Cordel Literature

cordelbook.jpg (133376 bytes)"Literatura de cordel" (string literature) are pamphlets or booklets that hang from a piece of string (cordel) in the places where they are sold. These are long, narrative poems with woodcut illustrations on the cover, often done by the poet himself. There are traditional themes (romances, fantastic stories, animal fables, religious traditions) and themes based on current events, famous people, life in the cities, etc. Cordel can be hilarious and very racy, too.

The largest concentration of this type of popular literature is in northeastern Brazil. We have a few works by the most famous cordel poets, J. Borges (José Francisco Borges, 81-3728-0364 or 81-9937-3838). Fortunately, his booklets are still widely available in markets; prices vary, but most cost less than fifty cents. I bought this one from a lady in one of the crafts markets of Maceió, Alagoas, and she let me take a couple of pictures of her stall with several bestsellers for sale. 

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The Museum of Folklore Edison Carneiro in Rio usually has a wonderful selection of woodcuts from the whole family for sale. We recently saw an exhibition about J. Borges and his family and the art of creating woodcuts. We brought back this booklet with addresses and contact phones numbers for them; it's now at the Sheila Thomson Collection of Brazilian Culture at Florida International University in Miami, if you should need any additional information.

In Rio, you can find cordel at the traditional feira de São Cristóvão, at the Academia Brasileira de Literatura de Cordel, at Rua Leopoldo Fróes, 37, Santa Teresa, and at the Museu do Folclore Edison Carneiro (they also sell the woodcuts).

Music & Folklore

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