“For my part, it is good to be the first French woman to win this prize, and with writing that can be a source of freedom.” It was with declarations like this that the French writer Annie Ernaux marked her recent visit to Brazil, during another edition of the International Literary Festival of Paraty (Flip). The prize to which the author refers is none other than the Nobel Prize in Literature, with which she was awarded in 2022 by the Swedish Academy, which stated that her work “examines, consistently and from different angles, a life marked by strong gender, language and class disparities”.
The maximum award in world literature to the French author – only the 17th woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 117 editions – crowns, in a way, a 2022 in which they were the protagonists. Flip, where Annie Ernaux was a big star, leading sales during the event – her books in Brazil, such as O Acontecimento and O Jovem, are published by the independent label Fósforo –, was also guided by heated debates involving misogyny, racism and homophobia, among other topics.
This attitude was already present in the honored author of this year’s Flip, Maria Firmina dos Reis, a black woman who in the 19th century wrote about the wounds of slavery when the regime was in force in the country, launching the book Úrsula, in 1859. Born in São Luís do Maranhão 200 years ago, Maria Firmina lived for almost a century – she died at 95 –, being a pioneer in many ways. In this year of so many anniversaries, such as the bicentenary of Independence and the 100th anniversary of the Modern Art Week, Maria Firmina was remembered within a movement to rescue references that were left aside over time.
The party brought discussions that were guided by names that are not on the bestseller list, but that are aware of social transformations and voices that have almost always been silenced. Trans authors, such as Amora Moira and Camila Sosa Villada, had space in the programming, as well as black women, such as the North American Saidiya Hartman, professor at Columbia University in Afro-American studies, and the Brazilian Ana Maria Gonçalves, author of the best -seller Color Defect. At times, the debates became heated.
Flip’s line of action, of privileging lesser-known names, who often publish in smaller publishers, was also reflected in the main award for Brazilian literature. The 2022 Jabuti Prize, awarded in November, had a significant number of women’s victories. Pernambucan Micheliny Verunschk, with O Som do Rugido da Onça, won in the literary novel category. She also has titles published by the label Martelo from Goiás. Women also won in the poetry (Luiza Romão), short story (Eliana Alves Cruz), children’s (Silvana Tavano) and youth (Ana Elisa Ribeiro) categories.
Other books that won the Jabuti also revealed a preference for more engaged themes. This is the case with the second volume of Escravidão, by journalist Laurentino Gomes – in 2022, he released the last book of the trilogy, but Jabuti always refers to the literary production of the previous year. The book-report was one of the favorites, but the competition was tough, winning, among others, the biography of Lula, written by Fernando Morais. Also winning the trophy was Enciclopédia Negra, by Jaime Lauriano, Flávio dos Santos Gomes and Lilia Schwarcz, a major survey of Afro culture in Brazil.
The literature retrospective started a series, which POPULAR will publish on Saturdays in December, to recall the main facts in different areas of culture. Next weekend the subject will be music.
HIGHLIGHTS IN LITERATURE
the great lady
Few names are equal in importance in Brazilian literature to that of the São Paulo writer Lygia Fagundes Telles. Author of remarkable books, such as As Meninas and Seminar dos Ratos, she was innovative in her prose, giving other meanings to female characters, developing them in a more contemporary way and facing taboos. Active on the national literary scene for decades, a member of the Brazilian Academy of Letters and internationally renowned, Lygia was a huge loss in 2022. When she died, she was about to turn 99 years old, despite the version that she was born in 1918.
a cowardly attack
The scene, at a literary meeting in the USA, was the most feared by the Anglo-Indian writer Salman Rushdie. Since he published the controversial work The Satanic Verses, in the late 1980s, and had a death sentence issued against him by the then fundamentalist religious leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini, Rushdie has had his life transformed. He had to live in hiding places and received constant threats. 34 years later, a man tried to serve his sentence, stabbing him in front of an audience on Aug. Hastily attended to, his life was saved, but he lost one of his eyes and part of the movement of an arm.
Another name in Brazilian literature was awarded the Camões Prize, the most coveted in the field in Portuguese. In 2022, the chosen one to receive the honor was the essayist, novelist and short story writer Silviano Santiago. The author’s work is wide and varied. Only works in literary criticism he has more than 30 titles published. Doctor in French Letters from the Sorbonne University, in Paris, since the 1960s Silviano has become a reference in the analysis of literature in several languages, also being translated in numerous countries. Also as a fiction writer, he has already won the Jabuti Prize with the novel Machado.
Centenary of a Nobel
The only author in Portuguese to win the Nobel Prize for Literature to date, the Portuguese writer José Saramago had his birth centenary remembered and celebrated in various parts of the world, especially in Portugal and Brazil. Owner of a prose that is instigating due to the themes and the way in which it is carried out, Saramago is the author of books such as Essay on Blindness, The Gospel According to Jesus Christ and Intermittency of Death. Readings of his texts, theater plays based on his work and launching new editions of his titles were some of the initiatives of this year of celebration.
Top Ten Releases of the Year
Annihilar (Michel Houellebecq) – By one of the most controversial authors today, another work by the French writer Submissão arrived in Brazil in November. He mixes humor, political satire, terrorism and family disillusionment – ingredients he usually works with – to weave yet another acidic critique of the dysfunctional society we have.
Murphy and Watt (Samuel Beckett) – Works by one of the most intense and innovative playwrights of the 20th century have recently been reissued in Brazil, with luxurious editorial treatment and new readings on plays that helped change contemporary theater. In addition, Beckett always brings excellent reflections on life.
Futuro Ancestral (Ailton Krenak) – One of the leading names in producing records of the wisdom of indigenous peoples, this new work of yours gives an even deeper dimension to the thought and imagination that drive cultures that are almost always despised. An invitation to see the world, life and nature with other eyes, other approaches.
Jaira’s Business (Juliana Dal Piva) – In a year in which political passions were at the forefront, this book by the journalist for the UOL portal reveals the obscure business of the president who tried for re-election to the post and lost. The many unexplained stories involving Jair Bolsonaro and his family were investigated for years before reaching this report.
From Beginning to End (Marcelo Rubens Paiva) – A great and strong love story that didn’t work out. This motto guides this new novel by the author of the classic Feliz Ano Velho. Here, a youthful passion that involves other people will forever mark the lives of a man and a woman who, much later, will review the past and settle accounts.
In Search of Me (Viola Davis) – The trajectory full of obstacles of a black girl who dreamed of being a star, achieving her goal, is narrated in this autobiography of the actress, who came to Brazil to promote the work. Oscar winner and influential Hollywood name, Viola Davis makes her life a testimony against prejudice.
Don’t Ask Me Ever (Natalia Ginzburg) – One of Italy’s most important authors of the 20th century, she was very active in the press. This collection of texts brings together several of the works that she published between 1968 and 1970 in the daily newspaper La Stampa, in which she reveals the keys to her view of the world and, thus, her ways of understanding and making literature.
Sul & Oeste (Joan Didion) – An iconic journalist at the junction between information and literature, she left works that entered the canon, especially those in which she deals with her own pain. In this work, we can see a little behind the scenes of her investigations, with notes, drafts and impressions about trips to various parts of the USA.
The Passenger (Cormac McCarthy) – One of the most celebrated novelists in the English language and author of works that have already been adapted for cinema, such as Where the Old Men Have No Time and The Road, Cormac presents this, which is the first volume of a full adventure of blood and guilt, in his style, through the southern United States in the 1980s.
Tarsila – A Sweet-Bitter Life (Mary del Priore) – Biography that reveals the many phases of the life of the most famous plastic artist in Brazil and one of the icons of Modernism, this work accompanies the successes and misadventures, especially affective ones, of Tarsila do Amaral. The book seeks to draw a portrait with lyricism, something always very strong in the painter’s trajectory.
Farewells in 2022
Jô Soares – In addition to being one of the most popular presenters and comedians in Brazil, Jô Soares was also a successful writer. Books like O Xangô de Baker Street and O Homem que Matou Getúlio Vargas became bestsellers and were adapted. Jô died on August 5, aged 84.
Thiago de Melo – The poet of the waters, a powerful voice that echoed from the Amazon. With strength and lyricism, he was a defender of the environment, reinforcing, in his verses, the beauty and importance of nature, of the native peoples of the forest and the need to preserve these riches. He left us on January 14th at the age of 95.
Arnaldo Jabor – Innovative filmmaker and combative journalist, Jabor, for many years, was an influential opinion in Brazil, also leaving books, especially chronicles. Among his titles are Eu Sei Que Vou Te Amar, which he transposed from one of his most famous films, and Amor É Prosa, Sexo É Poesia. He died on February 15, aged 81.
Cândido Mendes – Member of the Brazilian Academy of Letters and author of an important essay, Cândido Mendes was a lawyer and professor, having founded a university in Rio de Janeiro with his name. Among his books are Nationalism and Development and The Armed Reason. The writer died on February 17, aged 93.
Danuza Leão – She has always been synonymous with elegance, in fashion, etiquette and also in the way she writes. Ex-wife of journalist Samuel Wainer and sister of singer Nara Leão, Danuza had prestigious columns in newspapers and released successful books, such as In the Room With Danuza and Almost Everything. She died on June 22, aged 88.
Olavo de Carvalho – Author idolized among conservatives and supporters of the extreme right in Brazil, Olavo de Carvalho, who called himself a philosopher, had great influence on members of the so-called “ideological wing” of the Bolsonaro government. Some of his books have been best sellers. He died in the US, where he lived, on January 24, aged 74.
Cláudio Bojunga – Renowned journalist and biographer, Cláudio Bojunga accumulated awards in his career, such as the Jabuti. Among his best-known works are the biography of Juscelino Kubitscheck (JK, O Artista do Impossível) and of the founder of radio in Brazil, Roquette-Pinto (O Corpo a Corpo com o Brasil). He died on May 4, aged 82.