Holding Court is an interview series that features the authors of the new books on display in the King Arthur Flour café in Baker-Berry Library.
In this week's edition, we hear from prize-winning author Carlos Minchillo, Assistant Professor of Spanish and Portuguese Languages and Literatures. Carlos' new book, Erico Veríssimo, escritor do mundo [Erico Veríssimo, writer of the world] (EDUSP, 2015) involved exhaustive detail-oriented research, in multiple archives across the Americas. The hard work paid off: Carlos's book earned the 2018 Premio Literario for Brazilian literature from the Casa de las Américas the venerable cultural center in Latin America and the Caribbean.
What is your book about?
My book focuses on the career of Brazilian writer Erico Verissimo and examines how inter-American cultural diplomacy impacted Brazilian intellectual life in mid-20th century.
Where did you get your ideas for this book?
Basically, my inspiration came from my readings of Pierre Bourdieu's theory of the "literary field," which illuminates the political dimension and the social dynamics of literary life. Bourdieu helps us understand that literary prestige does not rely exclusively on the textual merits of the writings of a given author, but rather depends on various extra-literary factors, such as personal and institutional contacts, academic membership, and political context. This framework was very useful for understanding Verissimo's trajectory as a writer and an intellectual.
What does research look like for you? What element of research could you not live without?
For this book, I worked extensively with the archives. I delved through Verissimo's and other writers' personal papers, newspaper digital collections, US government records and archives of institutions like the Smithsonian and the Congress for Cultural Freedom. Retrieving and systematizing a massive documentation was not always simple. Besides having access to good catalogs and competent librarians, it was essential to develop strategies to organize and tag thousands of files.
What do you think the library of the future will look like?
I hope libraries will still offer in the future comfortable and quiet spaces for reading and working and, above all, continue to hire well-trained, engaged, and inspiring librarians.
What advice would you give to an aspiring scholar or writer?
Be patient and persistent: good research takes time. And it can be exhausting: try to have fun and take a break now and then.
And finally, what do you read for fun?
I'm currently reading Não falei [I Didn't Talk], by Beatriz Bracher. It's a story about the dark period back in the 1960s when Brazil was ruled by a military dictatorship. The book deals with the long-lasting pain caused by those who survived state violence.