The Signatures and Geographies of Luciany Aparecida

By Sarah Rebecca Kersley

Considered by many readers as one of the most exciting emerging contemporary authors in Brazil at the moment, Luciany Aparecida is a writer whose work is increasingly gaining attention for its fresh and experimental style. Each of the different genres in which she writes brings a singular take, via the narratives of her characters, on themes such as gender, sexuality, and questioning of patriarchal society and hegemonic structures, with a literary voice that is both sharp and challenging. 

Originally from the Vale do Jiquiriçá region in the interior of the state of Bahia, and now based in the city of Salvador, Aparecida writes using the names Ruth Ducaso, Margô Paraíso, and Antônio Peixôtro, as well as with her own name. Rather than pseudonyms or heteronyms, she defines and distinguishes these invented writers as “aesthetic signatures”, each associated with their own style and genre of the text.

With these signatures, she is the author of the books “Contos ordinários de melancolia” [“Ordinary tales of melancholy”] (paralelo13S, 2017), “Ezequiel” (Pantim edições, 2018), the zine “Auto-Retrato” [“Self-portrait”] (Pantim edições, 2018) and the stage play, “Florim” (unpublished in Brazil and forthcoming in English).[1] In addition to her published books, her work has also appeared widely in print and online in anthologies and journals in Brazil, and in English, her writing has appeared in places such as Best Small Fictions (Sonder Press, 2019), Asymptote Journal (2019), Becoming Brazil (Mãnoa, University of Hawaii Press, 2018), and Bahian Authors: A Panorama (Bahian Cultural Foundation [Funceb], 2013). A discussion of her work in English was also included in the critical essay Women writing in 21st Century Brazil: Experimentation and Narratives of Self, by Milena Britto (The Critical Flame, 2016). Aparecida holds a Ph.D. in literature and is a university lecturer in Brazilian literature and literary theory and criticism.

Her voice is deservedly gradually gaining increased recognition all over Brazil together with many other distinct voices of contemporary women writers and those, such as Aparecida, from Brazil’s northeast and north regions. These parts of the country have long been ignored by readers in the south and southeast, where literature from outside the hubs of the predominantly white male hegemonic publishing industry (overwhelming so, in Brazil), and particularly writing produced by women and by black and indigenous writers, has often been almost completely invisibilized by mainstream bookstores, distributors and media networks.

Aparecida’s work is (so far) available to English-language readers only in small fragments and can be read online in several places. Extracts from her 2017 book “Ordinary tales of melancholy” appeared in Asymptote Journal, deftly translated by Elisa Wouk Amino, including the first section of the book, which begins with the eerie text “Slay Sea”. Its opening: “This white is not seafoam/ I write so that it no longer exists / I write, here” has been described by Aparecida as a kind of buffer to this powerful collection of tales, testing the reader’s own stamina and inviting us to make a choice about whether or not to continue with the book, in what could be said to be wading into strange waters, in order to then reach the somber and often extremely violent narratives as the book progresses.

In later sections of this book, we meet characters such as Nissinha, in the story “Sunday Dress”, (available at Mãnoa Journal, Becoming Brazil), who, pregnant with her thirteenth child, decides that enough is enough and takes matters into her own hands; the unnamed female narrator in the story “What males want” (translated by me at Jellyfish Review), who describes in intricate detail her method of killing men twice a week, in a story that nods towards and flips to the extreme, real-world perceptions of male abusers talking about women; and the narrator in the story “For Antônio”, in which a mother tortures her young son. The tales in this book stand out not only for their tone and aesthetic but also in their focus on older women characters and on rural settings in contrast to the urban-living, young women often portrayed in literature addressing similar feminist themes.

In a recent interview, Aparecida described part of her research process in the writing of this book, research which also includes the extensive reading of the world around her, other art forms, and other women writers, and then:

after all the reading, in order to reach my own approach to my work, to reach my own writing, I went back to the place where I grew up, and went to talk to the women there. I chose to talk to women over the age of 67, and, ended up meeting different women between the ages of 67 and 93. And from these conversations, what I heard most frequently was that these women had not wanted to have so many children. Most of the women I talked to had each had 10 or more pregnancies. Within the wider scenario of ​​machismo / the patriarchy, narratives of racism, LGBT phobia and violence against people in states of mental illness, this was what I heard the most. And it was these real-life and fictional narratives that I focused on in trying to write the book “Ordinary tales of melancholy”. It’s a book of tales in the sense that I use the genre of narrative, but they’re also tales in the sense of telling, and they’re “ordinary” in the sense that within this narrative, the texts are small and fragile, often appearing to be poems, ordinary in that they repeat themselves, and melancholy because a woman’s life can have spaces and geographies of tireless repetition. That’s how I literally walked between fiction, poetry and reality.[2]

Her work in poetry is also strikingly original. Her 2018 book Ezequiel is signed by another of her aesthetic signatures, Margô Paraíso, as a posthumous work following the suicide of this invented author. It’s a book of poems in five parts, evoking, as Aparecida says in the book’s endnote, the human body, with the parts: Feet (vocation), legs and torso (cries in pleasure), sex (faith in corruption), arms (lameness) and head (to the powers that save). This is also a book that pushes the reader into the rethinking of norms, both in terms of themes and aesthetic, with a lyric subject evoking questions of sexuality, gender, mortality, religion, and the essence of human existence, such as in this extract from the poem VI:

the abyss opens

heavy,

safe,

I’m not two

I’m not one

I

a

m

t

h

e

f

a

l

Margô Paraiso (Luciany Aparecida), in Ezequiel (Pantim edições, 2018)

In a recent talk, the great contemporary Brazilian writer Conceição Evaristo said that for her, the power of literature is its ability to connect directly to readers’ emotions and therefore move people in ways that no other kind of written text can possibly do.[3] Like so many of the most incredible contemporary writers in Brazil at the moment, Luciany Aparecida’s work seems to do just that.

Over this strange and cruellest of Aprils, in the lockdown of the pandemic, I’ve been following the posts on this very blog and its fantastic weaving of 20th and 21st century Brazilian writing, literary initiatives, and thoughts on translation. Each post branches out to so many further possibilities for thinking about literature from Brazil and beyond, and I’ve been considering how and where Luciany Aparecida’s work fits within this list.

Among the interesting peculiarities of Aparecida’s books written by her aesthetic signatures, is the presence of endnotes. These are sometimes signed by Luciany herself, and sometimes by one of her creations, like the one below, by Ruth Ducaso, at the end of “Auto retrato” [“Self portrait”].:

…..all this self-portrait really hopes for is to write a poem for some son-of-a-bitch, so here it is for you, dear dreaming reader (…), I offer it to you here as a gift,  together with these guidelines: after a night of ruin, listen to “consolo na praia” 37 times in drummond’s voice, and consider the fact that if you have neither a dog nor humor, then the poet has removed any possibility of hurrying. And given that you’ll wake up alive on this insistent day, all that’s left for you to do is to listen to maria bethania singing “na primeira manhã” 32 times, with the thought: was there any enjoyment in rubem braga? In short, stuff this poem into all of that and into the space before solitude. or into that vagabond story about coca cola and you, by frank o’hara, which, if it hasn’t already deluded you, will surely delude you one day.

Ruth Ducaso (Luciany Aparecida) in “Auto-retrato”. (Pantim edições, 2018)

It feels somehow pertinent to include this here at this time of the pandemic, in which we’re all isolated from each other in our own geographies and spaces, in our own immediate surroundings and finding our own ways of navigating through both the tragedy of the virus itself and also the quagmires of horrors of our governments and systems. Simultaneously and conversely, it’s also a time for reading our contemporaries outside our physical locations and looking outwards over borders via social media, in a way that hasn’t happened before, towards other writers, other readers, other ways of thinking about art and what we choose and reject along the way.

Like many other Brazilian writers whose work feels groundbreaking at the moment, Luciany Aparecida’s writing instills a sense of urgency to share it in translation with readers who unfortunately cannot read it in the original Portuguese. Her voice indeed connects well with the previous posts and discussions on this blog, both in terms of intertextuality and her own reading of those writing around her and before her. The way she takes this to new levels is incredibly rich for us as readers.


[1] Information and links for Luciany Aparecida’s work can be found via her own website: www.lucianyaparecida.art.

[2] Interview in March 2020 by Chicas que escrevem, a weekly newsletter with interviews with Brazilian women writers, available by subscription here: mailchi.mp/1e9be756e1e0/chicasqueescrevem

[3] In an Instagram live talk and reading on 21/04/2019, available on the Instagram profile of Conceição Evaristo, at https://www.instagram.com/conceicaoevaristooficial/

About the Writer:

Sarah Rebecca Kersley is a British poet, translator and editor based in Brazil. Her translations of work by Brazilian contemporary writers have appeared in journals such as Washington Square Review, Two lines: World Writing in Translation, The Critical Flame, Asymptote Journal, Best Small Fictions, and The Denver Quarterly. Her own writing – in Portuguese –  has also been published in journals and anthologies in Brazil and she is the author of the books Tipografia oceânica [Ocean typography] (2017) and Sábado [Saturday] (2018) (forthcoming in English). She co-runs Livraria Boto-cor-de-rosa, an independent bookshop and small press dedicated to contemporary literature, in the city of Salvador, where she lives and works.

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