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Brazilian Express Loves (and jealousy) around the world

Berlin - Cecilia Giannetti
“Don't be a tourist / why don't you come on back to the war? / it's just beginning”. While she searches for love in Berlin's May 1st,
Cecília Giannetti sings Leonard Cohen's There is a War
The Brazilian blogosphere entered in alert a few weeks ago when the major publish house Companhia das Letras (PT) announced a huge literary project. Idealized by Rodrigo Teixeira, the project called Express Loves (Amores Expressos) wants to take 16 writers to 16 cities around the world for a one month trip. Shanghai, Buenos Aires, Istanbul, Lisbon, Berlin, Cairo, Saint Petersburg and São Paulo are some among those chosen cities. At the end, each one of them must write a love history tied with those cities. All in 90 days.
The hottest discussions were about the use of public money on the project. The project asked for R$ 1,2 million (US$ 600 thousand) on fiscal licenses. The names of the invited writers were selected by the head of the project and by the writer João Paulo Cuenca (who also writes a blog, in portuguese), but the list of nominees sparked a library-fire of protest among many unchosen writers, who argued about the unclearness of the selection criteria and the unfairness of the the choices made, and about the bad use of public money. Among the chosen pleiad, some well known names to the brazilian literary public, like Sérgio Sant'Anna, Luiz Ruffato(PT) and Marçal Aquino(PT) rubbed shoulders with some other who were practically debuting on books like Antonia Pellegrino(PT) and Cecília Giannetti (who is writing a blog, in portuguese, “from the front”, here).

Angélica Freitas, one of the most loudly detached voices from the newest Brazilian poetry scene wrote on March:

acho que muita gente reclama desse projeto porque, bueno, não foi incluída nele. porque nunca vai conseguir pisar no cairo ou em são petersburgo se não for num projeto desses. também tem muita gente neste país que não sabe escrever projeto de captação de recursos. querem dinheiro? ter um bom projeto e se mexer é um começo. mas estou aqui para dizer que é bem fácil viajar. basta pegar um ônibus que te deixe na estrada e estender o polegar. querem material pra escrever? taí a dica. querem viajar de graça? taí a dica.
neugebauertome uma xícara de chá

i think that many of those who complain about this project are doing so because, well, they weren't included in it. because they will never be able to put a foot on cairo or saint petersburg if not by means of a project like this. there is also a lot of people on this country that doesn't know how to write a resource raising project. do you want money? to have a good project and move it on is a good start. but i'm here to tell that is quite easy to travel. you must have to take a bus that leaves you at the road and them extend the thumb. do you want material to write? here's the tip. do you want to travel for free? here's the tip.
neugebauertake a cup of tea

And the level of critics got higher when the writer Marcelo Mirisola (PT, reader discretion), which is not on the project, sent a letter to the major Brazilian newspaper, Folha de S. Paulo (PT), saying that the project was

uma ação entre “amigos de farra”, com “um ou dois figurões acima de qualquer suspeita” para disfarçar.
Polêmica expressaTodoprosa

a plan between “carousing friends”, with “one or two bigshots above any suspicion” to disguise.
Express PolemicTodoprosa

The public money financing the project was the most sensitive question in the matter. In Brazil, this polemic is becoming unsustainable, to a point that the law created to stimulate culture became a bad business to art and artists but being, besides, a very good business for private sponsors who can dismiss federal taxes by supporting such projects. Joca Reiners Terron, that is now on Cairo, gave a strong answer to the critics on a rather strong-worded post called “Dears Sons of a Bitch”.

O dinheiro que entrará no meu bolso (R$10 mil pelos direitos de adaptação audiovisual do romance que escreverei …) virá do bolso do Rodrigo Teixeira, dono da produtora RT Features e criador do projeto. A grana que financiará filmes, documentários, extras de dvd ou o que caralho for, virá de um projeto inscrito na Lei Rouanet que está tramitando nos corredores do Ministério da Cultura e, conseqüentemente, ainda não foi aprovado, além da bufunfa que lhe corresponde ainda não ter sido captada. Quando e se for, eu já terei entregue meu romance (cujos direitos de adaptação já foram vendidos) e diretamente (tá tá tá: eu sei, também sou contribuinte; tá tá tá: eu também acho que é chegada a hora de reformas drásticas na Lei Rouanet), não terei mais nada a ver com isso; Entendeu ou quer que eu repita, filho-da-puta?
Hotel Hell

The money that will enter my pocket (US$ 5 thousand for audiovisual adaptation rights of the novel I will write…) are coming from the pocket of Rodrigo Teixeira, owner of RT Features and head of the project. The buck that will finance the movies, documentaries, dvd extras or the hell that comes, will come from the project enrolled at Rouanet Law that is now moving in at the corridors of the Ministry of Culture and, consequently, it was not yet approved. When (and if yes) it would be approved, I would have delivered my novel (whose rights of adaptation already had been sold) and directly (ok, I know, I am also a contributor; ok: I also think that is time of drastic reforms in the Rouanet Law), I will have nothing more to do with this; Do you understood or want me to repeat, son-of-a-beach?
Hotel Hell

The polemic provoked a forest fire of discord between groups of writers. After the conflagration, Cecília Giannetti, that is now in Berlin and took the picture that opens this post, wrote on her blog:

Não tenho outra maneira de justificar minha participação neste projeto além de me empenhar em escrever o melhor que eu puder a história que ele pede de mim. A pressão aumenta por estar ao lado de nomes como Sergio Sant'Anna, Lourenço Mutarelli, Luiz Ruffato, Marçal Aquino, Bernardo Carvalho, nomes de outras gerações que os estreantes e recém-lançados autores incluídos no projeto já lemos e respeitamos. Assustador. Do No MínimoEscrevescreve.

I don't have other way to justify my participation in this project unless pledging myself into doing my best in writing the history that is being asked from me. The pressure is increased because i'm side by side with names like Sergio Sant'Anna, Lourenço Mutarelli, Luiz Ruffato, Marçal Aquino, Bernardo Carvalho, names from another generation that the debutantes and just-published authors in the project read and respect. Frightful.
From No MínimoEscrevescreve.

The weeks have passed and the first writers begun to show theirs works produced on the cities. Six writers are comming back, or had already came back, from their trips. Another ten are packing for their adventures the next months. The books may take a while before they reach the markets, but it is possible to keep a watch over the development of the project by reading the writer's blogs.

Antonio Prata, who had already completed his journey, wrote in his blog, from Shangai:

gato2.JPGDo outro lado do mundo fica um país gigante chamado China. Nesse país há uma imensa cidade chamada Xangai. Nessa cidade tem uma rua não tão grande assim de nome Shaoxing Lu. No número 76 da Shaoxing Lu há uma viela. No fundo da viela fica um cano.
Se você pegar um avião e viajar 27 horas até a China, descer do avião em Xangai, entrar num táxi, saltar no número 76 da Shaoxing Lu, andar até o fim da viela e abaixar-se, poderá notar que ali naquele cano, na viela do número 76 da Shaoxing Lu, em Xangai, na China, um gato afiou suas unhas.
Do outro lado do mundoBlog do Antonio Prata

On the other side of the world there is a giant country called China. In this country there is an immense city called Shanghai. In this city there is a street, that is not very big, with name Shaoxing Lu. At number 76 of Shaoxing Lu there is a side street. In the end of the side street there is a pipe.
If you catch an airplane and take a 27 hours trip to China, climb down from the airplane in Shangai, get a taxicab and jump out of it at the number 76 of Shaoxing Lu street, then take a walk until the end of the side street and bend down, you will be able to notice that there in that pipe, at the side street by the number 76 on the Shaoxing Lu street, in Shangai, China, a cat sharpened its nails.
On the other side of the worldAntonio Prata's Blog

João Paulo Cuenca, who is in Tokyo, describes in his blog the experience of sleep on a capsule hotel:

Ignoro a advertência ilustrada sobre a proibição de homens tatuados e bêbados – sou um deles – e entro. Recebo uma chave (3021), um roupão e duas toalhas, assim como breves instruções em japonês. Vou ao vestiário e troco de roupa. … Nos banheiros coletivos cheirando a cigarro, velhos japoneses assoam o nariz daquele jeito que só velhos japoneses conseguem assoar o nariz. Reúno coragem e resolvo procurar minha cápsula. Ela fica no terceiro andar (são cinco). Para minha sorte – ou azar, não sei – minha gaveta fica na altura do chão. Acima dela, alguém dorme. E também no andar de cima. No andar de baixo. E nos lados. Nesse hotel cápsula, as gavetas não tem porta, apenas uma pequena cortina de bambu que, além de luz, deixa entrar barulho. Privacidade não há. … Faz calor dentro do caixão. Durmo um sono de seis horas cheio de sobressaltos (acordo toda vez que alguém pisa no corredor) e tenho sonhos bizarros… Dentro do sonho, pego meu caderno de sonhos dentro do sonho e anoto o sonho dentro do sonho. Isso é uma recorrência, aliás, e talvez a melhor literatura que jamais produzirei. Às nove, uma mensagem ressoa dentro da cápsula. Não entendo do que se trata e volto a dormir. Às nove e meia, nova mensagem, e o eco de música clássica pelos corredores. Um homem abre a cortina da minha cápsula abruptamente. O tempo acabou.
EncaixotadoBlog do Cuenca

I ignore the illustrated warning on the prohibition of tattooed and drunken men – I'm one of them – and enter. I receive a key (3021), a bath robe and two towels, as well as brief instructions in Japanese. I go to the dressing room and change my clothes. … In the collective bathrooms smelling of cigarette smoke, old Japanese guys blows their noses in a way that only old Japanese guys can do it. I gather courage and decide to look for my capsule. It is in the third floor (there are five of them). For my good luck – or bad luck, I don't know – my drawer is at the floor level. Above it, somebody sleeps. And also in the one above, below and sideways. In this capsule hotel, the drawers do not have a door, but only a small bamboo curtain that, besides light, doesn't block the noise either. The is no privacy. … It is hot inside the coffin. I sleep a six hour slumber full of fright (I wake up every time somebody steps on in the corridor) and I have strange dreams. … Inside the dream, I catch my dream notepad inside of the dream and write down the dream inside of the dream. This is a recurrence, by the way, and perhaps the best literature that I will ever produce. At nine o'clock, a message resounds inside of the capsule. I don't understand and come back to sleep. At nine thirty, a new message, and the echo of classic music on the corridors. A man abruptly opens the curtain of my capsule. The time is over.
BoxedCuenca's Blog

Daniel Galera, another young writer, has just arrived from Buenos Aires. In his blog he gives a declaration that, in some way, summarizes all these controversy and searching for love:

Já de volta a São Paulo, ruminando fotos e memórias. Tenho uma história rabiscada na mente. Acho que ela poderia se passar em qualquer lugar, mas se passará em Buenos Aires, uma cidade de carnes tenras, mulheres elegantes e ruas planas que mimam os andarilhos com cafés e livrarias inesgotáveis. (…) Hoje entendo muito melhor uma frase de Bataille que usamos em 2001 para apresentar o selo editorial Livros do Mal ao mundo: “A literatura não é inocente, e, culpada, ela enfim deveria se confessar como tal.” Eu confesso. Confesso tudo. Sou culpado e, nos próximos meses, tentarei redigir mais um capítulo dessa confissão.
De VoltaBlog do Daniel Galera

I'm back to São Paulo, ruminating photos and memories. I have a history scribbled on my mind. I guess it could be placed anywhere, but it will be in Buenos Aires, an elegant city of soft meats, elegant women and plain streets that caress the wanderers with endless coffees and bookstores. (…) Now I understand much better that quote by Bataille that we used back in 2001 to present the publishing label Livros do Mal to the world: “Literature is not innocent, and, guilty, at last it should have to confess itself as such.” I confess. I confess everything. I am guilty and, in the next months, I will try to write another chapter of this confession.
BackDaniel Galera's Blog

And in the next months, also, another writers ambark to their trips. Here's the list:

May:
Amilcar Bettega (Istanbul) and Joca Reiners Terron (Cairo).
June: Adriana Lisboa (Paris), Luiz Ruffato (Lisbon), Chico Mattoso (Havana), Lourenço Mutarelli (New York) and Reinaldo Moraes (Mexico City).
September: Antonia Pellegrino (Mumbai), Bernardo Carvalho (Saint Petersburg), Marçal Aquino (Rome) and Sérgio Sant’Anna (Prague).

The writer's blogs can be found at the project's web site: Amores Expressos (in portuguese).

2 comments

  • A similar proyect, founded by Ford Corporation, was developed in spanish speaking Latinamerica. It was called Entresures. Though the website haven’t been keep up to date, http://www.entresures.com.ar/, the project have already finished.

    The main goal was to interchange experiences between selected writers from the continent (Mexico, Chile, Colombia, Nicaragua, Argentina, Peru and Latin USA). Each selected writer would travel to one of the participant countries and live there for a couple of weeks. In that time the writer must begin a short story about a character or person of the receiving country.

    The stories were compiled in a book published this May 17th in Mexico.

  • For me it is just plain awesome that someone is getting a trip to a different country to write, regardless of who got chosen (or who didn´t). Sure, it has to be sad to be one of the not so fortunate ones, but we will be able to live vicarously from those who were picked and traveled and wrote. Whether they deserved it or not, we will see when we read their love stories, if we get transported to the exotic locations or not.

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