On Monday the 13th of this month we held our favourite event, the CL, which in Spanish literally stands for “Círculo Literario”. We basically pick a book from our library and invite the writer to participate. Vis-à-vis, communication becomes fluent, and we can “dig characters, target, story, historical time and motivation out”. This time, the CL went for El Imperio eres tú, by Javier Moro. We had many reasons to meet Javier for lunch: firstly because he had once already participated in the CL, and secondly because of his well deserved Planeta Award 2011. As a vocational tale-teller, he easily entails anecdotes of “the making of” the book, and the book itself, signalling a personal trend for long-term, challenging projects. El imperio eres tú rephrases the words John of Braganza, King of Portugal, devotes to his son, Peter the First – future Emperor of Brazil and instigator of the Brazilian Revolution and further independence from the formerly mother country. “Love like a man, marry as a king”, says the monarch referring both to the at the time Peter’s affair with a French dancer, as well as the already envisioned strategic wedding with Maria Leopoldine of Austria, daughter of Francis II – House of Hapsburg- absolute Emperor of Austro-Hungarian Empire, and head of the Sainte-Alliance. The most outstanding topics in the book are probably those deciphering the historical environment as well as the peculiarities of the moment the characters had to live in. Thus, we took our time discussing about:
The Portuguese Creole Court: a Portuguese Court in the tropics, hundreds of Afro slaves – all dressed according to the strictest royal code and….barefoot! – running around to perform all sorts of the most unthinkable private services, and a monarchy living in wooden palaces at the beach, surrounded by coconut and palm-trees does not sound too realistic. Nonetheless, it actually happened, once upon a time.
Peter’s women: French, Austrian, Brazilian…either lovers of wives, they all played an essential role in Peter’s life. So did his by-the-way Spanish, peculiar mother. Worth mentioning is John’s and Charlotte’s first encounter, and the voracious salutation the latter gives the former: a bite in his ear lobe and further scar which, remaining as a souvenir-for-ever, would eventually be the “trademark” of their peculiar marital relationship.
The above-all-colonial feature of Portuguese culture: the colonies have always had a relevant weight in Portuguese History and somehow helped configure a way of living that still remains nowadays. Brazil’s gold-and-slavery-based economy supported Portuguese Monarchies and Aristocracy for so many centuries, that work was not only unnecessary but rather despicable as an activity. Moreover, any sorts of cultural, scientific and educative manifestations were considered superfluous too. We liked El imperio eres tú mainly because of its:
- Fluency: as somebody once said, Javier’s style is fluent, almost liquid. Smooth and fast flowing are the right words to describe his way to convey a story that might otherwise turn boring.
- Ability to reproduce human profiles, out of graphic material and written documentation. By means of this device the readers can end up feeling close to Peter’s generous and unpredictable personality.
- Agile, almost vivid descriptions; you can almost smell stinking, sweating people and feel the thick, asphyxiating atmosphere of tropical latitudes.
- Historical period, because of its importance in terms of the Spanish and Portuguese political relationships.
- Easy structure and quick narrative rhythm: this formula works wonders in the overall effect o the book.
- Type: Fictioned History – according to the writer’s own words- rather than Historical Novel.
- Time: 1816-1834
- Place: Lisbon, Rio de Janeiro.
- Historical fact: 1916. Threatened by the imminent French invasion, the Portuguese Royal Family leaves Portugal, for the colonies overseas, in order to save and protect the biggest and most precious share of the at the time Portuguese Crown : Brazil.
SOMETHING TO REMARK: Roman Rolland’s – the French writer who received the Nobel Literature Prize in 1915- quote introducing the book: …“ an instant to make a hero and an entire life to make a man”.
FURTHER READING: A Concise History of Brazil, by Boris Fausto and Arthur Brakel
READABILITY RATE: B2-C1 – normal to advanced. The readability rate of index tells us about the reading difficulty degree or level for non-native speakers. Native speakers can also benefit from this benchmarking.