be better known, and have strong supporters:

E é óbvio, pelo menos para mim, que ninguem está, em português, em mais altas condições que V. … e eu tenciono publicar, em Portugal e no Brasil, a tradução portuguesa da minha proposta, para que conste…. …Sei bem – e V. como eu — que há no Brasil e em Portugal partidos «nobélicos» que vão ficar numa fúria de ranger os dentes, já que tanto se tem agitado por esse mundo fora para o efeito. Mas a justiça e a prioridade da grandeza autêntica devem ser respeitadas. É possível mesmo que um nome ou dois, por mais difundidos, tivessem mais chances do que as suas podem ser — mas não seria eu a propô-los, antes de ser proposto V.. Pelo menos, na proposta, procurei amarrar o caso por todos os lados diplomáticos possíveis, tanto quanto fui capaz de fazer, para que as suas chances sejam irrespondíveis — e para que seja uma injustiça, para a língua portuguesa e para a poesia, que V. não ganhe o prêmio, como farei tudo para que ganhe.

It is obvious, at least to me, that no one in Portuguese is in a better position than yourself… and I intend to publish the translation of my proposal for the record, in both Portugal and Brazil….

… I know very well — and you as well as I — that there are in Brazil and in Portugal «Nobelic» parties that are going to become furious and gnash their teeth, since they have agitated so much throughout the world for their causes. But justice and the priority of authentic greatness must be respected. It is even possible that one name or two, since they are better known, may have a better chance than you — but I would never nominate them before you. In my proposal, at least, I attempted to sew up the case through all diplomatic means, as far as it was possible, so that the merits of the case would be unimpeachable — and so that it would be an injustice for the Portuguese language and for poetry, should you not win.

Sena, anticipating Drummond’s reluctance to travel anywhere, tries to reassure him by promising to accompany him every step of the way: «If you should win, I expect you to accept such a transcendent prize, and that later, you will come to receive it (I will be waiting for you at the very spot where your first land in North America, in order to serve you as interpreter…)».

The letter caught Drummond by surprise; he responded on May 29, 1972, with a three page letter: «I am not yet entirely recomposed after the frightful surprise («susto-surpresa») your letter caused me, received three days ago. How could I imagine that suddenly I should be nominated for the International Literary Prize of Books Abroad?». Deeply touched by Sena’s gesture, he thanks him warmly: «To me, what you have done is worth more than the future decision of the jury, even should it prove favorable». Drummond must acknowledge the soundness of Sena’s arguments in favor of a Portuguese speaker winning the prize:

Sua justificação da conveniência de outorgar-se o prêmio a um autor de língua portuguesa e perfeita. Voce alinhou dados e argumentos que me parecem indiscutíveis. É uma tristeza e uma vergonha que as grandes distinções internacionais não se lembrem nunca de nós, Portugueses e brasileiros. Quando não alcance êxito no caso presente, o memorial de você terá servido para alertar as organizações culturais europeias e americanas, atraves do juri de Books Abroad. Já agora, não poderão deixar-nos sistematicamente na sombra, sob a alegação de que nunca ninguém reclamou.

Your justification for the appropriateness of awarding the prize to an author in Portuguese is perfect. You have marshalled facts and arguments which I believe are indisputable. It is sad and a great shame that the international distinctions never remember us Portuguese and Brazilians. When this present case likewise does not reach success, your proposal will have served to alert the European and American cultural organizations through the jury of Books Abroad. From henceforth, they will not be able to sistematically leave us in the shadows, alleging that no one ever complained.

Next, the Brazilian poet indicates his willingness to accept the proposal of his candidacy, and explains that he has been reluctant in the past to accept prizes only because they have had strings attached:

…Cheguei a ganhar fama de contemptor de prêmios, quando a verdade é que desejo apenas que eles sejam limpos, e dêem satisfação normal, e não enjôo, ao premiado.
O de Books Abroad não tem para mim nenhuma dessas baldas. Além do mais, a proposta, vindo de quem vem, sendo você o escritor independente que é, e, ainda, brasileiro apenas pela extensão do sentimento, me dá uma alegria pura. Se o prêmio não vier, tanto faz. O importante é ter sido lembrado para ele por você, e da maneira como se efetivou a lembrança.

…I have come to have a reputation for being contemptuous of prizes, when in truth my only desire is that they be clean and that they give the normal satisfaction to the recipient, rather than nausea. The Books Abroad prize has none of those foibles. And besides that, the proposal coming from whom it does, you being the independent writer you are, and more, Brazilian only by extension of your sentiments, gives me pure joy.

However, just as Sena had feared, Drummond will not travel to accept the prize, should it be awarded to him:

Quanto a ir aos Estados Unidos, na hipótese de…, você talvez já saiba que eu sou o antiviajante nato e irremediável. Não por medo a avião, que também sinto, embora já me tenha enfurnado nele algumas vezes, por necessidade. Mas porque realmente me falta o ânimo itinerante, a capacidade de deslocar-me para longe de dois ou três lugares urbanos em que situei minha vida. A idade não tem feito mais que (sic) que agravar essa inapetência. E a «ameaqa» de enfrentar auditórios, cerimônias, repórteres, me horroriza. Não, meu caro Jorge, eu não conto comigo para essa ideia de viagem a Oklahoma. Sou o que sou: um bicho de Itabira-do-Mato-Dentro que não conseguiu acostumar-se ao trânsito por outros sítios menos cobertos de mato…

As to coming to the United States, should the…, (ellipsis his) you may already know that I am a born, incurable anti-traveller. Not out of fear of flying, which I also have, although I’ve buried myself in an airplane a few times out of necessity. But because I really lack the itinerate spirit, the capacity to transfer myself to great distances away from the two or three urban sites in which I’ve situated my life. My age has done nothing more than aggravate that lack of relish. And the «threat» of confronting auditoriums, ceremonies, reporters, horrifies me. No, my dear Jorge, don’t count on me for the idea of a trip tp, Oklahoma. I am what I am: a creature from Itabira-of the-Brush – covered – Hinterland who never became accustomed to traveling to other places covered with less brush.

Always scrupulously honest, Drummond ends by telling Sena that he had originally been invited to form part of the jury but had turned it down. He hoped that they would not think this some trick on his part: «declining to be a jurist in order to become a candidate; something neither I nor you would be involved in, of course».
As soon as Sena got the letter he shot off a four-page response, dated June 4, 1972:

Antes de mais, fico extremamente contente pela sua decisão de aceitar o premio de Books Abroad, caso ele venha, como desejo, a ser-lhe concedido (apesar da conspiraçãozinha europeia, em favor de um hispano-americano, que me parece cheirar nas entrelinhas das propostas várias, e com alguma conivência americana).

First of all, I am extremely happy with your decision to accept the Books Abroad prize, should it be, as is my desire, conferred upon you (in spite of a little European conspiracy, in favor of an Hispanic-American, which I think I smell reading between the lines of the various proposals, and with some American connivance).

The reference to a seeming «conspiragaozinha» in favor ol an Hispanic-American recipient would prove to be prophetic. Next Sena goes to work on Drummond, by chiding him for even thinking of not coming should the prize be awarded to him. The arguments come in rapid-fire succession and with his customary humor, tinged with sarcasm:

Pelo telefone, há tempos, comentando da candidatura que eu apresentara, o Ivask disse-me que V. havia sido convidado para o júri e recusara, alegando falta de saúde, e temia que, caso ganhasse, V. não viesse para receber o prêmio….Em carta, amplificando o que ao telefone lhe respondera, expliquei que V. era um homem muito tímido, sem gosto pelas viagens, etc., etc., …De tudo isto resulta que, para bem da pátria e mais partes, V. de público, em conversa de amigos, em cartas para o Ivask se as tiver de escrever, etc., me fará, e a si mesmo e a língua portuguesa e ao Brasil, o favor de inverter o sentido do «fico» do Senhor D. Pedro cuja alma Deus tenha em descanso,… e não indicar, nem de leve, que não virá receber o prêmio, se o conquistar.

By phone, some time ago, commenting on the candidate whom I was presenting, Ivask told me that you had been invited for the jury but had refused on grounds of health, and he heard that, in case you won, you would not come to receive the prize…In a letter, amplifying on what I had told him over the phone, I explained that you were a very timid man, with little taste for travel, etc., etc., … As a result of all this, for the good of the country and other areas, you, in public, in conversations with friends, in letters to Ivask if you should write them, etc., will do me and you and the Portuguese language and Brazil, the favor of inverting the meaning of «fico» (I’ll remain) pronounced by Mr. Dom Pedro, whose soul may God hold in peace, … and not indicate, not even in jest, that you would not come to receive the prize, should you win it.

Sena continues to hammer away:

Mas, volvendo à questão das viagens – deixe-se disso, meu caro poeta. Tenha como grande mito da sua poesia e da sua personalidade o bicho de Itabira… Mas nada disso impede que, uma vez na vida, o mato e o bicho, metafóricos e eminentes, viajem a colher louros honrados (e 10.000 dólares, homem). De resto, não pense que, neste país, os jornais, a rádio e a televisão se deslocarão sequiosos e incandescentes, a Norman… Essas coisas, para lá de um par de jornalistas presentes, tem aqui um carácter muito restristo que, se bem que ressoe nos meios intelectuais, não tem praticamente qualquer ressonância pública….O que os jornais e o mais noticiarem será feito pelas próprias notícias circuladas por Books Abroad (aqui, meu caro, quem não se noticia, não é noticiado, a menos que haja roubado avião a ponta de fusil, ou violado uma viúva respeitável… – o que não será manifestamente o seu caso).

But, returning to the question of travel – don’t be like that, my dear poet. Keep the creature from Itabira as part of the great myth of your poetry and personality…. All of which does not preclude that, once in your life, the back country and the creature, metaphorical and eminent, should travel to collect honorable laurels (and 10,000 dollars, man)… Besides, don’t think that in this country, the newspapers, the radio and the television will avidly and incadenscently run to Norman… These things, beyond the presence of a couple of newspaper reporters, have a very restricted character, which, if there should be some resonance within the intellectual circles, has practically none among the public…. What the newspapers and others carry will simply be the notices Books Abroad circulates (here, my friend, he who doesn’t publicize himself, isn’t publicized, unless he has pirated an airplane at gun-point, or violated a respectable widow… – which obviously will not be your case).

Then comes the crowning argument:

De modo que vá, apesar de tudo, acomodando o seu espírito para a efeméride que os seus biógrafos registrarão (e mais sublinhará o bicho de Itabira — «só uma vez o poeta fez uma longa viagem, para receber nos Estados Unidos o Prêmio Internacional de Books Abroad, ele que sempre recusou todos os outros prêmios e mais veneras»). Quando um «antiviajante nato e irremediável» viaja, isso é um acontecimento para a eternidade!

Therefore, in spite of everything, prepare your spirit for the ephemerality which your biographers will record (and which will underscore the creature from Itabira even more – «only once did the poet take a long trip; to receive in the United States the Internacional Prize from Books Abroad, he who always rejected all prizes and venerations »).
When a «born, incurable anti-traveller» travels, that is an occasion for eternity!


O Dr. Frederick G. Williams é professor catedrático de literatura em português. Foi aluno de Jorge de Sena e depois seu colega na Universidade da Califôrnia, Santa Barbara. Organizou o primeiro colóquio sobre Sena, cujas atas foram publicadas posteriormente. Conheceu Carlos Drummond de Andrade pessoalmente e com ele se correspondeu. Também organizou o primeiro colóquio sobre Drummond, cujas atas foram publicadas. Depois de 25 anos ensinando na UCSB, o Professor Williams passou a integrar o corpo docente do Departamento de Espanhol e Português da Universidade de Brigham Young, onde lhe foi outorgada a Cadeira Literária Gerrit de Jong Jr. em Estudos Luso-Afro-Brasileiros. Hoje reside no Brasil onde serve como Presidente do Templo do Recife da Igreja de Jesus Cristo dos Santos dos Últimos Dias (Mórmon).

* Quaderni Portoghesi nº 13/14, Pisa, Giardini, 1983, p.331-58