Ever since Gilberto de Mello Freyre first published Casa grande e senzala (The Masters and the Slaves) in 1933, few studies of Brazilian history or sociology have remained uninfluenced by the often controversial views of this distinguished Brazilian scholar. In recent years Freyre’s opinions concerning the nature of slavery and race relations in Brazil have sparked lively controversies among North American, British and Brazilian scholars, and this preoccupation has tended to obscure Freyre’s other interests such as how the Brazilian family evolved and what role the tropics played in the creation of a Portuguese empire distinct from that of Spain (lusotropicality). Two publications, one in English and the other in Portuguese, help remind us of the breadth and depth of Freyre’s thought.
The Gilberto Freyre Reader, ably translated by Barbara Shelby, is an ideal introduction to Freyre’s favorite themes. Besides selections from his famous trilogy of The Masters and the Slaves, The Mansions and the Shanties, and Order and Progress, there are also excerpts from newspaper and journal articles and from other published monographs. Divided into seven sections that include “Brazil,” “Freyre on Freyre,” “Sociology,” and “Travels,” as well as a section entitled “Race and Slavery,” this reader is a rich sampler of vintage Freyre.
For those interested in autobiography, Tempo morto e outros tempos: Trechos de um diário de adolescência e primeira mocidade, 1915-1930 offers a partial glimpse of Freyre’s private thoughts during his formative years. This edited diary, which only indicates the place and year of each entry, covers his college experiences in Texas and New York, his first sojourn in Europe, and his return to Recife (several of these entries are also translated in The Gilberto Freyre Reader). The notations are candid, often amusing, and cover a variety of topics that range from travel experiences and literature to philosophy and sex. Although this book will appeal to a more limited audience than the Reader, Tempo morto will be welcomed by Freyre’s devoted followers.