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World Day of the Portuguese Language and Marx

Do CounterPunch, Maio 9 2022



On the most recent May 5, the world day of the Portuguese language and the day of Karl Marx’s birth occurred. So I am left with this difficult impasse: between the two fundamentals, what to do?

– One is not opposed to the other – a fellow communist might tell me.

To which I reply:

– But if they are not opposed, where can I find the mature competence to speak at the same time about both?

– Practice is the criterion of truth: write and you will see! – commands the comrade.

So here I am, lost like a blind man in a gunfight. Where am I going in the midst of so many shots? If I am a practitioner of the Portuguese language, good or bad, good or bad, of Marx I can say that I am a fan without reservations or any reservations. But I confess that I am an admirer who has not studied in depth the classic texts of the philosopher who changed the world. Now the classics by Marx! Let’s be frank and true: is it only worth reading the Manifesto? Is only its interpretation by Lukács and Gramsci enough? Is reading a few texts by Lenin enough? And so I go on, lost in the gunfire.

So let’s start with the “easiest”, which is the World Day of the Portuguese Language. From this you can already see the gloomy jungle I have gotten myself into. But let’s go.

To save us from the abyss, it is a good thing that Portuguese is flexible. It is a language that has many addresses, and all the variations fit in it, because it is the legitimate speech of the various peoples of the world. From Brazil to São Tomé and Príncipe, passing through Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, East Timor, Macau, Cape Verde, and Portugal, we have the language’s voices. A unity in a diverse world could be said, if we were frivolously carried away by the enchanting taste of the phrase. But let us not deceive ourselves. This unity was made and conquered in blood. By fire and sword over the colonized peoples, as has been the expansion of languages and cultures in the world.

José Saramago once aptly observed: “There are Portuguese languages and not just one Portuguese language. These languages are, at the same time, the same and different”. In the Brazilian case, the African and indigenous contributions under the cruelest conditions were made not only in the lexicon, but in speech and speech rhythm. Today, if we take a good look, Brazilian Portuguese speech is another Portuguese. That which Noel Rosa expressed with such genius in the samba Não Tem Tradução: “Everything that the rascal pronounces / With a soft voice is Brazilian, it is already Portuguese.

But it will be safer if I bring Portuguese to the terrain where I am less ignorant. And I walk lightly to literature. In it, language finds its most fruitful realization. In it, Brazilians, Africans, Asians and Portuguese are at the same time distinct and one. Distinct not only from the themes, the landscape, the people narrated. Distinct in the new way of seeing human reality in new cultures and features.

Machado de Assis already enlightened us in his essay Instinto de Nacionalidade, in 1873:


“Whoever examines the current Brazilian literature immediately recognizes in it, as its first trait, a certain instinct of nationality. Poetry, romance, all the literary forms of thought seek to dress themselves in the colors of the country, and there is no denying that such concern is a symptom of vitality and an endorsement of the future”.

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