Monteiro Lobato, José Bento (1882–1948)

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Monteiro Lobato, José Bento (1882–1948)

The Brazilian writer and publisher Monteiro Lobato was born in Taubaté on April 18, 1882, the son of José Bento Marcondes Lobato and Olympia Monteiro Lobato. As a child he liked to draw and to leaf through books, and he worked on student publications. He studied law in São Paulo, and in the interim published articles and illustrations. He graduated in 1904, returning to Taubaté.

He was a prosecutor, then a rancher, writing all the while. In 1914 he wrote a profile of the rural Brazilian laborer Jeca Tatu (The country bumpkin), which earned him acclaim. He worked with Revista do Brasil magazine from its inception, contributing reviews, articles, and stories.

In 1917 he sold the farm and moved to São Paulo, concentrating on his journalistic endeavors. Sacy-Perêrê: Resultado de um inquérito (Sacy-Perere: The Outcome of an Inquiry) was his first publishing venture at the end of the year, when he would also publish a critique of the painter Anita Malfatti's exhibit that would lead to a falling out with modernists.

The following year he became immersed in publishing, purchasing Revista do Brasil and printing his first collection of short stories, Urupês, which caused a sensation on the market and was reprinted in multiple editions. His rise in business was meteoric. He published new writers and set higher standards for the bookselling industry, combining refined graphics with literary quality. He also decided to write for children. In December 1920 he launched A menina do narizinho arrebitado (The Girl with the Turned-up Nose) and struck gold. From then on, the people and adventures of Sítio do Picapau Amarelo (Yellow Woodpecker Farm) would win a place in the hearts of generations of young Brazilians.

Business, however, was not always stellar. The Companhia Gráfico-Editora Monteiro Lobato (the Monteiro Lobato Graphics-Publishing Company) went bankrupt in 1925. But Lobato continued pursuing his dream. He moved to Rio de Janeiro and, by artfully maneuvering behind the scenes, established the Companhia Editora Nacional (National Publishing Company) that same year; it would publish the country's most important work in ensuing decades.

In 1927 he was named commerce attaché in New York. Living in this metropolis was the jolt that his restless and curious spirit was missing. In addition to pursuing new experiences, he continued his writing for children, even incorporating such foreign characters as Felix the Cat and Peter Pan. With the 1930 revolution, he lost his post and returned to the country determined to fight for economic modernization. The oil campaign (in which Lobato traveled across Brazil delivering speeches, sending letters, and making the whole country aware of the importance of oil to national development) ended up pitting him against the Vargas dictatorship, and he was imprisoned in 1941. This was quite a difficult period in his life, during which two of his children died as well. Grief-stricken, in 1946 he tried living in Argentina, but the cold proved too much for his health. When he died on July 4, 1948, he left behind more than fifty literary works, the majority for children, in addition to his countless translations, generally from English, of literary classics.

See alsoLiterature: Brazil; Modernism, Brazil.


Azevedo, Carmen Lucia de, Marcia Camargos, and Vladimir Sacchetta. Monteiro Lobato: Furacão na Botocúndia. São Paulo: SENAC, 1997.

Penteado, J. Roberto Whitaker. Os filhos de Lobato. Rio de Janeiro: Dunya Editora, 1997.

                               Carmen Lucia de Azevedo

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Monteiro Lobato, José Bento (1882–1948)

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