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Jorge de Lima

Date Born.:

Writer, Poet, Painter, Translator, Doctor


Jorge de Lima

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Last update: 05/02/2013

By: Virginia Barbosa - Librarian of the Fundação Joaquim Nabuco

The writer, poet, doctor, painter and translator Jorge Mateus de Lima was born on 23 April 1893, in the municipality of União dos Palmares, Alagoas, the region where the Quilombo dos Palmares existed. His parents were José Mateus de Lima, the owner of a fabric store, and Delmina Simões de Mateus de Lima.

The childhood of Jorge de Lima was entirely spent in União dos Palmares at his family’s colonial dwelling, which was on the Parish Church’s square. From the house, the poet could see the patio of the church, the movement of the town, the festival of the patron saint Maria Magdalene and, at the age of seven, witnessed the turning of the 19th to the 20th century. Records show that much of the religious and lyrical influence in the poetry of Jorge de Lima is due to the admiration of that Saint.

The commercial establishment of his father prospered, and this allowed a branch to be opened in the capital of Alagoas. Because of this, at the end of 1902, Mr José Mateus stayed in União dos Palmares and the family moved to Maceió. Part of Jorge de Lima’s primary education took place in his home town and another part at the Instituto Alagoano, in Maceió. When this was closed, Jorge’s father decided to enrol him in the Colégio Diocesano de Alagoas, property of the Marist Brothers. It was at this school that he also did his preparatory course for university.

In 1908, he enrolled in the Bahia Faculty of Medicine, though he graduated from the Rio de Janeiro Faculty of Medicine on 19 December 1914. Recently-graduated, he returned to his home town. The city threw a party for its first doctor and its second poet (the first was Manoel Bezerra Corrêa de Oliveira). In 1915, the family moved to Maceió and Jorge began giving consults at Farmácia Industrial. He was successful as a doctor. As a poet he was praised in the press for his work: XIX Alexandrinos and the poem O Acendedor de Lampiões (The Street Lamp Lighter).

He married on 5 February 1917, aged 24, Ádila, the sister-in-law of Corvette Captain Luís Bezerra Cavalcanti, who commanded the School of Apprentice Mariners in Maceió. With her he had two children: Maria Tereza and Mário Jorge.

He entered politics by being elected as State congressman for the Republican Party of Alagoas and as President of the House for two years. In 1930 he moved to Rio de Janeiro where he gave lectures on Brazilian literature at the University of Brazil and the University of the Federal District. After the end of the ‘New State’ (1937-1945), he was elected as a councillor for the Federal District by the União National Democratic Union (UDN).

He began to draft his first verses at the age of six, in the house where he was born. At thirteen, he composed the sonnet O Acendedor de Lampiões, his first success as a poet.

In 1914, aged twenty-one, he simultaneously published his doctorate thesis and his first book, XIV Alexandrinos with poems in a Parnassian style, which later gave him the title of the Prince of Alagoas. Poemas, his second book written in 1925 and published in 1927, contains free verse and colloquial language.

The poetic trajectory of Jorge de Lima was growing, which led students of Brazilian literature to divide it into three stages: “the first, based on rigid Parnassian principles; the second, a Northeast Brazilian phase bounded to the regional Alagoas universe; and the third, a religious phase where the author impregnates his poems with mystic and metaphysical content”.

Although Jorge de Lima had begun his literary work in a Parnassian style, in the middle of 1927 his adhesion to modernism was officialised with the publication of O Mundo do Menino Impossível (The World of the Impossible Boy).

Some of Jorge de Lima’s works have been translated, for example the books Poemas, to Spanish, and Vida de São Francisco de Assis and Aventuras de Malasarte, to German.

He translated several works, among them The Jews by Jacques Mantain and Paul Claudel, and Death, Where Is Thy Victory? by Daniel-Rops.

In the 1940s he received the Grand Poetry Prize from the Brazilian Academy of Letters.

In 1945, he gave his first exhibition of painting at the Brazilian Press Association.

Jorge de Lima died in Rio de Janeiro at the age of 60, on 15 November 1953.



XIV Alexandrinos (1914); O Mundo do Menino Impossível (The World of the Impossible Boy) (1927); Poemas (Poems) (1927); Novos Poemas (New Poems) (1928); Poemas Escolhidos (Selected Poems) (1934); Tempo e Eternidade (Time and Eternity) (1935) – in collaboration with Murilo Mendes; A Túnica Inconsútil (The Seamless Tunic) (1938); Poemas (in Castilian) (1939); Anunciação e Encontro de Mira-Celi (Annunciation and Meeting of Mira-Celi) (1943); Poemas Negros (Black Poems) (1947); Livro de Sonetos (Book of Sonnets) (1949); Obra Poética (Poetic Work) (1950); Invenção de Orfeu (Invention of Orpheus) (1952); Castro Alves – Vidinha (1952).


Salomão e as Mulheres (Solomon and the Women) (1927); O Anjo (The Angel) (1934); Calunga (1935); Mulher Obscura (Obscure Woman) (1939); Guerra dentro do Beco (War Inside the Alley) (1950).

Essays, histories, biographies:

A Comédia dos Erros (The Comedy of Errors) (1923); Dois Ensaios (Two Essays) (1934) [Proust and Todos Cantam sua Terra – All Praise Their Land]; Anchieta (1934)
Children’s Literature and Religious:
História da Terra e da Humanidade (The History of the Land and Humanity) (1937); Vida de São Francisco de Assis (The Life of St Francis of Assisi) (1942); D. Vital (1945); Vida de Santo Antonio (The Life of St Anthony) (1947).


Recife, 31 May 2010.
Translated by Peter Leamy, February 2011.


sources consulted

CAVALCANTI, Povina. Vida e obra de Jorge de Lima. Rio de Janeiro: Edições Correio da Manhã, 1969.

JORGE de Lima. Disponível em:
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JORGE de Lima. Disponível em:
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JORGE de Lima. Disponível em:
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JORGE de Lima. Disponível em:
<>. Acesso em: 22 maio 2010.

JORGE de Lima. Disponível em:>. Acesso em: 22 maio 2010.


how to quote this text

Source: BARBOSA, Virgínia. Jorge de Lima. Pesquisa Escolar On-Line, Joaquim Nabuco Foundation, Recife. Available at:  <>. Accessed: day month year. Exemple: 6 Aug. 2009.