With Fernanda Montenegro ‘elected’, the race for places in the ABL heats up

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Even if others tried, they couldn’t beat her. That’s how the immortals of Brazilian Academy of Letters have explained the unique application of Fernanda Montenegro, who is virtually elected to seat 17 of the institution (the election is scheduled for November 4th). Confirmed yesterday, the lack of competitors against one of the greatest actresses in the country’s history is a sign of respect for her trajectory. Having Fernanda among its ranks was an old dream of the ABL, and running against her would represent a guaranteed defeat.

— Fernanda is Fernanda, a national unanimity — says the immortal Antonio Torres, first secretary of the ABL. — The tendency, of course, is for her to be elected, but the electoral process will be maintained, even though she is a single candidacy.

In August, when confirming her intention to occupy the chair that belonged to Affonso Arinos de Mello Franco, Fernanda herself made it clear that, despite her favoritism, she did not want to skip any stage of the process. Through her staff, the 91-year-old actress declared that she “awaits the election”. Her staff also commented: “She said in 2018, at the time of the launch of her book ‘Photographic Itinerary’, that she would wake up and sing. So goes Fernanda, with active hope”.

The election on March 4 will be the first since the beginning of the pandemic, which led the institution to suspend its in-person activities for over a year. During this period, another four chairs were vacated. They were occupied by Alfredo Bosi (nº 12), Murilo Melo Filho (nº 20), Marco Maciel (nº 39) and Tarcísio Padilha (nº2). Other elections will be held by the end of the year to choose its new occupants.

It was believed that the same phenomenon of Fernanda would be repeated with Gilberto Gil, who was also favored in chair 20. But the poet Salgado Maranhão decided to face the former Minister of Culture and tropicalist icon. What is said behind the scenes is that Gil is practically elected, but his competitor is strong and will have an honorable vote. Salgado’s name, by the way, had already been being aired within the institution for a long time. It will be a dispute between two black exponents of culture.

— Disputing with Gil was one of those coincidences — says Maranhão, whose poetic work has already been studied in several American universities, and translated into English, French, Swedish and even Japanese. — He is very respected, everyone knows his story. But I also have my walk. As the Minas proverb says: “election and mining, only after counting”.

Until recently, it was taken for granted that one of the five available positions would be with a fiction writer. But the inscription of strong names from other areas, such as the jurist and writer José Paulo Cavalcanti and the physician Paulo Niemeyer, changed the scenario. Biographer of Fernando Pessoa, Cavalcanti is the one who, according to sources, has the best chance of taking chair 39, which will also be disputed by the novelist Godofredo de Oliveira Neto, the poet Luiz Coronel and the linguist Ricardo Cavaliere. Niemeyer, on the other hand, has a wide advantage and should be elected to seat 12, ahead of the indigenous writer Daniel Munduruku.

Fictionists, only in the future

If the prognoses are right, there will be no fiction writers among the five elected, since the last chair, number 2, has as candidates the economist Eduardo Gianetti, the lawyer Sergio Bermudes, and the writer and politician Gabriel Chalita, who does not have the fiction as a preferred genre in his work. So far, there is no favorite for this chair.

For the “literary wing” of the ABL, the expectation is that future elections will include a fiction writer. Some strong names, such as Paulo Lins and Edney Silvestre, even considered a candidacy this year, but postponed the project. Another novelist Alberto Mussa indicated that he could compete in the future. It is worth remembering that, according to the ABL statute, anyone can apply for a vacancy, as long as they are Brazilian and have published works of recognized literary merit. The institution, however, reserves some vacancies for prestigious personalities in other areas, such as Fernanda and Gil.