Teolinda Gersão Interview
Tuesday, March 19, 2019
On February 25th, Livraria Lello had the opportunity to interview the writer Teolinda Gersão in Vozes Vivas Room, as part of the presentation of her new book “Atrás da Porta e Outras Histórias”.
Teolinda Gersão has already seen her books adapted for novels, short films and even for theater. Also, her last book, “Prantos, Amores e Outros Desvarios” (2016), has received the Grand Prize "Camilo Castelo Branco".
Livraria Lello (LL): Why did you choose Livraria Lello to make the presentation of your new book?
Teolinda Gersão (TG): Livraria Lello, very kindly, has already invited me several times on the Author’s Day and other days related to literature. They sent me e-mails to come and have a glass of Port wine with the readers and to be here in the evening, talking to the public. But, as I live in Lisbon, it gets complicated, it becomes late and its difficult to get a train to Lisbon at an hour that wasn’t too tiring, there were always these logistical issues.
I always loved Livraria Lello. Who doesn’t? It is one of the most beautiful in the world, if not the most!
So, since I was now coming to Correntes D'Escrita and also to a school, we thought it was interesting to make here the presentation, so I suggested to Porto Editora to ask if there was interest, because this time I'm here and I'm available.
LL: What was the motto and your inspiration to start this book?
TG: I had already written that motto at first - if you were in a cave in a dark place (…) - when the story of those Thailand children has started, I had already written that. It is a book that has many hopeless stories, some are a fist in the stomach, and I thought that it seems that there is no light outside and we have to seek strength from ourselves.
When this story came out and everyone was really worried and aware of its outcome, it was a story that ended well, I was very impressed because the children were all saved and the guide also had a great spiritual strength achieved with the meditation, with those Buddhist beliefs, the techniques of breathing, of calming, of not being afraid, of not losing the hope that they would be found. But that's not where the book came from. This was not the motto for the book so I did not even put it, but this story for me was also linked to the same idea.
LL: Do you feel that along your career, your way and the process of your writing has been changing?
TG: I'm not a writer that have a formula.
There are great authors who have a formula, for example Saramago, who has a brilliant idea and then develop it. He said that his novels are like rehearsals, because they are novels in which thoughts and ideas dominate the story. Lobo Antunes also has a certain format that he always repeats. But I don’t like to have a format that repeats, it would annoy me a lot, so I like to change, although I feel like I’m working without a line that I need to follow. However, I started to publish regularly in 81, so 38 years ago, it's so crazy. But each time that I write a new book, it seems like it is the first one because they are so different.
I have fundamentally cultivated the novel, but also the tales and another form of writing that are a kind of anti-dailies. Especially because two of them came out, which I later called notebooks.
The first one was “Os Guarda-chuvas Cintilantes” that I started to write in Brazil and it has been studied there, people really liked it. However here in Portugal it is a book that people don’t know what to do with it, they think that it is too crazy and don’t like it because it is a completely heterodox book. In this book you can read for example Sunday 1st and then Tuesday 24th but you never know neither the month neither the year, therefore time does not exist, and it is a pillar of the diary. It is also a book where there are suddenly small tales where there are many of my social and other types of concerns, but where there is a very little quantity of my private life, to say nothing. There are only a few references, conversations with my daughters when they were young and I started to write it in Brazil, that maybe if it was in Portugal I did not have this daring. But Brazil is so loose and so open to the impossible that I wanted to write it.
Many years later, in 2013, a second notebook came out that I called “As Águas Livres” that does not have this history of not being dated and having days, although it is not dated as well, it follows the same line that says a lot of what I think, that I feel, that I dream for example, also has dreams, but about my private life it has nothing. I think it's a type of literature that does not have a lot of public, but I like to do it.
LL: Reporting to the beginning and to your first steps. If you could leave a message early on, would you say something to yourself? Some advice or something you might tell to do differently, or not.
TG: Young people also ask me that sometimes, and then I always answer them with another question- If you do not succeed, do you keep writing or not? - and if they tell me no, and that they want to be known, make money, have a career, and others, I say then I do not know if it’s worth it to get involved because you have a 90% chance of not being able to and then it is tremendously frustrating. If you tell me, - even if I do not succeed, this is what I want to do - then you have a really good chance to have a future as a writer. However it is good that you have a way of life that gives you independence from writing, so you do not have to make compromises because you belong to the labor world like everyone else, you have less time to write, but you are also completely free.
I have a grandson who is in Arts, in sculpture, and he realizes this quite well, he also does not want to have compromises, but also realizes that it is quite possible that he can’t live only from creation and specially in Portugal, it is very difficult and it is getting worst.
LL: So you are one of those cases, before you dedicate yourself exclusively to writing, you became a Professor and only later dedicated to writing.
TG: I started to write since elementary school, and my first book, which I do not put on the list of books, because I do not feel responsible for what I wrote when I was 11, 12, 13 years old, it was published when I was 14.
Sometimes I only mention this because people keep asking me why did I started so late, saying that I only published at age 41 and then I say no, the numbers are the opposite, I started with 14 and then the most important book came when I was 41 years old.
When the book came out, in those author editions that we pay to offer to our family and friends, people considered it very funny. I have always been very critical of what I write, I can distance myself and be critical and realize if things are going well or not. It took me 5 years to write a novel, I usually take 2, but if it takes longer, I have patience because the book is only ready when it satisfies me, when I do not know how to do better. I am also fortunate to be independent and for the fact that the editors do not press me, which I think it is fantastic. I always wanted to be a writer, and it was not a new path that I suddenly thought at age 41 now I will devote myself to writing. I retired earlier, around 50 years old to have more time to write, and I was also penalized in the salary, but these are choices and I do not regret.
LL: This new book, how long did it take you to write?
TG: It took about 2 years because it was already delivered several months ago. The previous one came out in 2016, and it was already delivered more than 6 months ago to leave now.
LL: Thank you so much!
TG: Thank you, I really enjoyed talking with you.