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César Leal

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Death Date.:
  Poet, Poetry Critic,Teacher

César Leal

Article available in: PT-BR ESP

Last update: 11/05/2023

By: Lúcia Gaspar - Librarian of the Joaquim Nabuco Foundation - Specialist in Scientific Documentation

[...] Of César Leal it will always be said he sought severity, the exact sculpture, fresh, blinding luminosity of the last or first morning of the world. 
Paulo Gustavo, Um poeta para os seus pares, 2013.

The poet, poetry critic and professor Francisco César Leal was born in Belmonte Farm, in the city of Saboeiro, Ceará, on March 20, 1924, son of Manuel Fernandes Leal e Francisca César Braga Leal.

Graduated in journalism by the Universidade Católica de Pernambuco, he did a specialization in Teaching and Learning in the Education Department of the Universidade Federal de Pernambuco (UFPE) and owned the title of NS (Notório Saber – Recognized Erudition), granted by the Federal Education Board.


Before settling in Recife in 1952, he lived in several Brazilian cities, such as Manaus, Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte, where he initiated his literary career as a collaborator for the Vocação magazine. 

In Recife, he started as a reporter of the Diario de Pernambuco and, afterwards, took the position of assistant director, invited by Mauro Mota, who was the director of the newspaper then. In 1960, he became an editor for the Literary Section of the Newspaper, where he published contributions of several participants of the Pernambuco literary group, known as Generation 65.

In 1966, he became the editor of the Estudo Universitários magazine, published by UFPE, position that he kept until 2003. 

He visited several North-American universities and became the first Portuguese-speaking poet to record his poems live for the Poetry Library of the University of Harvard, in 1970.

Professor of Literary Theory and Brazilian Literature of UFPE, he was one of the founders of the Post-Graduation Program in Arts and of the University, created in 1975.

In addition to being a member of the Tropicologia (Study of tropical countries issues) Seminary of the Fundação Joaquim Nabuco (Fundaj), at the time it took place in the UFPE (1967-1980), he also participated as full member of the Management Board of Fundaj, representing the Ministry of Education (!980-1984) and the Ministry of Culture (1985-1988).

Assigned by the then president José Sarney, by indication of Celso Furtado, he was a full member of the Culture Federal Board (1987-1990) and, afterwards, of the Superior Board for Freedom to Create and Express of the Ministry of Justice (1989-1990). 

In 1993 and 1994, during the government of Itamar Franco, he integrated the so-called Grupo dos 17, of the National Cinema Commission, and was a full member of the National Culture Politics Board (1993-1996).

He received several literary awards, such as Menendez y Pelayo, from the Instituto de Cultura Hispânica, for his critical study Menendez y Pelayo e a estética hegeliana1956); the Vânia Souto Carvalho, of the Academia Pernambucana de Letras, for the poetry book Invenções da noite menor (1958); the Teoria e Crítica Othon Bezerra de Melo, of the Academia Pernambucana de Letras, for an analysis on Machado de Assis and Jorge de Lima (1964); the award from the Fundação Cultural do Distrito Federal, Brasília, for the book Jornal do verão (1970); the Olavo Bilac for the book Constelações (1987) and the Machado de Assis, for lifetime achievement (2006), both granted by the Academia Brasileira de Letras (ABL).

He was granted the Machado de Assis Medal, by the Brazilian Writers Union of New York for his book Tempo e Vida na Terra, considered one of the most representative poetry publications of the Portuguese language in the 20th century (2000). 

In 2006, he was honored by the Colóquio de Estudos Literários Contemporâneos, during the celebrations for the sixty years of the UFPE, thirty years of the Post-Graduation Course in Arts and the creation of the Centro de Artes e Comunicação. In the same year, in November, he received the Art Category Award, honor granted by the I Simpósio Brasileiro de Neurociências Cognitivas e o XIV Simpósio Sobre o Cérebro, that took place in the Centro de Ciências da Saúde of the UFPE. 

He participated as a member of the editorial board of several magazines, such as Poesia Sempre, of the Fundação Biblioteca Nacional, Calibán, Tempo Brasileiro, all from Rio de Janeiro and Eutomia, of the Department of Arts of the UFPE. He had several collaborations in national and international periodicals, cultural supplements and newspapers, such as O Estado de S. Paulo. 

Elected for chair no. 23 of the Academia Pernambucana de Letras (2007), the same that was previously taken by Gilberto Freyre (1952-1986), he took the position open by the death of the academician Evaldo Bezerra Coutinho. Recognized by the many services performed to the Brazilian Endowments for the Arts, that had headquarters in New York, he was nominated for the vice-presidency of its Culture Board, in 2010, and, recently, he received the Prêmio Ars Latina Award, granted by the Writers Association of Romania. 

He received, from the State Legislative Assembly, the title of Citizen of Pernambuco, and he was also honored by the city of Recife, in 2004.

He was a rapporteur in the Conselho Federal de Cultura do Parecer that resulted in the creation of the Prêmio Luís de Camões Awards, in 1988 – the highest existing honor in Portuguese expression literature instituted by the governments of Portugal and Brazil, - integrates the jury of its 2000 edition.

Author of 22 poetry and analysis books, one essayistic novel called Minha amante em Leipzig, he also published several articles in national and international journals. You can find the chronological listing of his books below:

• Invenções da noite menor (1957 – 2nd edition, 1997)
• Romance de Pantaju (1962)
• O triunfo das águas (1968 and a bilingual German/Portuguese edition – Der triumph der wasser, 2008) 
• Jornal do verão (1969)
• A quinta estação (1972); 
• Introdução ao estudo da poesia de Camões (1975)
• Literatura: a palavra como forma de ação (1978)
• Tambor cósmico (1978)
• Os heróis (1983 – 2nd edition, 1986)
• Os cavaleiros de Júpiter (1986)
• Constelações (1986)
• O leão e o tigre (1988)
• O arranha-céu e outros poemas (1994)
• Joaquim Cardozo: poemas selecionados (1996)
• Quatro estudos de poesia e quatro poemas (1998)
• Tempo e vida na terra (1998)
• Alturas (2001)
• Minha amante em Leipzig (2001) 
•  Distinções temporais na poesia (2005)
• A águia e o Simurgh: imagens poéticas (2011)
• Animal do abismo (2011)
• O voo da alma para o absoluto (2012)

There are several essays written about his work, elaborated by national and foreign experts.. 

César Leal died in Recife, at the age of 89, on June 5, 2013. 


Recife, June 14, 2013.

sources consulted

CÉSAR Leal: biografia. Available at: <!biografia/c13po>. Accessed: 6 jun. 2013.

CÉSAR Leal. [Ilustração neste texto]. Quadro de Gil Vicente. Available at: <>. Accessed em: 18 jun. 2013.

FRANCISCO César Leal. In: CAMPOS, Antônio; CORDEIRO, Cláudia (Org.). Pernambuco, terra da poesia: um painel da poesia pernambucana dos séculos XVI ao XXI. Recife: IMC- Instituto Maximiano Campos; São Paulo: Escrituras, 2005. p. 539.

GUEDES, Diogo. Um mentor a serviço da poesia. Jornal do Commercio, Recife, 6 jun. 2013. Caderno C, p. 4. 

LEAL, César. O romance do poeta. Continente Multicultural, Recife, ano 2, n. 15, p. 27-32, mar. 2002. Entrevista.

PAULO GUSTAVO. Um poeta para os seus pares. Jornal do Commercio, Recife, 6 jun. 2013. Caderno C, p. 4.

how to quote this text

GASPAR, Lúcia. César Leal. In: Pesqujisa Escolar. Recife: Joaquim Nabuco Foundation, 2013. Available at: Accessed: day month year. (Exemple: 6 Aug. 2009.)