Cândido de Mello e Souza, Antônio (1918–)

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Cândido de Mello e Souza, Antônio (1918–)

Antônio Cândido de Mello e Souza, an outstanding twentieth-century scholar of Brazilian literature, was born in Rio de Janeiro on July 24, 1918. He spent his childhood and early youth in Poços de Caldas in southern Minas Gerais, the homeland of his family. Son of a prestigious physician, he had access to an extensive home library from childhood. He originally planned to study at the traditional law school in São Paulo, but eventually gave up the idea and instead entered the new school of philosophy, sciences, and letters (Faculdade de Filosofia, Ciências, e Letras) at the University of São Paulo to study social sciences. In the 1940s during World War II, he, along with friends, founded the magazine Clima, which became an essential arts and literature reference for his generation. Professor Gilda de Mello e Souza (1919–2005), who was to become his wife, also collaborated on the magazine.

Antônio Cândido worked in the field of sociology up to 1958, when he joined the state faculty at the University of São Paulo at Assis as a Brazilian literature professor. In 1961 he joined the Faculdade de Filosofia, Ciências, e Letras as a professor on literary theory and comparative studies, where he remained until his retirement in 1978. After retirement he continued publishing books on literature and other major cultural fields. He was also active in left-wing politics, being one of the founders of the late Brazilian Socialist Party (dramatically dissolved during the military dictatorship in 1964) and of the present Worker's Party.

He wrote on a variety of subjects during the course of his career, but his major work was the huge Formação da literatura brasileira: Momentos decisivos, published in 1959. The two-volume book focused on the process of creating an autonomous Brazilian literature during the eighteenth century, through the pale but consistent Brazilian Enlightenment and the vigorous, although late (compared with Europe), Brazilian romantic movement, led by generations of writers who were strongly conscious of having a mission to fulfill for the new nation. In the Formação Cândido also established some fundamental concepts of Brazilian and later Latin American criticism, such as the idea of a sistema literário (literary system) based on the triangle of writers-books-public and this triad's continuity in time. His work formed the basis for a consistent tradition that helped to define a Brazilian national literature.

In the 1970s and early 1980s Cândido worked with Uruguayan professor Ángel Rama (1926–1983) in an effort to define a conceptual framework to encompass Latin American literature as a whole, including Brazil. As a scholar and a professor Cândido contributed to the development of at least three generations in the Brazilian academic world of literature.

Other major works by Antônio Cândido include Ficção e confissão (1956; on Graciliano Ramos); Os parceiros do Rio Bonito (1964; on the cultural life of São Paulo rural areas); Tese e antítese (1964 and 1971); Literatura e sociedade (1965); Vários escritos (1970); Tese e antítese (1971); A educação pela noite e outros ensaios (1987); and O discurso e a cidade (1993).

See alsoLiterature: Spanish America .


Aguiar, Flávio, ed. Antonio Candido: Pensamento e militância. São Paulo: Fundação Perseu Abramo/Humanitas, 1999.

D'Incao, Maria Angela, and Eloísa Faria Scarabôtolo, eds. Dentro do texto, dentro da vida. São Paulo: Companhia das letras, 1992.

Lafer, Celso, ed. Esboço de Figura: Homenagem a Antonio Candido. São Paulo: Duas Cidades, 1979.

                                             Flavio Aguiar