João Tordo Interview
Tuesday, April 16, 2019
On March 29, Livraria Lello had the opportunity to talk with the writer João Tordo, who chose the most beautiful bookstore in the world to present his new romance “A Mulher Que Correu Atrás do Vento” (The Woman Who Ran Behind the Wind).
João Tordo has already a long list of titles published both nationally and internationally, having won the José Saramago Literary Prize in 2009 with his book “As Três Vidas” (The Three Lives) and the GQ Award - Man of the Year Literature in 2014.
The interview took place in Espaço Vozes Vivas in Livraria Lello and was recorded in audiovisual format and later transcribed.
Livraria Lello (LL): Hello João, welcome to Livraria Lello! Why did you choose Livraria Lello for the presentation of your new book?
João Tordo (JT): Thank you! It was a curiosity choice ... I was in Mexico, in Guadalajara, in the book fair where Portugal was a guest country at the end of last year, and one of your collaborators, Adélio Gomes, invited me to do a presentation in Livraria Lello. I always wanted to know the bookshop, but for logistical issues, we ended up to always going to the same places because we knew that we had a guaranteed audience. I have always been very curious to make presentations at Livraria Lello ... Because it is beautiful, and this space (Vozes Vivas) is also very curious, we can hear the footsteps of people up there, it's great, I think it gives a very special atmosphere. After that, we kept in touch and we decided to come here to make the presentation of this romance.
LL: What was the motto, your inspiration, to write this romance "A Mulher que Correu Atrás do Vento”?
JT: There is not really a motto. For a long time, I wanted to write a novel with only female voices. I already had tried it in another book, but it was only a short chapter. In this book, I wanted to write four women as protagonists.
The book happens over a long period of time, it begins in 1892, late in XIX century in Germany, with the story of a classical composer who commits a less noble act by stealing a composition from one of her students, a boy of 13 years old. The other protagonists are more of the present. One of them is Lia, inspired by a real person, who was abandoned by her mother when she was 4 years old and then Beatriz who is the narrator of the book.
I wanted to create a story that happened during a century, but in which the female characters were deeply connected without knowing as if the book were a discovery, chapter by chapter.
LL: Do you feel that this is what will distinguish this novel from all the others it has ever published?
JT: In this context yes, in most of my books I have male narrators, essentially because I am a man and it is easier for me to write from that point of view. The great challenge of this romance was precisely to use another point of view and to realize why I wanted to do it and to understand why those voices were talking to me. People say that crazy people hear voices, but when a writer starts to hear it is a good sign, it means that there is someone inside of us wanting to talk. I also had this very strong female voice speaking to me, but for a long time I did not know what to do with it, I did not feel prepared for it.
The difficulties were also funny, because when I realized that I grew up with female voices - with Joana my twin sister, grandmother, great-aunts, my mother ... surrounded by a chorus of women - I realized that I knew those voices well. It was precisely this exercise to throwback to my childhood that helped me a lot on this writing process.
LL: How was the writing process of this particular book?
JT: I always try to let the ideas become fertile, so I can start having an idea today, and I only start writing the book three years later, and in the meantime, I'm writing other books. This happened in this romance, I already had the part of the book that happens in the late XIX century, I had this idea for several years, but I didn’t know a reason to write.
What I do when I’m in the writing process is close and every day I have a process that seems a ritual in which I wake up at the same time, start writing at the same time, stop at the same time and at the end of 3 to 4 months I have a first draft that I can work with it over time, which is the most important factor of the equation, without time there is no literature.
In this book I had a particular help, in mid-February of 2018, I was in the third chapter, and suddenly the voice of the protagonist persisted in my mind. I was having difficulties and I was traveling by car, on a trip from Lisbon to Porto, and suddenly I turned on the radio and started listening to Cristina Branco, the singer, who was giving an interview about her new album and then they played one of the songs ... it was so beautiful and so exciting to hear it at that particular moment because it showed me what I was not doing well - I was trying to write from the point of view of a 16 years old girl when the logical and the most sensitive would be to write from the point of view of that same girl but older.
The song by Cristina Branco talks about it, talks about age and aging, wrinkles that appear, and knees that hurt in winter. That was my help.
LL: To finish this conversation, is there any romance inside the drawer about to arrive?
JT: Yes, but I do not want to talk about it, for now. We are still deciding all the things for this year, but it may happen a surprise. Then for next year I already have some things planned, but I’m not sure yet.
Let's just wait ... this book just came out!
LL: I believe there is already something "in the drawer" that will surprise us.
JT: Yes, of course, there is.
LL: Thank you, João!
JT: Thank you, it was a pleasure.
After the intimate presentation of his book, João Tordo opened the dialogue with the public and made possible the exchange of opinions and ideas, ending with an autograph session.