Notes on José Cretella Júnior, the itinerant jurist

Sorocaba jurist José Cretella Júnior (1920-2015) left us a large and qualified work. Perhaps best known for his administrative law books, which are fantastic, he impressed me a lot with a Roman law course, which was the book I read several times in a row, in my freshman year of college. How I miss that time!

Cretella Junior was a humanist. Graduated in Classics and then in Law, he has written books that have covered various fields of law and the humanities. In all of his work I also love a travel book, published by Círculo do Livro, theme of Cultural embargos From this week.

It is about “A journey through Europe and the world”, a unique, different book, full of information and intelligent personal observations. Cretella Júnior dedicated the book to his wife, Agnes, who would have made their travels more beautiful, as the beautiful dedication says. I have with me an edition from 1988.

It is a travel book written by a scholar, which reminds us of the travel books of Silveira Bueno, which Cretella Júnior indicates as a reference. There is an introductory session on the fascination of travel, which reveals a more peaceful world than today’s world. It seems to me that traveling in the old days was more fascinating. As far as air travel is concerned, we wore our best clothes, the in-flight service was impressive, even for those traveling in economy class (as was my case).

For the author, in the very first chapter, there are three great pleasures of life: to love, to read and to travel. Cretella Junior imagined a Ex libris with those three words (love, reading, travel), with which he celebrated life, and with which he adorned the title pages of the books in his library, which must (I imagine) be enormous.

The first chapter of “A journey through Europe and the world” is a handbook for travelers. We talk a little about travel to Brazil, highlighting the incipient infrastructure which, in general, remains the same. This first chapter deals with themes that are very present in those who travel: orders from friends, times of the year when one travels more peacefully, what to see, how to see it; it also refers to interesting cemeteries.

He then describes what he called the small countries of Europe: Andorra, Monaco, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, San Marino, Gibraltar and Malta. Passing over Malta, we remember Eça de Queiróz, also a great writer of travel memoirs, who was in the East on the occasion of the opening of the Suez Canal, passing through Malta, after having crossed Cadiz and Gibraltar, and who also traveled to Egypt and Palestine. Eça collected material that he used in his masterpiece, “The Relic” (my opinion).

Cretella Junior seemed to be fascinated by the islands. He justified the interest, noting that an island can be known in its entirety, with the possibility of understanding its most picturesque details. The islands are generally very picturesque. For Cretella Junior, “going around the island is passion, fever, mania. You see everything and everything, in a short time. All around, the sea; inside, a civilization, a culture preserved, despite the perennial struggle of the earth against the ocean, against the invaders and pirates, against evil, against danger “.

He then described the Canary Islands, the Balearic Islands, Sicily, Corsica, Sardinia, the Isle of Wight, the Greek Islands, Hawaii, the Japanese Islands (including commenting on Tokyo), Hong Kong, Macao and Nauru.

For the author, the capitals form a world apart. However, he insisted, those who visit Lisbon do not necessarily know Portugal, or those who visit London or Paris do not necessarily know England or France. He evoked Portugal, comparing himself with our origins in a territory that he defined as a “garden planted by the sea”. At this point the author referred to Marcelo Caetano, a Portuguese administrator and public figure, of whom he was a particular friend, and who came to Brazil with the fall of the Salazar regime, with whom the Portuguese jurist collaborated. The vivid description of Portugal is worth reading this travel book.

Cretella Júnior also visited and described other European countries. I have the impression that Spain, France and Italy left a stronger impression on the author, which perhaps reflects his intimacy with classical culture, which included Latin. I remember that as a boy I tried to study Latin with a book by Cretella Júnior, the title of which was “Latin for the Gym”.

The chapters of “A journey through Europe and the world” are divided with respect to topographical and cultural convergence: England, Germany and Austria; then Switzerland, Belgium and Holland; then the Nordic countries and the countries of Eastern Europe. Cretella Junior also described Greece, Turkey, Israel, Tunisia, Senegal, Morocco, Kenya, South Africa and many others who arrived in China.

Cretella Júnior’s travelogue is a portrait of the time and times in which she traveled and studied these countries. Travel books (whose tradition dates back to Herodotus and Marco Polo) are living evidence of places and times. The aspect reflects travelers, and that’s what we think when we read Humboldt or Richard Francis Burton or the strange Gobineau or the interesting Carmem Prudente, or more contemporary authors like Airton Ortiz, whose travel chronicles are delightful, or Hermés Galvão. , a journalist who also writes interestingly about travel. Genre aside, the travel reportage persists strongly, albeit simplified with quick interventions by bloggers and youtuber on the world wide web.

In this book by Cretella Júnior, “Journey through Europe and the world”, we reveal a different and fascinating perspective of an itinerant jurist, or an itinerant jurist; above all, however, humanist. And we also resume a world that no longer exists, but that was interesting, had its charms, its problems, which we remember today with an intriguing nostalgia.

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