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Abstract and Summary in English

Sandels, Marianne
António Vieira – en högrest gestalt i 1600-talets Portugal, övriga Europa och Brasilien.
Uppsala: Almaviva, 2020. (Almaviva-bok.13.) 251 pages. Illustrated. Monograph. ISBN 978-91-980243-2-6. ISSN 1650–5751.

António Vieira is considered one of the greatest writers of the Portuguese-speaking world. He was a charismatic preacher, a missionary, a statesman and a champion of freedom. The present book is not to be considered a full biography but aspires to presenting him in the context of a few selected texts, translated into Swedish.

Vieira was born in Lisbon in 1608 and died in Bahia, Brazil, in 1697. (Chapter I is a summary of his life.) At the age of six he was brought by his parents to Bahia where he received his education at a Jesuit college. As a teenager he entered the Society of Jesus. At the age of eighteen he was assigned the duty of writing the annual report of the Society in Brazil to the General in Rome, the highest authority of the order. In this report he gives a vivid glimpse of the Dutch conquest of Salvador, Bahia, in 1624. (Chapter II).

Ordained a priest in 1634 he soon began to distinguish himself as an orator and patriot. After Portugal had restored its independence from Spain in 1640 Vieira sailed to Lisbon as a member of an official delegation to assure the new king, John IV, of the colonists’ loyalty. The King recognized Vieira’s merit, appointed him member of the Royal Council and sent him on diplomatic missions to France, Holland, England and Italy. The sermons Vieira preached in Portugal had a wide audience. Already in 1643, he presented the King with a long report on the pressing problems of the country and the urgent measures to be taken. (Chapter III.)

In 1652 Vieira was ordered by the Society to work as a missionary and priest in Brazil. Having studied some of the indigenous languages in his early years he was generally well prepared for this task. Soon he bravely pleaded the cause of the Indians, enslaved by the sugar plantation lords and other colonists. Chapter IV and V are full-text translations of two sermons that he held in São Luís in Maranhão in 1653 and 1654. The latter of these two is well-known and beloved as The Sermon of Saint Anthony to the Fish, an allegorical master-piece condemning the ruthless exploitation of the Indians. After having received life threats Vieira embarked on a ship bound for Europe. During a storm he was rescued by Dutch pirates and brought to the Azores and subsequently to Lisbon. Soon he was back in Brazil where he remained until 1661 when he was seized by the local authorities and sent to Portugal. The Portuguese inquisition humiliated, condemned and restricted him. For two years he was actually a prisoner.

Finally, he was set free and allowed to travel. Assigned a formal task by the Society he spent six years in Rome (1669–1675) where he accepted certain prestigious duties and honours, also from Christina, the former queen of Sweden, firmly established in the Eternal City after her conversion to Catholicism. In the present book particular emphasis is given to this relationship. (Chapter VI.) He enjoyed the protection of the General of the Society and was highly esteemed by the Roman clergy and aristocracy. However, he longed to be back in the New World with his Indians. After a brief stay in Lisbon he sailed back to Brazil in 1681, the seventh and the last time he crossed the Atlantic. There he tirelessly continued his work as a missionary and a priest, often questioned.

The present book features several short or long extracts from Vieira’s letters and other writings, translated into Swedish, in addition to the two afore-mentioned sermons. There are ten illustrations closely related to the contents of the book.

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