Authors: José Lins do Rego

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Brazilian novelist

Author Works

Long Fiction:

Menino de Engenho, 1932 (Plantation Boy, 1966)

Doidinho, 1933 (English translation, 1966)

Bangüê, 1934 (English translation, 1966)

O moleque Ricardo, 1935

Usina, 1936

Pureza, 1937 (English translation, 1948)

Pedra bonita, 1938

Água-mãe, 1941

Fogo morto, 1943

Eurídice, 1947

Plantation Boy, 1966 (includes Plantation Boy, Doidinho, and Bangüê)


Northeast Brazil, like the Deep South of the United States, at one time depended on slaves to work its plantations. Born at Pilar, Paraíba, on June 3, 1901, José Lins do Rego (leenz doh reh-GEW) Cavalcanti was brought up in this region at a time when the plantation system was declining before the disrupting forces of modern society. When his mother died shortly after his birth, his father left him in the care of aunts and an old grandfather who owned a string of sugar plantations extending from the ocean to the sertão, a region plagued by alternating drought and floods.{$I[AN]9810000153}{$I[A]Lins do Rego, José}{$I[geo]BRAZIL;Lins do Rego, José}{$I[tim]1901;Lins do Rego, José}

Educated for the legal profession in Paraíba and Pernambuco, Lins do Rego became a professor of law, the prosecuting attorney in the small town of Minas Gerais in 1925, and a bank inspector. In 1932 he undertook to portray in his “sugar cane cycle” the economic and social conflicts of his native region; these five novels were built around Carlos de Mello, who embodied autobiographical details drawn from Lins do Rego’s memory. The series follows Carlos as he grows up, goes to school, circulates among his friends of color in the city, and witnesses the decline of the plantation aristocracy. Plantation Boy, Doidinho, and Bangüê are the best known of the sugar cane novels. Lins do Rego was already well known when he moved to Rio de Janeiro to enter the newspaper world. He married Filomena Massa, and they had three daughters.

Lins do Rego was an uneven writer. He stands out among the increasing number of excellent Brazilian novelists for his character drawing and his simple, direct language, but most critics find his writing flawed by a lack of dialogue. Part of the problem may have been the speed with which he wrote, producing a novel a year. His defenders see in his preference for narrative soliloquy the influence of professional oral storytellers he heard as a boy.

Among his later works, Pedra bonita (wondrous or beautiful rock), with its picture of fanaticism in the sertão, is founded on actual happenings. Água-mãe (mother-water) is a ghost story of eerie moods that won the Felipe d’Oliveira award as the best novel of the year in 1941. Fogo morto (dead fires), a novel with excellent dialogue and characters (such as the Don Quixote-like Captain Vitorino Carneiro da Cunha, quite different from the morbid Carlos de Mello), returns to the sugar plantations to follow the rise and fall of the epileptic Lula de Hollanda, aristocratic master of Santa-Fe. Another departure from Lins do Rego’s earlier style is Eurídice, a psychological novel about sex, in which he experimented with new themes.

In 1956, elected to the Academia Brasileira de Letras, Lins do Rego was supposed to eulogize his predecessor in his acceptance speech, but instead he shocked the members by declaring that the man never wrote anything remotely resembling literature. The same statement could not be made about José Lins do Rego.

BibliographyChamberlin, Bobby J. “José Lins do Rêgo.” In Latin American Writers, edited by Carlos A. Solé and Maria Isabel Abreu. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1989. A fine introduction for the beginning reader of Lins do Rego. Notes the autobiographical elements of his work along with its regional and folkloric influences.Ellison, Fred P. Brazil’s New Novel: Four Northeastern Masters. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1954. Provides an excellent introduction to the new Brazilian regionalism of the 1930’s and 1940’s. One chapter is devoted to an examination of Lins do Rego’s works. A classic in the field.Hulet, Claude L. “José Lins do Rêgo.” In Brazilian Literature 3, 1920-1960: Modernism. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 1975. An anthology of Brazilian literature in Portuguese with introductions in English. Short biography of Lins do Rego followed by critical commentary. Discussion of Lins do Rego’s style and techniques.“José Lins do Rêgo (Cavalcanti).” In World Authors, 1950-1970, edited by John Wakeman. New York: H. W. Wilson, 1975. Gives an overview of Lins do Rego’s life and summarizes each of the novels of the Sugar Cane Cycle. Includes a brief discussion of Lins do Rego’s detailed naturalism and simple, direct style.Marotti, Giorgio. Black Characters in the Brazilian Novel. Translated by Maria O. Marotti and Harry Lawton. Los Angeles: Center for Afro-American Studies, University of California, 1987. Includes a discussion of the relationship between slaves and slave holders.Vincent, Jon. “José Lins do Rêgo.” In Dictionary of Brazilian Literature, edited by Irwin Stein. New York: Greenwood Press, 1988. Provides an overview of Lins do Rego’s life and work and discusses his involvement in the Region-Tradition school of thought and writing founded by the great Brazilian sociologist, Gilberto Freyre.
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