Literature beyond borders

Marcelle Feigol Guil, the Guimarães Rosa Visiting Lecturer at Goa University is passionate about promoting Brazilian Portuguese language and literature in Goa. She has been instrumental in the founding of Brazilian Literature Book Club which will have its first meet-up on February 3 at The Dogears Bookshop, Margao


Tell us more about The Guimarães Rosa Lectureship Programme

The Guimarães Rosa Lectureship Programme is an initiative run by the Brazilian Ministry of External Affairs in partnership with the Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education in Brazil, granting scholarships to professionals specialised in the fields of languages and literature to promote and disseminate the Portuguese language as well as Brazilian literature and culture in higher education institutions overseas.

The programme has a 70-year history and we are currently more than 40 Brazilian lecturers in more than 30 different countries around the world. We meet every year at a symposium named ‘Conecta Leitores’, which is held in a different country each time so that we can discuss and present what we have been doing to meet the goals of the programme, as well as the challenges faced in order to focus on the constant improvement of the programme. We also invite speakers from relevant subject areas who contribute to the discussion and expansion of contemporary themes in our field.


What has your experience of teaching Brazilian literature to Goa University students been like?

Being the first visiting lecturer from Brazil at the Discipline of Portuguese and Lusophone Studies at Goa University, I feel honoured to have the mission to promote this cultural exchange in Goa for two years. I have been here since June 2022 and my contract ends in June 2024.

It has been a very rewarding experience to teach Brazilian literature to the students of the MA programme in Portuguese and Lusophone Studies at Goa University. Even those who don’t have much of a literary background become interested in the content and I believe it’s because, by talking about Brazilian history, the formation of our society and multiple identities and how the literary texts reflect all of that (while also contributing to shape some of that), Indian students can have a better understanding of their own culture(s) and history. This is usually the first time they come into contact with Brazilian literature and some of them are not completely fluent in Portuguese, so I use English as a language of mediation.

I have also taught a 60-hour course on literary translation as an elective course to MA students and was very happy to see that not only did they enjoy learning about translation theory and history, but they also did a good job translating texts such as poems by contemporary poet Ana Martins Marques and excerpts of prose by world-renowned writers such as Clarice Lispector. I could see they were inspired to improve their translation skills (and translating literature can be a challenging activity!). One of our students, who I am currently guiding and is currently spending a semester in Porto with an Erasmus scholarship, decided to write her master’s dissertation on the translation of a novel by a Goan writer, analysing cultural and linguistic aspects of the English translation of the Portuguese original. Last year, I had the opportunity to guide a master’s student who wrote her dissertation on comparative literature, analysing specific themes in the works of the contemporary Brazilian writer Conceição Evaristo and the Indian writer Bama. So it’s great to see that interest rising among Goan/Indian students as they get more exposed to Brazilian literature. I think that the works by Afro-Brazilian and indigenous writers really resonate with the students since India is also a country of immense ethnic, religious, and cultural diversity.

I believe it would be great if teachers of Portuguese at Goan regular schools could also bring Brazilian literature and culture to their classrooms, as well as develop an interest in the literature, cultural, and linguistic diversity of other speaking countries of the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries.


Can you share more about the Brazilian Literature Book Club?

The Brazilian Literature Book Club is something I’ve thought about with the aim of promoting Brazilian literature beyond the walls of the university so that more people in Goa could have access to our meetings and discussions. This is why we partnered with Dogears Bookshop, who promptly showed interest and collaborated not only by offering the venue but also by making the books available to those who prefer to read the printed version. Because the idea was to make Brazilian Literature accessible to the general public, I invited Fernanda Figueiró to mediate the discussions alongside me, as she is a very good reader and a Brazilian who has been living in Goa for many years now.

Together we have curated books to be read throughout this semester which have been translated into English. This way, more people can participate in the discussions, not only those who can speak Portuguese. The book club is presented by The Guimarães Rosa Lectureship Programme in partnership with the Consulate of Brazil in Mumbai and The Discipline of Portuguese and Lusophone Studies at Goa University. We are very excited about our first meeting which will be held on February 3, 11 a.m. at The Dogears Bookshop.


Tell us more about the book ‘The Invisible Life of Eurídice Gusmão’ which will be discussed at the session.

‘The Invisible Life of Eurídice Gusmão’ is a moving story about two sisters – Guida and Eurídice Gusmão – who grew up in a middle-class family in the 1940s in Rio de Janeiro and went separate ways due to the different life choices they made given the circumstances they were both subjected to in an extremely patriarchal society.

At the beginning of the novel, the author mentions that the stories were inspired by the women in her family and others from different generations whose stories she had come across. These women have one thing in common: they all became frustrated, bitter, or resigned to the roles that they were pressured to fill in, in that kind of society, or in other words, they all became invisible. There is also an excellent film adaptation of the novel done by director Karim Ainouz in 2019 with a great Brazilian cast.


Apart from being a teacher, you love writing and translation. Is there any new work that you have worked on?

I have recently translated a short story by Goan writer Jessica Faleiro into Portuguese. Faleiro’s works have been studied by scholars and students at Brazilian universities, such as the University of São Paulo, as well as in North American institutions, such as Brown University and other universities in Europe. Her short stories and novels are captivating and, even though most of her writing is set in a Goan context, approaching specific cultural themes, I can relate to many of her female characters. So, I would like to see more Goan/Indian writers getting published in Brazil and other Portuguese-speaking countries, since, despite the many geographical, historical, and cultural differences, we have more in common than one would imagine at first glance.

Since the beginning of the colonial period until more recently, there have been exchanges between Brazil and India on different levels, and I’m not just talking about the different types of fruit and natural resources that were carried from here to Brazil by the Portuguese and vice-versa. Both being former European colonies, we are still facing and trying to understand the consequences of a colonial past in our present context, so we surely have common struggles, similarities and differences in our historical processes, and a shared humanity. I believe that access to Brazilian literature in India as well as to Indian literature in Brazil and other Portuguese-speaking countries would help us expand our world-view and develop a more comprehensive outlook on our ever-changing cultural identities.