Weekly Dispatches from the Frontlines of World Literature

Your latest updates from Brazil, Iran, and the UK

This week, Brazilian Editor-at-Large Maíra Mendes Galvão reports from Brazil’s vibrant literary scene. Poupeh Missaghi writes about how Iranians celebrated a revered literary figure’s birthday and gives us a peep into the preparations for the Tehran International Book Fair. And M. René Bradshaw has much to report from London’s literati! Hope you’re ready for an adventure! 

Maíra Mendes Galvão, our Editor-at-Large for Brazil, brings us the latest from literary events:

The capital of the Brazilian state of Ceará, Fortaleza, hosted the 12th Biennial Book Fair last weekend. The very extensive and diverse program included the presence of Conceição Evaristo, Ricardo Aleixo, Marina Colasanti, Joca Reiners Terron, Eliane Brum, Luiz Ruffato, Natércia Pontes, Daniel Munduruku, Frei Betto and many others. The event also paid homage to popular culture exponents such as troubadour Geraldo Amâncio, musician Bule Bule, and poet Leandro Gomes de Barros. One of the staples of Ceará is “literatura de cordel“, a literary genre (or form) that gets its name from the way the works (printed as small chapbooks) have traditionally been displayed for sale: hanging from a sort of clothesline (cordel). It was popularized by a slew of artists, including a collective of women cordel writers, Rede Mnemosine de Cordelistas, who marked their presence in a field originally dominated by men.

The northeast of Brazil is bubbling with literary activities: this week, from April 26-28, the city of Ilhéus, in the state of Bahia, hosts its own literary festival, FLIOS. There will be talks and debate about local literature and education as well as a book fair, workshops, book launches, performances, and readings.

The other upcoming literary festival is Flipoços, hosted by the city of Poços de Caldas in the south eastern state of Minas Gerais. Milton Hatoum, celebrated writer from the state of Amazonas, will be the patron of this edition of the festival, which will also pay homage to the literature of Mozambique. Guests include Rafael Gallo, Roberta Estrela D’Alva, Tati Bernardi, Ungulani Ba Ka Khosa, and others.

Meanwhile, the biggest literary festival in Brazil, the pioneering FLIP, hosted by the colonial and scenic city of Paraty, has been releasing the names of the 2017 guests, under the authority of this year’s curator, journalist Joselia Aguiar. So far, confirmed authors include: Scholastique Mukasonga, Diamela Eltit, and Man Booker Prize winner Marlon James; and the opening will be directed by Felipe Hirsch, featuring historian Lilia Schwarcz and actor Lázaro Ramos, who will read from the works of Lima Barreto, this year’s honoree.

Shifting the focus over to independent publishing in Brazil, the Casa da Cultura Digital cultural center in Goiânia, the capital of the state of Goiás, is mapping out indie publishers and presses through their project E-cêntrica with the aim of creating a digital network and promoting a monthly fair organized by Nega Lilu Editora.

The friendship of two of the most iconic Brazilian writers, modernists Mário and Oswald de Andrade (who were not related, despite the shared surname) is being honored by a week of activities from April 25-30 at CCSP – Centro Cultural São Paulo, in the city of São Paulo. MáriOswald—100 years of friendship will include debates, workshops, conferences, film screenings, theater, dance, and music, in an extensive program that also includes activities for children.

Editor-at-Large Poupeh Missaghi has this report from Iran:

On April 21 every year, Iranians celebrate the national day of Sa’adi, which coincides with the birthday of Sa’adi of Shiraz, the Iranian poet of the 13th century. Two of his most famous books are Bustan, a book of poetry, and Golestan, a combination of poetry and prose, extracts from both of which appear widely in Iranian school textbooks. Some of the most famous lines of his poetry appear on a wall at the entrance of the United Nations building in New York City. The lines read as follows:

“All human beings are members of one frame,
Since all, at first, from the same essence came.
When time afflicts a limb with pain
The other limbs at rest cannot remain.
If thou feel not for other’s misery
A human being is no name for thee.”

This year, to mark the occasion, Iranians tweeted widely (even though tweets of his poems appear on any day of the year): lines of Sa’adi’s poetry, videos of traditional Iranian music using his poetry, or pictures from his mausoleum in Shiraz, using the Twitter hashtag #سعدی .

In other news, the Iranian publishing industry is preparing for its most important event of the year: the Tehran International Book Fair (TIBF), which is to be held from May 3 to May 13, 2017. In the 30th TIBF, ninety-two booths will be dedicated to publishers from Arab countries and forty-two to other foreign publishers. According to the Fair’s website, countries participating in the fair include Germany, Mexico, Jordan, Turkey, Russia, Afghanistan, Ecuador, Finland, Japan, Sweden, Chile, China, Serbia, India, Lebanon, Armenia, England, the US, Belgium, Malaysia, Netherlands, Singapore, France, South Korea, and others; Italy will be the guest of honor of the exhibition. “The slogan for this year’s exhibition has been translated into English, perhaps somewhat awkwardly, as, “Let’s Read One Book More.”


And M. René Bradshaw checks in from the UK:

Many female writers have been recognized in recent weeks: The 2017 shortlist for the 2017 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction shortlist has been announced. Six female novelists, writing in English from around the world, include one previous winner, Linda Grant, and one first-time novelist, Ayobami Adebayo. Maylis de Kerangal, author of Mend the Living, a heart-breaking novel about 24 hours in the life of a heart that is transplanted, won the 2017 Wellcome Book Prize. Ms. de Kerangal is the first French author to win the £30,000 award, which honors books of any genre whose central theme is health or medicine.

Rebecca Swift, the pioneering founder of The Literary Consultancy, past away at 53 of cancer on April 18th. Her colleagues remember and reflect on her life and legacy.

There are plenty of events to look forward to in London as we near summer. In experimental theatre, Robert Lepage’s acclaimed solo show, 887, makes it way to the Barbican Centre as part of an international tour. The autobiographical production is a meditation on Leparge’s family, the fallacies of memory, and the Francophone secessionist movements that unsettled Canada during his childhood (from June 1 to June 10). Many Q&As with world-celebrated literati:  Ann Patchett discusses her latest novel, Commonwealth (British Library, May 23), Arundhati Roy promotes her long-awaited second novel, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness (Union Chapel, June 5), Colm Tóibín exchanges notes on Greek tragedy with the Guardian’s chief culture writer, Charlotte Higgins (Islington Assembly Hall, June 6), and Will Self expounds on satire in the contemporary world (Islington Assembly Hall, June 13), though he is joined by fellow contrarian Slavoj Žižek the month before (how to: Academy, Emmanuel Centre, May 2017). Celebrating its 30th festival in Wales, the Hay Festival headlines as the “Woodstock of the mind” (Hay-on-Wye, May 25 to June 4). Further north, the Bradford Literature Festival continues to pioneer its adventurousness of perspective, with this year’s programme ranging from a weekend of comics, discussions on the science of immortality and British Islam, and the Brontes as literary heroines (Theatre in the Mill, June 30 to July 9).


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