Selected Criticism

Portugal and Brazil, Whitman in
Paro, Maria Clara B.
Print source:
J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, eds., Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), reproduced by permission.

The multiple and contradictory Whitman "kosmos" made a major impression on Fernando Pessoa (1888–1935), Portugal's most important modern poet. Pessoa wrote poems not only under his name but also as distinctive fictional poets whom he called his heteronyms. According to critic Eduardo Lourenço in Pessoa Revisitado: Leitura Estruturante do Drama em Gente, it was Leaves of Grass that sparked the creation of two interrelated heteronyms who sound like transfigurations of Whitman: Álvaro de Campos and Alberto Caeiro. Campos, the most obvious Whitmanian heteronym and the author of the ode "Saudação a Walt Whitman," presents the American poet's comprehensive vision of the world, but as he lacks his "camaraderie" he is unable to merge with the crowd. Although Pessoa tried to diminish Whitman's imprint in Caeiro's work (Obra 2:1063), Susan M. Brown has convincingly demonstrated in the essays "The Whitman/Pessoa Connection" and "Pessoa and Whitman: Brothers in the Universe" Whitman's essential presence in Campos's poetic sequence entitled "O Guardador de Rebanhos" (The Keeper of Sheep).

In the nineteenth century, Joaquim de Sousa Andrade (1831–1902)—or Sousândrade as he preferred to sign his name—was the only Brazilian writer who felt the impact of Whitman's work. Nevertheless, in the beginning of the twentieth century, Whitman's voice, which was brought to Brazil by the symbolist and the avant-garde movements, reached a significant number of writers and their respective publics. In the 1920s, Whitman was praised as a forerunner of a new aesthetics by members of the literary movement known as Modernismo. As the "traditionalists" also regarded him as one of them, both groups requested Whitman to close ranks with them. Among the modernists who gave critical and creative response to Whitman's work, Mário de Andrade (1893–1945) is the most important figure. Andrade, a careful and attentive reader of Leaves of Grass, used this book as inspiration for some of his own poems, and there are passages in his work that are better understood in the light of Whitman's achievements, because they have become integral elements in Andrade's DNA poetic structure. The name of Ronald de Carvalho (1893–1935) became unequivocally associated with Whitman's after the publication of Toda a América (1926), an attempt to enlarge Whitman's Americanism to include all the Americas. Whitman's prophetic gospel was also very important for Tasso da Silveira (1895–1968). Silveira's free rhythm resembles the model given by Èmile Verhaeren (1855–1916), but Whitman's diction—in Christian array—is clearly present in many of the poems of Alegorias do Homem Novo (1926) and of Cantos do Campo de Batalha (1945), which includes a poem called "Palavras a Whitman."

The dates of publication of these books reveal two privileged moments of Whitman's literary reception in Brazil. Whereas in the 1920s Whitman was regarded as a symbol of artistic freedom, in the 1940s he became a symbol of social freedom, being highly regarded by those who were on the political right and left. Essays were written and collections of poems were translated and published to support both views. The most popular translation of that period was Cantos de Walt Whitman (1946) by the socialist Oswaldino Marques (1916–1964) and the best book was the internationally acclaimed O Camarada Whitman (1948) by the sociologist Gilberto Freyre (1900–1987), who was regarded as being on the right.

In 1964, Geir Campos (1924– ) translated and published the most popular collection of Whitman's poems in Brazil, entitled Fôlhas de Relva (1964), reedited five times from 1983 to 1993 with the title Folhas das Folhas de Relva. Although Whitman continues attracting each new generation of Brazilian readers, a complete Portuguese translation of Leaves of Grass has not been forthcoming.


Allen, Gay Wilson, and Ed Folsom, eds. Walt Whitman & the World. Iowa City: U of Iowa P, 1995.

Andrade, Mário de. Poesias Completas. Ed. D.Z. Manfio. Belo Horizonte: Itatiaia, São Paulo: Editora da U de São Paulo, 1987.

Brown, Susan Margaret. "Pessoa and Whitman: Brothers in the Universe." The Continuing Presence of Walt Whitman. Ed. Robert K. Martin. Iowa City: U of Iowa P, 1992. 167–181.

____. "The Whitman/Pessoa Connection." Walt Whitman Quarterly Review 9 (1991): 1–14.

Campos, Geir, trans. Folhas das Folhas de Relva. São Paulo: Brasiliense, 1983.

____, trans. Fôlhas de Relva. Rio de Janeiro: Civilização Brasileira, 1964.

Carvalho, Ronald de. Toda a América. São Paulo: Hispano-Brasileña, 1935.

Freyre, Gilberto. O Camarada Whitman. Rio de Janeiro: José Olympio, 1948.

Lourenço, Eduardo. Fernando Pessoa Revisitado: Leitura Estruturante do Drama em Gente. Porto: Editorial Inova, 1973.

Marques, Oswaldino, ed. and trans. Cantos de Walt Whitman. Rio de Janeiro: José Olympio, 1946.

Paro, Maria Clara B. "As Leituras Brasileiras da Obra de Walt Whitman." Diss. U de São Paulo, 1995.

____. "Walt Whitman in Brazil." Walt Whitman Quarterly Review 11 (1993): 57–66.

Pessoa, Fernando. Obra Poética e em Prosa. 3 vols. Porto: Lello and Irmãos, 1986.


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