Ana Filomena Amaral and Sunita Peres da Costa at CLP Camoes
Meet Ana Filomena Amral and Suneeta Peres da Costa…
IT was a curtain raiser session for the Goa Arts & Literature Festival back in town and Prof Delfim Correia da Silva (director, CLP Camoes) was hosting and introducing two writers from abroad with a Portuguese backdrop in their lives — and “words of fire” in their writing! Meet Ana Filomena Amral and Suneeta Peres da Costa interacting in a Talking With Writers series at the very well refurbished heritage building offices of CLP Camoes on December 4, 2019.
Ana Filomena Amaral is pure Portuguese, born in Avintes, Oporto, now living in Lousa. She is a writer extraordinary and writes with dense intensity in Portuguese. Catch up with her novel titled `Vaulted Home, Those Who Cheated Death’ translated from the original Portuguese by Eulalia Gameiro (published by Strategic Book Publishing and Rights Co, Houston). The novel sort of traces the history of humankind from prehistoric to 20th century and yes, what a mess we’ve made of the good earth, the author uses as metaphor the Biblical seven days of creation in a very ingenious manner with the main protagonist a woman of course, here is a lot of feeling, though and philosophy!
In real life too she comes across like her writing, speaks passionately and eloquently for causes dear to her heart and which she says she is dedicated to now and although she is in India for the first time she is an admirer of India’s Mahatma Gandhi, says, “He really shows the real way forward of no violence…” She appreciates that the spiritual is alive in India and comes in search of this spirituality which offers hope for survival and happiness for everyone across the world today which is full of examples of man’s inhumanity to one another or so to speak.
Ana Amaral’s eyes light up with fiery eloquence with lots of hand gestures as makes a point about her life and times in Portugal and now while in India. Her background is that she did her Master’s in contemporary economic and social history from the University of Coimbra and specialized in documentary sciences, she is also an experienced interpreter and translator in several European languages, particularly German. She has five novels to her credit in Portugal and `Vaulted Home is one of them. As she works for the Minister of Education in Coimbra she wields considerable influence and yes, she is an ardent spokeswoman for the first prime minister of Portugal, who, she educates, was a woman, Maria de Lourdes Pintasilgo.
To a query from moderator Prof Delfim she said, “India is a like a magical country for me, it is the spirit of your country…I know the Portuguese came for the spices but I don’t like very much spices in my food, but to India I now come for its spirituality today we are too much into destruction and we must ask for forgiveness!” That is her main message for today. She thinks India has an amazing culture but “You don’t read books to find peace! I would make a strong call for us all to wake up, be alert, be sensitive in relations with others because it is all our planet this earth….”
Human beings are not like curators of life because the word curator comes from “cure” and she much prefers the word care, we human beings must be caretakers so that our children and grandchildren inherit a better world. Women, she asserts, are mothers and they must be mothers beyond the usual understanding, mothering is not only about curing but more so about caring, “There is no illness to be cured but something to be cared like a mother cares for her children…”
Alas, women are not allowed to play a greater role for greater good! Later on in a brief conversations she rues the fact that the first prime minister of Portugal, Maria de Lourdes Pintasilgo, was allowed to be prime minister for only a 100 days. She was too good and competent a prime minister but the men in her cabinet did not like her! Oh yes, men can be male chauvinistic pigs in Portugal too. It is still a patriarchal society in the world everywhere…in fact, the vivacious Ana Filomena Amaral has done her done her master’s thesis on Portugal’s first prime minister who must not be allowed to be forgotten for she did and could have done a lot of good for the country if they had let her.
She is part of a group called Arte-Via which anyone may look up if interested at www.arte-via.org. There is also the Fundacao Cuidar o Fudero which is a trust taking care of and working to keep the first prime minister’s legacy alive…Maria de Lourdes Pintasilgo was no ordinary woman for her times! And the very involved Ana Filomena Amaral is in India to share her feelings and thoughts with her Indian counterparts at GALF…
As for Sunita Peres da Costa, she comes across an author who’s in search of her lost Indian roots! She smiles at the suggestion but admits as much for she has such a mixed upbringing and is an Australian today, “My book `Saudade’ is about longing for lost things!” It’s a novella really, she explained, and it is about trying to recapture the violence of colonial legacies like that of the Indian partition. The quiet and retiring Sunita points out that India is known for its spirituality “but there are so many contradictions!”
Sunita’s muse for her book is about the trade in human beings from Lisbon to India and she has been tracing that journey right to USA where she has been living too. She too has Goan connections in so much as her father was born in Curtorim and mother was from Bardez, to cut a long story short, “I was transplanted to Sydney, Australian and am now Australian!” Her father, she recounted, had Goa in his blood “and his mind was always in Goa, he was obsessed by Goa, he loved both the Portuguese and Konkani language…my book is all about the Goan connection!” In her family, Sunita said, “we were very Portuguese and Gandhi was not without controversy!” Sunita Peres da Costa’s book `Saudade’ is also slated for release and discussion at GALF.
Do catch up with the respective sessions as scheduled if you’re interested in contemporary literature to do with the Goan diaspora and where it took so many Goans to experience life in the Portuguese colonies to find fame and/or fortune and how it impacts second and third generation down the line…Ana Filomena Amaral talks about generosity, antipathy, tolerance and saying no to plastics because the Artic and Antartica poles are melting rapidly. Sunita Peres da Costa is chasing an internal world of loss and what’s there to find back and treasure! Interesting authors, both.
— Tara Narayan