José de Alencar, born José Martiano de Alencar in Fontaleza in Empiric Brazil on this day, was a man of many professions, but principle among them was novelist in the romantic tradition. During his lifetime "novelist" was not a career of course; for that, Alencar was a lawyer. This choice of career took him into work as politician (he was also a public orator on social issues). In his writing career (which included dramatic works), he used several pen names, with Erasmo being both the most well known and often used. He began writing as a form of public criticism, this led to published work in the form of his first romantic novel in 1856. It was just one year later that he would publish his most well known work, O Guarani after the people and language of the same name, the beginning of both his so-called works of "indianism" and his "Indianist Trilogy." It's first adaptation would be into an opera. Though Alencar wrote about native peoples of Brazil as the foundation of the nation, his politics were decidedly unprogressive; for example, he solidly opposed the abolition of slavery in the nation--he even campaigned on this as a platform. In government, Alencar would eventually rise to Minister of Justice. He was also chosen as patron of the newly formed Brazilian Academy of Letters in 1897--20 years after his death. Alencar was married to the Brazilian daughter of a British aristocrat; they had 6 children--several of whom would go on to have either political or writing careers (or both) of their own. Eventually all three of his "indian novels" would first be made into films during the silent era. The first film adaptation of his work came in 1908, and was, predictably, Os Guaranis, adapted and filmed by early Brazilian filmmaker Benjamin Oliveira. The novel would go on to be adapted into a film four more times in the before 1930. His other two "Indian" novels Iracema and Ubirajara were also eventually made into films, the first in 1917 and the second in 1919. In all, 10 films were produced from his novels in what we've come to think of as the silent period, spanning the years 1909 through 1926. The Brazilian produced Iracema directed by Jorge S. Konchin in 1931 was also a silent film. Onde a Terra Acaba, released in 1933, was the first film with sound produced from his writing. His work first appeared on the small screen (television) in the Brazilian drama series Teledrama in 1957, and it was on television that his work most recently appeared in 2005 (Essas Mulheres). Alencar died in the city that he spent his adult life living and working in--Rio de Janeiro--on the 12th of December, 1877--dying at the young age of 48 succumbing to tuberculosis. He is buried Rio's Cemitério de Sao Joao Batista.
|Press still from Iracema (1931)|