The Brilliant Brazilian Mind of Paulo Leminski

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

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.

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

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.

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

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.

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

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.

Photo: Maria Moraes Robinson

Photo: Maria Moraes Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

Although the exhibition is just four small rooms, each is full of Leminsky’s art, be it poetry, literature, philosophy and music.

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

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 🙂

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

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.

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

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.

Related Articles

The Revolutionary Music of Brazil

One response to “The Brilliant Brazilian Mind of Paulo Leminski

  1. Pingback: The Haunting and Beautiful Art of Abelardo da Hora | Transition Consciousness·

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s