Literary festivals can be hit-and-miss affairs, with lasting memories of some being of long queues for book signings, or dejection at discovering that a cherished author just isn’t as exciting in the flesh as on paper.
Which is where the Balada Literária (‘Literary Party’) hopes to be a bit different. The free, six-day event tempers any literary navel-gazing or book-signing boredom with the injection of other creative disciplines, from live music to talks with film directors, all sandwiched between a series of parties.
Author Marcelino Freire, from Pernambuco in Brazil’s North East, first had the idea for the Balada Literária in 2005, during the ever-growing annual Paraty International Literary Festival (FLIP). ‘I thought to myself, I need a literary festival where there’s plenty of beer,’ Freire told us. ‘For me, literature should go hand in hand with provolone, French fries and a good conversation,’ he says – laying down the informal agenda, and the start of a shopping list, for his future literary bash.
Freire is now curating his seventh edition of the Balada Litéraria, with the support of Samuel Seibil, owner of the Livraria da Vila group of bookstores – an event partner since the first year.
The Livraria da Vila book shops will be hosting some of the highlights of this year’s lineup, along with a further seven venues across town. Among them are the Casa das Rosas – the lovely ‘house of roses’, one of the last mansions standing along Avenida Paulista; the Goethe-Institut German language centre; the Espaço Plínio Marcos – a literary tent set up every Saturday in the open-air flea market in Praça Benedito Calixto; and b_arco – a small but imaginative cultural centre tucked inside Galeria Virgilio in Pinheiros.
Read on for the highlights of the festival in each venue:
Rua Dr. Virgílio de Carvalho Pinto 426, Pinheiros (3081 6986/ barco.art.br)
A highlight of the Balada's opening day, the paulistano musical quartet Marvada Carne will set the tone with their show at the cosy b_arco cultural space (6pm on 28 November). Marvada Carne is made up of singer-song writers Caê Rolfsen, Fábio Barros, Manu Maltez and Rafa Barreto, each with varying musical backgrounds.
Livraria da Vila
Rua Fradique Coutinho 915, Vila Madalena (3814 5811/ livrariadavila.com.br)
Over 100 artists, among them authors, film writers and musicians, will be taking part in the festival. Talks and debates with the authors – themselves all Lusitanian – will be in Portuguese, albeit with the injection of a little Spanish from twentysomething Argentinian poet César González (pseudonym ‘Camilo Blajaquis’), who will be discussing literature written behind bars with São Paulo authors Fernando Bonassi and Luiz Alberto Mendes at Livraria da Vila, at 4.30pm on 30 November.
Mendes is the author of Memórias de um Sobrevivente (‘Memoirs of a Survivor’), which he wrote while serving time for homicide and armed robbery. González, meanwhile, spent years in young offenders’ institutions and later prison, where he first discovered literature.
Rua Lisboa 974, Jardim Paulista (3296 7000/ goethe.de/saopaulo)
If you don't speak the local lingo, how about an immersion in book illustrations? The Brothers Grimm, German authors whose fairytales, based on folklore, have been giving children the heeby jeebies at bedtime over the last two centuries, will be commemorated at 7pm on 30 November, with the launch of a compilation of their stories (in Portuguese) – Contos Maravilhosos Infantis e Domésticos (‘marvellous children’s and household tales’).
The book has a uniquely Brazilian look with the stories – which include the classics Puss in Boots and Snow White – beautifully illustrated in cordel style by the cordel maestro J. Borges, probably the best-known artist working in the Brazilian folk-art style. Hang about for the after-party, when a DJ gets the crowd going from 10pm.
Biblioteca Alceu Amoroso Lima
Rua Henrique Schaumann 777, Pinheiros (3082 5023/ prefeitura.sp.gov.br)
The singer Lirinha, from the north-eastern state of Pernambuco, will be bringing his blend of jazz, samba and electronic beats to the library opposite Praça Benedito Calixto for a gig on 1 December at 6pm, making this another great option for non-Portuguese speakers.
Rua Paes Leme 195, Pinheiros (3095 9400/ sesc.org.br)
Bringing the Balada to a close with Lusitanian folk sounds, the Portuguese singer Lula Pena performs his contemporary take on fado – smouldering, bluesy Portuguese folk ballads – at 7pm on 2 December.
See the full programme and venue details at baladaliteraria.zip.net.