Brazilians reading works by Brazilian authors
In a previous post (11/04/22), I bemoaned the difficulties Brazilian authors experience in having their books published and promoted in Brazil. As I mentioned then, Brazilian publishers face fierce competition from larger, wealthier publishers from abroad, especially the U.S. Sales figures in the upper hundreds are often considered a success for domestic titles in Brazil.
In this post, I celebrate the fact that, despite being inundated with foreign titles, Brazilians are indeed reading works by Brazilian authors. Subscription- and social-media-based book clubs select titles by Brazilian authors, if not exclusively then at least part of the time, and in many cases the selections are works by living authors. Middle and high schools, of course, still teach Brazilian literature in Portuguese classes, though teachers usually don't assign works by contemporary writers.
I am very happy to say that Marília Arnaud, a writer from João Pessoa, Paraíba whose work I translate, has been read by Brazilians in such book clubs and in high school classrooms. In 2021, Arnaud won the Kindle Prize in Literature for her novel O Pássaro Secreto (The Secret Bird). Her novel was chosen from 2,400 entries as one of five finalists, and Marília received the prize at a ceremony streamed live. I was fortunate to attend it and witness Marília open her box and pull from it her golden award. As part of the prize, O Pássaro Secreto was featured by the subscription-based book club TAG as its May selection and distributed to thirty thousand readers around Brazil!
O Pássaro Secreto continues to find Brazilian readers. This weekend, I was thrilled to learn Marília was invited to participate in this month's meeting of a reading group that had just read the novel. Of the group's ninety members, fifty attended the event, which included a lovely dinner, an animated discussion of the book, a performance by an actress personifying the secret bird, and a table representing Aglaia's library--or a good sampling of it. Aglaia is the novel's protagonist/narrator, the daughter of an actor and playwright, who exposes her from an early age to a wide range of literary works by Brazilian and international authors. Here are some photos of the event, organized by Confraria das Artes, a nonprofit cultural center in Recife, capital of the northeastern state of Pernambuco.
The book that introduced me to Marília Arnaud's work, Suíte de Silêncios (Suite of Silence), published in 2012, remains less well known in Brazil. This is the novel that reawakened me to my vocation as a translator, which had lain dormant for decades, and led to my meeting Marília and working with her closely on my translations. I hope more readers will discover Suíte de Silêncios and enjoy its masterful character development and stunning lyricism.
Fortunately, Brazilian high school students have read Suíte de Silêncios too. A few years ago, a Portuguese teacher at a João Pessoa high school assigned Suíte to her students. The principal contacted Marília and invited her to come to the school and talk to the students about the book. Here is a picture of the visit.
Marília says the students asked insightful questions, and the discussion was lively and stimulating.
Another high school Portuguese teacher, this one in São Paulo, contacted Marília on social media to let her know his students had read Suíte de Silêncios. He said he had found her book while browsing titles at a bookstore. He bought it, read it, loved it, and assigned it to his students. He shared with her the picture below. Some of the students also contacted her on social media with questions about the book.
I am still in touch with Brazilian friends who went to school with me. I asked them recently if their kids, who are now in middle and high school, read Brazilian literature regularly in their Portuguese classes, as we did at that age. My friends said that is still the case. It warms my heart to know young people in Brazilian schools continue to read high quality literary works by Brazilian authors.
I am a little envious of the students who were able to talk to the author of the book they had just read. To be assigned a novel by a living author and to be given the opportunity to ask her questions, share impressions of the book with her--what a gift! Kudos to these outstanding Portuguese teachers.
I hope you are curious about the two works by Marília Arnaud I mention in this post. I have translated Suíte de Silêncios in its entirety and am completing my translation of O Pássaro Secreto. You can read excerpts of both books in the pitches section of this website.
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