Here I am, folks, standing on a street in Paraty, a little town, on the Brazilian coast, about halfway between the cites Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.
Back in colonial times, Paraty was the deep water port from which much of Brazil’s gold was sent “home” to Portugal. These days, though, there’s barely enough draft in the main channel for small fishing boats and pleasure craft.
The city fronts on a bay where the turquoise water is studded with more than three hundred islands. And, beyond it, a dense rain forest covers mountains that rise to heights of more than five thousand feet.
But, for the Brazilian literary world, Paraty has a significance that goes beyond its colonial architecture and picture-perfect setting. Paraty is the site of the FLIP, FestaLiteráriaInternacional deParaty, The Paraty International Literary Festival. Guest authors from the past have included Dennis Lehane, Salman Rushdie, Martin Amis, Margaret Atwood, Paul Auster, Anthony Bourdain, Jonathan Coe, J.M. Coetzee, Amos Oz and Nadine Gordimer. And, each year, it attracts about 500 writers, 200 publishers and 13,000 enthusiastic readers.
Most of the action takes place in a huge air-conditioned tent. There’s a café on one side, a bookstore on the other and, inside, authors do their stuff by participating in a series of panels. There’s simultaneous translation into English, Portuguese, Spanish and other languages when necessary. The FLIP’s opening shows feature performers like Chico Buarque, Paulinho da Viola, Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso and Maria Bethânia, all famous names in Brazilian Popular Music.
And then there’s the parallel event, the Flipinha (little FLIP) for kids. Books dangle from shade trees, storytellers spin tales, and writers read from their works.
Check out the insect. No kid who saw that will forget Gregor Samsa.
Dates vary from year to year, but the FLIP is always in (Brazilian) mid-winter, July or August. In Paraty, there are plenty of cheap hotels, restaurants and bars. And, for a small fee, a fisherman is always willing to take you out to a deserted beach on one of the islands. Even at that time of the year, the water is comfortably warm.
Thinking of coming down for a visit to Brazil? Do it when you can attend the FLIP.
It’s only a three hour drive (or a four hour bus ride) from either São Paulo or Rio.