Two blocks from my home, there is a bookstore. Reinaldo Pontes is a dear friend fighting to keep his family business alive – Pontes Bookstore. It is not easy to keep a bookstore open in a country where books are not very welcome as gifts by many. I have already seen the look of, “Why didn’t you give me a chocolate bar or something else,” in a couple of faces myself.
Last week I was taking some pictures of an old part of downtown Campinas, of 100-year-old two-story homes from a time when many lived downtown. Today they have all been turned into businesses of one sort or another.
Pontes Bookstore, a cultural landmark downtown in Campinas.
While taking pictures, I decided to visit Reinaldo and his sister Eva. On Saturdays, the bookstore is open until at least noon, sometimes later. I was overjoyed to discover that Aercio Consolin, from my beloved Morungaba, a city 40 kilometers away from Campinas, was there signing his newly released book “Entreato Amoroso.” (Freely translated “Loving Interact” the title is a play on words in Portuguese that goes like “interval of loving.”) This is his sixth book, but he has also published many articles and short stories. Aercio has one book that is a collection of four short stories, which was translated into French and sold in Europe. One of the stories was turned into a movie here in Brazil.
Reinaldo and his sister Eva are always supporting
literature and education at Pontes Bookstore.
“Entreato Amoroso,” published by Atelie Editorial (www.atelie.com.br), comes after some 18 years of silence from the author; it is very good. I wish you could all read Portuguese so you could enjoy it too. To read Aercio, you need to have very good Portuguese; I confess I had to go to the dictionary a couple of times. Aercio is original, sharp, hermetic. As one reads, one can tell that every word has been measured and so is essential and meaningful. Put in plain Portuguese a single paragraph of his would become a whole page.
I interviewed Aercio on some facts about Brazilian literary reality. He is a very qualified person to share with us really valuable information. Maybe after reading this article those of you who know French will consider reading “Iolanda et Autres Nouvelles” (HB Editions) to check out his style for yourselves. I recommend it.
Aercio in his house in Morungaba – inland in the state of Sao Paulo.
What is it like to be a writer in Brazil? I am not a professional writer; I write because I like it; I need it. Literature is inside me, it is part of my life and that is my perspective. So for me the literary market is not a major concern. But for the professional writer, I can say, life is not so easy in Brazil.
Why is that so? A small percentage of our population has reading habits at all. Even literate people read very little of what we could call real literature. The biggest numbers of readers are of the functional literate people type. They can read for their day-to-day needs, yes, but won’t dream of touching a novel, for example.
What do they read? There is a large market share for self-help, religious and exoteric books, that is what they read mainly — when they do.
So does it pay to write in Portuguese? Not at all, writers live from writing but not writing only books. They write to magazines, newspapers, specialized publications, theses, short stories and articles about literature.
How about you? I write short stories and novels, but sometimes I am asked to write on a subject for some newspaper and I do. But as I said before I can afford writing for pleasure.
What do you like to write about?
The Brazilian aesthetics pattern has for long been mainly focused on the northeast of Brazil, on the misery and the violence of urban areas like those of Sao Paulo, Rio and other major cities of the country — and see, not even there, in those contexts, are poverty and violence the only realities. To think like that is too narrow.
So, I focus my writing on other targets: I prefer the small communities of the inland of Brazil, especially of Sao Paulo, [which is] close to me — real microcosms that synthesize all human emotions as well. They are also real players in the whole picture of the country — unfortunately often forgotten.
What is the percentage of illiterate people in Brazil? It is something like 15 percent of the total population.
How about functional literate ones? That will amount to much more, something like 60 percent of the total population or more … Carlos, as I see it, there are, at most, 1 or 2 percent of Brazilians really interested in literature in the whole country. When you think that that would amount to some 3.5 million people only — when I say 1 or 2 percent I am actually being generous.
What is the solution for this? Education. The Brazilian government needs to invest more and more on basic education, preparation for the teachers, methodology, materials, etc. And also support for the written culture, which is just one cultural segment — I know — but it is left alone today. Go and check, for example, the number of existing public libraries — it is a shame — especially when you cross check with the population statistics, not the least compatible.
What else would you say on that matter? It is incredible, the editorial production in Brazil is amazing, enormous but its quality is questionable.
Taking into account that this interview is for an international news service what would your final words be? Well, that is interesting you remind me … You know, there is a lot of money coming from abroad to help Brazil — money for saving the forests, money for the poor, money for ecological projects and the like. I’d say it is all welcome, those are real needs many times; but for sure, it would be very good to think it all over and invest in education, at least a good cut of all that money.
Educated people will know how to take care of the forest, of social problems, and will be ecologically concerned already. So that kind investment, investing in a person’s education, really pays off.
Aercio autographs my copy of his new book “Entreato Amoroso”.