TORCH supports Afro-Brazilian writer Conceição Evaristo’s participation in the ‘Other Voices in Brazilian Literature’ Seminar in London
This year the special guest country at the Salon du Livre in Paris was Brazil and forty-three ‘literary ambassadors’ were invited to attend. Dr Claire Williams (St. Peter’s, Oxford) and Rosane Carneiro Ramos (King’s College, London) collaborated to take advantage of their fleeting geographical proximity to bring two of the lesser-known writers to London to present and discuss their work. On 18 March, Daniel Munduruku, writer, activist and educator, and a member of the Munduruku people, discussed his personal and professional trajectory with a large group of students and academics.
On 31 March, our guest was Conceição Evaristo (born 1946), who spoke movingly about growing up one of nine children in a favela in Belo Horizonte. Her love of literature began at an early age, reading comics and listening to stories told by her mother and aunts. Her family was a constant support, and with their help she was able to attend university and become a schoolteacher. She began publishing poetry in the Afro-Brazilian journal Cadernos Negros [Black Notebooks] in 1990, then short stories (now collected in Olhos d’Água [Eyes of Water, 2014]) and then she took out a loan to publish the novel Ponciá Vicêncio (2003 – although it took ten years to get it published), which established her as a powerful female voice in Brazilian literature, one of the few Afro-Brazilian women writers to achieve international recognition. This beautiful, lyrical novel tells the story of Ponciá and her family trying to survive in a modern world where the legacy of slavery is still very much alive.
At the Salon du Livre, when François Hollande visited the Brazilian pavilion, Conceição was chosen to meet the French President on behalf of her fellow-writers.
The Seminar in London provided an enthusiastic audience who asked Conceição about her experience of writing from a minority group, and getting published, and her thoughts on the contemporary scene in Brazilian literature. Participants came from as far as Exeter and Portsmouth, some knew nothing about her work, others had brought all the author’s books for her to autograph, and one Oxford graduate who studied Ponciá Vicêncio five years ago still felt strongly enough about the book that she came along in order to meet Conceição.
Claire Williams and Rosane Carneiro Ramos are very grateful that TORCH gave us the opportunity to bring this important, inspirational writer to London.
Brazil at the Salon du Livre 2015: http://www.salondulivreparis.com/Bresil-2015.htm (in French)
Report on Conceição Evaristo at the Salon du Livre:
Conceição Evaristo’s website: http://nossaescrevivencia.blogspot.co.uk/
(L-R) Claire Williams, Conceição Evaristo, Rosane Carneiro Ramos