Ilze Duarte is actively pitching her translations of two novels by award-winning Brazilian author Marilia Arnaud. Arnaud is an attorney, novelist, and short story writer living in João Pessoa, the capital of the state of Paraíba, in the northeast of Brazil. Her short stories are featured in collections and anthologies, including Luis Rufatto’s edited volume 30 Women Who Are Making The New Brazilian Literature (2005). She has penned three novels: Suite of Silence, Liturgy of the End, and The Secret Bird, winner of the 2021 Kindle Prize in Literature in Brazil. Her short story collection The Book of Affects, translated by Ilze Duarte, is a recipient of the 2024 Sundial Literary Translation Award.
Read Ilze Duarte's interview with Marilia Arnaud on the PELTA (Portuguese to English Literary Translators Association) blog.
English-language rights are available for purchase. Contact Ilze for additional pitch materials and agent information.
Marilia Arnaud, author
Suíte de Silêncios (2012), 192 pages
Suíte de Silêncios (Suite of Silence) is the story of Duína Torrealba, told in a letter of sorts to her beloved, who has left her. The narration alternates between the present time, when the narrator shares her memories of their love affair and the pain of separation, and the narrator’s childhood, when her mother left the family. In her efforts to cope with the trauma of abandonment, Duína has sought refuge in her music and her silence. Duína describes the aftermath of her mother’s departure and its effects on her psyche: an eroded self-esteem and a profound sense of guilt, which in turn rendered her vulnerable to a predatory adult. This love letter Duína addresses to her beloved is also a testament to her deep desire to live a life that is genuine, albeit steeped in pain, and to be true to herself, even as she tries to understand who that self is. Rendered in refined, evocative, lyrical prose, Suite of Silence reads like a sad yet delightful poem.
As in all of Arnaud’s work, descriptions of place and the protagonist’s relationship to it immerse us in the character’s physical and emotional world. Here is Ilze's translation of a passage where Duína describes her former lover’s hometown, Pedra Santa (Holy Rock):
Pedra Santa sleeps, lulled by the rain that washes the dust off the streets and runs down the drains, soaking the earth with humanity. I hear the quiet chords of its breathing, patient and resigned; I feel the slightly rancid breath of the old town.
What does Pedra Santa dream about, I wonder?
From here, I spot facets of its distracted beauty: sidewalks bathed in a dancing, faded luminosity, which reaches me and sprawls out, wobbly, across the floor and walls of this room; trees with bending boughs, moaning out the notes of a violin in need of tuning; the web of narrow streets and avenues intersecting and stretching out amidst bridges lined with old lamps and iron statues; the river with its slimy belly, its sleepless and capricious waters; the church tower and its belfry, where a bell dies of loneliness.
Where is the heart of Pedra Santa, my love?
Just answer and please do not ask anything. Do not ask why I write to you. I write because words are out there, like the town, the night, the rain, the river, before me, inside me, a torrent of words that do not fulfill me. Words are points of light in the pitch black of lost things, glimmers of hope, the gaze of a mother with flowers tucked behind her ears, a miracle full of faith waiting to be achieved.
Praise for Suite of Silence
The dense and beautiful Suite of Silence is the debut novel of short story writer and Paraíba native Marília Arnaud. Her debut in this genre reaches us with great stamina and a moving narrative, full of lyricism and steeped in a dense atmosphere. The narrative voices explore the possible guises of love, but above all, the unique ways the protagonist tries to balance, from an early age, the equation of love, loss, and mourning. Mariana Lage, author and journalist
Marilia Arnaud’s novel belongs in the tradition of the urban-existentialist narrative, mastered by Clarice Lispector. Duína’s narrative is, in fact, strongly existentialist. The protagonist is all anguish. Duína searches for Eros, for life. Her narrative is one of despair, and yet, the reader is held captive to a narrative voice that flows well and is attractive. Thus, the death that sits upon Duína is offset by the vital energy of the narrative. Rinaldo de Fernandes, author, literature professor, and literary critic
Ilze Duarte has written about her experience of discovering Marilia Arnaud’s work and translating Suite of Silence. Click here for her essay Another Kind of Emergence, published in Hopscotch Translation.
O Pássaro Secreto (2021), 196 pages
In O Pássaro Secreto (The Secret Bird), forty-year-old Aglaia Negromonte recalls the events that have shaped her and affected her deeply. At age thirteen, Aglaia learns she has a half-sister, Thalie, born of an affair between her father, a well-known actor and playwright, and a French actress. Thalie, also a teenager, is sent to live with the Negromontes. When Thalie wins the affection of everyone in the family, Aglaia is tormented by jealousy and a sharp sense of betrayal. Lost in a feverish desire for revenge, Aglaia is determined to destroy what is causing her pain and comes dangerously close to destroying herself.
The title of the novel refers to a winged creature that Aglaia feels inhabits her body and soul and is a manifestation of her pain and anxiety. She calls it the Thing.
In this passage, Aglaia recounts an event that reveals much of her father’s character and the impact of his emotional distance on her:
Cloistered in that room, he spent his days reading, writing, talking on the telephone, practicing lines again and again.
I remember in particular the day Heitor made the book I was reading disappear. I had gone to the bathroom and left it open on my bed. Back in my room, I couldn’t find it. My mother, who usually settled such disputes, had left for work. After scouring every room to no avail, I thought I would turn to my father.
I knocked once, twice, three times. I was about to give up when he opened the door, visibly cross. I dissolved into tears and begged him to go do something about that primitive brother of mine and make him return my book. He shook his head, looked at me in that way that always made me feel like the smallest of all creatures, and told me we were an intolerable hindrance, and sometimes it was only too easy to understand Herod. He slammed the door on me. When I could no longer see him, he let out a curse word. My mother loathed curse words and had expressly forbidden us to use them. But what was ugly and shameful in us was in my father a rhetorical impulse.
I didn’t know what “hindrance” meant, but I soon intuited it couldn’t be anything good. Despite being only ten or eleven, I sensed at that very moment how difficult it was for my father, the only one I had, to exercise his fatherhood. Neither the curse word nor the mention of Herod bothered me. What disturbed me was the vehemence and the truth with which his words reached me, knocked me down, and nailed me to the ground.
I wished to kill and bury that feeling, bury it deeply, but the angry paws of something expanding inside me kicked it about, as if my father’s difficulty, turned into hurt in me, were a ferocious predator. The feeling came to blows with something growing inside me in a tussle of sharp talons and fangs, and I couldn’t gather the strength to break them up.
Praise for The Secret Bird
The masterful character development. The assured and lyrical narrative voice. The perfectly timed progression of events. The richly textured narrative. The suspension of predictability. All these elements contributed to the high-voltage fictional power delivered by The Secret Bird and coalesce as its most expressive, unique quality. João Anzanello Carrascoza, Jabuti winner and judge of the 2021 Kindle Prize in Literature
Aglaia is a pilgrim walking a fine line between tenderness and torment. This is a devastating novel that takes us to the core of the human condition. Itamar Vieira Jr., Jabuti finalist and Ocean and LeYa winner
Click here for a video of Ilze reading another passage from The Secret Bird for Translators Aloud.
An excerpt of The Secret Bird appears in Ilze's translation in the Spring 2022 issue of Northwest Review, available in print.