Improbable lucidity with Fernanda Young

Photo Credit: Camila Fontana/Época

Photo Credit: Camila Fontana/Época

Fernanda Young describes herself as a noisy drama queen, full of stories to tell.

Born in 1970 in Niterói, Rio de Janeiro, she first came to prominence in 1996 with her first novel Vergonha dos Pés (roughly, Embarrassed by Feet). She has many credits as a screenwriter including the television series Os Normais (The Normals) which was later turned into a movie and sequel. She has hosted several TV shows including her most recent, Irritatando Fernanda Young (Irritating Fernanda Young). Last year, she had an art installation exhibit at São Paulo’s Museum of Image and Sound (MIS) entitled A Louca Debaixo do Branco (The Crazy One Beneath White), and she wrote the TV comedy Como Aproveitar O Fim do Mundo (How to Make the Most of the End of the World).

If the titles are of any indication, she has a smart, edgy voice that bursts with its dry, at times morbid humor. I recently reread her 2000 novel As Pessoas dos Livros (The People From Books). The novel tells the story of Amanda Ayd, a celebrated novelist who describes her writing as “grabbing with my teeth my improbable lucidity.” As she finishes her latest novel, she realizes her marriage is ending as well.

The story changes narrators, at times being in third person (who often speaks to the reader), at times being Amanda herself or an excerpt from her book. Young seamlessly weaves comedy and drama together, as she seems to do in her other works.

Gustavo wrote a long letter to his beloved writer — what courage, to write to beloved writers — and he skipped an entire week of work, alleging he was sick, so he could concentrate on suffering for this love.

It’s a book that gets you excited and romantic over language and prose.

Love is one of those crazy things: everything’s right, but one suffers. A mystery not so complicated to decipher. Love leaves people more sensitive, it’s that simple. More discerning. More people. And they perceive everything. They confuse everything. They’re left vulnerable; they invent sorrows so they can play a record they love and suffer, for they were made for that, especially to suffer, and they piously believe in that. People in love play songs for the other to hear and they say: this song is mine.

As a reader whose first language is not Portuguese, I read this a first time and underlined the words I didn’t know to later look them up in the dictionary. You might call it ambitious, but then again, the book is only 158 pages long. (I once tried to do this with Jorge Amado’s Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon but I gave up.) Even when I didn’t understand every single word, I was in love, and rereading it a second time has only reaffirmed my love. I couldn’t find any translated versions of her books, even though she’s a successful author with eleven books. In fact, she doesn’t even have an official website. I guess for now she’s Brazil’s literary secret.

Note: All titles and text are my own translation.


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