In Macau during this week, as part of The Script Road — Macau Literary Festival, Brazilian authors Marcelino Freire, Felipe Franco Munhoz and Carol Rodrigues shared their thoughts on their country’s literature, on what makes them write and on their first impressions of Macau. But they also admitted their mind was back home, concerned about the future of their country, in troubled times.

By Sofia Jesus

“I can’t wait to write about Macau and Hong Kong,” Brazilian award-winning writer Marcelino Freire said this week in the territory. “I hear wonderful things in the street.”

“The book I read the most is the street,” the author explained. In Macau as a guest of The Script Road — Macau Literary Festival, he said he would leave the city “collecting words”. “Pain does not need translation.”

“For several times I have seen the Northeast of Brazil in Hong Kong [and Macau],” Mr Freire told the audience on Tuesday, March 15, at the Old Court Building. He said he saw that Brazil at the street markets, at “the men who fix watches” and even at his hotel, where he found a pancake quite similar to the one his mother used to cook for him in Brazil’s Pernambuco region (Sertão Pernambucano, in Portuguese), “because she could not afford to buy bread”.

“These are different cultures, but the root is the same, the stubbornness is the same; Chinese people also work a lot,” Mr Freire noted.

Mr Freire was speaking at a festival’s session about “the new Brazilian literature”. Young authors Filipe Franco Munhoz and Carol Rodrigues joined him on stage. Both Mr Munhoz and Ms Rodrigues thanked Mr Freire for his support at the beginning of their careers. “I can die now,” the latter joked.

“A group of stubborn people”

Mr Freire stressed “it does not matter one’s age or how many books one’s published”. “What unites [writers] is the choice of literature as a craft, as a passion.” “It is the feeling of what we do as a group of stubborn people, when mediocrity is regnant,” he added.

Mr Freire has created Balada Literária (Literary Ballad, in English), an event that has been gathering Brazilian and international writers in São Paulo since 2006.

Mr Freire — whose first novel Nossos Ossos (Our bones, in English) received the Machado de Assis Award 2014 for Best Novel — has recently left a project called Quebras, which took him traveling across 15 Brazilian cities, excluding Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. During this project, he found places that had “no publishing market” and where “spoken poetry” was the way authors found “to publish” their work. “No one silences a poet.”

carol rodrigues

Carol Rodrigues has been awarded for her Sem Vista para o Mar. Image by Eduardo Martins

During the session, Mr Freire asked his fellow writers on stage why they wrote.

Born in 1985, Ms Rodrigues explained she had “always wanted to be an artist”, but only after experimenting a number of arts did she discover literature was “good for the shy”, like her.

Before becoming a writer, she performed classic ballet — “I was terrible” —; studied cinema (a major in Image and Sound); and later on completed a Master in Performance Studies. “I even made some paintings; all very horrible,” she laughed.

She thought literature was not for her, as she grew up with the idea that it was something so “sublime” that was not reachable by many. That is why the writing workshop she did with Mr Freire was so important to her, she said. Since then, she has already won “two of the main literary awards” in Brazil for her short stories book Sem Vista para o Mar (Withou a Seaview, in English), Mr Freire noted. The book was mART’s pick in this week’s Tuesday Reads.

felipe franco munhoz

Felipe Franco Munhoz received a literary grant to write his novel Mentiras. Image by Eduardo Martins

Born in 1990, Mr Munhoz chose to read one of his poems — “it is a poem about my right leg” — to illustrate why he wrote. The author shared with the audience the fact that he had some tumours in that leg. “I’m writing so that these tumours won’t kill me,” he stated.

Mr Munhoz was awarded in 2010 a Funarte Grant for Literary Creation (in Brazil) to write his novel Mentiras (Lies, in English) published this year. His book — “written in dialogues” — is about “an author writing his first book in real time,” and is inspired by the work of author Philip Roth.

Mr Munhoz coordinates the website Antessala das Letras. “I felt it was lacking a space in which one could publish a text,” he explained, adding the website serves as a platform for established writers to recommend younger authors.

Writing for revenge

Mr Marcelino started by joking that he wrote because he was “not handsome”. But he then explained he wrote because he wanted “revenge”. From whom? “From a government that is not good;” “from a love that went away”.

Mr Freire said he also wrote to understand the world; to deal with the death of a loved one; or even to bring someone back to life — like he did with an aunt who did not want to learn how to read. “I write with a lot of urgency.”

At the session, Ms Rodrigues noted large book publishers in Brazil are facing difficulties these days. At the same time, independent publishers and authors’ editions are on the rise, and this is something she believes has brought “great diversity” to the literature published in the country.

During the session, the three authors said they kept thinking of their home country while in Macau. They expressed their concern about what is going on in Brazil, which is now facing serious political instability, mainly due to an alleged corruption case involving former officials, currently under investigation. The case has led to several demonstrations.

Stressing they did not belong to any political party, the authors mentioned they were concerned about what they described as a rise in “conservatism” and even “ultra-right” views. Mr Munhoz explained they believed those kinds of views might pose a “danger” to social progress achieved in Brazil.

“The situation is shadowy,” Ms Rodrigues said. “Those [conservative] people are not there for freedom, they are there for prejudice,” Mr Freire added.