Carlos Alberto Correia - Conversation about the 'Concert for Sanca João'July 27, 2015
Concert for Sanca João
Carlos Alberto Correia* is a serene man, with a calm look, but searching, attentive and focused. He likes his life, he likes to be who he is, but he has so much more to do. He was born in Évora in 1944, where he grew up, studied and worked until he was called to do Military Service in Guinea.
A very early reader, from a very early age he revealed a talent that he would share in scattered publications in the youth sections of the Diário de Lisboa and República newspapers.
In 1974, precisely on April 25, he published his first poetry book Silêncio Mordido. Then the war was gone, which it brought in hundreds of sheets filled in poetic form with patches of life lived in the absurd. He had already encountered disenchantment, confronted with another world, during forced immigration into the torn and violated Portuguese Africa, and when he saw before him, the idea of the sweet, structured and nationalist reality of yesteryear was violently torn apart. Until the 1980s, he still published in Diário Popular and Capital. He also wrote a series of texts for the program 'Música, Músicas', by Paulo Coelho, on the FM stereo of Rádio Comercial.
He was disenchanted that he joined the armed political struggle against the regime and disenchanted he saw the deviations from the hopes he placed on the revolution. He returned to publishing poetry in 1982 with the volume Penélope e Outros Esperas, based in part on the texts for the programs at Comercial.
He has a passion for theater and with the leaves of Guiné he wrote the dramatic play O Medo ea Ira, which he also performed at Projéctor – Companhia de Teatro do Barreiro.
It continues to represent and collaborate with texts to enhance the pieces represented by the company. Write for the local newspaper Faces Online. He recently finished a new novel, Moments to Invent Love, but before that, at the age of 63, he retired from his professional life linked to Business Management, and dedicated himself fully to what he loves most: writing.
From his life in Guinea and all that it represented for him, with the maturity of his age and the seasoning of a critical, attentive and non-conformist spirit, he “finally” wrote and published Concerto for Sanca João.
And Carlos is also an excellent conversationalist.
Carlos Alberto Correia - As the main character in the book, I was in my youth, until I joined the army, linked to the regime, passing, for example, through Mocidade Portuguesa. Then the main character has something autobiographical. It was in Guinea, when Sanca João, the only true and real character in the book, died, that I started to question everything.
He witnessed the interrogations he was subjected to and the tortures he was subjected to, and when he succumbed, the turning point took place. It is here that real and corporeal History merges with the core of his book, with its finite perception, shed by these pages composed on the thread between the limits of reality and the infinity of creative composition.
When he returned, he began to inquire politically and discovered that there were many more like him.
A & c – And you felt the need to take a stand, to act.
CAC – Of course, but it was not a linear process, there were advances and setbacks, but I ended up in '69 for joining the MDP/CDE and it was from there that my political insertion began. I remained linked to the MDP/CDE, but in the meantime I joined an autonomous group that belonged to LUAR and remained linked to that group until the promulgation of the Constitution and the first elected government. After that, I and another fellow at a meeting proposed that LUAR dissolve. At that time the proposal was not accepted, but that ended up happening, why? Because we were an armed struggle group against fascism, and even if the constitution was not exactly what we wanted or the government was what we wanted, we were already in a democracy and the fight would start to take place in other terms, excluding, therefore, the armed struggle.
I never wanted to go too far in terms of party politics, because politics is too pragmatic, getting into combinations and situations that aren't always what I'm looking for. I think I have the right to fight against those who have the power unduly, but getting into the political trivia of struggle for power, even democratically, that doesn't interest me. I have a more Greek idea of politics, which is intervention in the city, and that I do with writing and with the various activities I dedicate myself to. So today in partisan political terms, even though I am a member of a party, I am free.
A & c – When did you first think, if you ever did, that you wanted to be a writer?
CAC - I never thought about being a writer, making a living as a writer. When I edited my first book, in 1974, I was invited by a publisher to start writing for them, in a contract situation with an obligation to give them one book a year, and I didn't accept. I didn't accept it because for me, writing is freedom. In life I did many things, some pleased me more, others less, but in writing I only did what I wanted. Good, bad, mediocre, great, that's what I want. I have always maintained this freedom and have never been subject to canons or codes. I invent my canons and my codes. By the way, I have a rule, each book has to be different from the other.
A & c – Have you ever gone a long time without writing?
CAC - No, I always wrote. My way of writing is jet, as I went through the newspapers, I learned to write directly to the machine and even today, except for the poetry I write by hand, that's how I write, jet. However, after writing, I let it rest for a while, then I go back to reading, rereading and working on the text. A painter friend of mine, Belém, once in a conversation, while we were walking in the garden, he, Kira and I, told us: “a painting or a poem is never too little, there is always too much”. And I believed it and I think so. Once, in a high school, they asked me, for a poetry show, for a poem that I had worked on and so I gave them one, it started with five written sheets and ended with the poem which was about twenty lines. But everything was there. The point is that when one writes in a burst, the poetic tension is lost, this is artificial, it is created, because the most natural feelings have to be recreated artistically, that is artificially. So this is done by debugging the writing.
A & c – With “jet writing” you remind me of the automatic writing of the surrealists.
CAC - Yes. This is my first moment, but this automatic writing is subject to my own sifting and a lot of debugging.
A & c – When did you move from poetry to literary prose?
CAC - I felt it in an unedited book of poems called urbi. It's not poetic prose, it's poetry with a longing for prose.
A & c – And when did the change happen?
CAC - From the eighties. I started to have a less evocative and more descriptive need.
A & c – Around your 40s…
CAC - Yes, but in my forties I was very busy managing companies, I worked for a multinational, I was managing the company in Macau and there was little time and mental space for literature.
Around that time I stopped for a while. When I told the publisher that I would not accept that agreement, I made the decision that I would work to earn my money and when I had sufficient economic conditions, I would retire to write.
A & c – And so you did.
CAC - And so I did.
A & c – Do you have waves? In other words, you write, for example, poetry for a few days and then write prose in alternate periods, or while you are writing a book in prose, are poems “coming out”?
CAC - I work by goal. I start writing a novel and dedicate myself to the novel. The only thing I intersperse are the chronicles I write for the newspaper Faces online. There is another exception that has already happened twice, which is when I am asked to write complementary texts in the theater. That happened when we did Auto da India where I wrote a different prologue and ending and now for Auto da Barca, but they were works that were necessary in those moments, besides when I'm writing a novel, I'm writing a novel.
He had a good literary preparation, studied at a Salesian college and then at a seminary, where, in the latter, readings and discussion of the same readings took place. Everything added to his natural taste and curiosity made him a reader who started at around eleven years old to read Jules Verne. There are no writers in the family, with the exception of one grandmother, a “spontaneous poet”, as she says and sees in Sartre, Camus and Mário Vargas Llosa, some of her main “masters” of letters. In the type of novel construction of this novel, he recognizes the influence of Vargas Llosa's Conversation in A Catedral, which he has as a great reference.
A & c – When did this book, Concerto for Sanca João, really begin to be created?
CAC - This book began to be thought about shortly after I arrived from the war. I started writing it really, if we ignore two or three attempts I made in between, at 63 years old. Exactly on the second day of my retirement. It took me 5 years to write it.
A & c – We can say that you took 50 right?
CAC - Since I started thinking about it, yes.
A & c – Wouldn't it be possible to write it at another time, ten years younger?
CAC - It was not possible. First, due to lack of time, this book has a huge amount of organization work, character maps, situation maps, period research, spread over several files. On the other hand, I don't think the book had matured enough. The ending of the book, for example, was much discussed with my wife, because I had three alternative endings and it was difficult to choose one.
A & c – This book has a lot of your life, not only because it portrays things that you lived in an important stage of your life, that you followed, but also has a strong emotional charge and a personal vision of things that come from before this story and that extend beyond it.
CAC - This is an insistent discussion I had with my wife and Ana Garrido. They argue that the book is very autobiographical and I don't think so. This is because for me, to be autobiographical, all facts would have to be real and I didn't look for reality. I tried to make the reality feel. Sometimes I go out of veracity and go more towards verisimilitude than the fact itself. Embellishing the fact in a way gives the reader who has not lived it much more of the substance than it made the narrator feel. If I tell a story coldly, for the reader it is just information and it may or may not interest him. But if I compose a story around it, build a character that makes the reader interested, have feelings about her, even if the story is not real, I can make the reader build a connection, discover feelings that humanize the “doll”. Therefore, in these cases, I deal with the facts according to the needs of the novel.
A & c – It's almost like when a filmmaker or a playwright grabs a book and makes a movie or a play.
CAC - Exactly. He will tell the same story but with his eyes and the language of his art. I took real facts and worked them with the language of literature, so I think that although I can't say that there isn't an autobiographical dimension there, it is very unimportant.
A & c – You therefore agree that to some extent all books are autobiographical.
CAC - Of course. I think that all or almost all novels have an autobiographical component insofar as there is a lot of the author, from the outset his perspectives on what surrounds him.
A & c – Do you have texts that you have taken advantage of from the past, for example those you brought from Guinea?
CAC - From the past only the Outside whitewashed wall which was a text I wrote for República, in the Marcelista spring, and which was cut by the censors. Also the chapter Silences for a Dead Love, it is composed of poems that were made at the time, during the war. The rest is all written for the book.
A & c – It's all about memory.
CAC - The novel has a construction bergsonian that is, memory wanders, once in a while an idea comes out and then there are other ideas that link up. This might even seem achronological, but then the chronology and time progress remains, although it's a bit in form. bergsonian. A bit like the image he used to give of the fisherman who is in the river and every now and then pulls the line and a thought arises.
The book is, an interweaving of stories that are sincerely true real and imagined memories. One and the other. Memories anchored to musical themes that take us there, to those places and to those times, and involve us. They are a single poem, a painting, a sculpture, a painting, they are just one, and these are all that intersect; they are all the brushstrokes of a painting, they are all the notes of a symphony that mold themselves, complete and join together to go out towards temporary or definitive silence. Dozens, hundreds of characters intersect for moments, or advance in parallel, along the sheets of this work in some poetic moments. They come and go, or go side by side with and in the life of the protagonist Urbano, who is so many characters and is just himself, real and invented. A story that brings together stories, which sprout from the other, short one, of the character Sanca João – the only true one – who dictates everything and remains so little. A letter to a woman, Luana the creation, the light, the continuation, the safe haven. One letter and that's it, forever. The permanence of time, of moments finally carved for “someone one day, anywhere, by any chance”. The play of the banal with the surprising and the singular with History, as well as the insuperable connection between fantasy and the real and memorable, lend us the torpor of nostalgia. The enigma of the end, the departure, the loss, prolongs the despair of the memory carved out during those years of love and war, of conviction and disillusionment, of faith and abandonment, of convergence and divergence.
A & c – You say that the characters are composite, and that those stories happened to someone, so in the midst of fantasy, only the construction or composition is fantasy.
CAC - Almost everything I say is part of the real, the concrete. It may not have been exactly in that form or at that time, or sequence, but I am always based on real situations altered according to the needs of the novel intrigue.
A & c – Of all the characters that walk through this book, apart from Sanca João, who is in fact real, is there any more that come very close to a real person?
CAC - There is. For example, Urbano has something of me, but not much, that is, I thought of him as part of my journey and then I added and changed him to make the character believable.
A & c – When we write in the first person, something pulls us to speak for ourselves.
CAC - Yes and we have to resist. My form of resistance was to add things to it, to get facts that I knew happened and add them to Urbano precisely to prevent it from becoming autobiographical.
A & c – Who is, or what does Luana represent?
CAC - It is a character that includes several and is Urbano's girlfriend for whom he goes to war. Because of her problems with her father, he volunteered to be able to marry her. A situation that has come to an end without any of them ever having explained it.
This has to do with what was lived in that situation. Only a very small part of the men, especially the younger ones, who went there leaving a girlfriend or even a bride, even a wife, maintained these bonds. Because there was such a big change in the way of thinking and living in life, of facing problems, that someone else was the one who came back. There were problems for others that for us, once we got used to dealing with life and death matters every day, meant nothing.
A & c – The book turns out to be Urbano's explanation of Luana.
CAC - Yes. Urbano represents the hope of revolution, it has no existence outside the idea of revolution. So to explain the situation to Luana, he writes the book – the longest letter he's ever written – and orders his friend Travassos to deliver it to him. Travassos goes looking for Luana, but he doesn't find her either, as she had left Portugal, but without telling anyone where.
Luana is the complement to Urbano. As in the myth of Androgyne, they together would make one, but they were never able to get together, so they remain divided and so the eternal search continues.
All the characters that appear in the book have meaning, even if they only relate to a certain moment and in a certain situation. Among the hundred episodic characters that populate the novel, there are also friends who share Urbano's life more intimately and more over time. They are interested in everything that goes on with Urbano, but they are interested as a friend is interested in his friends' problems. Travassos, unable to comply with Urbano's request, publishes the book so that “one day in any place, by any chance, one of the two, if still alive, can witness my commitment (...).” There are also those that are very important at certain times with greater or lesser duration, but which are so in those circumstances, when they change, they leave the scene.
A & c – Your characters are brushed on a board.
CAC - Yes, the book is a fresco. Therefore, they are brushed in the fresco, they are part of it, they compose it, but they do not total it. They are pretexts to explain why certain things happen that way.
A & c – Is this picture complete?
CAC - No. Perhaps a new novel will emerge from a secondary character in this novel, more focused on the economic and financial involvement of society.
A & c – Why concert?
CAC - All chapters are subtitled by a musical theme, which reflects a mood, an era, an intention. Even within the book there are several musical references. Through the feeling that the music arouses, Urbano makes this offer to Sanca João. Songs that he can never hear, that he probably could never hear, that influenced Urbano's experiences.
A & c – It's your memories once again. These are songs that transport you to a time that fits with moments from the book…
CAC - Exactly.
A & c – And you expect the reader to somehow make this association.
CAC - I hope you get there. They will probably get there in very different ways, in some cases they won't because for me there is an affective connection there, while for others it will be perfectly anodyne, it won't even have any meaning, but in any case in relation to me as author, they have an extremely valence important that I try to transport to Urbano.
A & c – See this book in the movies?
CAC - Given its complexity, I think it would be very difficult to do it to the author's taste.
A & c – Could you make it to Theater?
CAC - No. It's too big and I have a hard time cutting it. The cuts I made were many and it was very difficult to cut.
A & c – What do you do with those cuts? Throw them away or keep them “hidden” waiting for an opportunity, or for possible later inspiration?
CAC - I throw it all away. I cut about a hundred pages and threw it all away. I don't even remember what it was anymore.
A & c – You had goals when you started, even if you didn't recognize them right? Do you think the goals were met?
CAC - I think so. I am deeply satisfied. The goals were fulfilled. All in all, what I wanted was to give an overview of a generation. Of course, it's difficult to do it from just one person, who has their education, their environment, their social insertion, but if you notice it goes through all social levels. He started in a poor yard and “went around” until he became manager of a large company. Throughout her life, she goes through all the social stages, precisely to represent that generation coming from wherever she came from, but that went through very similar situations.
A & c – We are facing a social map.
CAC - It's kind of a social map, yes. At heart I am an anthropologist looking at society and instead of writing theses and theories I write a novel.
A & c – What does this book represent in the content of your work? You have five books written, you have the next novel ready (Moments to Invent Love) and you still have that other project on the basis of a character in this novel. They all have their moments and their position, what is the place of this one?
CAC - This is the book. I don't know if I'm mistaken, but I think this is the book. It was thought for a long time, worked for a long time and suffered. I have three works that are still the core of what I wanted to write. It's the book of poems, Penelope and Other Waits, It's fear and anger in theater and is the Concert for Sanca João. These are the fundamental landmarks for me, the rest will certainly be interesting, otherwise I wouldn't have “thrown them out”, but they don't have the same luminescence. These were works written more from a literary point of view. These were written from experiences, with blood.
A & c – Now changing levels. Let's go to the Theater. What does theater represent in your life?
CAC - I did theater in my youth, I belonged to several amateur theater groups, and I stopped doing theater when I joined the army. However, with the material I have left, as I mentioned, from what I brought from Guinea, I wrote a piece called fear and anger which was presented by the theater group Projéctor.
A&c – This piece is almost circular unlike this novel which is perfectly linear.
CAC - The novel is linear even for the chronological issue.
A & c – But there are acts.
CAC - The novel has two acts: Convergence, which is exactly the convergence of Urbano with the regime and Luana, and Divergence, which is when Urbano distances himself from Luana and the regime.
A & c – Playwrights who may have influenced your dramatic creativity.
CAC - Becket, Brecht and Ionesco. They are in fact the ones who shaped me a bit for the theater, so much so that my play goes a little from surreal to real, I make a fusion of what was the theater of the absurd with what theater is "Brechtian”.
A & c – Today you are a "free man", returning to ancient Greece, in that conception of free man, where all men who were not slaves were not free, they were free indeed, men who did everything for pleasure , had no need to have any trade.
CAC - I'm a free man in that respect, I've earned that freedom.
A & c – In this freedom of yours you are a writer, actor and playwright.
CAC - I am. Now I've been away a bit because of the book, but I'm still connected to two groups in my area, the Singular and the Projector. I'm not doing any play, but I've been writing for this one on stage and as soon as I'm free (now that I've finished another novel) I'll come back.
A & c – Do you have any parts “in the forge”?
CAC - I have a planned play that is not very well defined yet, but it will be a play that shows what amateur theater is. It will be a piece within a piece.
A & c – And other arts? Have you never felt any inclination towards the fine arts?
CAC - I was always Kira's partner, but I was always very mean in the visual arts. I liked to sing, I always liked to sing and I sang, I serenaded for example, but I have a really bad ear, but as when I sing, what I hear is exactly what I want to reproduce, I don't get bored, let others get bored.
A & c – And muinstrumental music?
CAC - I tried to learn to play the guitar, but I am left-handed at a time when it was forbidden to be left-handed. I had problems at school. They even tied my left hand so I wouldn't use it. It was torture, so I lost all fine motor skills.
A & c – Do you believe in the dialogue between the arts?
CAC - I believe.
A & c - What other arts would the Concert for Sanca João, in addition to the music you've already linked in the text itself.
CAC - The painting. As I mentioned, I think the book is a fresco. It could represent in images what the events were,
A & c – Do you think it would be possible to represent this book in a single frame?
CAC - Yes, you have that in the drawing that my son (Pedro Correia) made for the cover. There you have a portrait of a female face that is Luana, surmounted by a black male figure, Sanca João, then there is a G3 crossed over Luana's face and on the background of Sanca João's face, below it reads “Portugal and Special operations". Finally, there are the carnations that start red and lose color. Everything is there. We have the perfect synthesis of the book on that cover.
A & c – And in music how would you see it?
CAC - As a romantic opera, not Wagnerian, although it has Wagnerian traits, because there is a lot of epic in the book, but the Luana/Urbano relationship has a lot of the Italian romantic, even in its failure it is romantic.
A & c – Your wife is your adviser.
CAC - IT'S. It was always my advisor, in everything, she and Ana Garrido who also reviewed this book. With the discussions we had, there were times when it felt like the novel was written with three hands. I'm very stubborn, when I have something written, to get it out I'm not easy to convince. Hearing the judgment from the outside, without the affective charge, sometimes hurts. Between writing with canonical correction or writing something that is semantically or grammatically incorrect, but which expresses exactly what I want, my choice is made. My mistakes today could be the canon of tomorrow.
A & c – This is the history of contemporary art, the breaking and abandoning of academics and pre-established rules.
CAC - Of course, but we all have to know the grammars well. Only then can we destroy them.
A & c – Did you have a moment when you realized you were done? “It's gone now, it's finished”?
CAC - Yes, when together with Fernanda I chose the end and wrote it down. Then I had the feeling that the book was finished.
A & c – Do you consider that a work of art is so from the moment it is made or only when it is shared, enjoyed?
CAC - I think that when the work of art is completed it is already a work of art. It's made, it exists, people don't know it, they don't have its reference, but it exists and it's already a work of art, regardless of reaching anyone. And if it really is, your time will come.
A & c – Now, to know “those things” about you, only one option:
A & c – Flowers or bonbons?
CAC – Flowers.
A & c – Countryside or beach?
CAC – Beach.
A & c – Graham Greene or F. Scott Fitzgerald?
CAC – Graham Greene.
A & c – Dogs or cats?
CAC – Undoubtedly dogs.
A & c – “Beetle” or “Two Horses”?
CAC – Beetle.
A & c – Italo Calvino or Milan Kundera?
CAC – Difficult choice. Can't it be Eco?
A & c – Can you then answer this one more: Jack Kerouac or Jack London?
CAC – Jack Kerouack.
A&c – Beatles, or Elvis Presley?
CAC – Beatles, if we exclude the Love me Tender.
A & c – Sunrise or Sunset?
CAC – “Were you very sad then when you saw the 40 sunsets? The Little Prince didn't respond."
A & c – A song you would dedicate to your wife
CAC - jacaranda flower, from Vitorino
A & c – Thank you.
Carlos Alberto Correia is graduated in Social Anthropology and postgraduated in Socioeconomic Management in Africa, by ISCTE. He teaches Anthropology at the University of the Third Age of Barreiro and still practices Karate, being president of LNKP – Liga Nacional de Karaté Portugal. He was also a member of the Permanent Observatory of Psychology and Human Resources, of the University of Évora, as well as of the Advisory Board of the Polytechnic Institute of Setúbal.
Also by Carlos Albero Correia: Moments To Invent Love, By Carlos Alberto Correia