Today Maria and I went to see a major Picasso exhibition here in São Paulo. However, on arrival we discovered a snakingly long queue, and as neither of us particularly do queues, we decided we would come back another day, and instead went around the corner to the Caixa Cultural São Paulo art gallery and museum, which had three exhibions, one of which was about the life and works of Paulo Leminski.
This was a great treat and surprise for me, since I had not heard of Leminski before. Leminski was born in Curitiba, in the Brazilian state of Paraná, in 1944. While he would become one of Brazil’s great intellectuals during the dictatorial period of the 60s and 70s, he was a Brazilian poet, translator, literary critic, biographer, teacher and practitioner of judo.
Leminski spoke fluent French, English, Spanish, Japanese, Latin and Greek. He translated into Portuguese works by Petronius, John Fante, Alfred Jarry, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett and Yukio Mishima, and one of greatest parts of this small but potent exhibition was to be able to see so many of the books from his collection.
It was amazing to see that one of the writers Leminski translated was John Lennon. Lennon wrote books such as “In my own write” which are in broken, absurdly incorrect English, but Leminski artfully captured the absurdity in translation, which has to be one of the most difficult forms of translation possible.
Although the exhibition is just four small rooms, each is full of Leminsky’s art, be it poetry, literature, philosophy and music.
I know that some of you will know how much I am into Hans-Georg Gadamer 9and actually only this morning I read his seminal essay Aesthetics and Hermeneutics), so it was great to see hermeneutics making several appearances 🙂
I really do not think that the dictatorial period in Brazil is a historical episode which is taught in Western schools. It wasn’t when I was at school anyway, and there are few documentaries made about the atrocities which happened.
But the longer I live in Brazil, the more I learn and discover, and it seems that in amongst the horrors, it was a remarkably creative period, not just through the music which I have previously written about, but in the intellectual expression which found its voice through many other artistic modes, often colliding together as writers became lyricists painting words in the mouths of the angry young musicians of this era.
If you are in São Paulo, I can highly recommend this exhibition. Small, potent, beautiful and educational. Leminski was a brilliant intellectual who had a rare ability to bring to expression the chaos, pathos and penetrating insights born amongst the brutality and suppression of a hideous regime. What an amazing experience.
Leminski died on June 7th 1989 as a result of liver cirrhosis which had accompanied him for several years.