Antonio Houaiss was a teacher, a diplomat, a minister, a philologist, a translator, a lexicographer, a founding member of the Brazilian Socialist Party and, as if that wasn't enough, also a gourmet.

A high school teacher of Latin, Portuguese and Literature, son of a Lebanese immigrant, Antonio Houaiss was born on October 15, 1915. He began his public career as a Brazilian diplomat in 1945. He served as a diplomat in Geneva and represented Brazil as a secretary in the United Nations.

After the 1964 military coup, he lost his political rights. He then undertook the task of translating James Joyce's Ulysses to Portuguese in record time. He was accepted as a member of the Brazilian Academy of Letters in 1970.

Antonio Houaiss has since promoted a number of international congresses on language, translation and literature. He was also the Culture Minister for a short time (he quit due to his ridiculous budget), and was the president of a 1986 congress for the unification of Portuguese spelling.

A prolific writer and scholar, Antonio Houaiss wrote a number of books on education, linguistics and philology. He helped establish authoritative versions of the works of a number of Brazilian authors, including Machado de Assis. He also wrote essays on literary criticism, political essays on socialism, a cookbook and a beer guide. However, he didn't live enough to see his most ambitious project published: the Houaiss Dictionary, the largest and most complete Portuguese dictionary, with the definitions and the morphology of over 320,000 words. He died in 1999, in Rio. His dictionary was published three years later and became, thanks in part to a well orchestrated marketing campaign, an instant editorial success.

(partially from the Brazilian Academy of Letters website -

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