The literature of Brazil is, generally speaking, written in the official national language of the country, Portuguese.
This is due to the fact that the Portuguese had occupied and colonised Brazil since the 16th century, infusing the local native culture with their own European ideals, customs, beliefs and language.
Over time, the culture of Brazil has become known for its diverse nature due to the amalgamation of European cultures within an otherwise primitive semi-nomadic society.
Literature is one of the parts of a culture that reflects its multi-dimensional nature. Writers use their medium to communicate with others, record history, convey ideas and depict an identity. Therefore, literature is an integral part of a country’s complex culture. Brazilian literature is, as a result, also multifaceted, making it a fascinating record of people, places and times.
During the colonial period (which extended from the 1500’s to the 1800’s), the literary community of Brazil explored epic poetry, religious text and a fair amount of the satirical and secular genres. Well known authors of this time included Jean de Léry, Hans Staden and Basílio da Gama.
By the 1800’s, Neoclassicism was widespread. This style is characterised by linear forms and subdued palettes or colours. This was in imitation of the Italian art of the time.
Several acclaimed artists came out of the woodwork at this time, including Cláudio Manuel da Costa, Tomás Antônio Gonzaga and Alvarenga Peixoto. Many of these poets had adopted a rebellious stance against the colonial power of the day, leading to an interesting approach to their literature, which they used as a medium of expression.
Then, in 1836, Romanticism began to enter the Brazilian literary arena. This era encouraged society to consider the way in which they had been viewing themselves, others and the world around them. They were encouraged to use their imagination, to interpret symbolism and differentiate between myth and fact.
As Romanticism declined in the mid-1800’s, Realism became popular in literature as well as in the other artistic media. As its name implied, this style necessitated the depiction of the world in its most natural, raw forms. Together with this came Naturalism, which implied that the social and natural environments shaped the type of person one became. Writers from this time included Franklin Távora, João Simões Lopes Neto, Émile Zola and Aluísio Azevedo.
Machado de Assis was one of the most important writers in the Realism era. He was known for his pessimism and dark sense of humour. His best known works include:
• Memórias Póstumas de Brás Cubas
• Dom Casmurro
• Quincas Borba
Modernism began in 1922, and was characterised by an exploration of one’s self, a questioning of what others said or did, a sense of individualism, a doubt of absolute truths and a sense of randomness. Writers like Mário de Andrade, Oswald de Andrade, Manuel Bandeira and Cassiano Ricardo were respected for the Modernist works.
Post-Modernism is more difficult to define as it was based largely on evoking mistrust of the narrator, paradox and fragmentation. This encouraged thinking for one’s self and creating one’s own reality.
Today, Brazilian literature continues to evolve; representing the diversity of the country in new and exciting ways.