Biehl and Mugge release Lost Writings: Life and Work of an Insurgent Immigrant in a book tour through Southern Brazil
João Biehl and Miqueias Mugge have published their new book Escritos Perdidos: Vida e obra de um imigrante insurgente (Lost Writings: Life and Work of an Insurgent Immigrant) in a bilingual Portuguese/German edition to great acclaim in Brazil this summer.
Based on meticulous research in never-before studied domestic and community records and official archives in Brazil and Germany, the book tells the story of the immigrant schoolmaster and lay-theologian Johann Georg Klein (1822-1915) and the mysterious book he brought along during his mid-nineteenth-century transatlantic journey. Klein would be framed as the intellectual mastermind behind the Mucker movement, which ended in a massacre in 1874 and became the first major messianic uprising of the postcolonial country.
Titled Vom Katechismus, Johann Georg Klein’s manuscript is archived in Princeton’s Rare Books and Special Collections. After safeguarding the manuscript for over a century, the family of the local historian Leopoldo Petry bestowed it to the care of Firestone Library. The acquisition was facilitated by Fernando Acosta Rodriguez, Librarian for Latin American Studies, and it was added to an archive on everyday life of German-Brazilian settlers that Biehl and Mugge are curating via the Brazil LAB’s Racialized Frontiers research hub.
Published by Oikos in the year of Brazil’s bicentennial, Lost Writings outlines an affective human cartography of the country in search of its modernity. Set against the backdrop of the violent and unequal southern borderlands, the book unveils plural interdependencies between immigrants and enslaved peoples, outlining a new history of the country and dismantling its myths based on the cosmopolitanism and transcendences of the poorest and their silenced insurgencies.
Biehl and Mugge participated in four book launches in the areas where the main character of Escritos Perdidos lived and worked and where the Mucker War remains a historical trauma in search of language. The book was enthusiastically received by local communities, municipalities and the media, which praised its originality, public history character and riveting storytelling.
Local religious communities and cultural centers helped organize the events, which were also co-sponsored by the Goethe Institute, the Departments of History and Literatures of the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, and Porto Alegre’s Psychoanalytic Society.
In late fall, the Brazil LAB and the Department of Anthropology will host a book forum on Escritos Perdidos, exploring its contributions to debates over Brazil’s modern history and archival decolonization.
Praises for Escritos Perdidos:
“Not the idealized German settler, but a man caught in the tensions of his times... the life of Johann Georg Klein is here recreated, in depth and vividness: from his family background, through an impressive theological manuscript produced in his youth and later critical texts, linked to dramatic episodes of his life in Brazil (such as the Mucker War led by his relatives). Escritos Perdidos is an exemplary book that combines a careful historiographical technique with virtuoso anthropological sensibility, and reads like a great novel.”
- Luís Augusto Fischer (Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul)
“The book holds the reader’s attention from start to finish. Escritos Perdidos has the essential ingredients of good literature – rhythm, tension, suspense – always accompanied by rich details gleaned from original and laborious research done in several Brazilian and German archives.”
- João José Reis (Federal University of Bahia)
“The public has in its hands an individual case reconstituted with rare beauty and more: a collective trajectory of German-Brazilian settlers, with their values, ideas, subjectivities and subaltern agencies... Escritos Perdidos unearth another image of Brazil, from its insurgent frontier, its most extreme and abandoned borderlands.”
- Lilia M. Schwarcz (University of São Paulo)