On day two, I covered some new Brazilian writers, who use death as their underlying theme, some interviews, in particular Liz Calder, President of the Paraty Festival, James Shapiro, Shakespearean scholar and the author Jonathan Franzen. Granta magazine in Brazil also announced the winners of their new writer’s competition. The day finished with a large audience listening, and vocal at times to two political thinkers discussing politics in today’s Brazil.
Liz Calder, has been involved with the Paraty Festival, for the last 10 years after being involved in publishing. She is dignified and thoughtful as she speaks and answers questions. The idea was dreamed up she said, about 20 years ago after visiting a few festivals, in Australia, Wales and Edinburgh. Liz and some Brazilian friends thought Paraty would be the perfect spot for a literary festival because of its natural beauty, pousadas and bars. They felt that in developing their idea they did not want to spoil the natural beauty of the place, but whatever they did must be congenial and sustainable. It took four years to raise money to begin and many more years to find funding. She said “I am particularly looking forward to hearing the fabulous writer Jackie Kay and also Jennifer Egan”. The first session of day 2 was called “Towards the end”. Three young writers Andres de Leones, Altair Martins and Carlos de Brito e Mello, discussed the common theme of death in their work. Andres de Leones argued that the awareness of the end allows every person to shape their own individual destiny. Andres de Leones, trained in cinema and wanted to be a film maker, but considered that he did not have the social skills and instead discovered that he was easy with words. His book Black Teeth, in the genre of José de Sousa Saramago is a short novel, a narrative of love with finality. It’s an apocalyptic tale of non survival of how a landscape changes when human beings are gone. He comes from a town where there is a high rate of suicides in young people. He said “instead of killing myself, I write about those who did, Death is inevitable and literature distracts us along the way”. Altair Martins apologised for his hoarse voice, but said he was determined to try to speak. “Finality is what we live” he stated as he explained the death of his father who had been a jockey. Altair was just 6 years old when death came to his home. He considers there are two deaths, the physical and the death of destiny that we try to create and often do not fulfil, so that is a constant death. “We are trying to create an ideal corpse” he said. The second death, physical death, permeates his book – “The wall in dark”. Carlos de Brito e Mello is a teacher, born in Belo Horizonte in 1974 has a Master’s in social communication, university professor and member of the Collective Xepa. He published The corpse of his spoils and was part of the collections between two deaths and shadows . He won in 2008, the Government of Minas Gerais Prize for Literature, in the category Young Writer. He said “death coincides with the loss of senses. The corpse raises questions for the writer. There is the possibility of extracting something for and from the lifeless body. Death does not belong to the dead but those left behind who have to decide what to do with it. Through death something can be built. When death happens something else starts”. He shared a story from his childhood about some Saturdays when he visited relatives and cars would come around announcing the death of someone. This would start a dialogue in the family as they either discussed the person who died or their relatives or even worked out who the person was that had died. He said” narratives work with certain spaces and the relationship with death creates a wealth of possibilities. It’s a form of self-help”
The Granta press conference announced the publication of their magazine dedicated to new young Brazilian writer. 7 judges over the last year considered the work of over 140 submissions. They choose 20 names that were revealed during the press conference. Granta has helped launch the career’s of Salmon Rushdie, Ian McEwan and they were not sure they would find the quality and quantity of young writers in Brazil. They are delighted that they have been able to find both. They have printed 10,000 copies of the Brazilian Granta. The list of winners can be found on the Granta website.dissected their fiction. Enrique amused the audience with his readings from his book “The air of Dylan”, Dylan being Bob Dylan not Dylan Thomas. Both writers pick up the theme of lovers lying to each other. Alejandro’s book “Bonsai”was started with the idea that it would be an artistic textured novel, that in itself was a Bonsai. They both referenced Macedonio Fernández, an Argentinian writer as an inspiration but also said he created somewhat of a love hate relationship for their narratives. They both thought community and communion as writers with other writers was part of their process. Enrique said when he is asked what his book is about he says something like it’s an action book. He admitted he listens to what his friends say about books, because he thinks being a critic is boring, having to read books you do not want to read. Often times he will recommend books that he has not read with such comments as “I did not like it but you will love it”. Literature that looks for complexity is his starting place.
I will write up the interviews with Jonathan Franzen and James Shapiro later today after their sessions. I also plan to do a more detailed report on the Granta Brazilian writers magazine launch.