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Brazilian Profile: Carlos Drummond de Andrade Posted by on Oct 14, 2010 in Brazilian Profile, Literature

Carlos Drummond de Andrade is one of Brazil’s most beloved poets, and is considered one of Brazil’s most important writers. Born in Minas Gerais, the son of farmers, he grew up in a rural area of Brazil and then attended college in Belo Horizonte to study pharmacology. He would never become a pharmacist, though; he went on to work for a newspaper and then worked as a public servant for many years.  He moved to Rio de Janeiro in 1934, when he began working for the Ministry of Education and Public Health. He later worked for the National Historical and Artistic Heritage Service. He passed away in 1987, at age 84.

Known best for his poetry, Drummond also published short stories and children’s books. He is considered one of the key figures in Brazilian Modernism, in part because of his use of colloquial language. Besides his writing, one of his lasting legacies is a bronze statue in Rio de Janeiro, which has been a favorite for pranksters and thieves who constantly steal his glasses.

Here is an excerpt from one of Drummond’s most popular poems, called José:


E agora, José?
A festa acabou,
a luz apagou,
o povo sumiu,
a noite esfriou,
e agora, José?
e agora, você?
você que é sem nome,
que zomba dos outros,
você que faz versos,
que ama, protesta?
e agora, José?

Read the full poem here


What about now, José?
The party’s over,
the lights are off,
the crowd’s gone,
the night’s gone cold,
what about now, José?
You, what about now?
You, who are nameless,
who mocks the others,
you who writes verses
who loves, protests
What about now, José?

Read the full translation here

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  1. Sean:

    Thank you for this mini-portrait of a great poet.

    Whose translation did you use?

    It seems to me that a more accurate translation of the most popular refrain is not “What about now, José?”, but “What now, José”. This is precisely what one says in American-English to communicate the same thing as “e agora?”

  2. Rachel:

    Hi Sean,

    As you can see, I used the Wiki translation. Since I was linking to the rest of the poem, I figured I’d leave it as is, but yes, you’re right.

  3. Flavia Magalhaes:

    I would translate the begining as “And now, José?” meaning “What are you going to do now, José?”

    I love to read Drummond since I was studying for vestibular and had to read many of his books. My preffered poem is “Amar”: http://letras.terra.com.br/carlos-drummond-de-andrade/1005569/

    • Rachel:

      @Flavia Magalhaes Hey Flavia, Agreed. Like I said, it’s the Wiki translation, not mine.