Gringa Reads

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.