© Julie Harris
Adriana Lisboa was born in Rio de Janeiro. With degrees in Music and Literature, she is the author of ten widely translated fiction books, among which five novels, a collection of flash fiction, and books for children. She was hailed as a new star of Brazilian literature after the publication of her 2001 novel Sinfonia em Branco (“Symphony in White”), which received the prestigious José Saramago Prize. In 2007, she was selected by the Hay Festival/Bogotá World Book Capital as one of the 39 highest profile Latin American writers under the age of 39. She has also been longlisted for the International Impac Dublin Literary Award 2015 with her novel Azul-Corvo.
When David discovers that he has terminal brain cancer, he decides to put his affairs in order. Then he meets Alex, a young mother who had an affair with a married man, and his fast-dwindling life gets a new sense of purpose. As the two of them slowly get closer, they learn that they are both descendants of immigrants: Alex’s grandmother and mother come from Vietnam, David’s parents are from Mexico and Brazil. While David, not wanting to die in Chicago, makes plans for his last journey to Hanói, the place where Alex’s mother was born, Alex in turn still hopes for a miracle.
In her characteristic poetic style, Adriana Lisboa insightfully takes up the topic of the finiteness of life and how people deal with it, creating a moving story with very real characters.
Adriana Lisboa transports us much further than we’ve ever been.
Hanói deals with the fragility of existence with skilful levity.
Folha de S. Paulo
In her novel Azul-corvo (“Crow-Blue”), Adriana Lisboa tells an unusual road-story about growing-up and the search for one’s roots, simultaneously allowing for an intriguing glimpse at the life of the Brazilian guerillas. When her mother dies, thirteen-year-old Vanja moves to her stepfather in the US, an ex-guerilla from Brazil where he gained a reputation for being a relentless fighter. There she goes looking for her biological father, following her mother’s footsteps and finding out who she really is. The novel has been longlisted for the International Impac Dublin Literary Award 2015.
One of the young revelations in Portuguese literature.
Playing with language, this extraordinary novel is full of poetic twists and turns.
Sinfonia em branco (”Symphony in white”), the internationally-acclaimed novel by prize-winning Brazilian author Adriana Lisboa, follows the journeys – literal, chronological, and metaphysical – of two sisters raised in the apparently tranquil backlands of Brazil in the sixties and educated in teeming Rio de Janeiro in the seventies. Sisters who share dark secrets that affect every step of their way as they finally face their past so that they might at last embrace their future. It is the moving story that covers four decades of a family where ugly truths are kept hidden, secret, unspoken, paralleling the years of the Brazilian dictatorship when everyone knew that atrocities were being committed, but no one dared speak of them.
As the complex but seemingly simple narrative shifts back and forth in space and time, each new revelation imparts added dimensions and more depth to the characters as well as to the narrative, which little by little builds up to unveil astonishing revelations and a shattering climax.
But Sinfonia em branco is much more than compelling storytelling or a novel of Brazilian manners and culture. Lisboa also makes numerous references to music and art throughout the novel, which in itself is not unlike a symphony where each character’s storyline represents a different instrument of a symphonic score, resulting in a dramatic and powerful work of great beauty and harmony. Add to that the pure pleasure of Lisboa’s eloquent metaphors, her lyrical, poetic prose, and her unexpected word choices, which allow the reader to examine the dark abysses of the human soul within a framework as delicate as the flight of a butterfly. Like all great literature, Sinfonia em branco is a book of universal appeal that transcends all geographic borders.
The most enchanting novel of the season. Unmissable.
Adriana Lisboa effectively succeeds in capturing the poetry inherent in the everyday, weaving her words into a symphony of silences.
Sinfonia em Branco is the proof of an excellent writer and a vital sign of life indicating the very latest in Brazilian literature awaiting our discovery, urgently so...
We have here a writer for now and for later.
José Saramago on the occasion of awarding the José Saramago Prize
In Rakushisha Adriana Lisboa invites us to discover, alongside her characters, the simplicity and beauty of the poetry of Matsuo Basho, a pioneer of the Haikai style: the art of saying the most possible with the minimum of words. Rakushisha is a journey to Japan seen through the eyes of two Brazilians: Haruki and Celina.
Starting from a fleeting encounter in a metro station in Rio de Janeiro, where both live, they end up taking their furthest ever trip from home: they travel together to Japan. Due to the isolation caused by the cultural diffence, this adventure ultimately becomes an interior journey, a journey to the untouched feelings and secrets of each one. Through the alternate narration of Haruki and Celina emerge Basho’s haikais, and thus the reader discovers Basho’s translator in Brazil is Haruki’s great unrequited love, and that Celina’s sad eyes conceal a great tragedy in her life. Rakushisha is a delicate novel, to be grasped with both hands, as the Japonese hold their objects.
In Um beijo de Colombina (“A Colombina Kiss”) Teresa, a talented writer from Rio de Janeiro, has rented a house near the beach, where she spends her days writing or sleeping, and at the end of the afternoon she goes out to swim in the sea. One day, Teresa does not return, and her body is not found. Back in the house, her boyfriend was waiting for her, finding a poem by the great Brazilian poet, Manuel Bandeira: ‘In the waves of the beach, in the waves of the sea, I want to be happy, I want to drown’. Um beijo de Columbina is narrated by him, and, as if to put his feelings in order, he dives into the universe she left behind, thus getting to know better the woman he lived with and coming to understand his feelings for her. ‘Love is a million small things’ is a line that appears in this novel and sums it up perfectly. The narration is light of touch and sensitive, patient and free of anguish. The final chapter of the book has a surprise in store for the reader, shedding a new light on all that has gone before, enclosing one fiction within another.
On the seashore, a mermaid and a butterfly catcher fall in love. So goes the story A sereia e o caçador de borboletas ("The Mermaid and the Butterfly Catcher") about this one magic meeting, because the butterfly catcher, who in fact was never hunting butterflies but just observing and admiring them, does not know how to swim or fly, and the mermaid cannot leave the water. The destiny of some Portuguese sailors, who have been on a voyage for three hundred years, depends on a repeat meeting between the mermaid and the butterfly catcher. Fortunately, they do meet up again, because a butterfly has taught the butterfly catcher to fly, so enabling he and the mermaid to meet once more, at which point the sailors consider their sea voyage to be over.
The book helps its young readers to develop their concepts of love, freedom, the masculine and the feminine and art. The cohesion that exists between the illustrations and the text is magnificent. Adriana and Rui have produced a great book for young and old alike.
Jornal do Brasil
Visit the author’s website: www.adrianalisboa.com
Hanói, Rio de Janeiro: Alfaguara 2013, 240 p.
English sample translation by Alison Entrekin available
Argentina: Edhasa (Spanish world rights) 2015 ● France: Métailié 2015 ● Italy: Nuova Frontiera 2014
Azul-corvo, Rio de Janeiro: Rocco 2010, 219 p.
Longlisted for the International Impac Dublin Literary Award 2015
Argentina: Edhasa 2011 (Spanish world rights) ● China: Central Compilation Translation Press ● France: Métailié 2013 ● Italy: Nuova Fronteira ● Norway: Tigerforlaget 2015 ● Poland: Rebis ● Portugal: Quetzal 2012 ● Serbia: Clio 2012 ● UK: Bloomsbury 2013 ● Ukraine: Calvaria
Rakushisha, Rio de Janeiro: Rocco 2007, 132 p.
Longlisted for the International Impac Dublin Literary Award 2013
Italy: Angelica Editore 2010 ● Portugal: Quetzal 2009 ● Romania: Univers 2014 ● US: Texas Tech University Press 2011
Um beijo de Colombina, Rio de Janeiro: Rocco 2003, 135 p.
Portugal: Temas e Debates 2005 ● Sweden: Boca Pocky 2005
Sinfonia em branco, Rio de Janeiro: Rocco 2001, Alfaguara 2013, 320 p.
Albania: Dudaj ● China: Central Compilation Translation Press ● Croatia: Hena-Com ● Egypt: El Arabi 2014 ● France: Métailié 2009 ● Germany: Aufbau 2013 ● Italy: Angelica Editore 2008 ● Mexico: Alfaguara 2009 ● Poland: Rebis 2016 ● Portugal: Temas e Debates 2003 ● Romania: Univers 2013 ● Slovenia: Modrijan Zalozba 2017 ● Turkey: Kirmizi Kedi 2015 ● US: Texas Tech University Press 2010
Os fios da memória, Rio de Janeiro: Rocco 1999, 221 p.
Lavar a Alma-Soul Washing, Berkeley: Center for Latin American Studies 2014
Caligrafias, Rio de Janeiro: Rocco 2004, 92 p.
For young readers:
A sereia e o caçador de borboletas, Rio de Janeiro: Rocco 2009, 46 p.
Illustration by Rui de Oliveira
Contos populares japoneses, Rio de Janeiro: Rocco 2008, 86 p.
Illustration by Janaina Tokitaka
Highly recommended by the Brazilian International Board on Books for Young People – IBBY
Italy: Graphe 2013
Argentina: Santillana 2016 ● Switzerland: La Joie de Lire 2009 (French language)
Língua de trapos, Rio de Janeiro: Rocco 2005, 36 p.
Highly recommended by the Brazilian International Board on Books for Young People – IBBY
Participation in anthologies:
Brésil 25 – 2000-2015
France: Métailié 2015
Cuentos en tránsito. Antología de narrativa brasileña
Argentina: Alfaguara 2014
Other Carnivals: New Stories from Brazil
UK: Full Circle 2013
Microcontos. Minigeschichten aus Brasilien
Germany: dtv 2013
Popcorn unterm Zuckerhut. Junge brasilianische Literatur
Germany: Wagenbach 2013
Brasilien berättar: Ljud av steg
Sweden: Tranan 2011
Dicionário Amoroso da Língua Portuguesa
Portugal: Casa da Palvra 2009
(Ed. By Marcelo Moutinho)
Antología de cuento latinoamericano
Colombia: Ediciones B 2007
Bogotá 39 (Almendros), Bogotá: Ediciones B 2007, 413 p.
Spain: Círculo de Lectores 2013
Lusofônica – La nuova narrativa in lingua portughese
Italy: La Nuova Frontiera 2006
25 mulheres que estão fazendo a nova literatura brasileira (org. Luiz Ruffato)
Brazil: Record 2004
Parte da paisagem
São Paulo: Iluminuras 2014, 120 p.