Telling a different story
Brazilian music, architecture and art are widely recognised around the globe, but Portuguese language is still a challenge for most nations. Brazilian books are scarcely available in English and other languages. The seed of change was sown this weekend (October 6th and 7th), when the Brazilian literature festival FLIP landed in the UK for the first time, under the name of Flipside. It took place in Snape Maltings, a culture complex in a small village in Suffolk.
Brazil is on the edge. The economy is booming, and the nation is about to host the World Cup and the Olympics. The country once called the “land of the future” by the Austrian novelist Stefan Zweig, is now the “country of the moment”. Brazilian writers have now stepped into the picture in order to help the world to understand Brazil, in all of its complexity and contradictions.
Encounters between Brazilian and British writers were the major highlight of the Festival. The talks were extremely diverse, spanning subject areas such as Tropicália, children’s literature, contemporary writing, organised crime and cangaço aesthetics.
In Chiaroescuro, British journalist Misha Glenny (author of McMáfia) revealed all his knowledge of Brazil in a talk with Ana Maria Machado (president of Brazilian Academy of Letters, the highest literary society in Brazil) and Patrícia Melo (2001 Jabuti winner, a major literary prize in Brazil). They discussed controversial issues such as social inequalities, the environment and racism.
The meeting between the Brazilian essayist Bernardo Carvalho and British writer Will Self also drew a lot of attention. They revealed their influences, obsessions, inspirations and personal writing techniques in a very candid and inspiring encounter, fully engaged with the audiences. Bernardo’s stories take place all over the world, suggesting a “universal” literature genre. He controversially claimed: “I’m not a Brazilian writer”.
Brazilians everywhere are rejecting clichés like violence, football and carnival – the street protests earlier this year were a reflection of this. Literature is following the same path: a wealth of talented writers now wants to tell a different story.
The Festival also featured Alex Bellos, Adriana Lisboa and singer Adriana Calcanhoto, amongst many other writers and poets.