Angolan writer and musician Kalaf Epalanga summed up the general mood of the International Literary Festival in Paraty, FLIP, a profoundly political event that ended this weekend. He reminded FLIP attendees of the masses of black immigrants sentenced to underemployment in Europe, but who, in the African nights of the old continent, dress their best clothes and rescue their dignity. He defended their salvation through partying—but with little distance from reality.
His companion in the date, the French-Rwandan Gaël Faye, recounted his encounter with rap - an art of the poor, he said, of which even those who only know how to paint walls can participate. With him, who is also a writer, FLIP brought a representation of hip-hop culture.
The meeting of the two men, both of whom are on the bestseller list of the event this year, encapsulated this year's FLIP in two ways. The black authors participated in the best debates of FLIP, consolidating a trail of diversity that started two years ago, with the homage to Lima Barreto. The main auditorium had 8,628 visitors, 19% more than last year.
Instead of just boiling with political temperature, FLIP also brought about a festive indignation. The audience's euphoric reaction to slam, the poetry competition led by Roberta Estrela D'Alva, was one of Flip's greatest hits. The verses of the poets of several countries had militant voltage, but they were also good-humored.
Politics, with a general view of the left, dominated the spaces inside and outside the main tent. Under this bias, FLIP is not only different Brazil but also a parallel Paraty - the spaces in the party did not seem to be in the same city that gave 70% of its valid votes to President Jair Bolsonaro in the second round of elections last year.
Just look at the protest against the speech of the journalist Glenn Greenwald in the boat of Flipei, part of the parallel programming of the event. Supporters of the founder of The Intercept website joined the thousands on the channel side where he spoke. On the other side was a small minority of the group of Bolsonarists who were trying to make a noise so that Greenwald's speech would not be heard.
In her conversation with journalists at the closing of the literary celebration, the curator of the event, Fernanda Diamant, referred critically to the Bolsononaro demonstration.
"Affirmative protest is a welcome thing. I think you can not silence the other, attempt to prevent the other from speaking, that's what happened. They made noise so that things would not be heard," she said.
Even before the Bolsonaro hegemony in the city of Rio de Janeiro, guests were in a safe space to raise left-wing causes or also take to the stage a banner with the words "Free Lula," as did Ava Rocha and José Celso Martinez Corrêa - without being booed or receiving few protests.
Asked about this, Diamant said she had not planned a leftist FLIP. She mentioned the presence of the Venezuelan writer Karina Sainz Borgo, a critic of the regime of the dictator Nicolás Maduro, and the historian José Murilo de Carvalho, "an author who is not considered of the left." She also stressed that the demonstrations came from the authors, sometimes from the audience.
Emblematic of this conflict were the two times in which FLIP appeared the national anthem, symbol patriotic today embraced by the bolsonarism. First, in the well-received presentation by the Oficina Theater at the opening of the event last Wednesday, that finished to a national anthem version in the voice of João Gilberto.
Then, in the protest against Glenn Greenwald, the music was played to the rhythm of funk. That is, the left chose to coat the song of a style associated with the elites, bossa nova, while the right chose a popular genre.
Still, as marks of the black presence, the Portuguese artist Grada Kilomba was the author of the best selling book of this edition. Another highlight was the Nigerian author, Ayòbámi Adébáyò.
In a FLIP without big international names, as was common before in the event, the most hyped foreigners did not live up to expectations. It was the case of American Kristen Roupenian, from the viral "Cat Person" tale, which was mainly focused on her creative process, resulting in a cold table with the Canadian Sheila Heti.
Curiously, the promotion of black literature happenedin a FLIP that honored Euclides da Cunha, who in "Os Sertões" used several racist theories in vogue in Brazil at the end of the 19th century. But, at the same time that sought the political bias of the work, the critical approach.
Translated by Kiratiana Freelon