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For English to See

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I love you, forget sclaine Maine Itapiru / Forguet five underwood I Shell no bonde Silva Manuel / Manuel, Manuel, Manuel / I love you too heavy Steven via Catumbay / Independence lá do Paraguai, Studbaker Jaceguai

Lamartine Babo, “Canção Para Inglês Ver

You don’t have to understand that song. I don’t know everything in those lyrics either. But I know what Lamartine Babo was criticizing.

Actually, many people might think that I do exactly what he’s protesting against in that song.

The use of English instead of Portuguese, our mother tongue. Trying to do what the gringos do. Do things “for English to see,” which can mean a lot of things, including behaving like the “English” so they can see us as equals.

Well, if you’ve been following me long enough, you know that this is a huge bs—at least in part, I must admit. We’ll talk more about that later.

But Lamartine Babo was criticizing that behavior, and we do have a thing in Brazil that Nelson Rodrigues, a famous journalist, and writer, coined in the past as the Mongrel Complex, a collective inferiority complex felt by many Brazilians when comparing Brazil to other cultures in the world.

I’m saying this today because I talked about reading in other languages yesterday in my blog, and I finished rereading MACUNAÍMA by Mário de Andrade last night.

It’s all connected somehow, and I will publish a full review of MACUNAÍMA in my blog very soon.

But for now, I just wanted to provoke a thought here: an exaggerated imitation of foreign culture led important writers of my country to produce the richest, original, and truly Brazilian works of literature I’ve ever read.

Mário de Andrade, for example, took our folklore, our country dialects, and indigenous legends and words, and he wrote MACUNAÍMA for fun and protest, a masterpiece.

☕️ So I ask you: how much of your culture is influenced by foreign cultures, and what author broke that completely in your country by producing original works that gave an authentic shape to your country’s literature?

■ via @beardbetweenthelines 👇🏻

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