Merval Pereira: Gil's inauguration speech according to the president of the Brazilian Academy of Letters

The journalist and academic analyzes the speech of the new immortal at the event that marked his definitive entrance into the Brazilian Academy of Letters

By Instituto Gilberto Gil

Text: Merval Pereira, journalist and president of the Brazilian Academy of Letters

Acadêmicos Merval Pereira, Nélida Piñon, Joaquim Falcão e Antonio Carlos Secchin na cerimônia de posse de Gilberto Gil na Academia Brasileira de Letras (2022-04-08)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Besides the evident qualities of his literary work in Brazilian popular music, and the appreciation of Afro culture as a fundamental part of the national culture, Gilberto Gil demonstrated, during his inauguration at the Brazilian Academy of Letters (ABL) in April...

Presidente da Academia Brasileira de Letras, Merval Pereira, durante cerimônia de posse de Gilberto Gil na instituição (2022-04-08)Instituto Gilberto Gil

...generosity and elegance in his speech, when approaching delicate themes of his personal relationship with the history of ABL, but, above all, when dimensioning the role of the most important cultural institution of the country in the troubled moment we are living in the country. 

Gilberto Gil durante sua cerimônia de posse na Academia Brasileira de Letras (2022-04-08)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Values

The institutional value of the election, Gil defined it as such, making explicit the significance of his choice as a representative of Afro-descendant culture:

Gilberto Gil talks about the honor of being elected to the Brazilian Academy of Letters in his inauguration speech - Part 3
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"Among so many honors that life has generously given me, this one has a special dimension for me, not only because this is the House of Machado de Assis, a universal writer, and an African descendant like me, but also because...

"... the ABL, founded on July 20, 1897, represents, even for those who criticize it, the highest instance, which legitimizes and perpetually consecrates the activity of a writer or creator of culture in our country". 

Membros da Academia Brasileira de Letras reunidos durante posse de Gilberto Gil (2022-04-08)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Gilberto Gil talks about the importance of the Brazilian Academy of Letters nowadays, in his inauguration speech
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Meanings

The significance of the institution, and his role within it, was highlighted: "The Brazilian Academy of Letters is the Home of the Word and of the Cultural Memory of Brazil....

"...And it has a great responsibility in the sense of strengthening an intellectual image of the country that will stand up to the tide of obscurantism, ignorance, and demagoguery of anti-democratic feature...

Gilberto Gil talks about ideological conflicts on the Internet during his inauguration speech at the Brazilian Academy of Letters - Part 5
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"... Few times in our republican history have the writer, the artist, the producer of culture, been so harassed and belittled as now. There is a war for unreason and ideological conflict in the social networks of the Internet... 

"...and the issue deserves the attention of our educators and public men. The ABL has much to contribute to this civilizing debate. And I would like, here, to contribute to the debate, for the sake of culture and justice. 

Gilberto Gil encerra seu discurso na cerimônia de posse na Academia Brasileira de Letras (2022-04-08)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Humanistic Vision 

Gil based his speech on a humanistic vision that has always guided his life, which, from a literary point of view, began at the age of 17 writing poems inspired by readings of Castro Alves, Gonçalves Dias, and Olavo Bilac:

Gilberto Gil talks about the future of Brazil during his inauguration speech at the Brazilian Academy of Letters - Part 7
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"Always trying to accompany the development of new technologies in what they can contribute for the good of all, I usually ask myself: What will become of Brazil in the midst of this world of pandemics and wars? What fate awaits the Amazon Forest? 

"...  What are the politicians doing to end hunger and illiteracy? When will we achieve the so dreamed of scientific and technological independence? Until when will Brazil be Stefan Zweig's 'country of the future'? 

Gilberto Gil talks about his life and career during his inauguration speech at the Brazilian Academy of Letters - Part 8
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"...  I don't have answers or consolidated truths, nor do I know if I will have them one day. I tried, together with some brilliant generation of companions, to collaborate so that Brazil would be respected and loved around the world...

"... I participated in cultural movements like Tropicália, which is still bearing fruit around the world. I had great successes and joys in this life. But also deep sorrows, the greatest and most painful being the loss of my son Pedro Gil. But I am not discouraged, because one must always resist."

Ministro da Cultura Gilberto Gil participa de sessão extraordinária na Academia Brasileira de Letras (2006-04-05)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Old courtship

When the possibility arose of nominating him to be a candidate for one of the five vacancies opened during the two years of the pandemic, something already nurtured many years before by the ABL's president at the time, Marcos Vilaça - whom Gil thanked in his speech -,...

Gilberto Gil com o poeta e ensaísta Marcos Vilaça no dia em que o compositor baiano foi eleito imortal na Academia Brasileira de Letras (2021-11-11)Instituto Gilberto Gil

... his supporters were concerned about avoiding a meeting that ended up happening, by those lucky twists of fate. Gil, due to agenda arrangements and other circumstances, ran for seat 20, vacant with the death of journalist Murilo Mello Filho,...

Gilberto Gil e Marcos Vinicios Vilaça em evento (2007-10)Instituto Gilberto Gil

... whose predecessor was General Aurélio de Lyra Tavares. 

Gilberto Gil ao lado de Zuenir Ventura, Merval Pereira, Marcos Vilaça, Cacá Diegues e outros imortais da Academia Brasileira de Letras, no dia que o compositor baiano foi eleito (2021-11-11)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Dribbling the discomfort 

As tradition demands that the incoming academician remembers his predecessors, which made Darcy Ribeiro say that this is why we are immortal, Gil would have to talk about the General who composed the Military Junta that governed Brazil from August 31st to October 30th, 1969.

Ministro da Cultura Gilberto Gil participa de sessão extraordinária na Academia Brasileira de Letras (2006-04-05)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Lyra Tavares was the Minister of the Army when Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso were arrested in December 1968, after the decree of Institutional Act-5. They remained in jail from December 27, 1968 to February 19, 1969.

Gilberto Gil em encontro com Sérgio Paulo Rouanet e Marcos Vilaça, membros da Academia Brasileira de Letras, na ABL (2014-08-04)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Then they were confined in Bahia, until they traveled abroad in July 1969. His political rights were revoked, as were Caetano Veloso's, while Lyra Tavares was still Minister of the Army, and they were restored with the amnesty in August 1979. 

Gilberto Gil e o poeta e ensaísta Marcos Vilaça no dia em que o compositor baiano foi eleito imortal na Academia Brasileira de Letras (2021-11-11)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Many scholars in the history of ABL have failed to mention some of their predecessors, or have even criticized them. But Gilberto Gil faced the trap of fate with elegance and generosity. He said of his predecessor:

Gilberto Gil discursa na cerimônia de posse na Academia Brasileira de Letras (2022-04-08)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Gilberto Gil talks about the military dictatorship during his inauguration speech at the Brazilian Academy of Letters - Part 6
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"As a victim of the military repression that took over Brazil in 1964, to the point that I was arrested and then obliged to leave the country in July 1969 - just like other friends of mine, including Caetano Veloso - it caused me, at first, ...

"...a certain discomfort having to deal here with one of the three members of the Provisional Governmental Junta that commanded Brazil from August 31 to October 30, 1969."  

Moral greatness came next:

"But, on the contrary, in the observation of how the wheel of History turns, sometimes with irony, from an academic point of view, those who knew and lived with General Lyra Tavares in this House reiterate his always affable and supportive behavior...

Gilberto Gil fotografado antes do início da cerimônia de sua posse na Academia Brasileira de Letras (2022-04-08)Instituto Gilberto Gil

"... his literary and historical culture and his dedication to the values that mark the history of the ABL." 

Gilberto Gil durante sua cerimônia de posse na Academia Brasileira de Letras (2022-04-08)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Criticism revisited 

In another moment of his speech, he also faced a jam with gallantry, remembering that in May 1968, on the cover of his second LP, and already part of Tropicália, he appeared wearing a uniform and wearing a pair of pince-nez glasses.

Many of his supporters, by the way, feared that this cover could cause damage to his campaign, which did not happen. Recalling this episode, Gil wrote a poem especially for his induction into the ABL, 52 years later:

Os acadêmicos Nélida Piñon e Merval Pereira com o prefeito Eduardo Paes, durante cerimônia de posse de Gilberto Gil na Academia Brasileira de Letras (2022-04-08)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Gilberto Gil recites a poem about his election into the Brazilian Academy of Letters during his inauguration ceremony at the institution - Part 10
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"There has always been criticism of the Academy,
that the House of Machado would not do justice
to the dream it had dreamed of being one day:
everyone there represented by some.

The broad representativeness dreamed
by Nabuco and the other founders
was never truly achieved,
never all the knowledges and tastes.

"I myself, in my adventurous days,
once wore a garish uniform,
dressed then as hard irony,
the pure fantasy of illusion!


At that moment, I was joining the many
who were pinning the Institution
little did I know what the intentions were,
interrogation of the astute destiny.

Gilberto Gil com o presidente da Academia Brasileira de Letras, Merval Pereira, e sua esposa Elza Pereira durante cerimônia de posse na instituição (2022-04-08)Instituto Gilberto Gil

A friend reminded me the other day
that ironies always have their downside.
exchanged papers, here it is, life vagabond:
a costly uniform, embroidered in gold, showy,
dressing me from head to toe."

Ensaio fotográfico de Gilberto Gil para a revista Noize (2018)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Gestures that serve as examples for today.

Merval Pereira, presidente da Academia Brasileira de Letras, cumprimenta outros acadêmicos durante cerimônia de posse de Gilberto Gil (2022-04-08)Instituto Gilberto Gil

Ensaio fotográfico de Gilberto Gil para a revista Noize (2018)Instituto Gilberto Gil

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