Otto Maria Carpeaux

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Otto Maria Carpeaux (March 9, 1900 – February 3, 1978), born Otto Karpfen, was a Brazilian literary critic and multilingual scholar.[1]

Career overview

Carpeaux was born in 1900 in Vienna, Austria-Hungary, to a Jewish family, and lived there until 1939. In the University of Vienna he studied exact sciences and received his PhD in chemistry[2] with a work concerning the brain, and possibly also a degree in physics. Later he studied sociology and philosophy in Paris, comparative literature in Naples, politics in Berlin and, supposedly, mathematics in Leipzig.

At some point in his life, Karpfen converted to Roman Catholicism, adding the Maria to his name and using Fidelis as his surname for some time. This conversion was evident in his political books (such as Wege Nach Rom) and his thinking, and led to his participation in the right-wing government of Engelbert Dollfuss.[3]

When the Anschluss occurred and the Nazis took over Vienna, Karpfen went to Belgium.[4] He stayed there for about a year and then went to Brazil,[5] where he changed his last name to Carpeaux.[6] At first, he was given a simple rural job, but eventually, through newspapers, he became an established literary critic, introducing writers such as Franz Kafka and Robert Musil to Brazilian audiences, along with the literary criticism of Wilhelm Dilthey, Benedetto Croce, Walter Benjamin and others.

Perhaps the peak of Carpeaux's production was his eight-volume História da Literatura Ocidental (History of Western Literature),[7] unfortunately available only in Portuguese, in spite of being in public domain. Late critic José Lino Grünewald labelled it one of the brightest moments of the language in prose, despite the fact that Carpeaux was not a native speaker. It is also unique in that it focuses on creating links between all periods, in order to create an organic vision of the literary history he is telling. The book also include more than 8,000 brief criticisms and expositions of the majority of the figures discussed along the way, minus the ones cited in passing; all are dealt with in their original languages, both in expositions and quotations and in the bibliography offered. The total bibliographical amount of cited works is on the merge of 30,000 books or more.

Never abandoning his abomination to militarship and tyranny Carpeaux opposed to the Brazilian Military Regime and abandoned his literary writings by 1968, although he participated in an encyclopedia called Mirador. Nevertheless, he continued a right-wing thinker. He died of a heart attack in 1978.

Recently, his essays have been compiled by Brazilian philosopher Olavo de Carvalho,[8] with an added introduction. Critic Mauro Souza Ventura released De Karpfen a Carpeaux, a study in the life and work of Carpeaux. Carpeaux's other works include a dense history of German literature, several books of literary criticism, a popular history of Western music and various political writings.


  • (1942). Cinza do Purgatório. Rio de Janeiro: Casa do Estudante do Brasil (Departamento Cultural).
  • (1943). Origens e Fins. Rio de Janeiro: Casa do Estudante do Brasil (Departamento Cultural).
  • (1951). Pequena Bibliografia Crítica da Literatura Brasileira. Rio de Janeiro: Ministério da Educação e Saúde, Serviço de Documentação [Letras e Artes, 1964].
  • (1953). Respostas e Perguntas. Rio de Janeiro: Ministério da Educaçao e Saúde, Serviço de Documentaçao.
  • (1953). Retratos e Leituras. Rio de Janeiro: Edição da "Organização Simões".
  • (1958). Presenças. Ministério da Educação e Cultura, Instituto Nacional do Livro.
  • (1958). Uma Nova História da Música. Zahar [José Olympio, 1967; Alhambra, 1977; Ediouro, 1999].
    • O Livro de Ouro da História da Música: Da Idade Média ao Século XX, Rio de Janeiro: Ediouro 2001.
  • (1959–66). História da Literatura Ocidental (8 Vol.) Rio de Janeiro: Edições O Cruzeiro [Alhambra, 1978–87; Editora do Senado Federal, 4 Vol., 2008; Leya Brasil, 10 Vol., 2012].[9]
  • (1960). Livros na Mesa, Estudos de Crítica. Rio de Janeiro: Livraria São José.
  • (1963). Novelas Alemãs. São Paulo: Editora Cultrix.
  • (1964). A Literatura Alemã. São Paulo: Editora Cultrix [Nova Alexandria, 1994].
  • (1965). A Batalha da América Latina. Rio de Janeiro: Editôra Civilização Brasileira.
  • (1965). O Brasil no Espelho do Mundo. Rio de Janeiro: Editôra Civilização Brasileira.
  • (1968). As Revoltas Modernistas na Literatura. Rio de Janeiro: Ed. de Ouro.
  • (1968). Tendências Contemporâneas na Literatura. Um Esbôço. Rio de Janeiro, Ed. de Ouro, 1968.
  • (1968). Vinte e Cinco Anos de Literatura. Rio de Janeiro: Editôra Civilização Brasileira.
  • (1971). Hemingway: Tempo, Vida e Obra. Bruguera.
  • (1976). Reflexões e Realidade. Rio de Janeiro: Fontana.
  • (1978). Alceu Amoroso Lima. Paz e Terra.
  • (1992). Sobre Letras e Artes. São Paulo: Nova Alexandria.
  • (2005). Ensaios Reunidos, 1942-1978 (Vol.1). Rio de Janeiro: UniverCidade Editora.
  • (2005). Ensaios Reunidos, 1946-1971 (Vol.2). Rio de Janeiro: UniverCidade Editora.
  • (2014). Caminhos para Roma: Aventura, Queda e Vitória do Espírito. São Paulo: Vide Editorial.


  1. Menezes, Raimundo de. Dicionário Literário Brasileiro. Rio de Janeiro: LTC, 1978.
  2. Ventura, Mauro Souza. "Juventude Comum, Trajetórias Opostas," Observatório da Imprensa, No. 670, November 2011.
  3. Carvalho, Olavo de. "Introdução," Ensaios Reunidos, 1942-1978, (Vol.1). Rio de Janeiro: UniverCidade Editora, 2005.
  4. Kestler, Izabela Maria Furtado. Exílio e Literatura: Escritores de Fala Alemã durante a Época do Nazismo, EdUSP, 2003.
  5. Miguel, Salim. "Carpeaux Revisitado," Diário Catarinense, 20 de Maio de 2006.
  6. Brunn, Albert von. "Uma Fuga Kafkiana da Europa," Rascunho, n.d.
  7. Muggiati, Roberto. "Carpe Carpeaux!," Gazeta do Povo, Janeiro de 2012.
  8. Guimarães, J. C. "O Destino de Otto Maria Carpeaux," Revista Bula, Dezembro de 2008.
  9. Siscaio, Sérgio. "Carpeaux: Três Mil anos no Bolso," Diário do Comércio, Janeiro de 2013.

Further reading

External links

Online works