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Lobato, Monteiro

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author, Critic, Editor.

(1882-1948) Brazilian Monteiro Lobato is most widely known as the founder of children's literature in Brazil, although he wrote works for adults, ran a publishing house and served as commercial attaché to the US from 1927 to 1931. While his canonical works of literature portray mainly the decadence of the coffee-plantation economy of São Paulo's interior, he also wrote stories such as "O estigma" ["The Stigma"] (in Urupês ["Fungi"] coll 1918) and "O bugio moqueado" ["The Roasted Monkey"] (in Negrinha ["Little Black Girl"] coll 1925), which border on horror. Lobato began his first series of children's books in 1920, and although there has been controversy over his portrayal of race, his children's literature continues to be popular in Brazil even today. In these works, a girl named Narizinho and her cousin Pedrinho interact with toys that come to life and with imaginary beings of Brazilian folklore, along with a panoply of real and imaginary characters, among them, a Brazilian imp called Saci Pererê, Shirley Temple, Tom Thumb, Popeye and Little Red Riding Hood. Lobato's interest in the fantastic is also evident in some of the works he translated, among them: H G Wells's The Invisible Man (12 June-7 August 1897 Pearson's Weekly; 1897), Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe (1719), Edgar Rice Burroughs's Tarzan the Terrible (29 January-26 February 1921 Argosy All-Story Weekly; 1921), J M Barrie's Peter Pan (1904) and Comics such as Felix the Cat (see also the film entry Felix the Cat).

As a member of São Paulo's Eugenic Society since 1918, Lobato was concerned with issues of public health that plagued Brazil's rural population, which inspired him to create the figure of the country bumpkin named Jeca Tatu. Lobato's only work of science fiction is his O presidente negro ["The Black President"] (1926 as O choque das raças; vt 1945) [for vts and subtitles, see Checklist], which offers a portrait of American society and Anglo-American culture in the year 2228 as observed by two Brazilians via a Time Viewer machine that allows them to see into the future. Here, Lobato portrays a three-way presidential race between a Black candidate, Jim Roy; a feminist, Miss Astor; and a white male candidate, Kerlog. In the aftermath of Jim Roy's victory, Kerlog and Miss Astor (who is also white) join forces, secretly working with investors to invent a Machine that, while ostensibly serving to straighten the hair of African-Americans, is actually designed to sterilize them. Lobato's work recalls the plot of George S Schuyler's Black No More (1931), but lacks the American author's wit, social analysis and criticism of racial essentialism. O presidente negro is similar in some ways to David H Keller's story "The Menace" (Summer 1928 Amazing Stories Quarterly): both deal with Inventions that illustrate racial fears and tensions of the 1920s and 1930s (see Race in SF). [MEG]

José Bento Monteiro Lobato

born Taubaté, Brazil: 18 April 1882

died São Paulo, Brazil: 4 July 1948

works (selected)

  • Urupês: contos ["Fungi: Short Stories"] (Sâo Paulo, Brazil: Revista do Brasil, 1918) [coll: refers to a coral-shaped fungus that grows mainly on trees; it is a metaphor for the cities of the Valley of Paraíba that were abandoned after the fall in the value of coffee in the 1910s: binding unknown/]
  • Negrinha ["Little Black Girl"] (São Paulo, Brazil: Revista do Brasil, 1920) [coll: binding unknown/]
  • O choque das raças; ou, O presidente negro; romance americano do anno de 2228 ["The Clash of the Races; or, The Black President: An American Novel from the Year 2228"] (São Paulo, Companhia Editora Nacional, 1926) [binding unknown/]
  • Obras completas ["Complete Works"] (São Paulo, Brazil: Editora Brasiliense, 1957-1959) [collected fiction: published in 17 volumes, of which volume 5 is Problema vital e O presidente negro ["The Problem of Life and The Black President"] using the short-form title of the above: hb/]
  • Problema Vital, Jeca Tatu e Outros Textos ["The Problem of Life, Jeca Tatu and Other Texts"] (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Globo, 2010) [nonfiction: coll: pb/]

about the author

  • Alfredo Bosi. "Monteiro Lobato" in Pequeno dicionário de literatura brasileira edited by José Paulo Paes and Massaud Moisés, (São Paulo, Brazil: Cultrix, 1980) [nonfiction: pp235-236: pb/]
  • Daphne Patai. "Race and Politics in Two Brazilian Utopias" (1982 Luso-Brazilian Review 19.1) [pp67-81: mag/]
  • João Severino Albuquerque. "Monteiro Lobato" in The Dictionary of Brazilian Literature (New York: Greenwood, 1988) edited by Irwin Stern [nonfiction: pp181-184: hb/]
  • Carmen Lucia de Azevedo, Marcia Camargos and Vladimir Sacchetta. Monteiro Lobato: Furacão na Botocúndia ["Monteiro Lobato: A Hurricane in Botocúndia"] (São Paulo, Brazil: Senac, 1997) [nonfiction: pb/]
  • Marcello Simão Branco. "Resenha de O presidente negro" ["A Review of The Black President"] in Anuário Brasileiro de Literatura Fantástica em 2006: Ficção Científica, fantasia e horror no Brasil (São Bernardo do Campo, Brazil: Edições Hiperespaço, 2007) edited by Cesar Silva and Marcello Simão Branco [nonfiction: pp74-75: pb/]
  • Roberto de Sousa Causo. Ficção científica, fantasia e horror no Brasil, 1875 a 1950 ["SF, Fantasy and Horror in Brazil, 1875 to 1950"] (Belo Horizonte, Brazil: Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, 2003) [nonfiction: pp137-141: pb/]
  • Lúcio Manfredi. "Monteiro Lobato e a subversão fantástica" ["Monteiro Lobato and the Subversion of the Fantastic"] in Anuário Brasileiro de Literatura Fantástica em 2006: Ficção científica, fantasia e horror no Brasil (São Bernardo do Campo, Brazil: Edições Hiperespaço, 2007) edited by Cesar Silva and Marcello Simão Branco [nonfiction: pp77-81: pb/]
  • Edgar Indalécio Smaniotto. "O Futuro Eugenizado" ["The Eugenicized Future"] in Anuário Brasileiro de Literatura Fantástica 2010: Ficção científica, fantasia e horror no Brasil (São Paulo, Brazil: Devir Livraria, 2011) edited by Marcello Simão Branco and Cesar Silva [nonfiction: pp201-221: pb/]


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