Located 240km from Rio de Janeiro, Paraty is known for its charming colonial-style houses and the uneven stone streets by the seaside. Cars are banned from the historic downtown to preserve the charm and original characteristics. Time seems to pass more slowly here.
So it is an ideal setting for Brazil’s most important literary festival. The ninth edition of the Paraty International Literary Festival (Flip), starts on Wednesday and will feature authors from 13 countries. Since its first edition in 2003, more than 270 writers from Salman Rushdie to Orhan Pamuk, Amos Oz to JM Coetzee, have been invited to the event. This year, in addition to talks on literature, authors such as the American writer and musician David Byrne, the French architect Dominique Gauzin-Müeller and the Brazilian urbanist Eduardo Vasconcellos will discuss topics such as sustainable development and how to live more harmoniously in a megatropolis.
“The approach to subjects related to architecture and urbanism is a trend that will continue in this and the upcoming Flips,” says the festival curator, Manuel da Costa Pinto.
Paraty could do with the fillip that comes from hosting the Flip. Some 20,000 people are expected to pass through the town – the total population of Paraty is a little over 37,000. All hotels and lodges in the region were fully booked up three months ago. Tickets sold out in less than 24 hours. Despite the huge demand, the organization does not intend to increase the festival’s size. “Flip will grow in various ways but not in size… I hope,” says the English publisher Liz Calder, one of the creators of the fair.
“The charm of the event is exactly its modest proportions, which create an atmosphere of intimacy and connivance between writers and readers,” says da Costa Pinto. And it’s this characteristic that makes Flip a success: the fact that people live together side by side with their favourite authors during the event.
This time all eyes will be on crime fiction writer James Ellroy, comic artist and journalist Joe Sacco, and the Argentinian writer-celebrity Pola Oloixarac. Although she has only published one book, 34-year-old Oloixarac has been included in the Granta’s ranking of the greatest names in the new generation with her frivolous and spicy narrative and low-neck dresses. “The goal of Flip is, as it has been from the beginning, to celebrate great writers and writing of whatever kind,” says Liz Calder.