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Special Postal Issue | Auto da Compadecida

About the Stamp

By Manuel Dantas Suassuna and Ricardo Gouveia de Melo

The postage stamp is an emblem, a banner. Therefore, it is naturally an Armorial. Upon receiving the request from the Correios Brasil, we, Ricardo Gouveia de Melo, and Manuel Dantas Suassuna shared the mission - like so many others we have taken together. The celebration of Auto da Compadecida was then promptly associated with the immortal love that have bound and will keep binding Zélia and Ariano. “My blood boils against the vain Reason and pulsates its love in the darkness!”, says Ariano in his poem “The Woman and the Kingdom”. For the artwork, through digital composition, we used a drawing of Zélia Suassuna, who illustrated the cover of the most recent edition of the play, published by Nova Fronteira, and we made a ligature, a fusion between the iron used by Ariano (as a kind of identification) and that of his beloved Zélia. Hail, long live, forever!

Auto da Compadecida

Auto da Compadecida was the play which presented nationally and internationally the name of Ariano Suassuna, taking him to the condition of one of the greatest Brazilian playwrights. Written in 1955, it’s considered, under reviews of the best Brazilian specialists in theater, one of the most important pieces of the modern Brazilian dramaturgy. Staged in many countries and published in also many languages – among them English, French, German, Polish, Italian – the play brought, until current days, three versions to the cinema. Based on popular stories from the Northeast of Brazil, it reveals the influence the author received not only from “cordel” literature (a typical literature style in the Northeast) and circus shows, but from whole Mediterranean theater tradition and from the Spanish picaresque novel. It expresses, in an admirable way, a plan for a strongly committed theater to our (Brazilian) country and our people, without ever falling into the pamphletary engagement that turns the work of art into an undesirable hobbyhorse.

The actions and dialogues in Auto da Compadecida seem to occur in an improvised, spontaneous way, building up in full view of the audience, only to ultimately make it clear that they are part of a solid and complex construction, revealing the author’s ingenuity in the linking of scenes and acts, or even in the entrance of the characters on stage, always at the right time to move the staging forward. The stories of the Romanceiro Popular Nordestino (Northeastern People’s Romance) on which the author based himself, are not simply adapted for the stage, but recreated, enriched, and expanded in what is universal, which Suassuna manages to do with mastery and rare skill, in order to assemble such disparate plots resulting in a surprising unity to the play. Starting from textual samples sedimented over time, Auto da Compadecida attains the originality that is the consequence of every great piece of art, building itself in the present from an ever-living dialogue with the past.

If it is undeniable that Suassuna’s theater has a moralizing character, with a strong Catholic moral, being built from a religious view over the man and the world, it is no less true that, in this theater, morality and politics are so closely linked that it is almost impossible to separate them - they are complementary aspects, as if they were sides of the same coin. The author’s religious view is not accommodating, but an instrument of struggle and a synonym of hope for better days. It is a self-questioning view, which in this constant rethinking, it would not survive without the political element – taken in a broader and more human interpretation than merely towards a political party.

This would partially explain the fact that the author was severely criticized when Auto da Compadecida was launched, both by sectors of the far right (including the most retrograde sector of the Church), who accused him of being a “communist”, and by sectors of the left, marxists, who called him either “conservative” or “reactionary”.

The criticism has passed, and the play has remained, a proof that Auto da Compadecida bears an image of humanity that gives any great work of art a timelessness aspect, a permanent truth.

You have to believe in strong prayers; you have to believe in Auto da Compadecida.

Carlos Newton Júnior

Poet, essayist and university teacher

Technical Details

Stamp issue N. 6

Art: Zélia Suassuna & MDVS/RGM

Print system: Offset

Paper: gummed chalky paper

Sheet with 18 stamps

Facial value: 1st class rate for domestic mail

Issue: 180,000 stamps

Design area: 25 x 59mm

Stamp dimensions: 25 x 59mm

Perforation: 12 x 11.5

Date of issue: June 16th, 2021

Places of issue: João Pessoa/PB and Recife/PE

Printing: Brazilian Mint

Edital 6 - Auto da Compadecida
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