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How can Latin Americans understand their past? Do ideologies which have been imported from Europe necessarily distort their view, or is that to underrate the power and objectivity of the ideas themselves? These questions are at the heart of this selection of essays, spanning twenty years of critical work on history, culture and identity, by one of the foremost Latin American intellectuals of our time. Roberto Schwarz’s writings have had a profound effect throughout Latin America. This is the first volume of those writings to appear in English.
Taking its title from what has probably been Schwarz’s most influential essay, Misplaced Ideas first examines the slave-owning Brazil of the nineteenth century, to show the persistent gap between liberal ideology based on the free market, and the reality of forced labour. The essays which follow range across the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and across film and fiction, theatre and music. They include four pieces on the great novelist Machado de Assis, and a powerful essay on the sometimes bizarre ways Brazilian culture reacted to the imposition of military rule. Throughout, Schwarz continually demonstrates the wit and sharpness which make his writings both a challenge and a pleasure to read.
“Roberto Schwarz's essays are not only a brilliant analysis of Brazilian literature and art, but above all a bold, original and creative contribution to a critical theory of literature, to a materialist interpretation of cultural history”