Roberto Carlos: Brazil’s Old Idol Loses Majesty over Censorship

Roberto Carlos at a time he was the uncontested king

Roberto Carlos probably never read Oswald de Andrade, but still borrowed heavily from the poet’s mischievousness: he ‘hated the book without having read it’. I’m talking about the unauthorized biography Roberto Carlos em Detalhes (Roberto Carlos in Detail), written by Paulo Cesar de Araújo. Unfortunately, the irony and wit of the modernist bard turned into a sad and serious case of censorship practiced by the composer and singer.

At a press conference, Roberto spilled all his guts and said he was offended with what his lawyer says the book contains about some episodes of his life, particularly the railroad accident leading to the partial amputation of his leg, an amorous liaison with singer Maysa and the painful last days of his most recent wife.


All these events are public. If there is any novelty in the book released last year it is the care the author took in enriching (at times going too far and losing balance) his reconstruction of the facts by checking every single detail, even the idle ones, for the benefit of stricter and more demanding readers (but never inconvenient and, until proved otherwise, not untrue either).


The biography is a work of exegesis very rare in the field of music,  embellished by an excellent job of graphic design which gives the book an album status, albeit without the hard cover.


What is serious in the reaction by the famous star of the Jovem Guarda movement is his violation of constitutionally guaranteed principles of freedom of thought and expression. In order to characterize the subjective kind of crimes he claimed in his legal action against the book’s author as libel and slander, the singer was supposed to at least have read the book. To declare oneself offended through a mediator, even if this person is a professional in charge of legal advice, is madness, a contradiction and a legal impropriety.


Profit Calculations


Who will guarantee that the lawyer is a good interpreter of the book’s content? And even if his reconstitution of the facts is faithful, the soul of the lawyer cannot replace the subjectivity of the party allegedly offended. If he never read the book, as he confessed publicly, Roberto Carlos has no authority to deem himself morally (and personally) offended by his unauthorized biography. Both pain and suffering are personal and non-transferable.


As to the objective crime of slander, the author could have used legal justification to provide proof of everything he wrote about if he had shifted the role of defendant with that of plaintiff. Surely, given the proof he attached to each statement made in the book, Paulo Cesar would have no difficulty in shaking off the slandering accusation. 
 
Instead of sustaining its responsibility for the publication and arming itself with constitutional injunction, Editora Planeta (the publisher) accepted the agreement proposed – or endorsed – by Roberto Carlos to withdraw from circulation the 11 thousand remaining copies of the book’s edition and deliver them all to the singer in exchange for a waiver of legal action.


The agreement harms all characters, both explicit and hidden, in this story. A serious, high-quality biography, in spite of some excesses touching on hagiography, which should honor and bring joy to its subject if he were more clear-sighted, was punished in an absurd fashion. The party supposed to resist gave up, perhaps after some astute sales calculation: they knew that the dynamics of reality would render this agreement innocuous.


Quasi-unanimity
 
That was exactly what happened. Thanks to the ensuing controversy, the book, at first inexpensive (considering its size and quality) had a 30% price increase in the bookstores which still had copies. Not many people were interested in direct purchase, though, specially when the book became more expensive. Soon enough anyone could go online and obtain the full content of the biography for free.


Not only that, but those familiar to the world of books reacted in condemnation of the musical star, including people who enjoy unbelievable success with their writings such as “the wizard” Paulo Coelho. At least I did – and found myself for the first time feeling good about something written by Coelho. Lucidity and originality, usually lacking in his (fabulous) fables, abounded in the essay he wrote about the whole imbroglio.
 
Thus, against the will of Roberto Carlos, the book accomplished its cycle. It was not selling that well anyway when the singer decided to move in defense of his privacy. After a sudden surge, sales started dwindling again, given the Internet alternative for those readers who were simply curious.


If – and when – we ever have an official biography of the “king” of Brazilian pop music, then we will be able to reach some conclusion on one of the hypotheses linked to his unfortunate initiative: maybe his intention was to try to reserve sales space for his own release.


A space which is no longer the same it was just a short time ago when, from behind the “caracóis dos seus cabelos” (curls of his hair), Roberto Carlos was practically a Brazilian unanimity. These days, sometimes, he is just pathetic.


Lúcio Flávio Pinto is journalist This text was published originally in Jornal Pessoal.


Translated by Tereza Braga. Braga is a freelance Portuguese translator and interpreter based in Dallas. She is a certified member of the American Translators Association. Contact: terezab@sbcglobal.net.

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