I’m in Rio de Janeiro on the “Brazilian Publishing Experience 2013” trip with a half-dozen wonderful Germans (all familiar with their Kant), and a Spaniard, ready to learn about Brazilian publishing and Brazilian cultural as a whole. About this, I have lots to share. Let’s get the work part of this post out of the way first:
1. The Conexões Itauú Cultural Database is maybe the coolest thing we found out about today. Check out this site to play around, but basically, this databas allows you to explore and analyze the responses of a couple hundred professors/researcher-professor-translator/translators of Brazilian literature from around the world. It’s a—in drunken Chad parlance—super awesome resource and one that will continue to expand in importance of the next XX number of years.
Couple other random cool facts about this: 1) It’s sponsored by the largest banco in Brazil. See that, Chase/Citibank? You fuckers don’t sponsor anything worthwhile, aside from foreclosures and second derivative debts. Sod off. 2) One of the major findings is that “Brazilistas”—typically researchers from other countries with an interest in Brazil—are much different than they used to be. Nowadays, these professors tend to be from Brazil, and much less awed by the Face of Brazil as constructed by Jorge Amado and Paulo Coehlo. These Brazilistas are into Brazilian film, pop music, and contemporary culture—not the canon as constructed by American politically influenced academics. (I was going to write
stooges academics, but that seemed mean towards the poor American souls who bought all that 70s and 80s American rhetoric.)
2. At the Academia Brasileira de Letras/Brazilian Academy of Letters I saw Machado de Assis’s Desk! (Still can’t get enough of saying “Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis” over and over. Say it. Say it now. It makes your lips do things that are almost dirty with pleasure.):
3. The Livraria da Travessa bookstore in Centro Rio is pretty sweet. A great, old-school indie bookstore with a healthy mix of Brazilian literature and works in translation. They also have a fantastic outlook on serving customers first, on creating an atmosphere, and not believing in ebooks as the ultimate destroyer of normal old “boring” print books. (Agree. This is too human to die. Or rather, if it dies, and we’re not human anymore, I’d rather not be around to witness.)
One problem: Unless I was secretly super high on some mystery drug, their books weren’t in anything like alphabetical order. I tried looking for works by a half-dozen Brazilian authors I’m intrigued by, but I couldn’t figure out where the ‘S’s would be when the ‘R’s preceded the ‘L’s . . . A chaotic bookstore is very admirable, and so this is less of a complaint and more of a wish that I understood the secret system . . . It’s like a W.A.S.T.E. sort of organization . . .
Now the FUN STUFF:
4. That was a historic night of soccer/fútbol last night. Seriously. Who really thought a team headed by Neymar Jr., Fred (pronounced “Frey-dah”?), and Hulk (SMASH!) could really beat SPAIN? hand down Yet . . . Three minutes into the Confederations Cup Final, Fred knocked home an insane, lucky, skilled, miracle goal and everything outside my hotel window exploded. Fireworks, screaming, all of it. Fútbol means so much to millions and millions of people. Americans don’t “get” this. But that’s a stupid statement to make, when 120 million watch the Super Bowl. Soccer is that. But different.
Anyway, the second I heard that excitement, I left my hotel. The first official meeting of our trip—a group dinner at a local restaurant—was scheduled to take place starting at approximately halftime. Initially, flying into this city, thinking about riots and the fact that the government is pissing cash at footballers and Olympics games while the commoners are starving without real health care, etc., I figured I’d watch the game from the safety of my hotel. No crowds, no politics. But. You hear that first firework that scream of PUTA MERDA—all bets are off. So I rushed to the nearest bar and cheered my ass off in favor of the semi-arrogant Neymar—my new soccer god.
And of course our dinner took place in an outside tent with about a thousand vocal supporters of Brazil. And I was one of them. For a night. This was—as João Cezar said at our first meeting—the best match Brazil has played in a decade. Next summer’s World Cup? Expect no blog updates. At least none that deal with literature.
5. But how can you write about fúbol in Brazil, in Rio, without writing about the movement? Walking around shortly after I arrived at my hotel, I was handed this, which I still haven’t quite deciphered:
6. More importantly, before our last meeting today, we ran headlong into a group of protesters—all of whom were retired folks fighting for appropriate support and healthcare—thing EVERYONE should get behind (if you don’t, you might as well be working for Citibank/Chase, you douche). And this woman, my favorite protester ever:
7. The first night I’m in a hotel in a foreign country, I always watch way too much TV. I don’t know if anyone has every noticed this, but it’s like a god damn drug. Always so mysterious in its foreignness, yet so recognizable in its deplorable nature.
So, last night I watched Teste De Infidelidade, which, if I’m deciphering it correctly, goes a little something like this: A Schlubby husband suddenly meets up with a totally hot chick who, sort of, maybe, kind of, leads him on until he gets too randy . . . then the “INFIDEL!” card is pulled out, since the hot chick is an actress testing whether Schlub is a faithful husband or not. OK, so that’s all fucked. But more so: This recorded encounter—which, I have to admit, will NEVER end well—is played on a screen to a live audience while the wife of said Schlub watches, betting on her husband’s singular, unwavering love . . . Again: Not. Ending. Well.
It’s like Jerry Springer meets Temptation Island, and it is DELICIOUS.
8. BTW, if I seem a little off, it’s probably because over the past 24 hours I’ve eating my full weight—which is not unsubstantial—in meat. Meat topped with meat. And meat salads. And calorie bomb desserts. (Not consisting of meat, but shit, they might as well.) And then more meat. Aidan—my son—would be in heaven. You don’t even have to pretend to eat other things like bread or vegetables—just go for the meat. Again and again. This country is golden.
9. Have you ever been in a situation where you are the only English native speaker? It’s trippy as shit. I’m here with a group of German, Portuguese, Spanish speakers. And although I can read some Portuguese and speak some Spanish, my default is English. I have to say, it’s kind of fun to fugue out and let the languages wash over . . . All the words I don’t quite understand . . . All the insinuations and trailing consonants . . . It’s kind of pretty to be linguistically lost for a little while, especially when your iPhone is jacked, which brings up the penultimate point . . .
10. Our WiFi in this hotel kind of sucks. This is pretty much my own fault though. (As always.) When I signed on the first time there were options for “Superfast Internet” (which came with a cost) and “Normal Internet” (which was free). I chose the latter, and now I am stuck . . . I’m functioning at 1989 dial-up speeds. Seriously. I’ve been loading a single photo the entire time I’ve been writing this. On the other hand (the non-tech dominant one?), right outside my hotel door is the beach. The ocean beach. Does anyone really need an iPhone here?
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. . .