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Sant Jordi NYC Virtual Book Fest

Updated: Oct 21, 2023

Graphic of the landing menu for the 2021 edition of the Sant Jordi NYC Virtual Book Fest, showing cartoons of knights and damsels and dragons sitting at a long table heaped with food, with various iterations of these elements in boxes above like a menu. The overarching banner is a cartoonish rendering of the Barcelona cityscape. The whole picture is done in pastels against a beige background.

Book lovers the world over know April 23 as the death date for both William Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes, and it is this double distinction that led to its being chosen by the UN as World Book Day. But for Catalans, blessed with a long literary lineage of their own, April 23 was already steeped in centuries of significance. The date honors their regional patron, the fifteenth-century Saint George (Sant Jordi), whose symbols are the dragon and rose. So, why not combine the feast of Saint George with books? The book-and-rose-selling festival of Sant Jordi was born. Every year, stalls line the streets of Barcelona: The tradition is to buy your lover a book or a rose, or both.

In 2020, New York City's Sant Jordi Festival* went online, transforming from a local lit crawl into a truly global celebration. The new, virtual format allowed authors and translators to put heads together across oceans, and readers to discover world voices from the comfort of home. When asked to contribute a special program on Brazilian literature for the 2021 event, I jumped at the opportunity to take part. (And the 2021 theme is food literature, how delicious!) The resulting curation is just a small taste of the vast literary riches Brazil has to offer. But it is my hope that included work will introduce readers to a Brazil that defies any outside-in view of the country: unfamiliar and unexplored and, yes, often unsettling. And don't miss my own contribution to this celebratory feast: my interview and joint reading with Állex Leilla, author of my in-progress translation, Springtime in the Bones.

The Brazilian curation streamed on Thursday, April 22, but a recording is available on YouTube (it begins at 2:50:05 in the video). As they say in Barcelona: Bon profit!

* For further background on the US iteration of Sant Jordi, here's a wonderful article, written by the founder of Sant Jordi NYC, about her love affair with Catalan culture.

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