Assignments of a writer in search of identity

Banksy, Napalm, 2005


Personal report on the conflict between the social sciences and literature.

In June 2021 literature broke into the doors of my house. It was the time of a pandemic, it was raining in tears over Anfão's house and I was lying in a hammock, a notebook on my lap, some books on the floor beside me. I finished preparing the following week's classes, which would be remote, like all the others, in those days. I was isolated in my place, with Marina, my wife, two dogs, three cats and a carnivorous plant that demands too much attention and lends itself to the character of a serial. Suddenly the phone rang. It was Henrique Rodrigues, the writer – and also coordinator of the national Sesc literature area – communicating that I had received the Sesc Literature prize for my first novel, the defendantptil melancólico.

Naturally, I considered it to be a hoax, but the evidence and details were appearing in Henrique Rodrigues' speech. Furthermore, nobody, apart from Marina, knew that I had sent the book to compete for the prize. It couldn't be a prank. Was not. Furthermore, right after that I received a phone call from Rodrigo Lacerda, from Grupo Editorial Record. It was serious. And then I started to receive emails and phone calls dealing with various things that were beyond my control: contract, cover, 1a review, 2a review, photography, biography, author's name, summary, ears… It was literature invading my home.

Only not. It wasn't either. Literature was already there, it always was, noisy in its silence. The difference was that it was now necessary to have a social identity as an author. In the following days, I was seized by that feeling of estrangement that characterizes many authors, I imagine, in the process of constituting their identities, both narrative and author. In my case, I think, there was an additional difficulty (at least for me): building an author identity having to negotiate with the demanding identity of scientist and researcher in the field of social sciences.

Yes, because literature often rebels against values ​​that are central to sociology. For example, where ideology says, literature says subjectivity and is even capable of shouting things like stream of consciousness and inner monologue. And where literature calls for sensitivity and transcendence, sociology calls for control of bias and identity. Where one says discourse, the other says narrative. Finally, where literature suggests creativity, sociology responds with “social reproduction.

This conflict produced countless blocking situations in my dialogues as an author, throughout that first year of being a writer. Whether in debates and meetings with other writers and cultural producers, whether in debates or interviews. As in an intimate ethical conflict, the writer and the scientist looked at each other suspiciously, one misunderstanding the other's point of view. And really, many times, I blocked my speech, interrupted the reasoning and hesitated in concluding an idea. Sure, I'm a researcher and a professor, and I'm used to audiences, but scientific dialogue is based on an objectivity and an impersonality that are certainly uncomfortable in the world of literature. And this question became central throughout that year.

However, I managed to find a balance point for the relationship between the two Fábios that I was: the idea that only literature can say certain things and the idea that both science and literature converge in their task of saying the world. Complementarily, this leads to the perception that it is necessary to participate in the public debate and my book brought things that needed to be addressed. After all, that was also why, and for that, it was written.

return by arrivalèD… the defendantptil melancólico it had been woven little by little, for years, but it was the emergence of the pandemic and an indignation with the Brazilian government and its praise of the dictatorship that made me conclude it. I explain better: like many (like almost everyone) the experience of the pandemic, aggravated by the neglect and necropolitics of the Bolsonaro government, made me find, deeply, the finitude of life. the defendantptil melancólico, which brings a little of my childhood during the military dictatorship and some stories of people who were persecuted by the dictatorship, was concluded as pure revolt against any threat to freedom and democracy.

And so, with that disposition, I organized myself to deal with this new reality and for my first year as a writer. The first big decision was to take an author's name – effectively a heteronym, with which I could account for the overlapping voices that literature represented in my life, and thus the scientist Fábio Fonseca de Castro, with his books and scientific articles he organized himself to become the writer Fábio Horácio-Castro – his father's last name, full of literary stories, ranging from secret libraries to missing and rewritten letters from the XNUMXth century – things that I tell another day.

And, in this process of being-a-writer, I deeply thank the Sesc award, which makes possible something that, I believe, only it can do for an author: inserting him in a diverse and complex literary scene, but organic, spread irregularly, but strongly, across the country , allowing a real laboratory for a novice writer to build his identity. Indeed, this award has two peculiarities: the capillarity of the Sesc system, which distributes the book in libraries, schools and reading clubs and, on the other hand, the travel circuit, which takes the awarded authors to several Brazilian states, for conferences, conversations and literary exchanges and also, through a partnership with the José Saramago Foundation, the International Literary Festival of Óbidos, in Portugal. The importance of this capillarity and this circuit lies in its ability to form, for award-winning authors, a broader base of readers – and a consolidated readership is, as we know, next to a writer's work, a writer's greatest asset.

It was a year of pilgrimage, dialogue and learning. Learning about the universe of industry, the market, the literary field. From the outside, little is imagined of the complexity of this, formed, firstly, by individuals, but also by institutions, processes and dynamics of power and connection networks.

In a Bourdieusian way, we can trace a cartography of the literary field by placing in it, in addition to the writer – the anchor figure (although not always preponderant), around which the system is organized – its readers, editors, editors, literary agents, booksellers, critics, literary awards, State institutions of cultural action, libraries, specialized magazines, literary digital influencers, etc.

And all these categories have complexities. For example, I found that in the specialized parlance of the book market, readers are divided into subcategories such as “beta” readers, loyal readers, “big” readers, emerging readers, and so on. Editors are also classified according to their editorial strategies and the size of the publishing houses. For example, there are “traditional” editors, but also “traditional conservative” editors. All very complex, full of subtleties.

And it's not just that kind of complexity I'm talking about. In addition to people and institutions, as I said, there are processes: copyright, negotiation of the next work, the culture of literary awards, book and reading fairs and festivals. And this without mentioning the fact that, more and more, it is necessary for the writer to become an “author”, with mediatization skills not only of his works but, above all, of himself. It is necessary that you have skills to participate in events and talk about anything that appears, including yourself.

Being a writer is, it seems, a complex procedure, which presupposes the knowledge of certain identity codes and a rather exhausting process of endorsing and revalidating certain social markers, among which to produce a consistent narrative about oneself and one's life. constructions.

I thought that being a writer was exclusively about writing and publishing books, in a naivety that today seems embarrassing for someone who has 30 years of professional life in science. It so happens that academic life, although it has its well-known conflicts and vanities, has other rituals, which include the general principles of reference/deference and openness to dialogue, that is, dialoguing with those who came before and knowing that, necessarily, their data will be superseded by those that come later. There is, therefore, a procedural and structural humility in the foundation of academic life – which does not mean that academic life ceases to be a space of constant and even absurd vanities. However, they are different worlds.

I have the impression that the world of literature abjures this culture of reference and deference because it has a certain claim to eternity – a mythical eternity, marked by the presumption of perenniality and present, for example, in the concept of “immortality”, tacitly aspired by writers, so striking in literary life and that has obvious economic dimensions.

There is a literary scenography to obey, or to build, as the case may be. The first discovery I made was that more important than the work tends to be the author – even though there is no author, evidently, without a work (I think).

Immediately, this means dialoguing with the interest of audiences made up of potential readers, who measure their interest in your work based on a proto-interest in you – or rather, in your character as a writer. So, for example, in a mostly teenage audience, someone asked “Who is Marina and why did you dedicate your book to her?”. I responded to this unhealthy curiosity, but soon afterward an unusual question arose: “Did you consider dedicating your book to someone else, before dedicating it to Marina?”. Afterwards, I even wrote down this question, to keep as an example of curiosities that are greater than mine. At the time, I even thought it was for a laugh, but it wasn't. I answered no, diving into a sea of ​​curious looks, while, I imagine, questions were being formed that would not be enunciated.

In fact, I keep thinking about the unanswerable questions I was asked during that first year of being a writer. As I am in the habit of making lists, I made a list of these unanswerable questions: Why isn't your book set in Acre? Have you ever seen the reptile? Are you melancholic too? Have you ever had the impression of being watched by the reptile? Do you dream or have nightmares about the reptile? Don't you think you should have written a book of poetry instead of a novel? Do you really believe what you write? Have you ever tried to be vegan? How many shots have you had of the Covid vaccine?

And that's not to mention the curious questions I was asked in Pará and with the prosody and ghosts from Belém: Why doesn't any fruit or food typical of the Amazon appear in your book? Why did you write this book this way? Why do you speak of Bethlehem without mentioning the name of your own city? You're not ashamed of that, are you? Are you going to force your students to read your book? Out there.

The great António Lobo Antunes, Portuguese writer grandson of people from Pará, stated, in an interview given to Maria Luísa Blanco, that “in a book that is good, the author is not there, it is not noticed” (BLANCO, 2002, p. 29). This thought haunted me on a daily basis, during my first year as a writer, either because my book is permeated by metafictional strategies, including metatheory and considerations about the act of narrating, or because, from what I understand about the world of books, from the literary field, when the author does not appear, the book does not sell and without book sales, there is no author and, much less, book. So, apparently, there is an impasse here that deserves to be considered, because, from what I could see, in this first year walking through literary circuits, everything revolves around meta-visibility strategies, that is, the art of appearing ostensibly and subtly , then disappear.

The author, in his private and everyday life, is not the same thing as the subject-text, the one who has a style, themes and dominates genres. And besides them, there is a hyper-narrative writer, through which the author represents himself or allows himself to be represented. This idea is present in Calaça (2009), in his theory regarding the three levels present in each author.

I spent my entire first year as a writer obsessed with this multiplicity of selves to which I had to pay attention, at the same time mediating name and heteronym; to another, mediating the science/fiction ambiguity; to another, still, inventing a hypernarrative for myself, a narrative that was still helpful and honest, but that protected my privacy from the vortex of the literary field... But I know well that these considerations and interrogations are just questions, equally unhealthy, when not impertinent, which the astonished professor Fábio Fonseca de Castro usually makes to the writer Fábio Horácio-Castro. Impertinent questions, to say the least, for someone who writes a book whose central character, albeit allegorical, is a reptile, which sheds its skin, crosses walls and temporalities.

If you noticed, I've been talking here about the difficulty of building an author's identity in the midst of the demands of the literary field. Having resolved the identity of the person and, likewise, the narrative identity that makes up the book, the identity of how I can represent myself continues to be troubled.

*Fábio horcio-Castro, writer and sociologist, he is a professor at the Federal University of Pará (UFPA). Author, among other books, of The melancholy reptile (All time lap record).


WHITE, ML Conversations with António Lobo Antunes. Lisbon: D. Quixote, 2002.

CALÇA, F. José Luis-Diaz: authorial scenographies at élittle româethics. Polyphony, (28:01), 279-288, 2013.


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