Gringa Reads

As Fantasias Eletivas by Carlos Henrique Schroeder

Review, SynopsisZoe Perry1 Comment

As fantasias eletivas (Elective Fantasies), published by Record in July, is svelte little thing of just over 110 pages. Carlos Henrique Schroeder is best known for his short stories, so perhaps it's no surprise he also keeps his novels short and sweet. I'm not a particularly fast reader, and even slower when reading in Portuguese, but I managed to finish this book in a single sitting, on an appropriately grey, "I think summer might really be over" kind of day. As fantasias eletivas is the story of Renê, a receptionist who works the night shift at a hotel in the Brazilian seaside town of Balneário Camboriú. It's the off-season, and the beaches and hotels, once teeming with tourists, are deserted. Renê (also known by his coworkers as 'Mister Alcohol', for both his clean freak tendencies and his drinking habits) has more or less lost everything good in his life. His marriage has fallen apart, he's not allowed contact with his young son (for reasons that remain unclear, but were apparently pretty grisly), his parents no longer want to speak to him. He arrived in the city in an effort to escape his past, and after a failed suicide attempt he leads a sad, solitary life, going through motions, working the hotel reception, procuring an array of products and services for guests, wiping down the front desk over and over, walking home, eating one of two meals he knows how to prepare. And repeat.

One evening he meets Copi, a transexual prostitute from Argentina working the boardwalk. After a rocky start, the two form an unlikely friendship in their shared exile by the sea. Copi is an amateur writer and Polaroid photographer, and Renê is the only person who will see her collection of photos and short, poetic texts that accompany them, reflections on literature, solitude, isolation, and the human experience. Brilliant poetry, this is not, but I believe that's sort of the point.

Renê and Copi both have a lot of secrets, and this book never attempts to reveal them all. The reader dips into their lives briefly, catching glimpses of their pasts, but there is no resolution in the end, and a lot of unanswered questions are left. For such a small book it carries a surprising amount of weight, and not just because in that short span of pages the author manages to include a book within a book, mixing prose, poetry and photography. There's something cinematic about the atmospheric backdrop of a beach resort in the off-season, itself becoming a character.

Though I hate to draw comparisons to Sergio Y. Vai à America, another recent Brazilian book with a transexual character, I found the two bookended one another nicely. Both contain their moments of sad beauty, but whereas Sergio Y. turned out to be a book of surprising hope in spite of all its tragic elements, As Fantasias Eletivas is an overwhelmingly sad book, despite its hopeful, sometimes comedic, elements.

More about the author:

Carlos Henrique Schroeder was born in rural Santa Catarina, in southern Brazil, in 1978. He is the author of As certezas e as palavras, which won the Brazilian National Library Foundation's Clarice Lispector award for short stories in 2010, and was a finalist for 2011 Portugal Telecom prize. He created Brazil's National Short Story Festival and coordinates the Formas Breves short story imprint for Ebook publisher e-galáxia. He is also the executive editor of Revista Pessoa, where he curates the short story section. To find out more about Carlos Henrique or to inquire about international rights, contact the MTS literary agency.

Sergio Y. Vai à America by Alexandre Vidal Porto

Review, SynopsisZoe Perry2 Comments

Let me get right to the point: Sergio Y. vai à América (Sergio Y. Goes to America – I love this title) is one of the best books I've read in a long time. I gush to everyone I meet about its captivating characters and story. Great literature travels well and this one already has its bags packed. This book was kindly sent to me by Companhia das Letras shortly before I went to Flip, and I actually finished it back in July.  So why's it taken me so long to review it? This is one of those books that hits you hard, lingers in your head for days, weeks, leaves you wanting to say so much, but not knowing quite where to start. It's also hard to talk about without revealing a pretty major spoiler, which ultimately I've decided not to reveal here. If you're reading this and you can't read Portuguese, don't think I'm being a cruel tease. It's just all the more reason to pressure your friendly neighborhood publisher to snatch this one up for English publication!

Armando, the narrator, is a psychiatrist, one of the best in São Paulo. He's a sophisticated, older man who prides himself on his strong professional reputation and patient success rates. One day, a troubled high school student named Sergio is referred to him for therapy. Sergio comes from a well-to-do, loving family and wants for nothing, but feels incredibly unhappy. Armando deems him an interesting patient, and agrees to take him on for regular appointments. One day Sergio abruptly ends his therapy and Armando never hears from him again. Armando more or less moves on with his life, until running into Sergio's mother at the deli counter in the grocery store. She thanks him for everything he did for her son, and informs him that Sergio is now happily living in New York and about to open his own restaurant. Spoiler!, spoiler!, spoiler!... and Armando discovers he somehow failed to see a rather important piece of Sergio's puzzle. He grows obsessed, setting off like a detective to discover where he went wrong, defeated by the feeling that his professional ability has been questioned, wondering whether he truly helped Sergio, despite significant evidence to the contrary (including statements from Sergio himself).

This book hooks you from the first page, and by the time the aformentioned spoiler is revealed, it's impossible to put down. There's also a fascinating parallel story about a Lithuanian immigrant, Adriana Zebrowskas, who as far as I can tell is fictitious, but adds a great sense of reality and memoir to the story. The chapters are short and the writing is clear, elegant and direct and moves along at nice clip. As one reviewer put it, it's almost as if the author wanted to avoid the reader going back to read something twice.

Sergio Y. vai à América deals with some pretty heavy stuff, touching on themes of identity, the search for self, memory, death, depression, exile and gender. Yet, ultimately, it's about transformation and the search for happiness, and the freedom to choose which paths we take in life. Surprisingly, I was left with an overwhelming sense of hope.

More about the author:

Alexandre Vidal Porto was born in São Paulo in 1965, and spent part of his childhood in the northeastern Brazilian state of Ceará. He hold a Harvard law degree and in his career as a diplomat lived New York, Tokyo, Mexico City, Brasília, Washington DC and Santiago de Chile. His first novel, Matias na cidade was published in 2005. His second novel, Sergio Y. vai à América won the Prêmio Paraná award for best novel in 2012. He currently writes a weekly column for the Folha de São Paulo newspaper and was a regular contributor to the now defunct Bravo! magazine. Alexandre is represented by Lucia Riff at the Riff Agency. Visit his website (including lots of information provided in English) here.

Finalists announced for 2014 Prêmio Jabuti

AwardsZoe PerryComment

Yesterday the CBL (Brazilian Book Chamber) announced the list of ten finalists for each of the 27 categories of the Prêmio Jabuti. It's a big deal! Winners will be announced November 18. Not suprisingly, Brazilian publishing heavy hitters Companhia das Letras, Record and Cosac Naify topped out the list for most books shortlisted.

I won't list all the finalists for each category (which you can find here), but I will highlight the novel category below.

Reprodução (Reproduction) by Bernardo Carvalho (Companhia Das Letras). This book was also shortlisted for the Prêmio São Paulo this year. Bernardo won the Jabuti in 2004 for Mongólia and has also won the Portugal Telecom prize. He will be appearing at the Flipside Festival in a couple of weeks, and you can read an extract of Benjamin Moser's translation of his book Nine Nights here.

A maçã envenenada (The Poison Apple) by Michel Laub (Companhia Das Letras) is the second book in a trilogy that started with Diary of the Fall, translated by Margaret Jull Costa. Michel was one of Granta's Best Young Brazilian Novelists, and he will also be at Flipside.

Opisanie Świata (you're not going to make me translate that title, are you?) by Veronica Stigger (Cosac Naify) is currently topping my "please let me translate this book" list that every translator carries around. I am head over heels for this book. Veronica is the author of Os Anões and I'll have a review of this little Brazilian book with a Polish title in another publication shortly (stay tuned). This book has already won the Brazilian National Library's Machado de Assis prize for best novel and was recently also shortlisted for Prêmio São Paulo.

O drible (The Dribble) by Sérgio Rodrigues (Companhia Das Letras) is racking up yet another nomination, having also been shortlisted for the Prêmio São Paulo. It's already been translated to Spanish (by Juan Pablo Villalobos) and French. Sergio is also the author of Elza: The Girl, translated by me and now available from AmazonCrossing.

Fim (The End) by Fernanda Torres (Companhia Das Letras) blew me away when I read it last year and though I thought it would be snapped up quickly for translation into English, that hasn't happened yet. I've heard everything from "it's too Rio" to "it's not Rio enough". Right. Maybe the Jabuti will be the nudge English-language publishers need to give it another look.

Nossos ossos (Our Bones) by Marcelino Freire (Editora Record) just won the Brazilian National Library's Prêmio Machado de Assis for best novel. Marcelino's already won the Jabuti in the short story category, in 2006 for Contos Negreiros.

Esquilos de Pavlov (Pavlov's Squirrels) by Laura Erber (Editora Objetiva) is the author's first novel (she's published several collections of poetry, including one shortlisted for the Jabuti).

O frio aqui fora (The Cold Out Here) by Flavio Cafiero (Cosac Naify) is another first novel, written by a former product manager.

O evangelho segundo Hitler (The Gospel According to Hitler) by Marcos Peres (Editora Record) is by yet another first-time novelist. It was published by Record after winning the Prêmio Sesc de Literatura last year.

And wrapping up the list is one more first novel, Deserto (Desert) by Luis S. Krausz (Editora Saraiva). Last year the author, who also translates from Hebrew and German, won the 2nd Benvira prize, which seeks out undiscovered Brazilian writers.

More books!

New BooksZoe PerryComment

I am officially inundated with new books. Yesterday the postman delivered four more new releases from Companhia das Letras:

A Vez de Morrer – Simone Campos

Bonecas Russas – Eliana Cardoso

O Louco de Palestra e Outras Crônicas Urbanas – Vanessa Barbara

Mil Rosas Roubadas – Silviano Santiago

I read the first few pages of A Vez de Morrer, and there was mention of a Tim Horton's, so naturally I'll be continuing my reading. Bonecas Russas also drew me in.

Finalists announced for 2014 Prêmio São Paulo de Literatura

Awards, NewsZoe Perry1 Comment

Finalists were just announced for the 2014 Prêmio São Paulo de Literatura, the award's seventh edition. Ten writers are in the running for Best Novel, with a sweet BRL 200,000 prize. The São Paulo prize famously awards debut novelists, and this year seven are competing for a cool BRL 100,000 prize in the over 40 category, and three under 40. All had to be published for the first time in 2013.

Here's the complete list:

Best Novel of 2013

Adriana Lisboa - Hanói

Alberto Martins - Lívia e o cemitério africano

Ana Luisa Escorel - Anel de vidro

Bernardo Carvalho – Reprodução

Carlos de Brito e Mello - A cidade, o inquisidor e os ordinários

Joca Reiners Terron - A tristeza extraordinária do leopardo-das-neves

Marco Lucchesi - O bibliotecário do imperador

Michel Laub - A maçã envenenada

Rodrigo Lacerda - Carlos Lacerda - A República das abelhas

Sérgio Rodrigues - O Drible

Best Novel by a Debut Author (Over 40)

Amilcar Bettega - Barreira

Cadão Volpato - Pessoas que passam pelos sonhos

Marcelino Freire - Nossos ossos

Flavio Cafiero - O frio aqui fora

João Anzanello Carrascoza - Aos 7 e aos 40

Rogerio Pereira - Na Escuridão, amanhã

Verônica Stigger - Opisanie Swiata

Best Novel by a Debut Author (Under 40)

Ieda Magri - Olhos de bicho

Laura Erber - Esquilos de Pavlov

Marcos Peres - O evangelho segundo Hitler

Don't let the name fool you – writers from any state (or country, actually) can enter the competition, as long as the book was written in Portuguese and published first in Brazil. Out of the finalists, seven writers hail from the state of Rio de Janeiro, followed by three from São Paulo, three from Brazil's third point on the literary triangle, Rio Grande do Sul, three from its fellow southern neighbor, Santa Catarina, two from Minas Gerais, one from northeastern Pernambuco and one from Mato Grasso do Sul. 

Big-hitting publisher Companhia das Letras published a total of seven of the finalists. Cosac Naify, publisher of Brazil's prettiest books, in my opinion (some of their cover design eye candy inserted above), has five names on the shortlist.

I'm not aware of any of these books being translated to English currently, but some have been translated into other languages, and several authors have had other works translated to English. In other words, pay attention English-language publishers, and snatch those rights up while you can!

What I did on my summer vacation

Events, NewsZoe Perry1 Comment
I spent most of July and part of August in Brazil. The first two weeks of my trip were spent in São Paulo, where I caught the tail end of the World Cup (let's not talk about it) and ate at overpriced restaurants and sat in horrible traffic visited friends and family. Then I traveled up the coast to the impossibly quaint, waterfront colonial town of Paraty, which lies just beyond the Rio de Janeiro/São Paulo state line.

I was delighted to have been chosen as one of six early to mid-career Portuguese to English translators selected to take part in the Paraty Literary Translation Winter School, co-sponsored by the BCLT, British Council, Brazilian National Library Foundation and the Universidade Federal Fluminense. The course took place the week before Paraty's most famous event, FLIP (Paraty International Literary Festival). Six literary translators from the UK joined six of our Brazilian counterparts for a full week of literary translation.

Mornings were spent apart, following a format similar to the BCLT summer school translation workshops. The into-English group worked with translator and BCLT program manager, Daniel Hahn, on an unpublished text by José Luiz Passos, winner of the 2013 Portugal Telecom Prize. The into-Portuguese group worked with Paulo Henriques Britto and Sam Byers, author of Idiopathy, which was selected as one of Waterstones' eleven best of the year. Our group was also joined by translator Alison Entrekin and And Other Stories' editor-at-large, Sophie Lewis. Afternoons (and evenings – these were long days) were spent workshopping samples of our own translations.

José Luiz (or Zé, or 'Joe Steps'), in addition to being a brilliant author, was an all-around nice guy and a joy to work with. His writing choices are very deliberate and it was wonderful to hear him speak about his process – he had an answer to all our questions. You can read an interview with Zé here and read the fruits of our labor here.

Everyone described the experience as like a dream. Internet connections were spotty and unstable, and after a couple of days cut-off from the outside, staying in the same pousada, eating all our meals together, working and translating up to 11 hours a day, it felt like we were in our own little world.

I won't give a lengthy recap of Flip, as many others will have done a perfectly good job of that, including this dispatch on Words Without Borders. But I will say it was delightful way to round out the Paraty experience. Set to Paraty's colorfully charming backdrop, I caught some great panels (I witnessed writers laugh, cry, beg for more and ask to leave), wined and dined with old and new friends, spotted lots of literary celebrities, amassed a new personal library, saw Gal Costa belt it out on stage, and boogied down at the Companhia das Letras party. So much mental energy was spent on the week preceding it, though, that by the time I hit the second night of Flip on Thursday, it felt very much like the final night, and my enthusiasm for facing the crowds waned considerably by the weekend. It felt like Carnaval, but better. It was my first Flip, and definitely won't be my last.

More Summer Reads!

New BooksZoe Perry1 Comment

I've returned to the UK after a little over a month in Brazil, first visiting friends and family in São Paulo, then participating in the British Council's Winter Translation School in the adorable coastal town of Paraty, followed by FLIP (Festa Literária Internacional de Paraty) literary festival. Of course, with the generous 32-kg weight limit on Brazilian flights, no trip of mine to or from Brazil is without its very own small-scale import/export operation. I arrived back in the UK with no fewer than 20 bottles of cachaça books. Gulp.

My haul included:

O sonâmbulo amador by José Luiz Passos

Paraísos artificiais by Paulo Henriques Britto

Ligue os pontos by Gregorio Duvivier

Por que uns e não outros? by Jailson de Souza e Silva

Não muito by Bolívar Torres

Big Jato by Xico Sá

Aos 7 e aos 40 by João Anzanello Carrascoza

Caderno de um ausente by João Anzanello Carrascoza

Moça com chapéu de palha by Menalton Braff

Meu coração de pedra-pomes by Juliana Franck

Biofobia by Santiago Nazarian

Supertrampo by Charles Peixoto

Feliz ano velho by Marcelo Rubens Paiva

Opisanie swiataby Veronica Stigger

O trágico e outras comédias by Veronica Stigger

Gran cabaret demenzial by Veronica Stigger

Meio intelectual, meio de esquerda by Antonio Prata

Nu, de botas by Antonio Prata

A mulher que transou com o cavalho e outras histórias by João Ximenes Braga

photo (4)
photo (4)

Companhia das Letras was also kind enough to send me another package of four new releases, which arrived right before I left, and included:

Sergio Y. vai à America by Alexandre Vidal Porto

Dias de feira by Julio Bernardo

Das paredes, meu amor, os escravos nos contemplam by Marcelo Ferroni

Flores artificiais by Luiz Ruffato

So, I've got some reading to do! New reviews hopefully coming soon.

Nominees announced for 2014 Prêmio Portugal Telecom de Literatura

Awards, NewsZoe PerryComment

Nominees were announced yesterday for the 2014 edition of the prestigious Portugal Telecom Prize for Literature. You'll find all 64 nominees on the website, but I wanted to mention a few highlights, including three writers I've had the pleasure of translating.

I was very happy to see Portuguese journalist and author Alexandra Lucas Coelho nominated in the Short Story/Crônica (a type of literary non-fiction) category for her book Viva México, published by Tinta-da-China. This was one of the books we discussed in last fall's And Other Stories Portuguese reading group, and I translated the sample.

Interestingly, out of the 22 finalists in this category, another Portuguese writer, Gonçalo Tavares, was also nominated for his own Mexico-themed work, acollection of short stories entitled Canções mexicanas (Mexican Songs). Brazilian writer Antônio Prata, who will be at Flip in a couple of months, was nominated for his collection of short stories, Nu, de Botas (Naked, in Boots).

In the novel category, several high-profile Brazilian and Portuguese writers were named. Gonçalo Tavares makes a second appearance among the finalists for his novel Matteo perdeu o emprego (Matteo Lost His Job), one of only two Portuguese writers in the list. Sérgio Rodrigues was nominated for O Drible (The Dribble), a book being lauded as Brazil's long-awaited great futebol novelMy translation of another of his novels, Elza: The Girlwill be available in September.

Adriana Lisboa, who appeared last year at Flipsidewas nominated for Hanói, and fellow Flipside participant, Bernardo Carvalho, is in the running with Reprodução (Reproduction). One of my personal favorites, Veronica Stiggerauthor of Os Anões, was nominated for Opisanie swiata. I've been having a hard time getting my hands on a copy of this book, but hope to pick one up soon.

Two finalists I have had in a pile at home but haven't read yet are Divórcio (Divorce) by Ricardo Lísias, one of Granta's top young Brazilian writers, and A tristeza extraordinária do leopardo-das-neves (The Extraordinary Sadness of the Snow Leopard – what a title!) by novelist, poet and playwright, Joca Reiners Terron.

New Reads for June!

New BooksZoe PerryComment

Brazilian publisher Companhia das Letras contacted me a few months ago to see if I'd be interested in receiving some of their new releases. I wasn't going say no to that, was I? Yesterday I finally received my package in the mail from Brazil (after it sat in the Kingsland High Street post office for nearly four weeks, unbeknownst to me). The shipment contained: Dias perfeitos (Perfect Days) by Brazilian crime fiction wunderkind Raphael Montes. Everyone is talking about this guy, and I know the rights have been sold for the US and Italy already (if not more countries); O Brasil é bom (Brazil is Good) by André Sant'Anna, a collection of 22 very short short stories/social commentary; O inventário das coisas ausentes (The Inventory of Missing Things), the latest by Carola Saavedra, one of Granta's top young Brazilian writers; and Semíramis by Ana Miranda. Considering I very nearly downloaded the first three titles last week, I'd say they did pretty well. Can't wait to dive into these.

Brazil Inside Out – CBC "Writers & Company" Podcast Special Series

NewsZoe PerryComment

Catching up on podcasts this weekend, I discovered I'd nearly missed a special five-part series on Brazil from the CBC's "Writers & Company" podcast with Eleanor Wachtel. Eleanor speaks with renowned children's author Ana Maria Machado (CBC, I love you, but her name is not pronounced 'My shadow'), who will be at Flipside later this year, the legendary Luis Fernando Veríssimo and Michel Laub (both have been translated by Margaret Jull Costa) and Bernardo Carvalho (at Flipside last year). Two of my favorites were the interviews with Sergio Rodrigues, author of Elza, The Girl, which will be published in English (my translation) this September, and with filmmaker José Padilha. They're well worth a listen!


2014 Flip and Flipside Lineups Announced

Events, NewsZoe Perry3 Comments

If you haven't heard already, some exciting announcements were made last week that will be of interest to Brazilian literature fans and philes. Flip – Festa Literária Internacional de Paraty, or Paraty International Literary Festival – and Flipside (think of it as Flip's British baby cousin) both revealed their 2014 lineups, for August and October, respectively. Flip is Brazil's largest literary festival (it's a big deal) and 2014 will be its eleventh year. Usually held in early July, they had to bump it back to July 30 - August 3 because of certain little sports event. Each year a different writer is honored, and this year is dedicated to renaissance man Millôr Fernandes, an author, translator, playwright, cartoonist, and screenwriter.

You can find the whole list on the Flip site, but I'll mention a few highlights I'm looking forward to: Antônio Prata, part of Granta's Best Young Brazilian Writers issue – you can also read Daniel Hahn's translation of his Four Short Tales at Words Without Borders; Eliane Brum, whose translation of One, Two by Lucy Greaves is forthcoming early next year; Fernanda Torres, the actress who wrote Fim; Gregorio Duvivier, who some may know from the hilarious webseries 'Porta dos Fundos' and who published a book of poetry this year called Ligue os pontos; and Man Booker winner Eleanor Catton. For the younger crowd, Flipinha and Flipzona will also be running their own programming, and Ferréz will be appearing at the latter.

Though I lived in Brazil for four years and have visited the quaint, coastal town of Paraty twice, I've never made it to Flip. I really hope several things will align this year and I can change that.

And, Flipside will be back this year, once again bringing some big Brazilian (and non-Brazilian) talent to the scenic shores of Snape (yes, that's its real name). It's a beautiful place with a nice vibe, and if you're in the area, it's a delightful way to spend the weekend. The list of Brazilian writers this year includes some big names, all of whom have been translated into English and, with the exception of two, all have new releases this year.

The lineup includes the gaúcho power trio (a title entirely of my own invention): Paulo Scott, author of Nowhere People (translated by Daniel Hahn); Daniel Galera, author of Blood-Drenched Beard (translated by Alison Entrekin); and Michel Laub, author of Diary of the Fall (tr. Margaret Jull Costa). You could even say their translators form the power trio of Portuguese translators.

Tatiana Salem Levy, another of Granta's Best Young Brazilian Writers, will also make an appearance. She was featured in the collection of short stories launched at last year's Flipside, Other Carnavals. I was a bit surprised to not find any of her novels in English translation, but if they're not already in the works, they will be soon. Socorro Acioli, author of The Head of the Saint (her first English translation, translated by Daniel Hahn) is the only writer in the lineup from the northeast of Brazil. And Ana Maria Machado, one of Brazil's most significant children's authors, will be back in Snape again this year, likely livening up the children's tent once more.

And in a non-Brazilian aside, as a Canadian I'm happy to see both Margaret Atwood (who was delightful at the British Library earlier this year) and Michael Ondaatje on the lineup.

See you in Flipside (and possibly Flip)!


Events, NewsZoe Perry1 Comment

It's now mid-May and things have been pretty quiet on the blog all this year. So what have I been up to, and what's on the schedule ahead? It's been a busy year so far for translation, which has made me very happy and kept me busy. In the last few months I've packed in translations of two novels by Brazilian authors that will both be out by late summer. The first is Elza: The Girl by Sergio Rodrigues, to be published by AmazonCrossing in September (October in the UK). I also translated Paulo Coelho's latest novel, Adultery, a collaboration with Margaret Jull Costa. It will be published by Knopf in the US in August, and Hitchinson in the UK. Somewhere in there I also translated a brilliant short story by João Ximenes Braga for Comma Press's Book of Rio, called "The Woman Who Slept With a Horse". It's available now.

I found much less success (and spent much less time) reading. I've picked up a few books that I wasn't quite excited enough about to mention here on the blog, most of them put down half-way, never to be picked up again. It's frustrating, but I've got some new releases coming my way, and have been digging into short stories, looking for new authors and new material.

In April I attended the London Book Fair, whose Literary Translation Centre was busier and better than ever. Another interesting, inspiring and exhausting week of all-things literary translation. Brazil was noticeably absent from the fair, and as translators shuttled off to parties and meetings with their respective source countries, I was left shaking my head as I passed stand after stand from everywhere from Estonia to Croatia to Mexico to Japan. Everywhere BUT Brazil. But I was stoked to run across this display in all its 9-foot glory:

At that point I was one of only about five people who knew I was the translator, but hey, it didn't keep me from doing a little skip.

There have also been a few noteworthy publications of Brazilian books in English already this year, and it's shaping up to be a record-breaker for Brazilian literature in translation. I read the brilliant and darkly humorous Family Heirloomsby Zulmira Ribeiro Tavares from Frisch & Co, translated by Daniel Hahn. Also out are Hotel Brasilby Frei Betto from Bitter Lemon, translated by Jethro Soutar, and With My Dog Eyes by the incredible Hilda Hist, translated by Adam Morris and published by Melville House.

There are lots of events on the horizon, too, starting with what promises to be a very cool discussion on Brazilian poetry at the Brighton Festival with poet Angélica Freitas and translators Hilary Kaplan and Daniel Hahn.

At the end of May, Book Expo America will focus on literary translation, with this year's Global Market Forum entitled “Books In Translation: Wanderlust for the Written Word.” It sounds like it will be inspired by the LBF's Literary Translation Centre. Just as a sidenote, as further proof that the US continues to lag far behind the UK when it comes to fostering the community of literary translators, the BEA doesn't appear to offer a one-day ticket, meaning attendees have to fork over a few hundred bucks (compared to the £15 I spent for a three-day pass to LBF) even if they just want to attend the one-day Global Market Forum. I had thought I'd be able to swing a trip to New York to join in, but unfortunately it's not going to happen. All the more reason to plan for the ALTA conference in November!

On June 2 there will be an event called 'From Rio to River: A Short Tour of Latin America' at the Free Word Centre to launch both The Book of Rio and The Football Crónicas, a collection from Ragpicker Press, founded by fellow translator Jethro Soutar.

This summer, of course, is the World Cup in Brazil. Smack in the middle of it will be Translate in the City, a literary translation summer school offering workshops in nine languages (the Portuguese group will be led by Danny Hahn, who led the BCLT summer school last year). There are still spaces available. I did the same summer school in 2012, when it was held at Birkbeck and can honestly say it was life-changing. Do it.

And shortly after the World Cup ends, the BCLT, in partnership with the British Council, the Brazilian National Library Foundation and the Universidade Federal Fluminense are hosting the first-ever translation winter school in beautiful Paraty, on the coast of Rio de Janeiro state. It will be strategically just before Flip festival. Just the idea of it makes my heart beat faster.

"Palavras Invisíveis" – Invisible Words

NewsZoe PerryComment

Before I got into translating books, I did a lot of translation work for ad agencies. I still do some advertising translation and my husband is a creative director, and I love to see creative, moving work for good organizations. I just found out about this beautiful project and had to share.

"Palavras invisíveis" is a collection of ten brand new stories written by great contemporary Brazilian authors, including the likes of Luis Fernando Veríssimo, Eliane Brum, Carlos de Brito e Mello, Antônio Prata and Estevão Azevedo, and is published only in braille! The initiative is from the Fundação Dorina Nowill, a philanthropic institution in Brazil working for the integration of the blind and visually impaired. 

The project's website says: "This book contains previously unpublished texts from Brazil's greatest writers. Too bad you can't read it. Now you know exactly how a blind person feels every time a new book is launched." From the website you can download an audio book.

I looked into the statistics, and the National Federation of the Blind says: "The most optimistic estimates project that today blind people have access to no more than 5 percent of books and other published works, and that is in the industrialized world. For the 90 percent of blind people living in developing nations, access to the written word is less than 1 percent." 

I wonder how many of those are in translation?


De Gados e Homens by Ana Paula Maia

Review, SynopsisZoe Perry2 Comments

Less a resolution, more a desire to be more mindful, I started 2014 determined to read more women authors, both in translation and untranslated (of which there are plenty to keep us all occupied in the latter category). De gados e homens(published by Editora Record, 2013) was my first Brazilian book of the year, and I am in love. I downloaded this 120-odd page book an hour before setting out to the airport for a weekend in Madrid, and had finished it by the time the plane landed. On the train home back to London I'd already downloaded three of her other books, and have since read her short collection of short stories, Javalis no Quintal e outras estórias. I can't get enough of Ana Paula Maia. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come on my conscious quest to read more women writers, and Ana Paula hasn't just set an impossibly high bar.

De gados e homens or 'Of Cattle and Men' (sidenote: I'm not entirely sold on this title, it feels gimmicky, but I suppose there is something Steinbeck-ian in the writing) is the story of Edgar Wilson, a protagonist who appeared in her previous trilogy that concluded with Carvão animal. Edgar is a former coal miner and now works at a slaughterhouse somewhere in the wide open spaces of Brazilian cattle country, where he lives in shared accommodation provided by the ranch. Although convinced his true calling lies in hog farming, he diligently and skillfully performs his duties (his craft?), slaughtering cattle to be sent to the nearby hamburger factory (though a hamburger has never touched his lips). The act of carefully putting the cattle to sleep before they reach their bloody end is an almost religious experience for Edgar, filled with important ritual.

One day, the cattle on the ranch begin to act strangely, and start to drop dead under unusual circumstances, some surreal, fantastical, even biblical. Edgar and the other employees are left guessing, wondering what (or who) could be behind the dark events. You're not quite sure if this is the apocalypse, or just a prank. Meanwhile, the owner of the ranch, Milo, is losing precious money on the dead livestock and the impoverished inhabitants of the surrounding area give thanks to the heavens for the much-needed (and free) food.

The slaughterhouse, the town, and all the characters are fictional. That includes Santiago, who arrives on the ranch from Finland, where he slaughtered reindeer in a ski mask; Burunga, who earns a healthy side income running bets on how long he can hold his head under water; and Bronco Gil, the mysterious wrangler with a glass eye. Yet no matter how far-fetched, they are all still entirely plausible. While reading I kept thinking: she gets it. She gets human beings and fiction and reality, and how you represent humans and reality in fiction, and not just the bored, upper class city dwellers populating so much of contemporary Brazilian literature. She gets rugged, hardworking, everyday men (aside from a mention of a character's ex-wife and a brief interaction with an eager animal rights activist, there are no female characters in the book) working in an unforgiving industry and in unforgiving surroundings.

Brazilian literature's typically light hand when it comes to editing often means reading things that feel almost there, but are frustratingly rough around the edges. In De gados e homens, every word feels in its right place, strung together into powerful sentences with surgical precision. Her prose is stark and direct. This is visceral, testosterone-fueled writing that hits you in the gut; there's no real heart in this book, and I'm not sure if you could even say it has a soul (though the topic does come up). In the span of a few paragraphs, Edgar Wilson shows the reader a profoundly tender side, then the depths of coldness and evil. In many places it feels like a Cormac McCarthy novel (and not just because of the bolt pistol), but I also found myself laughing out loud on nearly every page. What I also found fascinating about this book is Ana Paula's ability to create vivid, cinematic images through text. Her wikipedia entry cites Tarantino, the Coen brothers, and Sergio Leone as influences, and she has written scripts for both short and full-length films. It would make an excellent movie, and I really hope this is picked up for a screenplay.

Here is Editora Record's booktrailer:

Well, well... who knew Edgar Wilson was such a beefcake?  Not exactly the way I pictured him while reading, but the Brahman cattle and rolling hills are on the mark.

A bit more about the author:  

Ana Paula Maia hails from the Brazilian state of Rio de Janeiro, where she studied theatre, computer science, and media studies, and played in a punk rock band. De gados e homens is her fifth novel and her short stories have appeared in various anthologies. She has also written screenplays, and her adaptation of a novel by Mexican writer David Toscana is currently in filming. Her work has been translated into German, French and Serbian, and she blogs here. She is represented by the Anja Saile literary agency.

Capão Pecado by Ferréz

Review, SynopsisZoe Perry1 Comment

An hour after hearing Ferréz read at the final Flipside roundtable, copies of Capão Pecado and Deus foi almoçar were already downloading to my Kindle onthe train ride back to London. He was one of the writers I was most looking forward to hearing during the festival, and he proved to be funny and down-to-earth, as well as a very talented writer.

Capão Pecado was Ferréz's first novel. Though the book never explicitly states its location, it's not hard to figure out that Capão Pecado is really Capão Redondo, one of São Paulo's most (if not the most) dangerous favelas. Though I haven't seen the original edition of the book from 1999, I have heard that it differed quite a bit from its current format, including photos, a different layout, etc., and as such the ties to the real-life neighborhood were more obvious.

The book's protagonist is a teenager named Rael, a smart, sweet kid growing up in difficult conditions: his father is an alcoholic and the family can barely make ends meet. Rael reads a lot, he loves his mother, and he works hard, getting up early every morning to work at a bakery. We also meet several of his friends and peers, some more involved than others in the violence and drug trade that appears on nearly every page. According to the preface, most of these characters are real to some extent (not even changing their names), and I wonder if some parts of Rael are loosely based on Ferréz's younger self. Rael's dream was to be a writer, and for awhile you think he just might make it out, but his fate is sealed when he makes the fatal mistake of falling in love with his best friend's girlfriend.

Lately whenever people talk about the past, present and future of Brazilian literature, the conversation inevitably turns to a discussion of expected cultural markers and stereotypes, and how to move away from all the Copacabana, futebol, and samba. Following the international success of movies like City of God (Cidade de Deus) and Elite Squad (Tropa de Elite), favelas also increasingly enter into that list of stereotypes. But all those cultural markers are real and based on the reality of life for many Brazilians (favelas more than any).

Ferréz is often categorized as writing "marginal literature". He writes raw stories of life in the areas of urban São Paulo that are often overshadowed by their more famous counterparts in Rio. The feeling I had reading Capão Pecado was something akin to what I felt when I saw Walter Salles's film Linha de passe, which also takes place in the poverty-stricken outskirts of São Paulo – a bleak, but very real picture of life in São Paulo that made me immediately want to share it with friends and family who perhaps never get a glimpse of that side of Brazil.

More about the author: Ferréz was born Reginaldo Ferreira da Silva on the outskirts of São Paulo in 1975. In addition to Capão Pecado, his has written two other novels (Deus Foi Almoçar and Manual Prático doÓdio), a collection of poems (Fortaleza da Desilusão), as well as short stories, screenplays, and children's literature. He also runs a hip hop clothing line and works as a singer and songwriter. His writing has been translated and published in Italy, Germany, Portugal and Spain. You can read more about him on his blog, from the Mertin literary agency, or on Frankfurt Book Fair website.

Literary Awards for Portuguese Language Lovers: Prêmio Portugal Telecom de Literatura

Awards, NewsZoe Perry5 Comments

The Prêmio Portugal Telecom de Literatura (Portugal Telecom Prize for Literature) was established in 2003 by Portuguese phone company, Portugal Telecom, and since 2007 it is awarded annually to works of literature from any Portuguese-speaking country. Contrary to what the name may suggest, initially only Brazilian literature was eligible, and the original title of the prize was Prêmio Portugal Telecom de Literatura Brasileira (Portugal Telecom Prize for Brazilian Literature). It's a relatively new kid on the block, but has rapidly become one of the most important literary awards in Brazil, right on par with the Jabuti. Some have even referred to it as the Portuguese-language version of the Booker Prize. There are three categories: novel, poetry and crônicas and short stories. Winners are named for each category, as well as an overall winner from any category. Winners also take home impressive prize money, R$50,000, or over US$20,000.

Last night's winner for 2013 was José Luiz Passos, from the northeastern state of Pernambuco, for his second novel, O Sonâmbulo Amador (The Amateur Sleepwalker), published by Alfaguara. He had some healthy competition, running against Prêmio São Paulo winner Daniel Galera for Barba Ensopada de Sangue (Blood-Drenched Beard), soon to be published in English translation, and Portuguese writer Valter Hugo Mãe, who won the Portugal Telecom prize last year. Cíntia Moscovich won in the short story/crônicas category and Eucanaã Ferraz took top honors for poetry.

Remember Dalton Trevisan, winner of the Prêmio Camões in 2012 and four-time Jabuti winner? He tied for first in 2003 (with Bernardo Carvalho), then placed second in both 2007 and 2012, making him quite possibly Brazil's most-awarded contemporary writer to be totally ignored by English-language publishers. Except for a flurry of work in the seventies, he's barely been touched by translators, in any language. Come on now, publishers.

Finally, I happen to think they have one of the coolest award statues around.



Fim by Fernanda Torres

Review, SynopsisZoe Perry2 Comments

Another fresh pick, Fim (The End) by Fernanda Torres was published by Companhia das Letras on November 12. I was so excited to read this, but equally nervous. Fernanda Torres is an award-winning actress, the daughter of Brazilian cinema and theater royalty, and has built an incredible career both on stage and on screen. She's proven her chops in dramatic roles, but she can also totally crack me up. I spent a lot of my early days in Brazil watching episodes of her sitcom, Os Normais. She's written a play, and has recently been writing for Piauí, Brazil's version of the New Yorker, but this is her first book. Was this one more in Companhia das Letras’ string of novels written by celebrities (including Tony Bellotto, Vanessa da Mata or ol' olhos azuis, Chico Buarque)? After the first couple of pages, all fears washed away and I was hooked. Hilarious, often sad, it is an extremely well written and touching book.

Fimoriginally started as a short story, after a request from film director Fernando Meirelles (City of God, Blindness) for a project that ultimately never came to fruition. The book is about five aging, middle class friends in Rio de Janeiro: Alvaro, Ciro, Neto, Ribeiro and Silvio. It is told through a series of first person, interior monologues, interspersed with third-person narrative. Each of these main characters narrates one stream-of-consciousness chapter, which includes the moments leading up to and including their own death.

The book opens with Alvaro, the last of the group to die. He’s a bit of a curmudgeon, increasingly frustrated and exhausted by the aging process. Next we meet Silvio, a party animal until the very end. A beach bum and swimming instructor, Ribeiro is the perpetual bachelor of the group who never married or had children. Neto was the straight-laced family man, faithfully married his entire life. Ciro, a lawyer, is the final character introduced and the first of the group to die. After his shocking behavior towards his wife alienates him from everyone but Silvio, he is diagnosed with terminal cancer in his fifties, and ultimately dies alone. In addition to the main characters, we also learn a great deal about the various people (mostly women) orbiting the men’s lives, both past and present: wives, ex-wives, girlfriends, lovers, and children.

Fim is driven much more by all these characters than by any incident or pattern of events. Fernanda really nails these characters. The characters themselves have a shared past, but are ultimately very different individuals. It was amazing to me how Fernanda not only successfully managed to give each of the main characters a distinct, clear (and male) voice, but also how well she wrote in the first person. The stories are not chronological, and the narration jumps from past to present and back again. We therefore end up learning about the same events from several players, filling in information as the book goes along. The same stories begin to overlap, told from numerous perspectives, and the reader sees that not everything is how it seems.

There are no lessons being taught, no flowery prose–Fernanda's prose is lean without being minimalist, retaining all the color and brightness that makes Rio so special. The end result is literary without trying to be–just solid writing that pulses forward, giving the reader pause to reflect, laugh a little and even daydream about Rio in the 70s. Just as in Fernanda’s acting career, she shows she can handle dense drama with the same deftness as bawdy humor. She feels firmly in charge, and it never feels like a first novel. I will bet that this book will be a bestseller in Brazil on her name alone, but I suspect it could also have done well under a pen name.

More about the author: Fernanda Torres was born in Rio de Janeiro. Her career in the theater, cinema and on TV spans over 35 years. She won the award for Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival in 1986. She is a columnist for the Folha de S.Paulo newspaper, Veja Rio magazine and a regular contributor to Piauí magazine. Fim is her first novel.

You can visit her website here. And here's a video of Fernanda reading from the book: 

Literary Awards for Portuguese Language Lovers: Prêmio Jabuti

Awards, NewsZoe Perry5 Comments

The Prêmio Jabuti is arguably Brazil's most important literary award, and definitely the most well-known. This year's winners were announced in mid-October. Since its first edition in 1959 several categories have been added and there are currently 29, which cover a variety of formats and genres (including several non-fiction categories and literary criticism) as well as translation, illustration and cover design. Notably, the top awards for fiction and non-fiction, in addition to a lovely gold statue, also earn R$ 35,000 (a little over US$15,000). Not too shabby.

For some translation trivia, the Jabuti's most-awarded writer is Curitiba's famous recluse, Dalton Trevisan, winning in the short story category in 1960, 1965, 1995 and 2011 (he also won the Camões award in 2012). Even though publishers and agents often look to awards for new talent, and he has published nearly 40 collections of short stories and novels, only ONE of his books has been translated into English, The Vampire of Curitiba, published by Knopf way back in 1972. Good luck getting your hands on a copy, and hopefully someone out there will give him a second look!

Of course no major award is without controversy, and the Jabuti has plenty. In 2010, Record's publication Se Eu Fechar os Olhos Agora (If I Close My Eyes Now, tr. Nick Caistor) by Edney Silvestre, received the Jabuti for Best Novel in 2010, with Leite Derramado (Spilt Milk, tr. Alison Entrekin), by Chico Buarque, from Companhia das Letras, coming in second. The top three of each category were then put in the running for Book of the Year, and Leite Derramado took top honors. In the first phase voting was done by a jury of specialists, but the Book of the Year included a broader panel of judges, with several industry marketing and business executives. Record subsequently announced they would be bowing out of the award, alleging unfair political and media influence, saying it had become "a beauty contest".

This wasn't the first time this happened. In 2004 another book by Chico Buarque, Budapeste (Budapest, tr. Alison Entrekin) also won Book of the Year, but only came in third in the Best Novel category (Bernardo Carvalho's Móngolia won that year). And in 2008, the Book of Year was given to O Menino que Vendia Palavras, by Ignácio de Loyola Brandão, but only came in second in the children's literature category, won by Sei Por Ouvir Dizer, by Bartolomeu Campos de Queirós.

After this very public dispute, changes were announced for the 2011 edition, stipulating that only the winners of each category could run for Book of the Year.

Literary Awards for Portuguese Language Lovers: Prêmio São Paulo

AwardsZoe Perry3 Comments

We're in the midst of literary award season! In honor of the winners who have already been announced, and in preparation for those to be revealed very soon, I'll be doing a series of brief run-downs of some of the literary prizes most worth watching in the Portuguese-speaking world. The baby of the prêmio family, Prêmio São Paulo de Literatura, was launched in 2008 by the São Paulo state government and awards novels written in Portuguese and published in Brazil. But don't let its tender age fool you–over the last six years it has risen rapidly in both prestige and popularity (partly due to its generous cash prizes).

Winners are selected in three categories (each with 10 finalists): Best Novel of the Year by an Established Author, Best Novel of the Year by a Debut Author (under 40) and Best Novel of Year by a Debut Author (over 40). The debut author category was split this year by age, which I think is quite cool. To qualify, debut authors are allowed to have published short stories or poems, but it must be their first novel. 2013 winners (check out the finalists here) will be announced on November 25. The shortlists are, of course, full of familiar names, but the inclusion of debut authors means these lists are great places to see early-career authors earn a share of the spotlight, and they become a who's who of writers to watch. Also worth noting is that the requirements stipulate publication in Brazil, not nationality, which is why non-Brazilian authors like José Saramago and Ondjaki pop up.

Here's a selection of titles that are currently (or soon to be) available in English translation:

  • 2008 winner: O Filho Eterno by Cristóvão Tezza (Editora Record, 2007). Alison Entrekin's English translation The Eternal Son (Scribe, 2010) was a finalist for the 2012 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.
  • 2009 shortlist: A Viagem do Elefante by José Saramago (Companhia das Letras, 2008). Margaret Jull Costa's English translation, The Elephant's Journey (Vintage, 2010) won the 2011 Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize.
  • 2009 shortlist: Flores azuis by Carola Saavedra (Companhia das Letras, 2008) is currently being translated by Daniel Hahn. You can read his translator's diary about the process on the Free Word Centre website.
  • 2009 shortlist: Órfãos do Eldorado by Milton Hatoum (Companhia das Letras, 2008) English translation, The Orphans of Eldorado, (Canongate, 2010) was translated by John Gledson.
  • 2010 shortlist: Leite Derramado by Chico Buarque (Companhia das Letras, 2009) English title: Spilt Milk by Alison Entrekin (Atlantic, 2012).
  • 2010 shortlist: AvóDezanove e o Segredo do Soviético by Ondjaki (Companhia das Letras, 2009) The English translation, Granma Nineteen and the Soviet's Secret by Stephen Henighan, will be published by Biblioasis in 2014.
  • 2010 shortlist debut author: Se Eu Fechar os Olhos Agora by Edney Silvestre (Editora Record, 2009) English translation by Nick Caistor, If I Close My Eyes Now, was recently published by Doubleday (2013).
  • Adriana Lisboa's Azul Corvo (Rocco, 2010) was shortlisted in 2011. Alison Entrekin's English translation, Crow Blue, published by Bloomsbury, was recently launched at Flipside.
  • 2012 shortlist debut author: Bernardo KucinskiK. (Expressão Popular, 2011), translated by Sue Branford (Latin America Bureau, 2013).
  • 2012 shortlist: Paulo Scott'Habitante Irreal (Alfaguara, 2011) has been translated by Daniel Hahn, (Nowhere People) and will be published by And Other Stories in August 2014.


And Other Stories Portuguese Reading Group, Fall/Winter 2013

EventsZoe Perry1 Comment

It's time for another And Other Stories Portuguese reading group! If you're not familiar with these, publisher And Other Stories promotes several reading groups throughout the year in various languages, which are a great way to see what's out there, spread the word about great untranslated books and engage in some friendly debate with fellow book lovers.

The three titles chosen this time are:

          • O Retorno (The Return), by Dulce Maria Cardoso
          • Viva México (Viva Mexico), by Alexandra Lucas Coelho
          • Agora e na Hora da Nossa Morte (Now and at the Hour of our Death), by Susana Moreira Marques.

All three are by Portuguese women, and for the first time the selections include non-fiction. Also, all these beautiful books are from the great independent publisher Tinta-da-China.

If you can't read Portuguese, don't despair: English sample translations are available on the website (the Viva México extract was done by yours truly). Read a beautiful blog post by Julia Sanches, who did the translation of Agora e na Hora da Nossa Morte,here.

The meeting will be held at 6:30 pm on Thursday December 5, 2013 in the Strand Building at King’s College, London. If you can't make the meeting, you can still read the books and comment, virtually participating via the website.

Find out more here:

See you there!