University of São Paulo: Exhibition elects 200 books that help to reflect on Brazil


With the exhibition 200 Books to Think About Brazil , USP’s Biblioteca Brasiliana Guita e José Mindlin (BBM) encourages the public to reflect on our past and present, with an eye to the future. Inspired by the article 10 Books to Understand Brazil , by literary critic and USP professor Antonio Candido (1918-2017), the exhibition expands the list of titles to offer a more pluralistic view of the country.

Part of the activities related to the bicentennial of Independence and the USP Pensa o Brasil week , which runs from August 29 to September 2, the exhibition sought to go even further back in time and composed a mosaic of works, spanning the 16th century to the present day. The curators’ perspective was to present books that represent and interpret the country, starting with the descriptive works of the territory of the recently invaded colony and reaching the current discussions and conflicts of Brazilian society.

For this, the exhibition divided the works into six periods: pre-Independence (1500-1822), Brazil Império (1822-1889), First Republic (1889-1930), Modern Brazil (1930-1964), Military Dictatorship (1964-1964). 1985) and contemporary Brazil (1985-2022). Within each period, canonical books were selected, as well as those representative volumes of silenced voices and defeated country projects. The idea, with this set, was to bring heterogeneous views about Brazil into dialogue.

“The criterion was, of course, to go through those emblematic works, recognized as important both for literature and for Brazilian social and historical thought”, comments professor Alexandre Macchione Saes, director of BBM and one of the curators of the exhibition. “But at the same time, we wanted to ensure that each historical period could have books not recognized in the canon. Thus, we seek to bring less prestigious authors and ensure the diversity of voices and interpretations about Brazil. We have tried, over these nearly 500 years of history, to contrast books that would be on any list with those not so obvious works.”

As explained by Saes, the selection of titles was carried out by a group of scholarship students linked to the 3×22 project at BBM and the library’s cultural mediation sector, with the participation of the director and employee João Marcos Cardoso. “It was a very interesting work, done with the students of the University. There were almost ten fellows, over two years, who worked intensively on this selection, looking for references ranging from the traditional to the non-obvious.”

The curators favored plurality and chose one work per author, the one most representative of their thinking and trajectory. We also tried to avoid the presence of foreign authors, even though they appear with some prominence among the books of the colonial period. The result is a collection that ranges from Gilberto Freyre to Sueli Carneiro, from José de Alencar to Davi Kopenawa, from Machado de Assis to Carolina Maria de Jesus.

According to Saes, by listing 200 books on the occasion of the bicentennial of Independence, BBM sought to highlight the great diversity of publications, especially from the contemporary period, many of which are not part of the more conventional repertoire when thinking about literature or historical reflections. , political or social issues regarding the country. One of the proposals was also, says the director, to provoke thought about the permanence and formation of this collection in a Brazilian library of the 21st century. “What are the books of our literature that think about our history, our sociological and political aspects? Who will be part of a 21st century Brasiliana? Who will these authors be, who will these characters be, what will the themes be explored?”

Another fundamental proposal, continues Saes, was to bring estrangement in relation to some selected works. Volumes that are not so evident and common within the Brazilian literary market but that would not fail to point to urgent issues in our society. “And with that, we also provoked our visitors to end the exhibition by suggesting which books should make up other 200-book lists. Works that are not here but that would be part of so many other lists of the 200 books to think about Brazil”, he concludes.

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