Bernardo Carvalho

Bernardo Carvalho was born in 1960 in Rio de Janeiro. The qualified journalist worked as a foreign correspondent in the early 1990s for the Brazilian daily newspaper »Folha de São Paulo« in Paris and New York, before going on to translate Oliver Sacks and Bruce Chatwin into Brazilian and then dedicating himself completely to literature.
Carvalho debuted successfully in 1993 with his volume of short stories »Aberração« (tr: Anomaly). We already see the emergence of the leitmotifs there which appeared again in variations in the nine books that followed, all of them novels: secrets that need to be uncovered; a past that pervades the present; the intertwining of fiction and truth and toying with different perspectives and identities. Anyone reading a novel by the author cannot help but become a detective and thus an active figure in the story. The writer himself is also to a certain extent written into the novel as a figure; his first-person narrators are often would-be authors who advance to become storytellers or recorders of the stories which they find out about from other figures. The inscrutable, labyrinthine and convoluted nature of his books already gave rise early on to a comparison with Borges. The author’s sixth novel »Nove Noites« (2002; En. »Nine Nights«, 2007) brought him his international breakthrough. The book is based on the real life story of American anthropologist Buell Quain, who committed suicide in 1939 while working as a visiting researcher with the Krahó Indians in the Brazilian primeval forest. Around 60 years later, a journalist follows the path taken by the suicide himself and travels to the Xingu River in order to reconstruct Quain’s last days. The search for clues leads to a number of unanswered questions and he ends up embarking on a very personal journey into the heart of darkness, finding out a great deal about himself along the way. The author’s following novel »Mongólia« (2003) takes a Brazilian diplomat to Mongolia against his will, where he is supposed to find a photographer and countryman of his who has disappeared without a trace. The main figure’s encounter with a strange culture, which is characterised by a feeling of mistrust, is presented very graphically at first. The physical experience of what is strange to us is for Carvalho himself an essential element of the writing process, which is why he travels to and researches intensively the scenes and locations where his novels take place. His newest work »O Filho da Mãe« (tr: The Mother’s Son) appeared in 2009. After whisking us off to the Amazon, Mongolia and Japan, the author throws a new perspective on the struggle of the mothers of Russian soldiers and the fate of Chechen refugees. There is enough space in Carvalho’s fictional universe for the entire world – in more than one manifestation.
The author has been awarded many literature prizes. Among these were the most important Brazilian awards, the Machado des Assis Prize and the Jabuti Award. Bernardo Carvalho lives in São Paulo and is currently visiting Berlin as a guest of the DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Program.

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