the portuguese writer Valter Hugo Mother still gets emotional every time the pilot of the plane announces the landing in Brazil.
That’s how he felt last week, when he arrived in São Paulo to participate in the 2022 Book Biennial which started on Saturday (2).
Mãe follows a caravan of more than 20 Portuguese writers who came to the event, in addition to the President of Portugal, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa . The country is the guest of honor at this edition of the Bienal, which also celebrates 200 years of Brazilian Independence.
For him, the meeting between the two countries is important and symbolic. “We have a long and intricate history, but we don’t always realize what maybe we should know about each other,” he said.
in conversation with the CNN , the author recalled the first time he arrived in the country, when he was just over 30 years old. “I remember the amazement of arriving at a place that was intricate to my identity, but that could just be a fantasy in my head.”
In addition to reading Brazilian poets – especially “the wonderful” poet from Minas Adelia Prado – Mother spent her adolescence listening to urban Legion and learned about what it was like to “be a couple” with Sonia Braga in the role of “Gabriela”, when the telenovela was shown in Portugal in the 1970s.
Brazil is so present in the life of Valter Hugo Mãe, that he decided to portray a fictional indigenous tribe in his latest novel, which takes place in the Amazon. “As Diseases of Brazil” is an attempt to tell a Brazilian story from the point of view of the native peoples.
In this interview, the Portuguese writer, who also considers himself a little Brazilian, spoke about his relationship with the country he had dreamed of knowing since he was a teenager, the challenge of portraying other cultures without reinforcing stereotypes and the process of adapting his books to the cinema. .
The dream of being in Brazil
Valter Hugo Mãe dreamed of Brazil throughout his adolescence, but he only landed in the country for the first time when he was just over 30 years old.
“I thought I would never have the money to take a plane and cross the ocean. I thought I would read Adélia Prado my whole life, but I would never be in Adélia Prado’s country, I could never see what she saw,” she said, referring to the poet from Minas that she discovered at a young age.
Mãe explained that, between the 1970s and 80s, it was as if Brazil occupied Portugal culturally. Her generation grew up consuming Brazilian soap operas, music and literature.
He recalls the impact of the exhibition of the soap opera “Gabriela”, starring Sônia Braga, in the country in 1977. “The soap opera produced a true education for the liberation of the woman’s body, for the liberation of what can be a couple.”
Mãe even compared this relationship with what happened between Greece and Rome: “Rome, having taken its power over Greece, ended up returning changed by Greek culture. It is as if Brazil made a certain return to Portugal.”
It was with Brazilian literature that the author learned to use the Portuguese language “without much discipline”.
Ferreira Gullar, João Cabral de Melo Neto, Guimarães Rosa are some of the authors that made up Hugo’s library of adolescence, in addition to the aforementioned Adélia Prado, whom he “loves with passion”.
“With the Brazilian authors, I understood that the language should be like a deeply free territory, which was available for all hypotheses”, he explained.
Of course, I love many Portuguese poets, but Brazilians have greatly influenced my way of writing. They helped me to be not just another Portuguese writer, but maybe a very weird, very free writer.
Valter Hugo Mother
Mãe highlighted that she also loves the poets of her land, but understands why Portuguese culture is little consumed by Brazilians. Despite feeling sorry for him, he sees the process as inevitable considering that one country has been colonized by another.
“I think it’s natural that this happens, it’s part of the need for autonomy. If I had been trapped for 300 years in someone’s house, when I got out I would have run in the opposite direction,” she explained.
The author was moved to remember his first experience in Brazil. “Amazement” was one of the first reactions he had when he saw himself on the other side of the Atlantic: “It was a place that was intricate with my identity, but it could just be a fantasy in my head, which I could only imagine what it would be like”.
Mãe describes as a “privilege” the opportunity to have visited Brazil many other times over the last few years, and revealed that she “always cries a little” when the pilot of the plane announces the landing in South American lands.
“I always remember that this, for me, represents a dream. So no matter how many times I come to Brazil, I know I am living a dream,” she declared.
The writer said that he hopes that the Book Biennial will serve to start a dialogue about the country we want to build. “I hope we talk about a Brazil that existed in the past, whose history has a lot to do with Portugal, but also about a Brazil that we really need to make it work,” he said.
Mother considers herself a “believer” in the country, and said smiling that her “almost evangelizing” mission is to attract people who believe in Brazil.
“I’ve always been Portuguese, but I’m a little Brazilian, because culture is also a way of creating citizens, isn’t it?” he declared.
The challenge of representing other peoples
Valter Hugo Mãe delivered “The diseases of Brazil” (Editora Biblioteca Azul) to the shelves in 2021. The work takes place in the Amazon and reports the encounter between the enslaved black Meio da Noite, who, while fleeing, came across the indigenous village of the abaeté, and the mestizo Honra, who lives in the village.
“It is a very delicate book to be written by a Portuguese, because it is an attempt to tell a history of Brazil that is decolonized. Told by native peoples and not by occupying peoples,” he explained.
“Our normality may simply be a mistake for other people. Due to a difference in mentality, sometimes we don’t understand that we can be creating an offense, a xenophobic or racist idea”, he said about the challenge of portraying other peoples.
He said he policed himself a lot when writing the novel, and sought to take the narrative to “brighter paths”, in an attempt to avoid repeating stereotypes.
Before writing “The diseases of Brazil”, the author went to the Amazon. According to him, the trip not only served to inspire his next work, but also to ask for a kind of “permission” to portray the forest.
“I traveled (to the Amazon) I don’t know if exactly to research, but perhaps to ask for ‘license, sir’. I thought I needed to go to the Amazon to ask permission from the tanajuras and the maçarandubas, the agoutis and the alligators. I think I went to look a little in the faces of the animals and in the face of the forest, so that the forest would allow me to write my book in peace.
Valter Hugo Mother
“Dazzling and terrifying” is how he described the Amazon rainforest, and explained that some of that overwhelming and awe-inspiring feeling bled into the writing of the book.
“The impact of the forest looks like a haunting, it surrounds us as if we were in a certain phantasmagoria. I think this is one of the things that feels most to anyone who reads my novel,” she explained.
The future and its works in other formats
To write the novel “Mens imprudently poetics” (Editora Biblioteca Azul), released in 2016, Hugo Mãe also traveled to Japan to tell the story of a small village in the country.
When asked if he has any trips planned for a future release, he assured that a new work is on the way.
The author intends to complete a series of novels about islands and absences, and the next stage takes place at home: on Madeira Island, in Portugal.
“I’m already writing a new novel, kind of my way. I write and throw it away, but it’s my way of getting closer”, he revealed.
Portraying life close to where you were born may not bring the challenges of being faithful to a people from another culture, but Mãe assures you that her books have the same purpose. “My will is to build something deeply integrating, deeply loving, of an essential humanism.”
In addition to the new book, Mãe also revealed the difficulties involved in transposing her works to cinema. The novels “Son of a thousand men” (Editora Biblioteca Azul, 2016) and “The Spanish Machine” (Editora Biblioteca Azul, 2016) are in the process of being adapted to become a film.
“There is a long process with two producers, but it will happen sooner or later”, he said.
The author said that cinema makes possible something that literature does not allow: the support of other professionals to enhance the work. “In novel or poetry, our connection [com o leitor] It is direct, there is no intermediation. If our book sucks, there’s no excuse,” he said.
He explained that he felt this during the feature film “Surdina” (2019, Portugal), a film by Rodrigo Areis, with a script signed by Valter Hugo Mãe. “The cast was very strong, I had the feeling that even the most fragile passages of the text were transformed into a very beautiful thing by the actors.”
Source: CNN Brasil