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set 08, 2017

Brazilian literary festival FLIP celebrates diversity

Created in 2003, the International Literary Festival of Paraty (FLIP) quickly became one of Latin
America’s most important literary events. The festival is famous for its plethora of parallel events,
bringing numerous debates and lectures about literature, journalism, religion, environmental issues,
cinema, and history. The festival is proof of the Brazilian potential for creating and consuming
literary works.


Through the years, FLIP has hosted internationally acclaimed authors like Eric Hobsbawn, Julian
Barnes, Paul Auster, Paulo Lins, David Carr, among others. The young – yet powerful – festival has
definitely put Brazil on the map of international cultural events.
Cultural circles across the world have traditionally been occupied by society’s more privileged – and
often white – citizens. But Brazil wants to change that, starting with its literary circles, as it showed
by its line-up for this year’s FLIP. The festival is the biggest contemporary literature event in Brazil,
uniting authors and bookworms alike for a four-day celebration of modern Brazilian fiction and
poetry.


Among this year’s 46 participating authors and speakers, 24 were women and 30 percent were of
African descent. The literary initiative’s efforts earned praise from commentators, who called it a
success for racial equality movements.


This bodes well for diversifying the popular literary scene, too. Many authors who speak at FLIP see a
serious increase in sales of their latest releases as well as their most popular works, and this year
looks to be no exception. The festival’s annual occurrence seems to boost book sales in general in
Brazil, with booksellers posting an overall increase of 13 percent in sales volumes during the week of
the festival compared to the week before.


Biographer Lilia Schwarz, who opened this year’s festival, saw her biography of Lima Barreto sell
enough copies to place 15 th in the Non-Fiction Best Seller’s list. Meanwhile actor and writer Lázaro
Ramos was the author with the highest number of sales from this year’s FLIP, a non-fiction collection
of reflections on race titled ‘Na Minha Pele’ (In My Skin).
The inclusion of foreign literature, too, opens a gateway between Brazil’s rich literary heritage and
the rest of the world, allowing for true cross-cultural communication. Praised and prolific Nigerian
novelist and essayist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Paul Beatty also found themselves on the
Brazilian bestseller lists this week, as a result of the festival.


Meanwhile Rwandan writer Scholastique Mukasonga’s decision to launch two novels at this year’s
FLIP, where she was also a panellist, demonstrates the event’s international importance. One of the
books she launched, ‘A mulher dos pés descalços’ (The Barefoot Woman), became the second
biggest seller of the week for Brazilian booksellers. Mukasonga’s decision, consequently, shows the
power of the connection between Brazilian culture and worldwide literature, with Brazil leading the
way for a more inclusive artistic culture.


Brazil’s cultural melting pot, when it comes to literature, is something that it hopes to export. In May
this year, Brazil’s most prestigious literary award the Jabuti announced that it would be creating a
new category. With the intention of promoting Brazilian literature abroad, the new Jabuti will now
have an award for the best ‘Brazilian Book Published Abroad’ every year.


FLIP, meanwhile, is one way that Brazilian authors can raise their profile outside of the country. The
festival is renowned for its ability to attract tourists and those curious about Brazil’s literary and cultural richness, which its initiatives to diversify will only expand. Such initiatives are already
underway, with events like FlipSide. Hosted in leafy Suffolk, England, the festival is the British
incarnation of Flip, bringing Brazilian authors to readers in the UK.


Flipside has brought Brazilian works to the attention of a broader public. The event’s 2014 curator,
Ángel Gurría-Quintana, wrote in an editorial for The Guardian: “This variety of literary styles and
subject matter challenges easy assumptions about what contemporary Brazilian literature can offer
–and indeed about what it means to be a Brazilian today.”


Nor is it only in Britain that renowned Brazilian literature is finding success outside of Brazil. The
French market also seems key for Brazilian literature abroad, with editors and keen readers looking
for something different. Editors, especially picky when it comes to promoting translated works, seem
to be thrusting their weight behind Brazilian literature in France. Speaking to O Globo, French editor
Anne Marie Métailié simply said, “Brazilian production has quality.”