The following is a guest post by Catalina Gómez, program coordinator in the Library of Congress Hispanic Division.
Last month, Brazil lost two of its most beloved literary figures: author and journalist João Ubaldo Ribeiro, 73, and playwright and author Ariano Suassuna, 87–two writers who not only published literature of paramount importance, but who were pivotal advocates of Brazilian culture.
Award-winning author and journalist João Ubaldo Ribeiro was born on January 23, 1941, in the state of Bahia. “He was considered one of the most important Brazilian contemporary novelists,” says Iêda Siqueira Wiarda, the Luso-Brazilian Specialist of the Library’s Hispanic Division. Jorge Amado, one of Brazil’s most celebrated writers, called Ribeiro a “tropical Rabelais.” Praise for Ribeiro’s work has been abundant. In 1971 he received the Prêmio Golfino do Ouro do Estado do Rio de Janeiro and the Jabuti Prize for his novel Sargento Getúlio (Seargeant Getúlio). He received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Brazilian International Press in 2006, the Camões Prize in 2008, and the São Paulo Prize for Literature in 2010. In 1993, Ribeiro became a member of the Brazilian Academy of the Arts. His other notable novels include O sorriso do lagarto (The Lizard’s Smile), Feitiço da Ilha do Pavão (The Sorcery of Peacock Island), Diario do farol (The Lighthouse’s Diary), and O albatroz azul (The Blue Albatross).
Ariano Suassuna’s work, in contrast to Ribeiro’s, was more regionalist in nature. His plays and novels deal more with the culture of the Northeast region of Brazil (the “Nordeste”), but this focus does not diminish the importance of his work on the literary stage. Born in the northeastern city of Nossa Senhora das Neves on June 16, 1927, Suassuna is considered one of Brazil’s greatest playwrights and the force behind the “Movimento Armorial” (Armorial Movement). A professor of aesthetics and theory of the theater, he founded the Student Theater at the Federal University of Pernambuco and the Teatro Popular du Nordeste (Popular Theater of the Northeast). Suassuna’s plays include O Castigo da Soberbia, O Casamento Suspeitoso, A Caseria e a Catarina, O Santo e a Porca, and O Auto da Compadecida, which was adapted to the big screen. A clear sign of the playwright’s prominence in Brazilian culture was the portrayal of his life story at the 2002 Brazilian Carnival by the samba school Carnaval Mancha Verde in São Paulo.
Both Ribeiro and Suassuna were recorded for the Archive of Hispanic Literature on Tape of the Library of Congress–an archive of almost 700 recordings of poets and prose writers from the Luso-Hispanic world reading from their works. Their passing reminds us of the rare value of these recordings which remain as part of their legacy, making available for future generations the unique voices and insights of two of Brazil’s greatest men of letters.