Silveira, Ênio

Silveira, Ênio
(1925 –1996)
   Brazilian editor. One of Latin America’s most important editors of the 20th century and a staunch defender of freedom of the press. He was born in São Paulo into an upper-middleclass family of intellectuals. Several close relatives were authors, including his father, an attorney. In his childhood milieu, books were accorded an almost religious reverence.
   In 1944 he began working for the Companhia Editora Nacional, then one of Brazil’s most important editorial houses. After two years of rapid rise in the company and studies at the Escola Livre de Sociologia e Política of São Paulo, he left Brazil and enrolled at Columbia University in New York. In the United States, Silveira established many links with important editorial houses and publishers, particularly Alfred A. Knopf (1892–1984), the legendary New York editor. At Knopf’s, Silveira served an internship and became familiar with all aspects of the book trade. He also established contacts with the Communist Party. He credited the leftist authors Richard Wright (1908–1960, the author of Black Boy) and Howard Fast (1914–2003, the author of Spartacus) for his political tutelage. Back in Brazil at the request of his father-in-law, Octalles Marcondes Ferreira, who was one of the partners of Companhia Editorial Nacional, Silveira took over the editorship of a Nacional subsidiary, Editora Civilização Brasileira, then in financial difficulties. The new assignment entailed a move to Rio de Janeiro, where he settled in 1952. By all accounts, the young editor revolutionized the Brazilian book trade. Early on, he discontinued the practice that required a book’s pages to be cut at the edges, a practice in vogue at the time in Brazil. Most important, he employed an artist, the Austrian-born Eugenio Hirsh (1923–2001), to design visually daring covers that gave the publisher’s books a distinct look. Editora Civilização Brasileira became known for publishing the most significant books of the time, bringing to Brazil a virtual “who’s who” of the world’s authors. (By contrast, in the United States, even today only about 3 percent of all published books are translations.) By the end of the decade, Editora Civilização Brasileira was one of the most important publishing houses in the country—perhaps in all of Latin America—and Silveira had bought a significant portion of the company’s shares. In the early 1960s, Silveira and his father-in-law dissolved their partnership over ideological differences—Silveira aligned himself with leftist causes—though the two remained close friends. In 1964 he edited two collections, Cadernos do Povo (The People’s Journals) and Violão de Rua (Street Guitar), which sought to explain leftist ideological concepts to the average reader. Silveira, who would join the Partido Comunista Brasileiro (PCB, Brazilian Communist Party) in 1965, had earlier joined other intellectuals in creating Comando dos Trabalhadores Intelectuais (Comando of Intellectual Workers) to advance the cause of Brazilian culture. These actions culminated, in the first days of the military coup of 1964, with the inauguration of the journal Revista Civilização Brasileira, which was published from 1965 to the end of 1968 and became one of the best-known journals of the opposition. In its first volume, a 60-page unsigned article titled “O terrorismo cultural” (Cultural Terrorism), cataloged in a dispassionate tone the arrest, harassment, and campaign of intimidation against leading figures in education as well as the arts and sciences, among them the journalist and author Carlos Heitor Cony. Although censorship was unevenly applied, many felt the effects, among them writers employed in government. In 1964, for example, Antonio Houaiss was dismissed from his post in the Brazilian diplomatic service. Silveira employed him—as he would many others—at his editorial house. The result was one of the best translations ever published of James Joyce’s Ulysses. Houaiss went on to become one of the most noted philologists in Brazil during the second half of the 20th century.
   Кnio Silveira, however, is best remembered for publishing books critical of the military regime. During the early years, Editora Civilização Brasileira published some of the best-remembered novels of that period, including Quarup, by Antonio Callado, and Pessach: A travessia, by Cony, along with other titles that aimed to capture the historical moment: Depois do sol, the first work of the novelist Ignácio de Loyola Brandão (b. 1936); Veranico de janeiro, by Bernardo Ellis (1915–1977); Noite contra a noite, by José Conde; and A noite sem homem, by Orígenes Lessa (1903–1986). In May 1966 Editora Civilização Brasileira filed a suit against the Federal Department of Public Safety, challenging the legality of the confiscation of several books carried out without judicial orders. Among the books seized by the military were Primeiro de abril (April 1st), by Mário Lago; O Golpe de Abril (The April Coup), by Edmundo Moniz; O golpe começou em Washington (The Coup began in Washington), by Edmar Morel (1912–1989); and História Militar do Brasil (Military History of Brazil), by Nelson Werneck Sodré. The journalist Mário Lago (1911–1962) is best remembered for the song “Aurora”; he was imprisoned by the regime six times between 1964 and 1986 and retold some of his jail experiences in his book. Moniz and Morel were journalists, and Sodré a distinguished historian. Despite the government’s actions, Editora Civilização Brasileira remained one of the most vital forces in Brazilian cultural life, continuing a trajectory that had begun in the early 1960s when the company published more than 20 titles a month. His actions would earn Silveira seven processes of investigation and four arrests. In addition, after 1968 the company’s bookstore and offices were the objects of several arson and bomb attempts.
   In 1982 Ênio Silveira entered into a business agreement with the Difusão Européia do Livro and sold almost all of his shares to the Pinto de Magalhães Bank of Portugal. He remained the head of the company until his death in 1995.

Historical Dictionary of the “Dirty Wars” . . 2010.

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