Thursday, May 22, 2003
Women's eNews excerpts two interviews from "Fourteen Female Voices from Brazil," published by Host Publications, Inc.
Miriam Alves was born in Sao Paulo where she lives and works. She is a social worker, a scholar of Afro-Brazilian literature, and activist in the Quilombhoje movement, a poet and a short story writer. She is an author of two collections of poems "Momentos de busca" (1932); "Estrelas no dedo" (1985) and co-author of a play "Terrmara."
What is the status of the female writer in Brazil?
Once again, let's talk about the black female writer in Brazil. One day a female researcher came to my house and she was absolutely flabbergasted. She was imagining a female writer with an office saying, "Please wait there; I must finish my thoughts." In my house there was everything everywhere--the telephone ringing, my daughter arguing, the dog barking, my neighbor visiting, me cooking dinner--while I am trying to work. Well, as you can see, my house is full of chores, but it is not only that. For me, it is also a place for thought and reflection, and joyous pleasure. If it weren't, I couldn't write. I have a commitment to myself regarding my sensibilities. I am a harp with well-stretched strings, and when the call comes, I play. My antennae are out to the world. If the world is disturbed, so am I. If the world is at peace, so am I.
For whom do you write? Have you an imaginary reader?
That all depends. When I write a poem it is because I am filled with passion, with love, or because I am angry, or because I am distressed, or because I am happy. I go through several kinds of emotions and I talk to those emotions, which are not only mine. They pass through me, but are not mine alone. When I am writing, I want to open myself to learn about what you are. And when you are writing, I want to open myself to learn about what you are. And when you read what I have written, you are opening yourself to knowing who I am. The song also passes though all of these emotions, but they are emotions that I am developing with the intent of transmitting various things. And like a recipe for making cake, emotions are the ingredients, and the type of cake is the intent. When the cake is ready, I cut it and give it to people. Sometimes it's good, and sometimes it's not. Sometimes my inspiration is taken from the recipes of others.
Lygia Fagundes Telles was born in San Paulo. In 1969 she was awarded the Cannes Prix International des Femmes for her short story "Before the Green Masquerade," chosen from among the works of authors from 21 countries. Her works have been translated into many languages around the world.
How did you become a writer?
I started "writing" before I knew how to write. I began my apprenticeship telling and hearing stories. I didn't know how to write when I was a little girl, but I liked to listen to stories and tell stories. This tradition that was so wonderful has practically disappeared in Brazil today, with television. It was a very good tradition because it stimulates the imagination. It was a way of dealing with the imaginary and with inventing things. I made up stories, usually terrifying stories, fantasy stories, with horror and tormented souls and werewolves. I learned to read and to write later, but what came first was that apprenticeship where I listened to stories. I trembled with fear. Afterwards, when I started telling stories, I began to be happier because I no longer trembled. It was other people who trembled. That's the power. The power. I felt powerful.
Let's jump into your adulthood now. What does it mean for you to be a woman in Brazil?
At the beginning of my career, it was very difficult. I remember that it made a strong impression on me when I had written a book in law school, and one of the critics said, "How incredible! This girl writes like a man!" And I felt that I had disillusioned him, that he would prefer for me to have written about flowers, butterflies and birds, and poems about God. I started talking about things that shocked him. A prejudice.
When I was very young, I knew our great modernist Mario de Andrade. He asked, "Lygia, what would you rather be: beautiful or intelligent?" I said, "I want to be intelligent" and he said, "How dumb you are." Then I said, "Why am I a dummy?" He answered, "Oh, beauty is so important." And I asked him, "Why did Mr. Mario say this? It's very important to be intelligent." He said, "No it's because I'm an ugly old guy. You don't know how much I've dreamed about beauty all my life." I thought that my beauty was attractive, that my beauty would attract men so that they wouldn't take me seriously. I would have to be ugly in order to be accepted. A prejudice.
"Fourteen Female Voices From Brazil: interviews and selected works" http://www.hostpublications.com/fourteen.htm