Anita Malfatti is in her living room while she reads to her friends, Mário de Andrade and Di Cavalcanti, Monteiro Lobato’s review of one of her exhibitions. He disapproves of the artistic trends of the time and claims that the painter’s talents are being wasted on “cartoon art”. When listening to the arguments of the author of “Sítio do Picapau Amarelo”, the teenager Nina, who had been invited to participate in that meeting with famous people, defends Anita Malfatti.
But what is a high school girl doing in a great artist’s house? In Nina Lafayette and the Time Leap, continuation of Mandi Castro‘s saga, the protagonist travels through time to save humanity. With a plot that mixes fantasy and science fiction, the author brings to the work the sociocultural context of the 1920s and shows the influence of art in the historical formation of the country.
Along the way, the girl will have the help of her brother, Martim, to escape from an ancient guardian of time who wants to destroy them and steal their powers. Because of the strength they wield, the Lafayettes will be pursued by Time-Space Masters. In the midst of these events, the character experiences up close situations that would culminate in the Modern Art Week of 1922, such as a dialogue between Heitor Villa-Lobos and Di Cavalcanti to settle details of the event.
Already in the first volume of the saga, Martim Lafayette and the Contra-Tempo, Mandi Castro takes the reader to 1822. At that time, Brazil faced the struggle for independence from the Portuguese crown, within a slave regime and exploitation of indigenous peoples. The title was described by Laurentino Gomes as a “fun and well-grounded” read.
Graduated in Screenwriting for Audiovisual, the writer has extensive experience with text production in the cultural sector. With the first volume of the series, she won the Prêmio Brasil entre Palavras, held by the blogs CuraLeitura and As 1001, in the categories “Best Novel of the Period”, “Best Author” and “Most Beautiful Cover” in 2020. She was also a finalist for the Odisseia Fantástica awards 2021, one of the biggest events of the fantasy genre in Brazil, and Minuano de Literatura 2021, promoted by the Secretary of Culture of Rio Grande do Sul. Check out the interview!
Recently released, the work “Nina Lafayette and the Time Jump” promotes a true timeless simulation by bringing a situation where the São Paulo painter Anita Malfatti, together with friends Mário de Andrade and Di Cavalcanti, is faced with a disapproving criticism of the then writer Monteiro Lobato. What were the contexts that led you to the elaboration of this work?
I’ve always really enjoyed Brazilian history and certain themes in particular called my attention, as was the case with the Modern Art Week. I’ve always wondered what it would be like if I could travel back in time and see historical situations happening in front of me, and this would be one of them. I imagined myself in the middle of the Municipal Theater, seeing all those young artists creating a type of art that would be remembered every year to come. When I decided to write a fantastic fiction book in which the protagonist would travel to some time in Brazil, I had no doubts about which year to put her. 1922.
Until today, the history of criticism of Anita Malfatti’s work in 1917 is remembered. The writer compared the screens to the drawings “that adorn the inner walls of asylums”. Art, like many trends, tends to undergo many changes in perception and technique in short periods of time. In that case and at the exact moment, as an author, would you be able to find an explanation for Lobato’s harsh criticism?
In my view, Monteiro Lobato was a conservative artist who created fantastic stories, but with a simple reading and easy understanding for children. He was also a lawyer and lived most of his life in the interior of São Paulo, which did not bring him closer to the cultural revolution that was happening in the city. When he came across Anita’s work, which had undefined features, an unconventional message and non-standard colors, his entire repertoire of art and culture was challenged. This happens whenever we present something new to those who have been used to the traditional for years.
Despite the participation of such renowned names in the work, the protagonist of her book ended up being the teenager Nina, who is a time traveler. In this matter, what would be the impacts of the “attack” on Malfatti’s art and these thoughts in today’s world, 106 years after the criticism?
The attacks on Anita were just one more engine for the Modern Art Week to happen. There was already a variety of artists who were experimenting with the new and trying to create more inclusive, more pulverized art. They knew that if they were being criticized, the cultural revolution was happening.
In the story, Nina is a medical school student, and, at this stage of education, students are already deepening their knowledge about the different styles and artists who worked in different eras of society. How do you see the form and content that are passed on to young people in schools today?
Our history is very important and must always be taught. I like the way many schools teach about modern art week, often asking students to study leading modernists and their art. It is an artistic event, it must always be passed on from a perspective of historical content, but also of art itself.
This recent release is the continuation of a saga that has been written by you for some time. How have you observed the public’s response to your works and what have you found specifically about the interest of young people in getting to know the history of Brazilian art better?
I created the first book in the saga because, in addition to being very fond of Brazilian history and science fiction, my main objective has always been to create a work that would bring young readers closer to our history. By reading my book, I make history not something boring like reading a didactic history book, but something light, a fiction that you are sad when it ends. I receive several messages from readers asking me if the passages I put in the book are true and I always answer yes, because I really do research work and this shows in the book.
As it is one of the greatest powers in the world, it is noticeable that many young people, mainly, base their tastes on international names and figures. This trend is seen in movie theaters, for example, where a huge part of the movies we consume is of American origin. Has Brazil managed to attract more attention from the young public today?
For sure. Our audiovisual production has increased a lot in recent years and we are increasingly specializing in content creation, whether in films, series, books, etc. We have a giant country, what we lack are some incentives for the national culture to be appreciated in the same way that the international one is. But we are not far from that happening.
In an excerpt from your book, you say that Brazilian art depends on Brazilian reality, and that it would also act as a revealer of reality. From this point of view, do you believe that Monteiro Lobato’s criticism in the 1920s could be linked to art censorship when exposing what was happening in the country? In general, why would these types of people have so much difficulty accepting re-readings and interpretation variations from the social context?
Yes definitely. As I already said, Monteiro Lobato was a traditional artist, used to the conservative art school. The entire socio-economic context of the time influenced this type of positioning and that is why the modernists are still considered to be disruptors of artistic standards.
His work ended up combining both real elements, such as Malfatti’s story, and the existence of the brothers’ powers, Nina and Martim. How did you come up with the idea of combining these two elements in a way that would be harmonious in the story?
To make the story harmonious, the secret is always to put the vision of the character who is entering that situation. In this case, Nina and Martim arrive in 1922 knowing very little, so everything is new and everything may seem a little strange, just as it would be strange for the reader if he suddenly found himself in 1922.
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