Christiana de Caldas Brito

Biography

Christiana de Caldas Brito (photo reproduced with the author's permission)

Christiana de Caldas Brito was born in Rio de Janeiro, in 1939. She spent time in the USA (1957-58), Argentina (1968-70) and Austria (1970-72). Since 1990, she has lived in Rome. She studied Philosophy in Brazil, and Psychology and Drama in Brazil and in Italy, and for many years has practised as a psycho­therapist in these two countries. Daughter of a writer, she started writing very young, publishing stories in Brazilian magazines, but she pursued this passion only when she moved to Italy. De Caldas Brito is one of the most original and creative voices of the fairly new phenomenon of transcultural literature written in Italian by non-native authors. The short story, ‘Ana de Jesus’ (turned into a monologue for the stage and performed in several Italian cities), won her a prize at the Concorso Ecs&Tra, the first award for non-native Italian writers, in 1995 and, in the following years, she became one of the most popular and distinguished authors, confirmed by the literary awards she has received. She conducts regular workshops in creative writing, and wrote Viviscrivi: Verso il tuo racconto (2008), a creative writing handbook.

The short story is de Caldas Brito’s favourite literary genre, and since 1998 she has published two collections: Amanda Olinda Azzurra e le altre (1998; republished 2004) and Qui e là: Racconti (2004). Many of her short stories have appeared in anthologies and online literary magazines. She is also interested in children’s literature and in 2000 she wrote La storia di Adelaide e Marco on the themes of diversity and marginalization; other children’s fables have appeared in anthologies. In 2006 de Caldas Brito published her first novel, 500 temporali, set entirely in Brazil, which was translated and published there in 2011. This novel, set in a favela in Rio de Janeiro, portrays contemporary Brazil and its contradictions. Nevertheless, some issues that she treats, such as the intrusion of television into everyday life, the myth of easy money and the cult of physical appearance, are not only Brazilian but affect Western society in general.

De Caldas Brito is also interested in theatre. She has written one-act plays which have been performed, and she has acted in some of them. She has also written several essays in which she reflects on the meaning of learning and expressing oneself in a foreign language, and on the role of trans­cultural writers in Italy. These essays complement and shed light on her fiction.

De Caldas Brito’s narrative is influenced by her interest in psychology and her activity as a psychotherapist. Some of her stories, in which emotions play an important role, have been inspired by her dreams. As she admitted in an inter­view, writing for her means giving free rein to her emotions, but unlike many transcultural writers, she is not interested in autobiographical narrative.

In her earliest stories she revealed great sensitivity for the condition of migrant women, whom she portrays as isolated in a domestic space. ‘Ana de Jesus’, for example, is the monologue of a Brazilian maid working in Italy, who feels lonely and is torn between her alienated life in Italy and her saudade for Brazil. Even though de Caldas Brito represents many migrant characters with great empathy and understanding for their plight, she does not deal with migration themes only, especially in her more recent works. 

Some of her stories are characterized by a fantastic dimension in which the ‘uncanny’ plays an important role (‘L’orologio’, ‘In fondo all’occhio’ ‘Siamo felici così’).  Her interest in themes such as madness, or in literary strategies typical of the fantastic narrative tradition, such as moving from a familiar everyday dimension to an uncanny and inexplicable one, or body parts that detach themselves and act independently, is a legacy of Brazilian literature, in which fantastic aspects are used not to escape from reality but to unmask it. Her writing is characterized by a strong socially critical view, which she combines harmoniously with her light style, in which irony and humour play an important role. A good example of de Caldas Brito’s use of fantasy and irony can be found in the short story ‘Io polpastrello 5.423’, in which the author expresses her  opposition to  the Bossi-Fini law, which required that migrants be fingerprinted. In this story, the fingertips separate from the bodies of their owners and invade the police station, creating great turmoil.  

One of the most interesting aspects of de Caldas Brito’s narrative is her very creative use of Italian. Early linguistic innovations may be found in the stories ‘Ana de Jesus’ and ‘Olinda’, in which the female characters express themselves in a hybrid language that has been called ‘portuliano’. This is a kind of interlanguage, characterized by interference between Italian and Portugese. The use of this language allows the author to portray these characters more realistically and, at the same time, underline their condition of living between cultures. De Caldas Brito likes to play with words, probably influenced by the musicality of her mother tongue, which gives her great sensitivity to the sounds of the Italian language. Examples of her play on sounds and onomatopoeia can be found in several of her stories (‘Chi’, ‘Ià, la vecchia’, ‘Il volo’, ‘Tutti’, ‘Il battitasti’). A further example of her experimentation with language, inspired by the lusophone writers João Guimarães Rosa and Mia Cuoto, is the condensation of words, with which she creates interesting neologisms that enrich the Italian language. The short story ‘Maroggia’ illustrates this procedure in the name of the protagonist, which combines mare and pioggia

De Caldas Brito’s readership is not only Italian. Thanks to the translations of her stories, she has gained a reputation in the USA, Brazil, Turkey, Austria and Germany. She illustrates well how the cultural background of a transcultural writer can coexist with her new identity and enrich the literature of her adopted country.

Compiled by Maria Cristina Mauceri (University of Sydney)

Bibliography

Novels

500 temporali (Isernia: Cosmo Iannone, 2006)

Short Stories

‘Ana de Jesus’ in AA.VV: Le  voci dell'arcobaleno ed. by Alessandro Ramberti and Roberta Sangiorgi  (Santarcangelo di Romagna: Fara Editore, 1995, pp. 59-61) [An expanded version of this story, under the same title, appears in the collection Amanda Olinda Azzurra e le altre (1998, pp. 29-34 and 2004, 37-41]

Amanda Olinda Azzurra e le altre (Rome: Lilith Edizioni, 1998; Salerno: Oèdipus, 2004)

Qui e là: Racconti (Isernia: Cosmo Iannone, 2004)

‘Il mendicante’, ‘Il canto di Mohamed’, ‘Linea B’  in AA.VV: Parole di Sabbia ed. by Francesco Argento, Alberto Melandri and Paolo Trabucco (Santo Eustachio di Mercato S. Severino (SA): Edizioni Il Grappolo, 2002, pp. 16-29)

‘L’orologio’ (Musibrasil, notizie e cultura del Brasile contemporaneo, 5, 2002) available online at http://www.musibrasilnet.it/archivio/Otto/L'orologio.htm

‘Frontiere’ and ‘Vigilia di Ferragosto’ in AA. VV: La seconda pelle (San Giovanni in Persiceto (BO): Eks&Tra Edizioni, 2004, pp. 47-51)

‘Memoria invasa’ in AA.VV: Le parole dei luoghi (Salerno: Marlin, 2006, pp. 55-60)

‘Il giardino’ (Nae:Trimestrale di cultura, 16, 2006, pp. 33-34)

‘Metamorfosi di un’immigrata nel paese di ailati’ (El-ghibli: Rivista online di letteratura della migrazione, 12, 2006) available online at http://archivio.el-ghibli.org/index.php%3Fid=1&issue=03_12&section=1&index_pos=3.html

‘Cronaca di una feijoada brasileira’ in Mondopentola ed. by Laila Wadia (Isernia: Cosmo Iannone Editore, 2007, pp. 49-57)

‘I due falò’ (Kuma: Creolizzare l’Europa, 17, 2009) available online at http://www.disp.let.uniroma1.it/kuma/narrativa/kuma17decaldasbrito.pdf

‘Clandestini’ (El-ghibli: Rivista online di letteratura della migrazione, 25, 2009) available online at http://archivio.el-ghibli.org/index.php%3Fid=1&issue=06_25&section=1&index_pos=4.html

‘La finestra’ in Breviario per conoscere la letteratura italiana della migrazione ed. by Armando Gnisci and Nora Moll (Rome: Sinnos, 2010, pp. 31-33)

‘L’acqua è mia’ (El-ghibli: Rivista online di letteratura della migrazione, 37, 2012) available online at http://archivio.el-ghibli.org/index.php%3Fid=1&issue=09_37&section=1&index_pos=3.html

‘L’incontro’ in Il quartiere dei destini incrociati: Due anni di scrittura creativa presso la Biblioteca Dergano-Bovisa ed. by Mircea Butcovan and Remo Cacciatori (Ferrara: Edizioni Linea BN, 2013, pp. 17-19)

‘Un cuore ostinato’ (In Verbis, 1, 2013, pp. 225-230)

Children’s Stories

La storia di Adelaide e Marco (Salerno: Il Grappolo, 2000)

‘A Jangada’ and ‘A Rede’ in AA. VV: Il carro di pickipò ed. by Paolo Gavagna and Raffaele Taddeo (Rome: Ediesse, 2006, pp. 11-17) 

‘Nella curva ovest del millepiedi’ (Caffè, 18, 2009, pp. 10-11)

 ‘Spettabili fratelli Grimm’ (Lettera Internazionale, 111, 2012, pp. 47-48)

Plays

Inciampi (1990)

Plastica a domicilio (1991)

Serata di carnevale (1992)

Ana de Jesus (1996)

L’avventura di Marfina  (1997)

Vivo o morto (1999)

Ali (2004)

Essays

‘Lo zaino della saudade’ in Memorie in valigia ed. by Alessandro Ramberti and Roberta Sangiorgi (Santarcangelo di Romagna: Fara Editore, 1997, pp. 11-14)

‘Saudade’ (Kuma: Creolizzare l’Europa, 3, Rome, 2002) available online at http://www.disp.let.uniroma1.it/kuma/poetica/caldas-poetiche-kuma3.html

‘Il mio percorso dai racconti al romanzo’ (Kuma: Creolizzare l’Europa, 5, Rome, 2002) available online at http://www.disp.let.uniroma1.it/kuma/poetica/caldas-poetiche-kuma6.htm

‘L’apporto degli scrittori migranti nella letteratura e nella società ialiana’ in Gli scrittori della migrazione ed. by Roberta Sangiorgi (San Giovanni in Persiceto [BO]: Eks&Tra Edizioni, 2002, pp. 11-17)

‘Che cosa vuole dire essere uno scrittore migrante?’ in Diaspore europee e lettere migranti ed. by Armando Gnisci and Nora Moll (Rome: Edizioni Interculturali, 2002, pp. 135-137)

‘La scrittura e il senso’ (Atti del Primo Convegno Nazionale Culture della Migrazione e Scrittori Migranti ed. by Maria Calabrese, Carolina Peverati and Paolo Trabucco, Ferrara, 2003, p. 42) available online at http://digilander.libero.it/vocidalsilenzio/attichristiana.htm

‘Il percorso linguistico dei migranti’ in Allattati dalla lupa ed. by Armando Gnisci (Rome: Sinnos, 2005, pp. 35-47)

Viviscrivi, verso il tuo racconto (San Giovanni in Persiceto [BO]: Eks&Tra Edizioni, 2008)

‘Migranti: nuove identità e partecipazione sociale attraverso la scrittura?’ in Lingue e letterature in movimento ed. by Silvia Camilotti (Bologna: Bologna University Press, 2008, pp. 19-28)

‘Le donne dei miei racconti’ in Roba da donne: Emancipazione e scrittura nei percorsi di autrici dal mondo ed. by Silvia Camilotti (Rome: Mangrovie Edizioni, 2009, pp. 211-251)

‘Letteratura e migrazione’ (El-ghibli: Rivista online di letteratura della migrazione, 31, 2011) available online at http://archivio.el-ghibli.org/index.php%3Fid=1&issue=07_31&section=6&index_pos=2.html

‘L’avventura dell’incontro’ in Così vicine, così lontane: Una ricerca sui bisogni e i consumi culturali delle cittadine straniere (Rome: Sinnos, 2012, pp. 33-37)

English Translations of de Caldas Brito’s Work 

‘Ana de Jesus’ [Translation of ‘Ana de Jesus’ by Rodolfo A. Franconi and Graziella Parati] in Mediterranean Crossroads, Migration Literature in Italy ed. by Graziella Parati (Cranbury, NJ: Associated University Presses, 1999, pp. 162-164)

‘The B-Line’ and ‘The Beggar’ [Translation of ‘Il mendicante’ and ‘Linea B’ by Carmen Di Cinque] in Multicultural Literature in Contemporary Italy ed. by Marie Orton and Graziella Parati (Cranbury, NJ.: Associated University Presses, 2007, pp. 54-63)

Portuguese Translations of de Caldas Brito’s Work

500 Temporais [Translation of 500 temporali by Roberta Barni] (Rio de Janeiro: Mar de Ideias Navegação Cultural, 2011)

Compiled by Maria Cristina Mauceri (University of Sydney)

 

Criticism

Barbarulli, Clotilde: ‘Una riflessione su Christiana de Caldas Brito’  (Kuma: Creolizzare l’Europa, 7, 2003) available online at http://www.disp.let.uniroma1.it/kuma/critica/kuma7-critica-barbarulli.htm

Camilotti, Silvia: ‘Writing from and on the Border: Christiana de Caldas Brito’s Narratives’  (Dimensões, 26, 2011, pp. 76-88)

Corio, Alessandro: ‘La metamorfosi della parola nella scrittura di Christiana de Caldas Brito’ (El-ghibli: Rivista online di letteratura della migrazione", 11, 2006) available online at http://archivio.el-ghibli.org/index.php%3Fid=1&issue=02_11&section=6&index_pos=3.html

Cutolo, Vincenzo: ‘I racconti di Christiana de Caldas Brito’ (Lo stato delle cose: Pensiero critico e scritture, 7, 1999, pp. 113-117)

Dorigo Salamon, Marta: Christiana de Caldas Brito: una scrittrice di fiabe moderne’ (Kuma: Creolizzare l’Europa, 11, 2006) available online at http://www.disp.let.uniroma1.it/kuma/critica/kuma11salamon.html

Kiemle, Christiane: Ways out of Babel: Linguistic and Cultural Diversity in Contemporary Literature in Italy. Exploring Multilingualism in the Works of Immigrated Writers (Trier: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag, 2011)

Mauceri, M. Cristina: ‘Cultural Encounters and Clashes around the Table: Food in Migrant Writing in Italy’ in Food in Postcolonial and Migrant Literatures/La Nourriture dans les littératures postcoloniales et migrantes ed. by Michela Canepari and Alba Pessini (Bern: Peter Lang, 2011, pp. 257-270)

—: ‘Riso amaro? L’umorismo come rimedio contro il razzismo in Lakhous, Wadia e de Caldas Brito’ (Scrivere altrove/Écrire ailleurs ed. by Anna Frabetti and Laura Toppan, 10, 2013, pp. 69-82)

Sabelli, Sonia: ‘Transnational Identities and the Subversion of the Italian Language in Geneviève Makaping, Christiana de Caldas Brito, and Jarmila Ockayová’ (Dialectical Anthropology, 29, 3-4, 2005, pp. 439-451)

Taddeo, Raffaele [ed.]: Christiana de Caldas Brito (El-ghibli: Rivista online di letteratura della migrazione [supplement] 16, 2007) available online at  http://archivio.el-ghibli.org/index.php%3Fid=2&issue=04_16&sezione=0.html

Compiled by Maria Cristina Mauceri (University of Sydney)

 

Interviews

Barbarulli, Clotilde: ‘Ho camminato fino alla fine del mare: Intervista a Christiana de Caldas Brito‘ (Letterate Magazine, 42, 2013) available online at http://www.societadelleletterate.it/2013/03/intervista-a-christiana-de-caldas-brito/

Bregola, Davide: ‘Giocare con le parole’ in Da qui verso casa (Rome: Edizioni Interculturali, 2002, pp. 96-104)

Mauceri, M. Cristina: ‘Le parole liberano l’anima: A colloquio con Christiana de Caldas Brito’ (Kuma: Creolizzare l’Europa, 8, 2004) available online at http://www.disp.let.uniroma1.it/kuma/poetica/kuma8-poetica-mauceri2.html

Serra, Carla: ‘Una lingua lavata e stesa al sole: Intervista con Christiana de Caldas Brito’ (Nae: trimestrale di cultura, 16, 2006)

Ubax Ali Farah, Cristina: ‘Intervista a Christiana de Caldas Brito’ (El-ghibli: Rivista online di letteratura della migrazione, 7, 2005) at http://archivio.el-ghibli.org/index.php%3Fid=1&issue=01_07&section=6&index_pos=2.html

Compiled by Maria Cristina Mauceri (University of Sydney)