Portuguese author Maria Filomena Amaral who was part of GALF 2018, talks about how her first trilogy ‘Mãe Nossa’, the statements she is trying to make through her works, and why people should never forget about the forest fires in Portugal in 2017
CHRISTINE MACHADO | NT BUZZ
Having previously penned tales like ‘A Casa de Sorte’ (The House of Luck) and ‘O Cassador de Muros’ (Breaking Walls) , Portuguese writer Maria Filomena Amaral’s latest book ‘O Diretor’, the first of her trilogy ‘Mãe Nossa’, which focuses on environmental issues, was published earlier this year. The director in the book, she says, stands for all the bad directors in the world who leave destruction everywhere they go. It was inspired by one particularly bad director who she used to work for. “One day I came home and told my husband that I have to put this character in one of my books. So I decided that the next book I write will be called ‘The Director’, and will have him as the main character,” she reveals.
The story is also inspired by the epic of Gilgamesh, which was one of the oldest known epics and centres around a terrible king Gilgamesh who was invincible and destroyed things everywhere. “The gods were completely mad at him. So, they decided to put someone on earth to beat him. This figure was half man and half animal called Enkidu who managed to beat the king in the first go,” narrates Amaral. Enkidu and Gilgamesh became steadfast friends there on. However, on a quest to save the cider forest, Enkidu was killed. To bring life back to Enkidu, Gilgamesh then went to the underworld to get a particular flower that could save Enkidu and grant him immortality. However, upon his return to the world, Gilgamesh was tired and fell asleep. In the meantime, a snake came and ate the flower and Enkidu could not be saved. “In my book, Gilgamesh is Gil, the director and Enkidu is Enrique. Upon Enrique’s death, Gil who was an awful person undergoes a metamorphosis. In fact in my next book, ‘Gelos’, which focuses on the melting ice in the polars, Gil will give his life for Enrique’s woman,” she discloses. The third book in her trilogy will be ‘Desertos’, focusing on the growing desertification of the lands.
Interestingly Amaral also uses biblical themes in her books. In fact, in ‘O Director’, there is a passage in the beginning which sums up the environmental message of her book. In this passage titled Mãe Nossa, she changes up the prayer Pãe Nosso (The Our Father) to a prayer for Mother Nature.
Her previous book ‘A Casa de Sorte’ also contains biblical themes and revolves around the creation of the world using the biblical analogy of the seven days of creation. “It tells the history of mankind starting from prehistory and ending in the 20th century just after the World War II. What is important about this book is that it is written by a woman and the woman in the book is also a writer who is writing the history of mankind. This is important because until the end of the 19th century, women could not write under a female name and her words used to be censored. Thus, this book is also about the power of the word in feminine,” she said. At the end of the book, in the 20th century, the woman goes public with a manifest, reveals Amaral. “She says here that just like God rested on the seventh day of creation, now man must rest too and history will now belong to women,” says Amaral. The book has been translated in English as ‘Vaulted Homes – Those Who Cheated Death’. “My American publisher told me that the original titled ‘A Casa de Sorte’ which translates as House of Luck would have no meaning in America so I had to think of another title,” she says.
Speaking about curating the international literature festival ‘Words of Fire’ in Portugal in June 2018, she states that this was done as a remembrance of the first anniversary of the 2017 Forest fires in Portugal.
“We began thinking of what we could do to give a little joy especially to the victims of this calamity and I decided that maybe we could have a literature festival. After all the power of the word is unimaginable,” she states. The title of the festival, she says, was inspired from a line in her book. “Some people told me that the title seemed a bit too heavy as people would then remember the fire. But that is what we want. Forgetting the fire is the first step to having another one a few years later, so we should never forget about it,” she says.