City Lights in conjunction with the Department of Spanish & Portuguese, UC Berkeley as part of the Brazilian Writer-in-Residence program; the Affiliated Faculty of the Program in Critical Theory, UC Berkeley; and Verso Books present
A conversation with Itamar Vieira Jr. and Johnny Lorenz
Opening statement by Nathaniel Wolfson
Celebrating the publication of
Crooked Plow: a novel – by Itamar Vieira Jr. – published by Verso Books
Heralded as the most important Brazilian novel of the century so far, this bestseller’s unique blend of magic and social realism won it three literary awards and global acclaim
‘I heard our grandmother asking what we were doing.'”Say something!” she demanded, threatening to tear out our tongues. Little did she know that one of us was holding her tongue in her hand.’
Deep in Brazil’s neglected Bahia hinterland, two sisters find an ancient knife beneath their grandmother’s bed and, momentarily mystified by its power, decide to taste its metal. The shuddering violence that follows marks their lives and binds them together forever.
Celebrated as a new masterpiece and the most important Brazilian novel of this century, this fascinating and gripping story about the lives of subsistence farmers in the Brazil’s poorest region, three generations after the abolition of slavery in that country is at once fantastic and realist, covering themes of family, spirituality, slavery and its aftermath and political struggle.
Itamar Vieira Junior was born in 1979 in Salvador, Bahia. He is a writer and geographer and has a PhD in Ethnic and African Studies from UFBA, the Federal University of Bahia. In 2018, he won Portugal’s Leya Prize for Torto arado. The novel, a best-seller in Brazil and praised by critics, went on to win Brazil’s most prestigious literary award, the Jabuti, as well as the Oceanos Prize. Itamar Vieira Junior was also a finalist for the Jabuti for his book of short stories, The Executioner’s Prayer. The English version of Torto arado — Crooked Plow— was translated by Johnny Lorenz and published in 2023 by Verso. Itamar Vieira Junior has recently published his highly anticipated second novel, Salvar o fogo.
Johnny Lorenz is a translator of Brazilian literature, poet, literary critic and professor of English at Montclair State University. His book of poems, Education by Windows, was published by Poets & Traitors Press. His translation of Clarice Lispector’s A Breath of Life was a finalist for Best Translated Book Award, and his translation of Lispector’s The Besieged City was listed as one of the “Best Books of 2019” by Vanity Fair. His honors include a PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grant, a Fulbright and an NEA grant. His translation of Crooked Plow by Itamar Vieira Junior was published in 2023 by Verso. His translation of The Front by Edimilson de Almeida Pereira received a Sundial Literary Translation Award and is forthcoming from Sundial House. His scholarly articles have appeared in Luso-Brazilian Review, Modern Fiction Studies and Journal of Lusophone Studies.
Nathaniel Wolfson is Assistant Professor in the Department of Spanish & Portuguese and Affiliated Faculty of the Program in Critical Theory at the University of California at Berkeley. He is the organizer of this event.
Made possible by support from the City Lights Foundation.