The Life and Death of Carolina Maria De Jesus|
by Robert M. Levine '62 and Jose Carlos Sebe Bom Meihy,
University of New Mexico Press, 1995. 162 pages.
Robert Levine has produced the first biography of a fascinating and controversial figure from Brazil's history -- Carolina Maria de Jesus -- whose 1960 book sold more copies than any other Brazilian work before or since. Levine is a professor of Latin American history at the University of Miami. For this project he worked with Jose Carlos Sebe Bom Meihy, a University of Saõ Paulo historian.
Carolina Maria de Jesus was born in the rural interior of Brazil in 1914 to a destitute black family. She later migrated to Saõ Paulo and ended up living in a favela or shantytown. She collected, sorted and sold garbage in order to survive and feed her children. Amazingly, she kept a diary in old notebooks that she found, and in 1958 a Brazilian reporter who had been chatting with her learned of the journal and asked to see it. He saw that it was a powerful work and published parts of it. Two years later the diary appeared as a book and the author became an international celebrity. Within a few more years the volume had been translated into many languages around the world.
Yet when Carolina Marie de Jesus died in 1977 she had been all but forgotten and her later books were ignored. Levine used the diary for years in his university teaching, and he wanted to know whatever happened to Carolina, and why the respect accorded her had been so short-lived. He asked Jose Carlos Sebe Bon Meihy, known for his work in oral history, to help by organizing interviews in Brazil with such people as Carolina's publisher, her best friend, her social worker and her two surviving children. Levine also read all of Carolina's other extant writings, in addition to newspaper articles that had appeared about her while she lived.
Many Brazilian leftists, including Sebe Bom Meihy, as he forthrightly states in the introduction, became disenchanted with Carolina because in some ways she was conservative: she wrote about her experience of Brazil's social problems and was eager to leave the shantytown behind, but she did not organize politically or fight to change conditions. They found suspect the fact that many North Americans had been so interested in her while they were less charmed by their own Black Power activists.
In exploring such explanations for "Cinderella scorned," Levine discovered that many Brazilians' frustrations had in fact been less political and more personal: Carolina had a "difficult" personality after she became a celebrity. Levine looks at the case from both sides and points out that of course Carolina had developed a protective shell from her early experiences and felt strongly about making her own decisions. "In [her] quest for autonomy and self-esteem, other people, including benefactors and friends, were potential threats because they did not understand her all-consuming goal of control over her life on her own terms." Her attitude struck people especially badly because she was black and a woman, and as such was expected to be docile and grateful for guidance.
Levine calls Carolina Maria de Jesus "an extraordinary human being." He does a wonderful job of trying to rescue an important person from oblivion. More than this, he asks us to examine our notion of what constitutes "radical." On one of the many days when Carolina could not obtain enough bread to feed her family, Levine reminds us, she found the strength of heart to look up in the midst of the favela and feel "a crazy desire to cut a piece of the sky to make a dress."
Subtitled 'Conservative Common Sense Through the Ages', James Hornfischer's little book is "a provocative, illuminating field guide to 25 centuries of conservative wisdom." It features the thinking of such conservatives as Socrates and Plato, William F. Buckley and Rush Limbaugh, Ronald Reagan and Newt Gingrich.
"Why this book, which purports to take such a one-sided view of things?" asks Hornfischer in his introduction. "It has been put together, firstly, for conservatives looking to gain a more nuanced understanding of conservatism, along with some good ideas about where they might go for further reading . . . . The book collects some of the best definitions of conservatism formulated by con-servative thinkers."
The editor hopes that liberals too can appreciate some of the root values of conservatism, "that they might move forward with a more respectful view of the opposition." He aimed to give the book entertainment value as well, though he looked to intellectuals for most of his material rather than modern politicians.
The book is dedicated to Hornfischer's "own special source of right thinking, my wife, Sharon."
Not Necessarily Cervantes: Readings of the Quixote
These eight essays, written over the past 18 years, on Miguel de Cervantes' Quixote (1605 and 1615) have a broad audience in mind: primarily the students of Quixote in translation. Professor Hathaway offers them both the original text and its abundant bibliography, translated into or paraphrased in English. He also recreates the story in great detail to guide the reader through its convoluted plot. Another kind of reader envisioned for this book is the specialist, who will certainly enjoy the lucid and insightful interpretations of its author.
In the first essay Hathaway speculates about the ancestry of Alonso Quixano, the man who becomes don Quixote after losing his wits reading books of chivalry. Hathaway argues convincingly that Quixano's ancestors may have been warriors who eventually became hidalgos, the lowest rank of nobility. The hidalgo Quixano in his first sally is knighted in a burlesque ceremony and, upon returning to town, he is repudiated by the real knights for trying to climb the social ladder. Hathaway concludes suggesting that Quixano is an alter ego of Cervantes, a frustrated soldier who now craves the glory of recognition as an author.
Three other essays deal with the intercalated stories of Dorotea, the Captive and Leandra. Many readers have been taken aback by some of these stories, finding them not only irrelevant to the plot, but also boring. Hathaway's essays try to dispel the negativism about them and show that they are not insignificant appendages.
In these three narratives, Hathaway argues, the tales are mediated by the person who narrates them and by the characters who hear them. The fact that the teller may be willing to hide something or stress one or another part of the story makes them suspect and the story unreliable.
For instance, the beautiful Dorotea narrates the story of her seduction by don Fernando under the vow of marriage. Hathaway sees something suspicious in that listening to the story is Pero Pérez, the priest who is a friend of Quixote. Because of him, she tries to portray herself as a virtuous maid, the victim of a seduction, but Hathaway argues convincingly that her story betrays her role as a victim and shows how she willingly gave in to the nobleman's desire. Dorotea's need to convince the priest of her innocence and to get his help makes her feign the story. And, sure enough, the priest ends up convincing don Fernando to reunite with Dorotea. Hathaway shows how lying as a scheme of literary technique is a marvelous Cervantine invention.
Another essay deals with the 1614 apocryphal sequel to Don Quixote, a mediocre book, published under the pseudonym of Alonso Fernández de Avellaneda. Cervantes, very hurt by the plagiarism and the insults that Avellaneda throws out in the prologue, vents his rage by incorporating the spurious Quixote and its characters into the action of the authentic 1615 Part Two and by subjecting them to the criticism of the authentic characters.
That said, Hathaway demonstrates other ways in which Cervantes criticizes the apocryphal with subtle irony. For example, in Part Two characters who have read Part One, among them the duke and the duchess, and don Antonio, are fond of playing tricks on Quixote. Hathaway concludes that they, like Avellaneda, only perceive the superficial and the comic, but fail to understand the humanity, the idealism and the subtleties of the Quixote.
In all the essays Hathaway insists that his are just interpretations, which may or may not coincide with what Cervantes intended (hence the title). But Cervantes gives him the grounding for his exegetical work: "you are in your own house and master of it [... and therefore] you can say what you will about the story without fear of being abused for any ill or rewarded for any good you may say of it" (prologue to Part One). Hathaway puts a caveat to Cervantes' invitation to do our own "reading": his last essay is devoted to the interpretative abuses and the misappropriations the novel has suffered.
Howard M. Liebman '74 is the author of Doing Business in the European Union (Bureau of National Affairs) with his colleague in the Brussels law firm of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, Izzet M. Sinan. Both men are special consultants to Tax Management Inc., a subsidiary of the Bureau of National Affairs.
This portfolio provides a comprehensive guide to the legal issues affecting business in the European Union. It examines a wide spectrum of EU law relevant and critical to all businesses already in the EU or seeking to enter the European market. Among the subjects included in the 19 chapters are the EU's institutional structure, competition, consumer protection, environmental policies, tax issues, the protection of industrial and intellectual property rights.
A 1977 cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School, Howard Liebman is contributing editor of Tax Planning International Review