Authors get rock-star treatment at Brazil festival

Mon Jul 7, 2008 10:58am EDT
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By Stuart Grudgings

PARATY, Brazil (Reuters) - Paulo Cavalcante rode buses for 46 hours from the dusty Brazil northeast to this coastal town for the chance to rub literary shoulders with British dramatist Tom Stoppard and other famous writers.

"This is magnificent," said the 47-year-old professor, who was selling copies of his debut book, a romance novel, to passers-by in the coastal town of Paraty. "People where I'm from don't read much because of low income and poor education."

For a few days last week, Cavalcante could rub shoulders with Stoppard, bossa nova great Carlos Lyra and U.S. satirist David Sedaris on the colonial town's cobbled streets.

Founded by "Harry Potter" publisher Liz Calder six years ago, the annual Paraty Literary Festival helped transform the town about halfway between Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo into a trendy destination and given Brazil a spot on the international literary circuit.

Brazilians, better known for their telenovelas and Samba than as readers, treat the event as a national treasure.

"It was like a rock concert," British novelist Zoe Heller said of her discussion session, which was watched by several thousand people.

Stoppard, the star turn at this year's festival, expressed astonishment at the enthusiasm of readers who lined up for five hours at a book-signing by novelist Neil Gaiman.

"Look, they're doing a fly-by for Neil," the 71-year-old joked as a replica vintage plane flew overhead.   Continued...

<p>Author Tom Stoppard, nominated for Best Play for "Rock 'n' Roll," arrives at the 62nd Annual Tony Awards in New York June 15, 2008. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson</p>