To the Editors:
In a recent issue of Le Nouvel Observateur (March 29, 1970) there is a column dedicated to the fate of a book recently published in France called Pour la libération du Brésil by Carlos Marighela. In view of the article on torture in Brazil in your February 26 issue, I thought you might be interested to know (though of course very possibly you are already aware of this) that the book had been banned in France. I happened to see it in a bookstore in Marseilles on March 25. I thought nothing of it until I picked up the issue of the Nouvel Observateur and realized that that copy in Marseilles probably ought not to have been there. I then went to two or three different bookstores in some other small towns in the south and discovered from the owners that in fact the book had been ordered back by the government. I enclose the article in the Nouvel Observateur for your interest in case you have not already seen it.
A translation of the article follows:
While five political prisoners recently released by the Brazilian government confirmed in Mexico that hideous tortures are being used systematically in Brazilian prisons, the French Minister of the Interior prohibited the distribution of the book Pour la libération du Brésil. This is a collection of the political writings of the revolutionary leader Carlos Marighela, who was beaten by the police at São Paulo last November. It was translated and edited by Conrad Detrez. The publisher, Editions du Seuil, has protested this unexplained act of censorship—a pre-World War II law authorizes the Minister of the Interior to censor the work of any foreign author without giving reasons. But the motives of the government are clear: it does not want to undermine the economic strategy it is now carrying out in Brazil.
Last November, a French industrial mission of twenty-six people visited Brazil. On returning, the mission gave an enthusiastic report on the “spectacular character of Brazil’s economic recovery under the new regime” and on the possibility of developing French investments in Brazil that would be as lucrative as those made by Americans. But of course, to accomplish this, it is necessary to have the cooperation of the Brazilian government which is posing a political condition: that the activities in France of Brazilian exiles who denounce torture and support the Brazilian resistance be terminated.
The prohibition of Marighela’s book is the first measure designed to appease the Brazilians. Another is being planned: the expulsion from France of the most active exiles. A list will be compiled not only from the information obtained under torture in the prisons of Brazil, but also from information supplied by the Chief of the São Paulo Political Police, Sergio Paranhos Fleury, who is about to arrive in Paris. This clean-up operation accomplished, Valéry Giscard D’Estaing will be able to proceed to Rio next October in order to preside at the “renaissance of the French economic presence in Brazil.”
—Le Nouvel Observateur, March 23-29, 1970
Jill A. Cloonan
June 4, 1970