The Carpeaux Project
The Carpeaux Project

Our project consists of translating into English the first two volumes, combined into one book, of the most complete history of Western literature ever written. First published in eight volumes in its original language, this monumental work was written by Otto Maria Carpeaux.

About the author and the work

Otto Maria Carpeaux was one of the greatest intellectuals of the twentieth century. A Vienna-born Jew, he found himself forced to emigrate due to the rise of the Nazis. He chose Brazil, where he became a citizen as well as a respected and well-known journalist, writer and literary critic. He wrote a vast amount of essays in addition to the monumental work known as the History of Western Literature, the largest and most complete work (over three thousand pages) ever written on the subject and part of the Western canon of literature.

This literary treasure is divided into ten parts that cover the entire history of Western literature, beginning with Greek and Roman literature and continuing all the way to contemporary twentieth-century works:

Part 1 – The Heritage

  • Chapter 1 – Greek Literature
  • Chapter 2 – The Roman World
  • Chapter 3 – Christianity and the World 

Part 2 – The Christian World

  • Chapter 1 – The Foundation of Europe
  • Chapter 2 – Christian Universalism
  • Chapter 3 – The Literature of Castles and Villages
  • Chapter 4 – Opposition, both Bourgeois and Ecclesiastical

Part 3 – The Transition

  • Chapter 1 – The “Trecento” 
  • Chapter 2 – Realism and Mysticism 
  • Chapter 3 – The Autumn of the Middle Ages

Part 4 – Renaissance and Reform

  • Chapter 1 – The “Quattrocento” 
  • Chapter 2 – The “Cinquecento” 
  • Chapter 3 – International Renaissance 
  • Chapter 4 – Christian Renaissance 

Part 5 – Baroque and Classicism

  • Chapter 1 – The Problem of Baroque Literature 
  • Chapter 2 – Poetry and Theatre in the Counter-Reformation 
  • Chapter 3 – Pastorals, Epics, Heroi-Comic Epics and Picaresque Romance 
  • Chapter 4 – The Protestant Baroque 
  • Chapter 5 – Mysticism and Moralism 
  • Chapter 6 – Anti-Baroque 

Part 6 – Illustration and Revolution

  • Chapter 1 – Neo-Baroque Origins 
  • Chapter 2 – Rationalist Classicism 
  • Chapter 3 – Pre-Romanticism 
  • Chapter 4 – Late Classicism 

Part 7 – Romanticism

  • Chapter 1 – The Origins of Romanticism 
  • Chapter 2 – Romanticism and Evasion 
  • Chapter 3 – Romanticism as Opposition 
  • Chapter 4 – The End of Romanticism 

Part 8 – The Period of the Middle Class

  • Chapter 1 – Bourgeois Literature 
  • Chapter 2 – Naturalism 
  • Chapter 3 – Conversion of Naturalism 

Part 9 – “Fin de Siècle” and After

  • Chapter 1 – Symbolism 
  • Chapter 2 – The Period of European Equilibrium 

Part 10 – Literature and Reality

  • Chapter 1 – Modernist Revolts 
  • Chapter 2 – Contemporary Trends 

About the translation and amount to be raised

The transcendental significance of this work comes from the fact that this masterpiece, which belongs to all mankind, remains unknown to the English-speaking public due to the lack of a translated version.

We have already organized a small team to bring this undertaking to fruition, including the editor and translator – myself – and the reviser, Elizabeth Joy Pitt de Morales, DipTrans IoLET. The administrative issues will be taken care of by the third member of our team, César Kyn d’Ávila. When the translation and revisions have been completed, professionals will design the cover and the interior of the books, and there will be a final revision.

The US$36,000.00 we are requesting will cover the expenses of the publishing and administrative team as well as the final design and revision costs. Any surplus funds and profits will be fully invested in the next three volumes containing the remaining original six books in the collection. Initially, the book will be sold only as an e-book in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Australia, but there will be a special commemorative printed edition for project investors.

About the publishing team

Flavio Quintela: Our editor and translator is a Brazilian engineer who, as a result of his passion for English-language literature, long ago decided to devote his time and efforts to all things related to the English language. Living and studying in the United States during his adolescence helped him to develop a near-native level of proficiency, mastering the language and achieving top scores in English-language proficiency tests. In 2002 he started his first business related to English teaching – an English school in Brazil – where he would work as manager and teacher for ten years until relocating to another city. During this time, he simultaneously worked as a Portuguese-English and English-Portuguese translator, acquiring extensive experience in the translation of literary works for several Brazilian publishing companies, and continues his activities in this field to this day.

Elizabeth Joy Pitt de Morales: Our reviser is a professional translator and editor with a degree in Spanish Language and Literature from Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, U.S.A. After graduation, she joined the W.S.U. adjunct faculty and taught undergraduate Spanish courses. In 1997, she moved to Spain, where she first taught English to Spaniards in private language academies, then joined the faculty at a private British international school, teaching British History, Modern World History, and Spanish. For the last ten years, she has worked full-time as a translator, editor and language educator, collaborating on projects such as the translation of the Alhambra and the Generalife: Official Guide, a number of history, literature and art-related projects and the development of a Spanish language-learning website. She also holds the Diploma in Translation from the Institute of Linguists.


Below you will find two fragments of the first volume, translated by Flavio Quintela and revised by Liz Morales:

Fragment 1

As for the elegy, Tyrtaeus is often mentioned. His name has become proverbial as a poet of war songs, but it seems he wrote political elegies dedicated to the Spartan spirit. The modern meaning of the term “elegy” will be applied only to the fragments by the melancholic and pessimistic Mimnermus and – in a somewhat different manner – to the poetry of Theognis, an aristocrat who lost his place in politics in favor of the victory of democracy in his town, Megara, responding to these social changes with bitter melancholy: a pessimism like Hesiod's, but from a great defeated lord.

The case of Theognis reveals the compatibility – in the opinion of the Greeks – of lyrical effusions and satiric motives; to the modern reader, the name of T. S. Elliott will vaguely come to mind. The satiric vein also distinguishes what the Greeks considered the greatest of all true lyrical poets: Archilocus. The few fragments saved do not permit judging a poet whose strength of expression in invectives would have caused – as the tradition states – the suicide of his opponents; in this great poet’s work these invectives constituted, so to speak, the Châtiments of a Greek Victor Hugo.

Fragment 2

Today, the worlds of Dante and Spenser are both dead. There is, nevertheless, a difference: The world of Dante was the world of all the men and all the creatures of his time, and because of that his poetry was filled with so much human truth that it survives for all times. The world of Spenser was that of an elite made up of artists and humanists; it was the creation of the “poets’ poet”. It was never art for all, nor could it be. Among the English poets, however, there was not one who would not admire and love him: He gave them the gift of an infinite forest of poetry. Hazlitt even claimed that Spenser’s “poetic poetry” dispenses with the comprehension of its own allegories. He was a contemporary of the Romanticists, who liked Spenser immensely, to the extent that Walter Scott almost made him popular by borrowing his most beautiful verses to serve as epigraphs. Spenser – avid for “Glory” as all Renaissance men were – had not vainly believed in the transfiguring power of his poetry. It cannot be denied that Spenser is, today, increasingly studied by experts and decreasingly read by people. He is a poet hugely remote to us. Ultimately, he was no Dante. Nevertheless, his forest of poetry continues to exist as if it were on a forgotten island, a magical landscape beyond the human frontiers of English literature, as a verse from his Epithalamion foretold:

“The woods shall to me answer, and my Echo ring”.

Why Read Otto Maria Carpeaux? - by Rodrigo Gurgel

Otto Maria Carpeaux – whose real name was Otto Karpfen – was an Austrian intellectual who, in 1938, escaped from the triumphant advance of the Nazi troops into his country. Initially a refugee in Antwerp, Belgium, he emigrated to Brazil in September of 1939, remaining there until his death on February 3, 1978.

Carpeaux’s work is broad; it comprises hundreds of essays in which he speaks with the same resourcefulness and precision about the baroque, Joseph Conrad, Camus, Saint Teresa of Ávila or Portuguese-language writers from Camões and Gil Vicente to authors emerging after the 1922 Week of Modern Art (an important framework of literary modernism in Brazil), with whom he could peacefully co-exist.

His fundamental works are, however, two reference works corresponding to important world classics: the New History of Music and the History of Western Literature, in which Carpeaux approaches the subject beginning with Classical Greek literature, continuing up to and including Tom Wolfe, Norman Mailer and Truman Capote.

Carpeaux’s work as a literary critic is multifaceted and rooted in a unique vision of literature, an art that – in his opinion – is the main product of the tragic conflict inherent to the human condition. As Mauro Souza Ventura states in his De Karpfen a Carpeaux: Formação Política e Interpretação Literária na Obra do Crítico Austríaco-Brasileiro (From Karpfen to Carpeaux: Political Education and Literary Interpretation in the Works of the Austrian-Brazilian), Carpeaux’s method is dialectic, but based on a dialectic that is closer to the agonizing spirit of the Greeks than to Hegelian historicism.

Apart from his conceptual tensions, Carpeaux is an example of the full humanism that is known in German as “Geisteswissenschaft”, i.e., gathering together the knowledge of Western civilization, from philology to jurisprudence.This magma of knowledge does not, however, lead to a chaotic work. On the contrary, as stated by another expert on Carpeaux’s work, the Brazilian philosopher Olavo de Carvalho, “the first and almost compulsive reaction from Carpeaux, when studying any author or work, was to strip away common labels and seek, from behind the calm certainties crystallized by habit, the question, the problem, the hidden enigma".

As de Carvalho states, Carpeaux’s pristine style – perfectly adapted to the Portuguese language – makes his History of Western Literature not only a “contribution from the Geisteswissenschaft to Brazilian culture, but a prodigious Brazilian contribution to the Geisteswissenschaft” andthus an indispensable and masterful work.

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