A journalist and a politician, Carlos Lacerda was at the center of Brazil’s crises from the 1940s to the 1960s. As is often typical of biographers, especially authorized ones, Professor Dulles portrays his subject sympathetically. But he also shows the characteristics and contradictions of Lacerda that made him one of the most controversial figures in postwar Brazil. In this first volume of a proposed two-volume biography, Dulles provides a picture of a politician who orated and wrote passionately in the name of democracy, yet advocated military uprisings when his positions lost. The self-righteous Lacerda could viciously attack friends when they failed to agree with him and praise erstwhile enemies whom he had previously excoriated. Dulles also provides new information on a number of key events, including the elections of 1955 and 1960 and the “preventive coup” of General Henrique Teixeira Lott in November 1955.
The author has the tendency, again common to biographers, of making his protagonist the center of all action, often consigning events and other figures of Lacerda’s generation to subordinate roles. And Professor Dulles pays little attention to the social and economic forces that affected politics and in turn were shaped by political events. Nevertheless, Lacerda is a lively account of a central figure in Brazil’s Fourth Republic. Scholars, especially those doing research on modern Brazil, will find it a valuable addition to the literature.