On a Knife-edge: The Poetry of Joao Cabral De Melo Neto

ISBN : 9780199589524

Sara Brandellero
256 Pages
156 x 223 mm
Pub date
Nov 2010
Oxford Modern Languages and Literature Monographs
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On a Knife-Edge represents the first book-length study in English solely devoted to the work of Joao Cabral de Melo Neto (1920-1999), one of Brazil's foremost poets of the twentieth century and a unique voice within Brazilian Modernism. It concentrates on the poet's later works, from A escola das facas (1980) to Andando Sevilha (1990), providing a comprehensive overview of a body of work which has so far attracted limited critical attention. Sara Brandellero reviews traditional readings of Cabral as a poet of clarity and precision, and demonstrates how ambiguity in language, imagery, and even structure was an integral part of his writing and contributed to the political impact of his work. The blurring of the opposition between life and death through the image of the knife-edge, central to the first of the works examined, provides a productive starting point for the analysis of the role of the in-between space, (or 'entre-lugar', as defined by Silviano Santiago) in Cabral's writing. The knife-edge reflects the poet's obsession with the transience of existence and conveys the violence and deprivation of his native Brazil, where life is in a constant state of flux. On a meta-textual level, it encapsulates Cabral's vision of his writing as a continual negotiation of the boundaries between poetry and prose, and evokes his sense of the elusiveness of language and of the endless possibilities that the act of writing implies. Thus, the in-between space gave Cabral new scope, as a postcolonial writer, to enter in dialogue with poetic tradition at home and abroad. Through his resistance to rigid categorizations, such as in representations of gender, and thematic exploration of grey areas such as haunting, insoluble crimes, or even the labyrinthine geography of Seville, he sought to unmask the inequities of Brazil's past and the challenges of its present.


1. Life On a Knife-Edge: A Escola Das Facas
2. Speaking From The Margins: The Haunting Voices of Auto do Frade
3. In-Between Wor(l)ds: The Image of The 'Entre-Lugar' in Agrestes
4. Victims or Villains? Open Verdicts in Crime na Calle Relator
5. 'Tu Eras de Mentira de Ambigua': Images of Women and of the City In Sevilha Andando and Andando Sevilha

About the author: 

Sara Brandellero received a BA in Hispanic Studies from the University of Cardiff and an MA in Brazilian Literature from the University of Brasilia. She holds a D.Phil in Brazilian literature from the University of Oxford, where she was Departmental Lecturer in Brazilian Literature and Culture from 2002-2009, before taking up the post of Lecturer in Portuguese at the University of Leeds.

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