Academia Brasileira de Letras

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Coordinates: 22°54′39″S 43°10′23″W / 22.91083°S 43.17302°W / -22.91083; -43.17302

Academia Brasileira de Letras
ABL logo.svg
MottoAd immortalitatem (To immortality)
Formation20 July 1897
HeadquartersRio de Janeiro, Brazil
40 members
Official language
Geraldo Holanda Cavalcanti

Academia Brasileira de Letras (ABL) (Portuguese pronunciation: [akadeˈmiɐ bɾaziˈlejɾɐ dʒi ˈletɾɐs] (About this soundlisten) English: Brazilian Academy of Letters) is a Brazilian literary non-profit society established at the end of the 19th century by a group of 40 writers and poets inspired by the Académie Française. The first president, Machado de Assis, declared its foundation on December 15, 1896, with the by-laws being passed on January 28, 1897. On July 20 of the same year, the academy entered into operation.

The Brazilian Academy of Letters is, according to its statutes, charged with the care of the "national language" of Brazil (the Portuguese language) and with the promotion of Brazilian literary arts. The academy is considered the foremost institution devoted to the Portuguese language in Brazil. Although it is not a state institution and no law grants to it oversight over the language, by its prestige and technical qualification it is the paramount authority on Brazilian Portuguese. The academy's main publication in this field is the Orthographic Vocabulary of the Portuguese Language (Vocabulário Ortográfico da Língua Portuguesa) of which there were five editions. The Vocabulary is prepared by the academy's Commission on Lexicology and Lexicography. If a word is not included in the Vocabulary, it is considered not to exist as a correct word in Brazilian Portuguese.

The academy is composed to this day of 40 members, known as "immortals", chosen from among the citizens of Brazil, who have published recognized works or books of literary value. The position of "immortal" is awarded for the recipient's lifetime. New members are admitted by a vote of the academy members when one of the "chairs" become vacant. The chairs are numbered and each has a Patron: the Patrons are 40 great Brazilian writers that were already dead when the academy was founded; the names of the Patrons were chosen by the Founders and they were honored post mortem by each being assigned patronage over a chair. Thus, each of the 40 chairs is associated with its current holder, with the predecessors of the current holder who occupied it before him, and, in particular, with the Founder who occupied it first, but also with the seat's Patron.

The academicians use formal gala gilded uniforms with a sword (the uniform is called "fardão") when participating in official meetings of the academy.


Lúcio de Mendonça, founder of the academy.


The initiative was taken by Lúcio de Mendonça, concretized in preparatory meetings that began on 15 December 1896 under the presidency of Machado de Assis (elected by acclamation) in the writing of the Brazilian Journal. At these meetings, the statutes of the Brazilian Academy of Letters were approved on 28 January 1897, and its membership of forty founding members was approved. On 20 July of that year, the inaugural session was held at the Pedagogium's facility in the center of Rio de Janeiro.

Without having their own headquarters or financial resources, the meetings of the academy were held in the premises of the former National Gymnasium, in the Noble Hall of the Ministry of the Interior, in the hall of the Royal Portuguese Cabinet of Reading, especially for the solemn sessions. The joint sessions were held at the First Secretary's law office, Rodrigo Octávio, at Quitanda Street, 47.

From 1904, the academy obtained the left wing of the Brazilian Silogeo, a governmental building that housed other cultural institutions, where it remained until the conquest of its own headquarters.

Petit Trianon[edit]

The Petit Trianon in Rio de Janeiro, seat of the academy since 1923.

In 1923, thanks to the initiative of its president at the time, Afrânio Peixoto and the French ambassador, Raymond Conty, the French government donated to the academy the building of the French Pavilion, built for the Independence of Brazil's Centenary International Exposition, a replica of the Petit Trianon of Versailles, erected by the architect Ange-Jacques Gabriel, between 1762 and 1768.

These facilities have been registered by the State Institute of Cultural Heritage (INEPAC), of the Municipal Secretary of Culture of Rio de Janeiro, since 9 November 1987. Its halls continue to the present day hosting regular meetings, solemn sessions commemorative meetings, the inauguration sessions of the new academics, as well as the traditional tea on Thursdays. They can be known by the public on guided tours or on cultural programs such as chamber music concerts, member book launches, conference cycles and plays.

On the first floor of the building, in the Hall, stands the decorated marble floor, a French crystal chandelier, a large white porcelain vase from Sèvres and four English bas-reliefs. Among other dependencies, the following stand out:

  • the Noble Hall, where the solemn sessions take place;
  • the French Hall, where the new member, traditionally, remains alone, in reflection;
  • the Francisco Alves Room, where an oil painting on canvas by Rodolfo Amoedo is depicted, depicting a collective of nineteenth-century writers and intellectuals;
  • the Hall of the Founders, decorated with period furniture and paintings by Candido Portinari;
  • the Machado de Assis Room, decorated with the writer's desk, books and personal belongings, with emphasis on a portrait of him, by Henrique Bernardelli;
  • the Hall of Romantic Poets has the bronze busts of Castro Alves, Fagundes Varela, Gonçalves Dias, Casimiro de Abreu and Álvares de Azevedo, by Rodolfo Bernardelli.

On the second floor there is the Tea Room, where the academics meet, on Thursdays, before the Plenary Session, the Sessions Room and the Library. The latter attends scholars and researchers, especially the collection of Manuel Bandeira.


The Dictator Getúlio Vargas being invested as member of the academy in 1943.

During periods like the Vargas' totalitarian dictatorship or the Brazilian military government, the academy's neutrality in choosing proper members dedicated to the literary profession was compromised[citation needed] when it elected politicians with few or no contributions to literature, such as ex-president and dictator Getúlio Vargas in 1943. The academy, which was a purely male affair until the groundbreaking election of novelist Rachel de Queiroz in 1977 for chair No. 5, now has four women members (10% of its total membership), one of which, Nélida Piñon, served as president in 1996–97.


The writer Fernando Henrique Cardoso, ex-President of Brazil, taking possession as member of the academy in 2013.

The academy, thanks to revenues in excess of $4 million a year, is financially stable. It owns a skyscraper with 28 floors (Palácio Austregésilo de Athaide), in the center of Rio, which the academy rents for office space, generating 70% of its current revenue. The rest comes from rental of other buildings, which were legated by book editor Francisco Alves, in 1917, and from financial investments. This comfortable situation allows for paying a "jeton" to each academician. The ABL is located just by its side, in a neoclassical building, which is named "Petit Trianon". It was donated by the government of France in 1923 and is so named because it is a copy of the Petit Trianon palace in Versailles, near Paris, France.

It has recently inaugurated one of the largest public libraries in Rio, with 90,000 volumes and a multimedia center.

The academy annually awards several literary prizes: the Prêmio Machado de Assis (the most important literature prize in the country, awarded for lifework), and the ABL prizes for poetry, for fiction and drama, for essays, critic and history of the literature, and for children's literature. Sometimes, an extraordinary commemorative prize is also awarded, such as the José Lins do Rego prize, in 2001, and the Afonso Arinos prize, in 2005.

The academy also publishes a literary periodical, the Brazilian Review (Revista Brasileira), with quarterly editions.

Orthographic Vocabulary[edit]

Standing: Rodolfo Amoedo, Artur Azevedo, Sousa's English, Bilac, Veríssimo, Bandeira, Filinto de Almeida, Passos, Magalhães, Bernardelli, Rodrigo Octavio, Peixoto; seated: João Ribeiro, Machado, Lúcio de Mendonça and Silva Ramos.

The academy's main publication in this field is the Orthographic Vocabulary of the Portuguese Language (Vocabulário Ortográfico da Língua Portuguesa) of which there were five editions. The Vocabulary is prepared by the academy's Commission on Lexicology and Lexicography. If a word is not included in the Vocabulary, it is considered not to exist as a correct word in Brazilian Portuguese.

The Orthographic Vocabulary, however, is not a dictionary, as it contains words and their grammatical categories, but not the definition or meaning of the words listed. Thus, unlike the French Academy, the Royal Spanish Academy and other foreign institutions dedicated with the care of a national language, the Brazilian Academy of Letters, until recently, published no official dictionary. Although it still stopped short of publishing a full official dictionary, the academy issued its first dictionary in 2009, the School Dictionary of the Portuguese Language (Dicionário Escolar da Língua Portuguesa), with students as its target customers.

The academy does plan to publish a full and official Dictionary of the Brazilian Academy of Letters in the future. For the time being, however, other dictionaries such as the Aurélio and the Houaiss remain more prestigious than the School Dictionary, in spite of the fact that the latter is sometimes marketed by booksellers as the "ABL's Dictionary", due to its being authored by the academy. Both the Houaiss and the Aurélio Dictionaries, however, were first compiled by members of the academy (Antônio Houaiss and Aurélio Buarque de Holanda Ferreira, respectively) in their private capacities and as personal professional enterprises. The preparation of an official dictionary of the Portuguese language is a stated goal of the Brazilian Academy of Letters.[1]

Original patrons[edit]



Current members[edit]

The members of the Brazilian Academy of Letters (October 2014):[2]

Gallery of the Immortals[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Língua portuguesa | Academia Brasileira de Letras" (in Portuguese). Retrieved 2015-08-01.
  2. ^ "Membros | Academia Brasileira de Letras" (in Portuguese). Retrieved 2015-08-01.
  3. ^ "A Brazilian inflation fighter becomes immortal". The Economist. 12 April 2017. Retrieved 14 April 2017.

External links[edit]