Academia Brasileira de Letras (Brazilian Academy of Letters) is regarded as the most important literary institution of Brazil. Founded as an independent private institution in 1897 in Rio de Janeiro by a group of writers among them two canonical writers of Brazilian literature, Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis and José Veríssimo Dias de Matos, it takes on the motto “Ad Immortalitatem” (“To Mortality”). The Academy is known to be inspired by its French counterpart Académie française. ABL’s first president was Machado de Assis and the current president is Brazilian writer Marco Lucchesi.
As a literary non-profit society, Academy’s mission is to protect the national language and literature. One of the main functions of the academy is its publication of Ortographic Vocabulary of the Portuguese Language. The GLA comprises of 40 permanent and perpetual members, and 20 foreign correspondent members. The permanent members are chosen from among citizens of Brazil who have published works or books with recognized literary value.
In 1923, French government donated the French pavillion building to the academy, which is a replica of the Petit Trianon of Versailles.
Rachel de Queiroz, Lygia Fagundes Telles, and Nelida Piñon were among the first women to be admitted to the Brazilian Academy of Letters, and Piñon became its first female president.
The academy also has commemorative websites: Joaquim Nabuco website, Machado de Assis website, Euclides da Cunha website, 110 Years of the Brazilian Academy of Letters and Machado de Assis Death Centenary website.
ABL’S neutrality in choosing proper members dedicated to the literary profession was compromised with the election of politicians such as ex-president Getúlio Vargas in 1943. The Academy is also accused of not having defended cultural expression and freedom of speech during both Vargas Era and during the military dictatorship, both of periods were known as the periods of heavy censorship on Brazilian culture.
ABL Literary Awards
ABL started the awarding literary awards in 1909. In the following years, many awards were created, such as Medeiros and Albuquerque (1910), the “Gazeta de Notícias” (1910), Machado de Assis (1911), Raul Pompéia (1911) and the Academia Brasileira Award (1912).
According to the ABL’s website, the academy distributed the following Awards until 1994: Olavo Bilac (poetry); José Veríssimo (essay and scholarship); Monteiro Lobato (children’s literature); Francisco Alves (monograph on basic education in Brazil and on the Portuguese language); Assis Chateaubriand (literary articles); Afonso Arinos (short stories); Artur Azevedo (theater); Silvio Romero (critic and literary history); Coelho Neto (novel); Joaquim Nabuco (social history); João Ribeiro (philology, ethnography and folklore); José de Alencar (soap operas); Odorico Mendes (translation); Aníbal Freire (oratory); Carlos de Laet (chronicles and travel); Roquete-Pinto (ethnography); Alfred Jurzykowski (economics and politics).
At the session of March 19, 1998, the Machado de Assis Award started to be awarded every year as well as the ABL Poetry Award, the ABL Fiction Award, the ABL Award and the ABL Award for Children’s and Youth Literature. Recently, the GLA Translation and GLA History and Social Sciences Awards were created.
PANELINHA: LITERARY SMALL POT
Members of “Panelinha”, created in 1901 to hold festive agapes and meetings of writers and artists. It was a brotherhood where writers and artists would meet for friendly get-togethers.
The photograph is of a lunch at the Hotel Rio Branco. Standing: Rodolfo Amoedo, Artur Azevedo, Sousa, Olavo Bilac, José Veríssimo, Sousa Bandeira, Filinto de Almeida , Guimarães Passos, Valentim Magalhães, Rodolfo Bernadelli, Rodrigo Octavio, Heitor Peixoto. Seated: João Ribeiro, Machado de Assis, Lúcio de Mendonça and Silva Ramos.
Machado de Assis’s Speech in the Inauguration:
By investing me in the position of president, you wanted to start the Academia Brasileira de Letras by the consecration of age. If I am not the oldest of our colleagues, I am among the oldest. It is symbolic on the part of an institution that expects to live, to trust with age functions that more than an eminent spirit would perform better. Now that I thank you for your choice, I tell you that I will seek as much as possible to match your confidence.
There is no need to define this institution, started by a young man, accepted and completed by young men, the Academy is born with a new soul, naturally ambitious. Your wish is to preserve literary unity in the midst of the political federation. Such work requires not only public understanding, but still and mainly your constancy. The French Academy, by which it was modeled, survives the events of every caste, literary schools and civil transformations. Yours will want to have the same features of stability and progress. The baptism of their chairs with the clear and longing names of fiction, lyrical, critical and national eloquence is an indication that tradition is their first vote. It is up to you to make it last. Pass on to your successors the initial thought and will, so that they can pass it on to theirs, and let your work be counted among the solid and brilliant pages of our Brazilian life. The session is open.
Current members of the Brazilian Academy of Letters:
Affonso Arinos de Mello Franco
Alberto da Costa e Silva
Alberto Venancio Filho
Ana Maria Machado
Antonio Carlos Secchin
Cândido Mendes de Almeida
Domício Proença Filho
Evaldo Cabral de Mello
Evaristo de Moraes Filho
Fernando Henrique Cardoso
Geraldo Holanda Cavalcanti
Ignácio de Loyola Brandão
José Murilo de Carvalho
Luiz Paulo Horta
Lygia Fagundes Telles
Marcos Vinicios Rodrigues Vilaça
Murilo Melo Filho
Rosiska Darcy de Oliveira
Sergio Paulo Rouanet
About The Editor:
Basak Bingol Yuce is a world literature scholar, journalist, and literary translator based in the US. She holds a PhD degree in comparative literature from Binghamton University. One of her areas of study is Brazilian literature. Dr. Yuce’s journalistic work focuses on literary and international journalism. She is a regular contributor to Turkish media outlets. Dr. Yuce translated books and articles from English, French and Portuguese into Turkish, among them the works of Clarice Lispector, Terry Eagleton, Antonio Candido, André Aciman, Ken Bruen, and Harold Bloom.