The opportunity to be face to face with great authors, to participate in debates and workshops, to watch musical performances, theater plays and many other creative activities provoked a kind of collective catharsis in the Flip public, held this year between the 23rd and 27th of November. After years of the pandemic and the systematic destruction of culture by the Bolsonaro government, seeing that the Paraty book festival has returned in style was as powerful as the emotion of screaming gooool every time Richarlison stuffed the nets in his World Cup debut from Qatar.
At Flip there is no dispute between countries or a cup to be raised. What attracts the public is the opportunity to better understand the ideas, choices and creative process of authors of the most varied genres and styles, from cordel to horror, from poetry to Brazilian versions of Harry Potter. There is room for established writers, for newcomers to the profession and for those in the middle of the road. For the public, in addition to listening to what these people have to say, there is a chance to get an autograph from an expert in the field of literature. But not even the most ardent fan could say that the joy of having a copy with a dedication overcomes the libertarian feeling that is to be in the midst of such a concentration of thinking heads.
Flip is the territory of those who know how to enjoy reading. From someone who understands how much the Rouanet Law has already done for Brazil and would never accuse it of being a sucker for the artistic class. Hence the strangeness of seeing the official posters of the event with the list of sponsors and the achievement credit to the Federal Government, through the Special Secretariat for Culture of the Ministry of Tourism. But, just as the jersey of the national team can and should be worn by all the fans (and not just as official attire in anti-PT or pro-Bolsonaro protests), the State has a constitutional obligation to promote Culture, no matter how much the right deny that responsibility.
This year, Flip honored the writer from Maranhão Maria Firmina dos Reis (1822-1917), considered the first black novelist in Brazil. An abolitionist, in 1959 she published the book Úrsula, whose plot narrates a love triangle of black people who question the slavery system. Getting to know the author and her work is extremely opportune for the moment the country is going through. And even those who haven’t read anything by Maria Firmina have, at Flip, access to excerpts of what she wrote through projections and readings.
A recitation of an excerpt from Maria Firmina’s work preceded the round table whose theme was precisely the 20 years of Flip. The Brazilian Bernardo Carvalho, author of 12 books (the most recent, O Último Gozo do Mundo, deals with the reality brought about by the pandemic) and the British Pauline Melville, whose work is not available in Portuguese, participated in it. Praised by Salman Rushdie, author of Satanic Verses, she opened her participation by expressing solidarity with the writer, who was the victim of a stabbing attack in the United States in August of this year. In 1988, the Iranian Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini had called for the death of Rushdie, who for many years had to live in reclusion. He survived the injuries from the attack suffered when he was to give a lecture. The case also served as a motto for Carvalho’s speech. According to the author and columnist for Folha de S.Paulo, it was the authority of the ayatollah’s word that motivated someone to fulfill it. For him, the word of literature, in turn, is not authoritative. “It is that of ambiguity”, as it praises disauthorization, casting doubt on the speaker. “She is not assertive and that is precisely her political strength,” he said.
Perhaps because it celebrates literature, with its ambiguity and political strength, Flip has become a magical, almost dreamlike territory. In this end of denialist and ignorant government, the literary party was even more symbolic. It celebrated the passing of an era, of a president who did and still does what he can to discredit and impoverish science, culture and journalism. Proof of this was the cut of R$ 1.7 billion announced this week in Education. As well remembered by the philosopher Renato Janine Ribeiro at the table What Can You Do for Brazilian Democracy?, promoted by Sesc at Flip, the right attacks science and journalism because both spread truths. Literature goes further. Not by chance so many dictatorships burned books. They free the mind, spirit and even the body, as Flip proves.
Celso Masson is DINHEIRO’s core director
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