© Jorge Bispo
J.P. Cuenca was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1978. He has been writing for major Brazilian newspapers and magazines and is currently a weekly columnist for Folha de S. Paulo. In recent years, he has been writing plays, film and television scripts.
In 2007, he was selected by the Hay Festival as one of the 39 highest profile Latin American writers under the age of 39. He has also been selected for the very first ever issue Best of Young Brazilian Novelists of the prestigious literary magazine Granta with an excerpt of his new novel. The author directed his own documentary A Morte de J.P. Cuenca, which is based on his most recent novel and won the Production Competition of Film in Rio 2013. The film took part in the first Venice Film Festival Biennale College Production Lab as well as in the main competition selection of the prestigious CPH:DOX Festival in Denmark.
J.P. Cuenca‘s brilliantly construed new novel Descobri que estava morto (“The Day I Found Out I was Dead”) looks into the topic of stolen identity in a city on the verge of change. In pre-olympic Rio de Janeiro, a man is found dead in an occupied building. He carries the name of the author João Paulo Cuenca – who is very much alive. As the writer tries to discover more about what happened to his alter ego, he finds himself sucked more and more into the underworld of his city. An unusual crime investigation of the literary kind, and a new perspective on Brazil’s second-largest city.
I won't ever be able to return to the Trastevere district of Rome and enter the Libreria del Cinema without thinking that here, on the night of July 14, 2008, the great J.P. Cuenca died, a young Brazilian author I admired, and whom I was sure would become one of the great writers of Latin America. Simulation and disappearance, subjects treated with kid gloves, were the linchpins of his narrative, and I have no doubt that, had he carried on living and writing, he would have been capable of anything, even of writing after death.
O único final feliz para a história de amor é um acidente ("The Only Happy Ending to a Love Story is an Accident") is set in present-day Tokyo and tells the story of Shunsuke and his complicated relationship with his father, Mr Okuda, whose hobby is spying on his son. When Sunshuke falls in love with Iulana, a maelstrom of jealousy is set in motion that culminates in abduction and death. In poetic and imaginative language, Cuenca subtly interweaves reality and fiction, creating a world whose palpable characters leave a lasting impression. Written rather like a crime novel, full of odd events and reminiscent of Haruki Murakami, this story draws the reader in from the very first page.
A disconcerting narration.
In his magical novel, J.P. Cuenca depicts the omnipresent voyerism of the Japanese megacity. Pessimistic to the core and beautiful.
This book is a real treat.
Jornal de Negócios
With his third novel, J.P. Cuenca confirms his status as a rising star of Brazilian literature.
Insightful yet relentless: A novel that easily matches Haruki Murakami’s mastery.
There is one young author I really like – João Paulo Cuenca.
Chico Buarque, BBC LONDON
O dia Mastroianni (“The Mastroianni Day”) is any day, at any time or in any city around the world, when two friends decide to go through the hilarious ritual of spending 24 hours living, as if in a farce, in the persona that the legendary Italian actor immortalised as his own: the dandy wandering between women and pleasures, ironic and slightly melancholy at the passing of time: meaningless, with too much sound and no fury.
This tradition has no basis in cinema or in memory, but in the imagination of João Paulo Cuenca: he creates an off-beat world for Pedro Cassavas and Tomás Anselmo. This double-act wanders through a city as improbable as its place-names, and from the roguish popcorn seller working the Praça do Duomo to the Bohemian life of Baixo Gália, they pass through the most entertaining of nightmares, a world which, little by little, becomes more familiar to the reader. O dia Mastroianni is, in many ways, the novel of a generation, or more precisely, of the clichés of a generation which in its aversion to clichés ends up becoming irredeemably entwined with them. The characters make quotations, boast and expose themselves to ridicule for their boundless pretension. The First Commandment of the best Brazilian literature is once again invoked – this time as farce, of course: Cuenca only uses the quill of laughter because it is soaked in the toner of melancholy.
Please find a sample translation of O dia Mastroianni at www.wordswithoutborders.org.
O Dia Mastroianni, João Paulo Cuenca's most recent publication, is one of those books ... to be read in one go, in a single night in one greedy gulp.
Light-hearted, funny and absurdly acerbic. One of the best books of the last decade.
Estado de S.Paulo
Once you have entered into the spirit of the novel, it is entertaining like few others.
Isabel Coutinho, Ípsilon
His first novel, Corpo Presente (“Body Present”) is a man’s radical descent into his own obsessions. The narrator goes through days, streets and women on a search for a lost or impossible love affair, a Carmen who does not come from opera or fiction, but from dirty, seductive Copacabana, a claustrophobic setting. Swallowed up by the night, dazzled by the sun, the main character lives in a tense and continuous present, looking for feelings that have been lost forever in a world that has become too cynical, too violent, too sexualised. An idealist in his own way, he searches for purity by dirtying himself in the precarious moments that life presents him with. Like the prime numbers that are set above each fragment of text, the characters of Corpo Presente are divisible only by themselves.
I read Body Present in one sitting. I was mesmerised by the maturity of the writing. It has been some time since I was last impressed so much by a narrative. It is a great book.
Descobri que estava morto
English and German sample translation available
São Paulo: Tusquets 2016, 236 p.
Argentinia: Tusquets/Planeta (Latin American rights) 2017 ● France: Cambourakis 2017 ● Italy: Miraggi 2018 ● Portugal: Caminho 2015
São Paulo: Companhia das Letras 2010, 146 p.
Finland: Rotta 2014 ● France: Cambourakis 2014 ● Germany: A1 2012 ● Portugal: Caminho 2011 ● Romania: Polirom 2015 ● Spain: Lengua de Trapo 2012 ● US & Canada: Tagus 2013
O dia Mastroianni
Rio de Janeiro: Agir 2007, 210 p.
Germany: A1 2013 ● Italy: Cavallo di Ferro 2008 ● Portugal: Caminho 2009 ● US: Excerpt at www.wordswithoutborders.org 2011
Rio de Janeiro: Planeta 2003
São Paulo: Companhia das Letras 2013, 140 p.
English sample translation available
Argentina: Dakota 2016 ● Sweden: Tranan 2016
A última madrugada
São Paulo: Leya 2012, 240 p.
Participation in anthologies:
Granta 121: Best of Young Brazilian Novelists
London: Granta 2012
(Excerpt of Descobri que estava morto)
Magnus Magazine 07 Brazil/Rio
Prague: Yinachi 2015
Buenos Aires: Ferreyra Editor 2009
Missives – Nouvelles brésiliennes contemporaines
Paris: Société Littéraire 2008
Cem melhores crônicas brasileiras
Rio de Janeiro: Objetiva 2007
Bogotá 39 (No hay banda)
Bogotá: Ediciones B 2007, 413 p.
Spain: Círculo de Lectores 2013