A native of Rio de Janeiro, Lúcia Bettencourt is one of the most innovative and dynamic writers in Brazil today. She is the recipient of several awards, including the 2005 SESC Literature Prize for A secretária de Borges (Record, 2006), the 2007 Josué Guimarães Prize for the short stories A mãe de Proust (Proust’s mother), A caixa (The box), and Manhã (Morning); and the Osman Lins Prize for the short story A cicatriz de Olímpia (Olympia’s scar). She is a contributor to Rascunho, a literary journal based in Curitiba, Paraná, and Ideias, the Jornal do Brasil literary supplement. She is also the author of Linha de sombra (Shadow line; Record, 2008), a second short-story collection; and O amor acontece (Love happens; Record, 2012) a novel.
- O amor acontece (Love still happens) Publisher: Record | Language: Protuguese/Brasilian | Pages: 94 | Year: 2012 | Genre: Novel
Mariana is a young writer who considers herself incapable of falling in love. She has won a scholarship to spend a few months in Venice, writing her new romance, but while there she struggles to let her characters meet and fall in love.
Fabio, a university professor who has always been a sort of mentor to Mariana, helps her through the creative process by talking daily with her over the phone to discuss the development of the story and, more generally, exchange opinions about love and relationships.
Slowly, Fabio is able to prove to Mariana that love still exists not only in books but also in real life.
Through witty dialogues and magical descriptions of Venice, this simple yet bold story offers readers a good selection of literary references and cultural information, while at the same time providing a fresh take on what love is, and on how fantasies can hold people back from living their lives.
- A Secretária de Borges (Borge’s secretary) Publisher: Record | Language: Protuguese/Brasilian | Pages: 176 | Year: 2006 | Genre: Short Stories
2005 SECS Short Story Prize
In this collection, Lúcia pays homage to consecrated writers such as Borges and Kafka. Her writings use literature itself as their subject.
In the title story, an already blind Jorge Luis Borges is assisted by a secretary who begins to intrude in his stories. In The Insect the author inverts the distressing situation of Kafka’s Metamorphosis. And Marcel Proust’s Last Three Days narrates the French writer’s final moments, haunted by the characters he created.
The plotlines of A secretária de Borges are well developed. The language is fast-paced, direct, and carefully crafted. The characters, nearly all women, express themselves through speech, thoughts, and feelings that evolve naturally. A captivating book of appealing stories and refined writing.
“This debut presents an array of promise.” – Ronize Aline, O Globo newspaper
“Lúcia’s appreciable creative efforts blossom. And she reveals a knowledge of the literary realm that is rare among debuting writers.” – Dúlio Gomes, Jornal do Brasil
“This book shows imagination, style, and consistency. The work of a mature writer, ready for publication.” – Marco Polo Guimarães
“With her skilled and fluid storytelling, Lúcia depicts the intense rhythm of daily life, creating believable characters and making use of brief but deep dialogue.”– Glauber da Rocha, A literatura na blogosfera, Portal IG
Plot of three stories:
A secretária de Borges (Borges’s Secretary)
Borges, the writer, is having a hard time realizing that he’s going blind since he can read his books without seeing them. His blindness manifests itself in his writing and he sees himself obliged to hire a secretary, a quiet, discreet, nondescript woman who takes dictation of his stories. At the start of each workday, she reads the pages produced the day before so that Borges can pick up where he left off.
One day, he realizes that his secretary has changed a word. He doesn’t complain despite having noticed the difference. Little by little, she begins to make modifications of the writer’s text, and although aware of the changes, he remains silent, recognizing that the substitutions improve his work. The two establish a silent game, transforming the act of writing into a kind of labyrinth.
Borges ends up feeling threatened, however, and dismisses the secretary. After hiring a replacement to do her job, he discovers that he needs the secretary in order to keep producing. When he reinstates her, though, the secretary no longer plays the game. She respectfully limits herself to writing what the blind writer dictates. Borges finds it difficult to go on writing. One day, a visit from the secretary’s temporary replacement leads to his discovery that a new book of “his” has been published. Borges learns, then, that the secretary has become the “author” of his work.
The final victory belongs to the writer, however. By keeping quiet, he imprisons the secretary in the labyrinth she herself created. She will continue to write without receiving recognition and will see herself obligated to fall silent upon the famous author’s death.
O inseto (The Insect)
A woman comes across a cockroach in a parking garage and kills it for no particular reason. She’s instantly overcome by revulsion and tries to get rid of the insect’s “mortal remains,” but the cockroach seems to have vanished. When she gets home and examines her shoe, she finds no traces of the insect. Flabbergasted, she leaves the sandal in the laundry area in order to disinfect it once she’s washed up. In the shower, she imagines she’s cleansing herself, but on exiting the bathroom, she senses a strange presence in her home. In the laundry area, she finds a being acting like a frightened insect, but with the appearance of a wounded human.
The woman, who lives alone, doesn’t know whether to shoo it out or take it in. She ends up accepting the strange presence and trying to transform the being into a normal man. She distances herself from her friends and gradually humanizes the strange inhabitant of her laundry area. But when she realizes that he’s at the point of using language to communicate, she gets scared and decides to get rid of him, sending him off on a bus trip inland.
Os três últimos dias de Marcel Proust (Marcel Proust’s Last Three Days)
Bedridden with serious respiratory problems, the French writer spends his last three days in a kind of delirium. Refusing to allow his brother, a doctor, to treat him, he has only his faithful housekeeper Celeste to keep him company. Yet he imagines he is being visited by friends and relatives, some of whom are already deceased, as well as by his own characters.
Clinging to life, as he wishes to finish his novel, he finally acknowledges that his work is ready and pens the words “The end” on his manuscript, dying soon afterward. Celeste is shaken but Robert, the writer’s brother, opens the windows and takes the necessary steps so that Proust’s life and work go on.
English translations of Borges’s Secretary and Marcel Proust’s Last Three Days were both published in Words Without Borders. The Insect ran in The Dirty Goat, a literary magazine from Host Publications.
Translations of Lúcia’s stories have also appeared in Brasil/Brazil, Litro, Review: Literature and Arts of the Americas, and are forthcoming in The Drawbridge and Metamorphoses.
All translations are by Kim M. Hastings, who has also translated Rubem Fonseca, Rachel Jardim, Alberto Mussa, Thalita Rebouças, and Edgard Telles Ribeiro, among other writers.