I recently had the pleasure of meeting (via skype) a member of the Guimarães Rosa Workshop (Oficina Guimarães Rosa) from the University of São Paulo, Brazil. Amália Dos Santos is a graduate student at the College of Architecture and Urbanism at USP, and was one of the key organizers of the recent Virada Roseana, a 36-hour continuous reading of Grande Sertão: Veredas, this past May.
Guimarães Rosa Workshop
The Guimarães Rosa Workshop is a group of professors and students from the University of São Paulo who meet on a weekly basis to discuss and read the work of Guimarães Rosa.
Amália has been a great supporter of AMB. I cannot thank her enough for all of her assistance and advice.
Amália, tell me about Oficina Guimarães Rosa.
Well, I just started with the group this semester, but they’ve been around for five or six years. It’s not all academics, it’s more like friends getting together to read Guimarães Rosa; but we do have a lot of events that are more academic, that are more than just reading. But, reading is always the main part. We also have guests who come to show us just what can come from Rosa’s books: musicians, actors, other writers—they come to show their work.
How do the readings work?
The reading part is difficult. As you can imagine, even in Portuguese, the work is a little bit tricky. Rosa is difficult to read alone, imagine reading it out loud. But it’s good to have all the experiences of the other members to help you along the way. The older members, they help us with language and they help us understand the Brazilian culture we’re too young to know. But, in general, this is how it goes: we gather around every Wednesday for two hours, we choose what to read, and we read that work every Wednesday until we finish. Right now, we’re reading Estas Estórias. It will take us a few weeks. And in a meeting, we don’t stop once we finish one story, we read for the whole two hours. We get through as much as we can. With artists and others joining us every now and then, it can take a long time to get through a book.
Do you have guests visit the workshop often?
Yes, because it’s not just the group of people who participate every week, it’s a network of people who work with Guimarães Rosa. One person knows another person, and they say: ah! I know someone doing a musical piece based on Rosa, and so that musician is invited, and they come to play—it’s beautiful.
Can you tell me about the history of the group?
I don’t know how the group got together for the first time, but in 2006 they hosted an international seminar on Guimarães Rosa. The event was centered around academics; people presented their theses and lectures. The group has also organized trips to Minas Gerais—so they can see what Guimarães Rosa wrote about.
Is the workshop supported by the University of São Paulo?
We don’t have institutional or financial support, but there are two directors of the group: one is a professor at the university, Dieter Heidemann, he teaches Geography, and Rosa Haruco Tane—well, she’s just the greatest, and she has an energy that keeps the group excited. Even though there’s no institutional support, the university does like what we do, and they provide us with a space. They receive the group very well, and they are very helpful. They love Guimarães Rosa too. They gave us full access to the building when we held the Virada Roseana for two days. That was a big deal, and it shows how much they support us.
That brings us to it: Virada Roseana. How did the idea for this event come about?
Professor Dieter Heidemann suggested it, and we thought: no, we can’t do that. No one’s going to spend the whole weekend in a room reading that book. Not the same weekend as Virada Paulista—which is a big cultural festival we have two times a year, with lots of music and performances. People would rather go out and see those things. Well, he was a little disappointed by our reaction. But then, a week later, someone, maybe it was him, suggested we do it some other time. The first thing was to see if the university would even allow us to hold the event. When we found out the institution would allow us to use the facilities for the whole weekend, we began to think: ok, how would this go? What would we have to do in order for this to happen? It didn’t take long for people to agree that we could do it. All of a sudden, a group was organized to plan it all. Those who didn’t join us were still very supportive (because they probably thought we were crazy), they wanted us do well. They said: of course if you do it, we will participate. Then, we had to think about all of the little things, like: what will we eat? Where will we sleep? But we all worked together, and we were able to do it. The organizers, everyone worked very hard to make it happen.
I know the event was designed to last thirty-six hours, did you make it? How long did it take?
Actually, it took thirty-two hours! We read for two hours, then took a break, sometimes even just for twenty minutes, just to get out of the room, to be quiet and talk for a little while…to not read anything! We also had activities: artists and dancers and musicians. But yes, we read the whole thing in thirty-two hours. We were very surprised.
Were you able to stay awake the entire thirty-two hours?
I slept on Sunday for two or three hours. I just had to—at a point, I couldn’t stay awake. It was seven-thirty in the morning, I made it through the whole night, but when I saw the sun I thought: oh, I can’t do this. I had to rest. I slept for a couple of hours, but then I was back. It was funny, actually, because I slept while they were all reading around me. It was kind of magical to sleep like that. I don’t think anyone was able to stay awake the whole time. Everyone had to take a little time off at some point.
What was it like to hear the final words read?
Oh, it was so exciting. I wanted to cry, but I was holding the camera. One of our friends from the group, she’s a storyteller, and a very good one, and she read the last three or four pages. It really was completing a journey. And it was funny, because it just lasted a couple of days. But it was beautiful. Really beautiful.
Photos & Captions by Amália Dos Santos