You may have already read this, but last week, Publishing Perspectives ran a piece I wrote about Brazil being the Guest of Honor at the Frankfurt Book Fair this fall. Below is that article in full with extra links to all the books mentioned.
(And as a sidenote, in addition to the review of João Almino’s The Book of Emotions that we ran last week, I’ll be posting reviews of a few other Brazilian works over the next few weeks.)
Last month I was fortunate enough to be the sole American representative to take part in the Brazilian Publishing Experience 2013, a specially organized cultural exchange program designed to help promote Brazilian literature to the rest of the world. We spent ten days total in Brazil, both in Rio de Janeiro and in the unbelievable city of Paraty, where we were able to attend FLIP —the Greatest Book Festival in the World. (No, seriously. Not only was the line-up loaded with stars—Geoff Dyer, Karl Knausgaard, John Banville, Lydia Davis—but it took place in one of the most beautiful spots on earth.)
The vast majority of our discussions centered around the details of the Brazilian market. There are approximately $4 billion in sales every year, a quarter of which is government purchases for schools. Ebooks make up like 2% of the market, but this will grow thanks to the increased presence of Amazon and Kobo and Apple in Brazil. Most bookstores are in São Paulo and Rio, which is what one would expect, but there are publishers throughout Brazil, many of which will be at the Frankfurt Book Fair this fall.
In addition to simply learning about the Brazilian market, this trip also served as a opportunity for the Brazilian publishers to unveil some of the things they’re planning for Frankfurt—the attending authors, the cultural and literary programming, etc. As frequently happens to me after one of these trips, I’ve been on a Brazilian lit bender ever since I got back. (Well, a literature and caipirinha bender. Not to mention a newfound love for soccer superstar Neymar Jr.)
Anyway, for anyone interested in learning more about Brazilian literature, below is a bit of an overview of some classic Brazilian texts (available in English) and some highlights of what’s being planned for Frankfurt.
Brazil doesn’t get nearly the amount of literary respect it deserves. First and foremost, it’s the birthplace of Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis, one of the greatest world writers of all time. His novels The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas (a.k.a. Epitaph for a Small Winner) and Dom Casmurro are ingenious, playful books that bring to mind the meandering meta-fiction of Tristram Shandy. Also worth checking out is the new edition of The Alienist that Melville House recently published.
Thanks to the success of Benjamin Moser’s biography of Clarice Lispector, Why This World,& there’s been a resurgence of interest in her work. In the States, New Directions recently reissued five of her books in new translations— The Hour of the Star, Agua Viva, A Breath of Life, Near to the Wild Heart and The Passion of G.H. —all of which are worth reading.
On a slightly more contemporary note, the third author I’d like to mention is Rubem Fonseca, not just because Open Letter publishes his collection The Taker and Other Stories, but because he was one of the first authors to write about the dark, twisted, violent aspects of life in Brazil. His faux-detective novels, like High Art are really brilliant, as is the recently translated collection, Winning the Game (Tagus Press).
The recent Granta special issue on the Best Young Brazilian Novelists is the best source of information about the younger generation of writers in Brazil, several of whom will be attending the Frankfurt Book Fair, including Michel Laub (who has a novel coming out in the UK), Daniel Galera, and Carola Saavedra.
Two of the authors I’m most excited to meet in Frankfurt are Ignácio de Loyola Brandão (Zero, And Still the Earth, The Good-Bye Angel) and João Almino (The Book of Emotions, Five Seasons of Love). Both have written books in which the city serves as a primary character—São Paulo for Brandão and Brasilia for Almino—and the lives described are less than ideal. Brandão will participate on the “Polyphonic View” panel at 10.30 on Saturday, October 12th, and Almino will be appearing in a panel on “Allegories and Utopias” at 14:30 the same day.
The Graphic Novelists.
Another panel that I’m personally excited about is the “Meeting of Generations” graphic novel event taking place on Sunday, October 13th at 10:00. This panel brings together a couple traditional comic artists—Ziraldo and Maruicio de Sousa—along with the newer generation, including Fábio Moon & Gabriel Bá, the twin brothers behind Daytripper (Vertigo).
In addition to all the prose writers mentioned above (and a couple dozen more that will also be in attendance), Brazil is sending over a bunch of poets, including Adélia Prado and Hector Ferraz Mello, who will discuss their ironic and metaphysical approaches to poetry (“Perplexed Contemplations,” Thursday, October 10th, 16:30) and Affonso Romano de Sant’Anna and Nicolas Behr who will share their experimental, satiric poems (“Cannibal Satire,” Saturday, October 12th, 16:30).
This is just a sample of what Brazil is planning for their presence as the Guest of Honor. They’re bringing 70 authors in total, and putting on 32 literary events — a perfect opportunity to introduce Brazilian literature to the world, and show everyone that there’s more to this country than The Girl from Ipanema.
César Aira dishes up an imaginative parable on how identity shapes our sense of belonging with Dinner, his latest release in English. Aira’s narrator (who, appropriately, remains nameless) is a self-pitying, bitter man—in his late fifties, living again with. . .
Originally published in French in 2007, We’re Not Here to Disappear (On n’est pas là pour disparaître) won the Prix Wepler-Fondation La Poste and the Prix Pierre Simon Ethique et Réflexion. The work has been recently translated by Béatrice Mousli. . .
Even though the latest from Jean Echenoz is only a thin volume containing seven of what he calls “little literary objects,” it is packed with surprises. In these pieces, things happen below the surface, sometimes both literally and figuratively. As. . .
Who is this woman? This is the question that opens Xiao Bai’s French Concession, a novel of colonial-era Shanghai’s spies and revolutionaries, police and smugglers, who scoot between doorways, walk nonchalantly down avenues, smoke cigars in police bureaus, and lounge. . .
For the past 140 years, Anna Karenina has been loved by millions of readers all over the world. It’s easy to see why: the novel’s two main plots revolve around characters who are just trying to find happiness through love.. . .
Linn Ullmann’s The Cold Song, her fifth novel, is built much like the house about which its story orbits: Mailund, a stately white mansion set in the Norwegian countryside a few hours drive from Oslo. The house, nestled into the. . .
Karel Schoeman’s Afrikaans novel, This Life, translated by Else Silke, falls into a genre maybe only noticed by the type of reader who tends toward Wittgenstein-type family resemblances. The essential resemblance is an elderly narrator, usually alone—or with one other. . .
In Joris-Karl Hyusmans’s most popular novel, À rebours (Against Nature or Against the Grain, depending on the which translated edition you’re reading), there is a famous scene where the protagonist, the decadent Jean des Esseintes, starts setting gemstones on the. . .
There are books that can only wisely be recommended to specific types of readers, where it is easy to know who the respective book won’t appeal to, and Kristiina Ehin’s Walker on Water is one these. What makes this neither. . .
Imagine the most baroque excesses of Goethe, Shakespeare, and Poe, blended together and poured into a single book: That is The Nightwatches of Bonaventura. Ophelia and Hamlet fall in love in a madhouse, suicidal young men deliver mournful and heartfelt. . .