Suassuna, Ariano Vilar (1927–)

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Suassuna, Ariano Vilar (1927–)

Ariano Vilar Suassuna (b. 16 June 1927), poet, playwright, and novelist from João Pessoa, Paraíba, in northeastern Brazil. Suassuna received an informal education during the years he lived in the sertão among ballad singers, puppeteers, and storytellers whose themes, poetic forms, and language would be the substance of his writing. In 1946 Suassuna enrolled at the university in Recife, Pernambuco. With Hermilo Borba Filho and others, he founded in 1948 the Teatro do Estudante de Pernambuco, whose purpose was to bring literature to the masses through theater. Performances were given in parks, factories, churches, and squares. The same year, Suassuna received the prestigious Carlo Magno Prize for Uma mulher vestida de sol, a play written in 1947.

His next important work for the theater was O auto da compadecida (1957). No other Brazilian play has become as nationally and internationally well known as The Rogue's Trial, first presented in Recife. Its novelty was in the revelation of Northeastern Brazil's harsh reality, with its social problems and cultural values. The author incorporates this reality into the traditions of European theater, medieval liturgical drama, and the religious theater of the Golden Age. Suassuna was inspired by the romanceiro popular do nordeste, as he called the literature of the cordel.

Suassuna dedicated himself to the theater until 1971. Not only O auto da compadecida but O casamento suspeitoso, O santo e a porca, and A pena e a lei were awarded prizes in Brazil and abroad. From 1971 to 1977 he wrote a novel in two parts, Romance d'a pedra do reino, based on ten years of historical and literary research and announced as the first volume of a trilogy. Enthusiastically received, it is an extremely ambitious work in which Suassuna, through a main character representing earlier real or fictional heroes, attempts to create an epic according to armorial or formulaic patterns. After 1977, Suassuna abandoned the theater and the novel, and returned to writing poetry. He also took up painting, illustrating A pedra do reino, and taught at the Federal University of Pernambuco. Since 1990, he has held a position on the Brazilian Academy of Letters. In 1993, he was elected to the Pernambuco Academy of Letters as well. From 1995 to 1998, he served as Secretary of Culture of Pernambuco.

See alsoLiterature: Brazil .


Richard A. Mazzara, "Poetic Humor and Universality of Ariano Suassuna's Compadecida," in Ball State University Forum 10 (1969): 25-30.

Additional Bibliography

Dineen, Mark. Listening to the People's Voice: Erudite and Popular Literature in North East Brazil. London: Kegan Paul International, 1996.

Santos, Idelette Fonseca dos. Em demanda da poética popular: Ariana Suassana e o Movimento Armorial. Campinas, Brasil: Editora da Unicamp, 1999.

Suassuna, Ariano. Fernando e Isaura. Recife, Brazil: Edicões Bagaco, 1994.

                                   Richard A. Mazzara