His name is Hatoum, as in Milton Hatoum. And he is among the five Brazilian writers best recalled in international academia. An author of books that have been translated in at least 15 different countries, the Brazilian writer of Lebanese descent ranks among other big names of Brazilian literature, such as Machado de Assis, Clarice Lispector, Jorge Amado and Guimarães Rosa.
The study with this information was disclosed this week in the city of Rio de Janeiro, during the second edition of Conexões Itaú Cultural, an international summit on Brazilian literature.
In the survey, coordinated by Claudiney Ferreira and Felipe José Lindoso, over 1,000 questionnaires were sent to professors, translators and researchers who work with literature worldwide. Initial results, collected from approximately 100 interviewees, 10% of the total, started to arrive and the researchers were surprised.
"We have found a large number of professionals abroad who work with Brazilian literature," says Ferreira. "They comprise a prospective market for us to work with, an opportunity for better promotion of Brazilian literature abroad," he claims.
Another surprise on the list was that the names Hatoum, Chico Buarque, and Moacyr Scliar rank among the 10 authors most mentioned by scholars. According to the researcher, this is proof that the segment has changed, mainly due to the fast pace of information traffic resulting from the advent of the Internet in the modern world.
According to Ferreira, until a while ago, it would take up to 30 years for a Brazilian author to be known (and recognized). Now, that has changed. Paulo Coelho ranks 14th on the list, but according to Ferreira, he is not included because he is not perceived as a Brazilian author around the world.
Hatoum's books, which were translated into several languages shortly after being released in Brazil, provide hard evidence of the change in how Brazilian literature is perceived. The most recent translation is just coming out of the oven – and it is in Chinese.
"Writer Manuel Bandeira used to say that being translated is delightful, and I agree. It is very cool to know that your story is being told in other languages, some of which you do not even speak," says the author, whose books, aside from Chinese, have also been translated to Eastern European languages, such as Croatian.
For such translations, Hatoum explains that the secret to getting good results lies in having a quality professional, in always trading information, and in making himself known. "I exchange e-mails with the translators and we talk a lot. The Chinese translator, for instance, writes very well in Portuguese.
This makes the work easier," he says. One of Hatoum's novels, "Two Brothers," has been translated into Arabic, in Lebanon. The book was released in 2002 by the Dar Al Farabi publishing house, and was translated by Safa Jubran.
According to Ferreira, in addition to shedding some light on the segment – the last survey of the type dates back to the 1970s -, the work may also help the government to devise more efficient actions for promoting Brazilian literature abroad.
"The existing actions are too insignificant," says Ferreira. According to him, Brazilian literature may help the country a lot in this moment of economic euphoria, because it is an unprecedented tool of cultural promotion. Strong countries have strong names in world literature.
Hence, once again, the importance of fostering translations of Brazilian authors, by means of government programs, for example. "The survey has shown, for instance, that the Portuguese language, which is spoken in few countries, hampers access to Brazilian literature," says Ferreira.
According to the researcher, as results are obtained and new data emerge, the work is going to be passed on to the press. "The intention is to launch a debate on Brazilian literature, and to propose actions and solutions," concluded Ferreira.