FRANKFURT (Reuters) - In a country where the average person reads just four books a year, Brazilian author Marcal Aquino thinks he has the trick to gaining an audience for his works.
“I have a special way. My books are adapted for movies. That’s very important if you want to reach the people,” the author said in an interview with Reuters at the Frankfurt Book Fair.
His last novel - ‘I’d Receive The Worst News From Your Beautiful Lips’ - won excellent reviews and the Portuguese-language version, first published in 2005, sold 25,000 copies.
While that may not seem a lot, it was a bestseller by Brazilian standards, where around 10 percent of the 200 million population is illiterate.
The screen adaptation of the novel, which went by the same name, was watched by millions on TV, however.
It is his third book he has adapted for the screen. His script-writing has won him plaudits, including several Brazilian awards and a Sundance Film Festival award in the U.S, and he has also written children’s books and crime novels.
“I don’t know who reads my books,” he said. “But with TV you can tell how many people watched and even who. This is a great challenge. You have to catch the people.”
The book is set in the vast north of the country, home to mining, timber and latex industries.
Describing the tensions between gold diggers and mining companies, corruption and betrayal, the novel tells the love story of a photographer and a former prostitute, now married to a television evangelist.
“I was there as a journalist in the 1980s and I saw the gold rush, the prostitution, all the realities of a small city,” Aquino said. “By choosing that location for my story I could talk about the violence there and about how love can develop in such an environment.”
When he went back some years ago to choose the locations for the movie, he found life had stood still. “Nothing had changed.”
The harsh living conditions mean the book will likely find few readers there, however.
“How can you think about someone in northern Brazil reading books? You can’t read when you have to worry about what you eat,” Aquino said.
The 55-year-old former journalist, who self-published his first poetry collection at the age of 26, puts the blame for Brazil’s poor reading habits on the educational system.
Growing up in the small town of Amparo about 120 km (80 miles) from Sao Paulo, he and his nine brothers never had books in the house.
He said that for a long time he thought there was no chance that living conditions in Brazil would change, but now sees glimmers of hope after protests in June, when hundreds of thousands Brazilians took to the streets.
The demonstrations against political corruption were the biggest in Brazil since the end of the military dictatorship during the late 1980s.
“There is much more to come,” Aquino said. “You can’t predict what will happen. That’s the beauty of it. But for the first time in my life I hope for the big change.”
Editing by Angus MacSwan