When one thinks of the Amazon, art is rarely the first thing that comes to mind. But it was the Amazon—and specifically, the bustling, ethnically diverse port city of Manaus—that gave Brazil one of its most famous contemporary poets, Thiago de Mello, and a world-renowned orchestra conductor, Claudio Santoro. Manaus is also the birthplace of Milton Hatoum and Márcio Souza, novelists whose creative work have brought renewed attention to Amazonian cultural production. While portrayed in the media either as terra incognita or a zone of violent conflict between the forces of economic development and environmental preservation, the Amazon has created vibrant literary worlds that remain largely unknown outside Brazil.
To dispel these misconceptions and highlight the richness of Amazonian culture, the Brazil Institute and the Brazilian Embassy in Washington organized a discussion on September 16, 2008, with one the most celebrated Amazon authors, Márcio Souza. Born and raised in Manaus, he is the author of picaresque, satirical novels like The Emperor of the Amazon and Mad Maria. Souza was joined by Lúcia Sá, a visiting professor of Literature at the University of Manchester, England and author of Rain Forest Literatures: Amazonian Texts and Latin American Culture, and Regina Igel, professor of Portuguese and Brazilian Literature at the University of Maryland.
In "From the Amazon to Sao Paulo: Macunaima and the Native Trickster," Sá synthesizes two chapters from her book Rain Forest Literatures and reconceptualizes how indigenous texts are viewed and used in literature, seeing the texts as creative works rather than source material. Souza's issue on "Literature in the Brazilian Amazon," highlights the uniqueness of the history and culture of the Amazon and its contribution to Brazilian art.