Edinburgh World Writers' Conference » Portugal http://www.edinburghworldwritersconference.org The website for the 2012-13 Edinburgh World Writers' Conference Thu, 31 Oct 2013 16:37:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.5.2 EWWC Highlights Film http://www.edinburghworldwritersconference.org/all-presentations/ewwc-highlights/ http://www.edinburghworldwritersconference.org/all-presentations/ewwc-highlights/#comments Thu, 12 Sep 2013 15:43:51 +0000 maceymarini http://www.edinburghworldwritersconference.org/?p=5435 EWWC Highlights Film Watch this video showcasing the highlights of the festival throughout the past year]]> Watch this video showcasing the highlights of the EWWC festival throughout the past year, and read more about the Conference on our About the Conference page. ]]> http://www.edinburghworldwritersconference.org/all-presentations/ewwc-highlights/feed/ 0 Dos Santos in Portugal – Keynote on Should Literature Be Political? http://www.edinburghworldwritersconference.org/should-literature-be-political/dos-santos-in-portugal-keynote-on-should-literature-be-political/ http://www.edinburghworldwritersconference.org/should-literature-be-political/dos-santos-in-portugal-keynote-on-should-literature-be-political/#comments Sat, 25 May 2013 16:12:49 +0000 maceymarini http://www.edinburghworldwritersconference.org/?p=4786 Jose_360pxShould Literature Be Political?

Keynote address given by José Rodrigues dos Santos

First presented at EWWC Portugal, Lisbon Book Fair

José Rodrigues dos Santos keynote text: “Should Literature Be Political?”

Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is considered by many to be the finest crime mystery ever written. It tells the story of how Hercule Poirot investigates a killing – and stuns us when he identifies the culprit. Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendez-vous with Rama is the most awarded science-fiction novel ever, and tells the story of an unidentified spaceship that crosses the solar system and leaves behind more questions than answers. José Saramago’s Blindness is frequently pointed out as one of the best 20th century novels in world literature, and it tells the story of a sudden epidemic of blindness in Lisbon.

Apart from the obvious quality of these books, a quality that arises either from their storyline or their written style, what do they have in common? Well, they are not political. Even José Saramago, who has never hidden the fact that he was a Communist, and an active one at that, never actually wrote an obvious political novel.

What is, then, a political novel? Politics is not necessarily something that involves political parties, as we might immediately assume, but rather an activity related to the management of societies. Decisions and actions that affect us all are politics, but also ideas and concepts. Actually, it’s the latter that provide the blueprint for the former.

We can find many quality novels that do have a clear political message. Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary questions the social anathema of 19th century female adultery; George Orwell’s 1984 or Animal Farm are powerful critical metaphors for Communist totalitarian dictatorships; Eça de Queirós’ O Crime do Padre Amaro brings us a strong critique of the Catholic Church’s hypocrisy towards priests’ celibacy; and John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath shows us the misery spread by unregulated capitalism in the wake of the Great Depression.

Should we say that O Crime do Padre Amaro is a superior novel compared to Blindness because it has a political message? Can we honestly claim that Animal Farm is more literary than The Book of Illusions just because Orwell’s novel conveys a political meaning and Auster’s novel doesn’t? Incidentally, is Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code a political book? How can we say it isn’t if it deals in a critical way with deep political issues such as who Jesus Christ really was, how his legend was shaped for political purposes, the role of women in the religious system of power and what the Opus Dei really is?

These are not easy questions, but they do point in different directions and help us clarify things a bit. A novel can be literary without an obvious political message. And the fact that the novel has a political message is not tantamount to a quality novel.

By the way, who decides what a literary novel is? Is Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code a literary novel? Who can say that it is? Who can say that it isn’t? Me? My friends? The newspapers? A committee for good literary taste? Who belongs to such a committee? How was he or she elected? Does each one of us have to obey and accept the critical judgment of such a committee? How many times have committees of the day misjudged a work of art? Nobody cared about Fernando Pessoa’s poetry when he was alive, and today he is considered the pinnacle of contemporary Portuguese poetry. Dashiel Hammett was thought of in his day as a second-rate popular author, but today his The Maltese Falcon is cherished as a classic. In his prime, Pinheiro Chagas was praised as an immortal author, but today nobody has even heard of his name. If we probe deeper into what is and what is not literature, we find many questions and no solid answers.

So, we get back to the starting point. Should literature be political? Well, some might say that this is like asking: should art be beautiful? Yes, by all means, art should be beautiful! Can’t we, then, create ugly art? No, we can’t! If it’s ugly, it’s not art, it’s a failed attempt at it.

This is an interesting point, because, faced with the definition that something to be artistic has to be beautiful, French artist Marcel Duchamp presented in a 1917 New York art exhibition his latest artistic work, which he called La fontaine, or The Fountain. It was actually a porcelain urinal made in an industrial factory. La fontaine created an uproar because it introduced the world to a new concept: art that is disgusting. It is ugly, and yet it is art.
Marcel Duchamp made a powerful point. He told us that an art work is what the artist decides. So, what is a literary work? Well, it’s what the author decides. Me, you, my friends, the newspapers, the committee for good literary taste may or may not like it, that’s not relevant, because art can be ugly and yet be art. A literary work can be political or not political, and yet be a literary work.

Should literature be political? Hell, who cares? It is political if the author thus decides, and it isn’t if the author so wishes it. The literary quality of a book is not linked to its political message, in the same way the artistic quality of a sculpture is not linked to its beauty. They are different issues.
Well, are they really?

What is then a political novel? Can Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, a simple, albeit interesting, crime investigation somehow be a political novel? The book does present us with a political message, though probably not even its author is aware of it. And that message is simple: Thou shall not kill. How more political can a message get? Thou shall not kill is a political order given by the highest ruler of them all, God Almighty Himself. It is a sheer political message, created for social management.

French sociologist Louis Althusser once wrote that, when a woman visits a shoe shop and buys high heels shoes, she is making a clear ideological statement. By wearing high heels shoes, she is expressing her idea of what society is and what her role in society should be, and what can be more political than that?

So, the question is not indeed if literature should be political. The real question is: could it be otherwise?

© José Rodrigues dos Santos, 2013

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DOS SANTOS – Should Literature Be Political? http://www.edinburghworldwritersconference.org/should-literature-be-political/dos-santos-should-literature-be-political/ http://www.edinburghworldwritersconference.org/should-literature-be-political/dos-santos-should-literature-be-political/#comments Sat, 25 May 2013 16:12:48 +0000 maceymarini http://www.edinburghworldwritersconference.org/?p=4097 The Lisbon Book Fair, Lisbon
Saturday 25 May 4pm WEST Should Literature Be Political? Keynote by: José Rodrigues dos Santos. With Rute Pinheiro Coelho.]]> Jose_360pxThe Lisbon Book Fair, Lisbon

Saturday 25 May 4pm WEST

Should Literature Be Political?

Keynote by: José Rodrigues dos Santos. With Rute Pinheiro Coelho.

Author Biography:

José Rodrigues dos Santos is the bestselling novelist in Portugal and his fiction is published or is about to be published in 20 languages. He is the author of five essays and ten novels, including Portuguese blockbusters Codex and The Einstein Enigma, both long listed for the 2010 and 2012 IMPAC Dublin Literary Award (respectively). His novel The Wrath of God won the 2009 Porto Literary Club Award. His overall sales are above 1.5 million books, astonishing figures considering Portugal’s tiny market. He was elected by readers the 2012 and 2013 Reader’s Digest Trusted Brand Novelist of Portugal.

José is also a journalist and a university lecturer at Lisbon’s New University. He works for Portuguese public television, where he presents RTP’s Evening News. José has a PhD in war reporting and as a reporter has covered wars around the globe, including Angola, East Timor, South Africa, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Iraq, Bosnia, Serbia, Lebanon, Georgia and Libya. He has been awarded three times by CNN for his reporting and twice by the Portuguese Press Club.

Rute Pinheiro Coelho graduated in Law at the Faculdade de Classica da Universidade de Lisboa. Although currently devoting her time to advocacy (civil rights, commerical, employment and criminal), she has always been dedicated to writing. Rute published her first articles in the weekly supplement of the Diario de Noticias, DNJOVEM, and won some ‘young writer’ literary prizes. The theme of Freemasons was something that captivated her early and is something to which has been devoting much attention, not only for its latent symbolism but also for its influence on political life. O Inmigo Invisivel is her first romance novel and she has already started to write her second, to be published in 2014.

http://www.edinburghworldwritersconference.org/should-literature-be-political/dos-santos-should-literature-be-political/feed/ 1 DENISE MINA – The Future of the Novel http://www.edinburghworldwritersconference.org/the-future-of-the-novel/denise-mina-the-future-of-the-novel/ http://www.edinburghworldwritersconference.org/the-future-of-the-novel/denise-mina-the-future-of-the-novel/#comments Sat, 25 May 2013 13:30:15 +0000 maceymarini http://www.edinburghworldwritersconference.org/?p=4117 The Lisbon Book Fair, Lisbon Saturday 25 May 6:30pm WEST The Future of the Novel Chaired by: Denise Mina. Panelists include João Tordo, Dulce Maria Cardoso, Mathias Énard, Rosa Liksom.]]> Denise_Mina_360pxThe Lisbon Book Fair, Lisbon

Saturday 25 May 6:30pm WEST

The Future of the Novel

Chaired by: Denise Mina. Panelists include Mathias Énard, Rosa Liksom, João Tordo and Dulce Maria Cardoso.

Author Biographies:

Denise Mina is the author of eleven novels, three graphic novels, three plays and many short stories. Two of her novels have been filmed by BBC television. She has won prizes, been nominated for prizes, judged and presented prizes and is starting to think they might be meaningless. She is a regular contributor to television and radio, presents documentaries and is currently finishing her first video piece ‘Multum in Parvo’ – a film about her extended family watching a film about her extended family making a film about her extended family.

Mathias Énard was born in 1972 in France. He studied Persian and Arabic and lived for many years in the Middle East. He is Professor of Arabic at the university of Barcelona. He has written five novels and won several literature prizes, including Zone, which won the Prix Decembre and the Prix du Livre Inter, and Parle-leur de batailles de rois et d’éléphants, which won the Prix Goncourt.

Rosa Liksom was born in 1958 in Ylitornio, far north in Finnish Lapland, in the “Meän” language area. Her parents were farmers and reindeer breeders. She wrote the first three of her books in “free town” of Kristiania, in Copenhagen, where she was working in a bakery and helping out at a local store. In 2011 her book, Hytti nro 6 (Compartment Number 6) was awarded the Finlandia prize. This year (2013) the same novel has been nominated for the Nordic Council Literature Prize. Besides writing books, Rosa Liksom has also painted and made short films since 1985. She has created comic books, a colouring book and children’s books. Rosa currently lives in Helsinki.

João Tordo was born in Lisbon in 1975. He read Philosophy and studied Journalism and Creative Writing in London and New York. In 2001 he was the recipient of the New Authors Prize. He has published six novels: O Livro dos Homens Sem Luz (2004); Hotel Memória (2007); As Três Vidas (2008), winner of the José Saramago Literary Prize and shortlisted for the Portugal Telecom Prize in Brazil; O Bom Inverno (2010), shortlisted for the best Fiction Novel of the Portuguese Author’s Society and the Fernando Namora Literary Prize (the french translation, published by Actes Sud, was nominated for the European Literary Award); and Anatomia dos Mártires (2011), again shortlisted for the Fernando Namora Literary Prize. His novels have been published in seven countries, including France, Italy and Brazil. He also works as a columnist, translator, screenwriter and regularly teaches fiction workshops.

Dulce Maria Cardoso, born in Trás-os-Montes in 1964, is one of the most important literary voices in Portugal. She spent her childhood in Angola and returned to Portugal in 1975, shortly after Portugal’s Carnation Revolution and Angola’s independence. She studied law, worked as a lawyer and wrote scripts for the cinema. The author has received numerous prizes for her literary work, such as the European Union Prize for Literature 2009 for Os meus sentimentos and the Portuguese PEN Prize 2011 for O Chão dos pardais. O retorno, her latest novel, has been awarded the Special Prize of the Critics 2011 in Portugal, and was selected as Book of the Year 2011.

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“Every book is political” – Jose Rodrigues dos Santos gears up for EWWC Lisbon http://www.edinburghworldwritersconference.org/should-literature-be-political/every-book-is-political-jose-rodrigues-dos-santos-gears-up-for-ewwc-lisbon/ http://www.edinburghworldwritersconference.org/should-literature-be-political/every-book-is-political-jose-rodrigues-dos-santos-gears-up-for-ewwc-lisbon/#comments Wed, 22 May 2013 12:33:36 +0000 tanyaandrews http://www.edinburghworldwritersconference.org/?p=4763 Jose_360pxJosé Rodrigues dos Santos is a bestselling author of ten novels, including Portuguese blockbusters ‘Codex 632′ and ‘The Einstein Enigma’, both long listed for the 2010 and 2012 IMPAC Dublin Literary Award respectively. José is also a journalist, and presents RTP’s Evening News. As a war reporter he has covered many conflicts including Angola, East Timor, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Iraq, Bosnia and Libya, and he has been awarded three times by CNN for his reporting and twice by the Portuguese Press Club. He will deliver the keynote speech on ‘Should Literature  Be Political? ‘ this weekend at the Edinburgh World Writers’ Conference: Lisbon. He was the Portuguese delegate at the inaugural Conference sessions in Edinburgh 2012.

EWWC: Let’s go back, first of all, to that week in Edinburgh eight months ago. You spent a week discussing, listening, and conversing with fellow writers from all over the world in an effort to assess, collaboratively, why literature is important, and what challenges and issues it faces today. What sticks out most clearly in your memory from the Conference?

JRS: Actually, method. I enjoyed the concept of having someone starting a discussion and then having the writers contribute at their will. I thought this was a good and lively way of approaching things. As for contents… well, I guess one way or the other we’ve all previously considered the issues raised in the conference.

EWWC: You are by trade, originally, a journalist specialising in war reporting, with a varied and illustrious career in that arena under your belt. You have also achieved international recognition and success with a string of bestselling novels. One of the subjects being discussed this weekend in Lisbon is The Future of the Novel. Do you see any parallels or similarities between the changes affecting these two writing genres (journalism and novels) as technology advances and reading habits adjust and change?

JRS: That’s a hard one. We can only guess, I suppose. Journalists are still needed to sort out what is reliable information or not. We’ve all seen how un-mediated news is prone to manipulation on the internet, haven’t we? It’s the right atmosphere for innuendo and rumours. That’s why journalists are still needed – to separate news from innuendo. As for writers, they surely will always be around, even if their works aren’t written in books, but in other media. I’m told that the best American writers don’t write books anymore – they write scripts. The point is, they write. They will always write, even if they don’t end up as traditional books.

EWWC: Your subject this weekend will be ‘Should Literature be Political?’ In your dual careers as reporter and novelist, are there any particular novels with a political element or message which have informed your thinking?

JRS: My point is that every book is political, even if unintended. Agatha Christie is political - and so is Donald Duck.

EWWC: In Edinburgh one of the clearest interventions you made was in the Style vs Content debate, when you brought up the subject of translation. You said that “some works which are based on style [alone] are untranslatable”. You underscored this point by saying that you felt that, for example, “Jose Saramango’s Blindness is untranslatable in English” – a point rebutted by Ali Smith.

JRS: Sure some books are untranslatable. Look at the Italian author Andrea Camilleri. Signore Camilleri’s books feature il comissario Montalbano and are hugely popular in Italy, but not so much in other countries. Why? The thing is, Italians laugh at the way Montalbano talks – you see, he uses a very peculiar and funny Sicilian jargon. When he says “Montalbano sono”, Italians burst out in laugher as this is a very funny Sicilian way of talking. But how can you translate that into English, Japanese or Portuguese? Will you use a Scottish accent? Or a Welsh one? If you do, won’t it sound strange that a Southern Italian policeman talks with a Scottish accent? And is there a funny way for a Scotsman to say “Montalbano sono”? It’s bloody untranslatable!!!

EWWC: And finally … If you had to be exiled permanently to one of the EWWC cities – Edinburgh, Berlin, Cape Town, Toronto, Krasnoyarsk, Cairo, Jaipur, Beijing, Izmir, Brussels, Lisbon, Port of Spain (Trinidad), St Malo, Kuala Lumpur & Melbourne – which would you choose and why?

JRS: I happen to know most of the cities you mentioned and I have to say that  Lisbon is still unbeatable. Why? Well, I live in a forest, under a medieval castle, 30 minutes away from Lisbon. Five minutes away from my home there are beaches with golden sands, a marina, a casino, cheap and delicious fish restaurants, the weather’s mild and sunny, the people are soft and nice, the airport’s 30 minutes away and I can be in London or Paris in less than 3 hours. Just point me a city in the list you presented that could beat this.

EWWC: Thank you Jose!

The Edinburgh World Writers’ Conference: Lisbon will take place this Saturday 25th May at the Lisbon Book Fair, presented by The British Council Portugal, European Union National Institutes for Culture (EUNIC) and APEL (Association of Editors and Publishers in Portugal). Participating writers include José Rodrigues dos Santos, Rute Pinheiro Coelho, Denise Mina, Mathias Enard, Rosa Liksom, Dulce Maria Cardoso and João Tordo. The two sessions will be livestreamed on this website at 4pm and 6.30pm WEST.

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