Letter from 1977 had 12 versions, manuscripts show – 06/08/2022 – Power

Inspired by one of the manifestos in defense of democracy that will be read on August 11 at the USP Law School, the “Letter to Brazilians”, from 1977, went through at least 12 versions until reaching the final wording, in a process that indicates its author’s obsession with form and content.

Professor Goffredo da Silva Telles Jr. (1915-2009), responsible for writing and reading the document, knew that he had a unique opportunity to voice criticism against the military dictatorship.

The provocation came from Almino Affonso, José Carlos Dias and Flávio Bierrenbach. Graduated in law at USP, where Goffredo taught, they were not satisfied with the direction given to the celebrations for the 150th anniversary of the foundation of legal courses in the country.

In a gesture of defiance, they organized an alternative event, in which a speech would be made in favor of freedoms, democracy and the rule of law.

The ideal speaker would be Goffredo, who didn’t bat an eyelash when his three friends invited him over lunch at the Circolo Italiano restaurant in downtown São Paulo.

As Goffredo would tell years later, he threw himself wholeheartedly and sincerely into the mission. In his words: “That work, idealized by us, I committed myself to develop, with all the truths of my being”.

According to lawyer Maria Eugenia Raposo da Silva Telles, who had married Goffredo ten years earlier, that lunch – which she also attended – took place in April.

From then until August 8, when the letter was read, several meetings were held to discuss the content of the manifesto and others to get its form right, but most of the task Goffredo performed alone.

“There were times when he didn’t do anything else in his free time. He woke up at 4 am and stayed until 9 am taking care of the text. If we traveled to the beach on weekends or holidays, he isolated himself in this work”, says Maria Eugenia , 81.

“It was like an obstacle course, gymnastics. He could write 10, 20 times the same page until he found the rhythm, the phrase, the perfect word”, recalls the lawyer who graduated from USP in 1964.

Your files won’t let you lie. Folders organized by Goffredo himself keep the manuscripts and typed pages with the provisional versions of the “Letter to Brazilians”.

They show that some important notions have always been there, such as the discussion about the government’s source of legitimacy and the competence to change the Constitution. There were also rhetorical phrases there, such as “Nobody is deceived”, but not the closing “Estado de Direito Já!”.

The title has also evolved. It started as a “Pronouncement of the cultists of the law, when commemorating the sesquicentennial of the legal courses in Brazil”.

Then it became “Letter to Brazilians in honor of the sesquicentennial of legal courses in Brazil” and remained so until the penultimate version – when someone, who knows who, had the good sense to preserve only the first three words.

At least seven people participated in this process, in addition to Goffredo: Almino Affonso, André Franco Montoro, Cantídio Salvador Filardi, Flávio Bierrenbach, José Carlos Dias, José Gregori and Maria Eugenia.

Bierrenbach, now 82 years old and a retired minister of the Superior Military Court, says the group contributed little.

“In meetings, Goffredo read, we gave a little guess and we didn’t know if he was going to accept or refuse, but generally he accepted”, says Bierrenbach. “The one who most interfered in the writing of the letter was Maria Eugenia. She won’t confirm it, but that’s the impression I got.”

She doesn’t really confirm. It is certain, however, that she was the first listener of each of the versions and their respective changes, which were many, and undoubtedly gave her opinion on them.

Goffredo used to read aloud what he had just written, even if it was a measly alteration. He wanted to hear the words, to know what they sounded like; he kept the dictionary close by to look up synonyms until he was satisfied.

This obsession he learned from the man from whom he inherited his name and surname. Goffredo da Silva Telles, the father, was an acclaimed poet by the Academia Paulista de Letras who, according to his son, showed the difference between using a word and using the right word.

The son absorbed the lesson, because markings appear in all versions of the “Letter to Brazilians”, including those that, at the end of June, seemed to be definitive.

Using a Mont Blanc ink bottle he’d had most of his life, he’d strike out passages and add ideas to the point where someone typed the new text — his first job after college was as a typist, but he didn’t like the typewriter.

Then, he resumed the routine until everyone involved in the process was satisfied.

The result went down in history, to the point that the current “Letter to Brazilians and Brazilians in Defense of the Democratic State of Law” refers right at the beginning to Goffredo’s work. The current manifesto, which is non-partisan and preaches respect for the results of the elections, already has more than 750,000 signatories.

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