Girl power

Não que seja apologista do “girl power” per se mas, considerando que o dia da Mulher se aproxima, penso que esta semana não há tema mais adequado do que as Mulheres: como autoras, protagonistas reais ou ficcionais ou como personagens históricas, há muitas que se destacam na literatura. Têm mais sugestões?

It’s not that I strongly defend girl power “per se” but Women’s day is coming and that gives me the perfect opportunity to suggest Women as this week’s theme: as writers, as real and fictional protagonists or as historical figures, there are many who stand out in literature. Do you have any more suggestions?

Pope Joan (a.k.a. Papisa Joana, 1996), Donna Woolfolk Cross

Na galeria das mais extraordinárias e controversas figuras do Ocidente, a papisa Joana assume alguns contornos dos mais brumosos, enigmáticos e fascinantes. Muitos negaram, ao longo dos séculos, a sua existência, mas é ainda considerável a quantidade de documentos que referem a sua passagem pelo trono papal. Personagem histórica com lendária, Joana protagoniza a notável ascensão de uma mulher brilhante que não aceita as limitações que a sua época, profundamente misógina, lhe impõe e, armada de uma inteligência esclarecida e de uma força de carácter inquebrantável, conquista o mais elevado poder religioso. Um romance magnifico, cativante, que conspira, no virar de cada página, para prender o leitor num sortilégio magnético, na teia enredada da intriga, das turbulências politicas, dos fanatismos e intolerâncias, das paixões, das duplicidades e segredos, das crises de fé e conspirações que ameaçam fazer soçobrar Joana.

For a thousand years her existence has been denied. She is the legend that will not die–Pope Joan, the ninth-century woman who disguised herself as a man and rose to become the only female ever to sit on the throne of St. Peter. Now in this riveting novel, Donna Woolfolk Cross paints a sweeping portrait of an unforgettable heroine who struggles against restrictions her soul cannot accept.

Brilliant and talented, young Joan rebels against medieval social strictures forbidding women to learn. When her brother is brutally killed during a Viking attack, Joan takes up his cloak–and his identity–and enters the monastery of Fulda. As Brother John Anglicus, Joan distinguishes herself as a great scholar and healer. Eventually, she is drawn to Rome, where she becomes enmeshed in a dangerous web of love, passion, and politics. Triumphing over appalling odds, she finally attains the highest office in Christendom–wielding a power greater than any woman before or since. But such power always comes at a price . . .

In this international bestseller, Cross brings the Dark Ages to life in all their brutal splendor and shares the dramatic story of a woman whose strength of vision led her to defy the social restrictions of her day.

Girl with a pearl earing (a.k.a. Rapariga com brinco de pérola, 1999), Tracy Chevalier

Na Holanda do século XVII Griet é filha de um pintor de azulejos protestante de Delft que perdeu a vista num acidente. Para ajudar a sua necessitada família, Griet tem de trabalhar como criada numa casa mais acomodada. Quando o pintor Jan Vermeer e a sua esposa a contratam, deixa a sua casa e começa bruscamente a vida adulta. A casa Vermeer, que alberga uma família católica com cinco filhos, a avó e uma criada mais velha, rapidamente se revela como um ambiente hostil. Catharina, a mulher de Vermeer, ficará com ciúmes de Griet, uma atractiva jovem com talento artístico, e a fiel empregada da avó começará a vigiar todos os seus movimentos.

With precisely 35 canvases to his credit, the Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer represents one of the great enigmas of 17th-century art. The meager facts of his biography have been gleaned from a handful of legal documents. Yet Vermeer’s extraordinary paintings of domestic life, with their subtle play of light and texture, have come to define the Dutch golden age. His portrait of the anonymous Girl with a Pearl Earringhas exerted a particular fascination for centuries–and it is this magnetic painting that lies at the heart of Tracy Chevalier’s second novel of the same title.

Girl with a Pearl Earring centers on Vermeer’s prosperous Delft household during the 1660s. When Griet, the novel’s quietly perceptive heroine, is hired as a servant, turmoil follows. First, the 16-year-old narrator becomes increasingly intimate with her master. Then Vermeer employs her as his assistant–and ultimately has Griet sit for him as a model. Chevalier vividly evokes the complex domestic tensions of the household, ruled over by the painter’s jealous, eternally pregnant wife and his taciturn mother-in-law. At times the relationship between servant and master seems a little anachronistic. Still, Girl with a Pearl Earring does contain a final delicious twist.

La casa de los espíritus (a.k.a. The house of the spirits, 1982), Isabel Allende

O relato da vida de Esteban Trueba, da mulher, dos filhos legítimos e naturais e dos netos percorre a quase totalidade do século XX formando uma dinastia de personagens à volta das quais a narrativa vai gravitando sem perder de vista os outros – mesmo depois de mortos. O temperamento colérico do fundador, a hipersensibilidade fantasista da sua mulher e a evolução social do país – que reflecte e pode muito bem simbolizar qualquer país latino-americano – tornam difíceis as relações familiares, marcadas pelo drama e a extravagância, e conduzem a um final surpreendente e cruel, que deixa no entanto aberto o caminho de uma trabalhosa reconciliação. No panorama da literatura hispano-americana, nenhum nome de mulher tinha conseguido até agora ocupar um lugar cimeiro. Faltava pois uma romancista. A impecável desenvoltura estilística, a lucidez histórica e social e a coerência estética, patentes em “A Casa dos Espíritos”, fazem do primeiro romance de Isabel Allende uma obra magistral, um livro inesquecível.

In one of the most important and beloved Latin American works of the twentieth century, Isabel Allende weaves a luminous tapestry of three generations of the Trueba family, revealing both triumphs and tragedies. Here is patriarch Esteban, whose wild desires and political machinations are tempered only by his love for his ethereal wife, Clara, a woman touched by an otherworldly hand. Their daughter, Blanca, whose forbidden love for a man Esteban has deemed unworthy infuriates her father, yet will produce his greatest joy: his granddaughter Alba, a beautiful, ambitious girl who will lead the family and their country into a revolutionary future.

The House of the Spirits is an enthralling saga that spans decades and lives, twining the personal and the political into an epic novel of love, magic, and fate.

Zlata’s diary (a.k.a. O diário de Zlata, 1993), Zlata Filipović

No seu diário de menina, com as suas próprias palavras, inscrevem-se dia a dia os reflexos da vida que a cerca. De repente, a guerra rebenta às portas de sua casa. os temas mais vulgares cedem então lugar ao medo, à cólera e à incompreensão. O universo de Zlata cai em pedaços. Os bombardeamentos e os atiradores solitários semeiam a morte; falta a água, a electricidade, os alimentos… Zlata chora a sua infância destruída, mas continua a escrever e a testemunhar. Hoje, quando os conflitos trágicos da ex-Jugoslávia se enredam em negociações sem fim, a voz desta jovem de Sarajevo ajuda-nos a compreender melhor os sofrimentos e o desespero de um povo inteiro.

When Zlata’s Diary was first published at the height of the Bosnian conflict, it became an international bestseller and was compared to The Diary of Anne Frank, both for the freshness of its voice and the grimness of the world it describes. It begins as the day-today record of the life of a typical eleven-year-old girl, preoccupied by piano lessons and birthday parties. But as war engulfs Sarajevo, Zlata Filipovic becomes a witness to food shortages and the deaths of friends and learns to wait out bombardments in a neighbor’s cellar. Yet throughout she remains courageous and observant. The result is a book that has the power to move and instruct readers a world away.

Anna and the King of Siam (a.k.a. Ana e o rei, 1944), Margaret Landon

Anna Leonowems é uma governante britânica contratada em 1860 pelo rei do Sião para educar a seus filhos. Ana e o seu filho mudam-se para o palácio e experimentarão um forte choque cultural, além de enfrentarem conspirações pelo controlo do Sião.

Anna Leonowens, a proper Englishwoman, was an unlikley candidate to change the course of Siamese (Thai) history. A young widow and mother, her services were engaged in the 1860’s by King Mongkut of Siam to help him communicate with foreign governments and be the tutor to his children and favored concubines. Stepping off the steamer from London, Anna found herself in an exotic land she could have only dreamed of lush landscape of mystic faiths and curious people, and king’s palace bustling with royal pageantry, ancient custom, and harems. One of her pupils, the young prince Chulalongkorn, was particularly influenced by Leonowens and her Western ideals. He learned about Abraham Lincoln and the tenets of democracy from her, and years later he would become Siam’s most progressive king. He guided the country’s transformation from a feudal state to a modern society, abolshing slavery and making many other radical reforms.

Weaving meticulously researched facts with beautifully imagined scenes, Margret Landon recreates an unforgettable portrait of life in a forgotten extotic land. Written more than fifty years ago, and translated into dozens of languages, Anna and the King of Siam (the inspiration for the magical play and film “The King and I”) continues to delight and enchant readers around the world.

Burned alive: a victim of the law of men (a.k.a. Queimada viva, 2005), Souad

Quando o amor antes do casamento é sinónimo de morte. Souad tinha dezassete anos e estava apaixonada. Na sua aldeia da Cisjordânia, como em tantas outras, o amor antes do casamento era sinónimo de morte. Tendo ficado grávida, um cunhado é encarregado de executar a sentença: regá- -la com gasolina e chegar-lhe fogo. Terrivelmente queimada, Souad sobrevive por milagre. No hospital, para onde a levam e onde se recusam a tratá-la, a própria mãe tenta assassiná-la. Hoje, muitos anos depois, Souad decide falar em nome das mulheres que, por motivos idênticos aos seus, ainda arriscam a vida. Para o fazer, para contar ao mundo a barbaridade desta prática, ela corre diariamente sérios perigos, uma vez que o “atentado” à honra da sua família é um “crime” que ainda não prescreveu. Um testemunho comovente e aterrador, mas também um apelo contra o silêncio que cobre o sofrimento e a morte de milhares de mulheres.

When Souad was seventeen she fell in love. In her village, as in so many others, sex before marriage was considered a grave dishonour to one’s family and was punishable by death. This was her crime. Her brother-in-law was given the task of arranging her punishment. One morning while Souad was washing the family’s clothes, he crept up on her, poured petrol over her and set her alight. In the eyes of their community he was a hero. An execution for a ‘crime of honour’ was a respectable duty unlikely to bring about condemnation from others. It certainly would not have provoked calls for his prosecution. More than five thousand cases of such honour killings are reported around the world each year and many more take place that we hear nothing about. Miraculously, Souad survived rescued by the women of her village, who put out the flames and took her to a local hospital. Horrifically burned, and abandoned by her family and community, it was only the intervention of a European aid worker that enabled Souad to receive the care and sanctuary she so desperately needed and to start her life again. She has now decided to tell her story and uncover the barbarity of honour killings, a practice which continues to this day. Burned Alive is a shocking testimony, a true story of almost unbelievable cruelty. It speaks of amazing courage and fortitude and of one woman’s determination to survive. It is also a call to break the taboo of silence that surrounds this most brutal of practices and which ignores the plight of so many other women who are also victims of traditional violence.

In the Land of Invisible Women (a.k.a. No país das mulheres invisíveis), Qanta A. Ahmed

Quando inesperadamente lhe negam o visto de permanência nos Estados Unidos, Qanta Ahmed, uma jovem médica britânica muçulmana, torna- -se subitamente uma pária e, num repente, aceita uma oferta de trabalho muito promissora na Arábia Saudita. Não se trata apenas de um emprego – trata-se de uma oportunidade de aventura num país exótico que ela julga entender, num lugar onde tem esperança de se sentir em casa. O que vai encontrar é algo, porém, completamente diferente. O Reino é um mundo à parte, uma terra de contrastes sem paralelo. Qanta descobre a rejeição e o escárnio nos lugares onde acreditava que seria especialmente acarinhada, mas também o humor, a honestidade, a lealdade e o amor vindos donde menos esperava. E para Qanta esta é, acima de tudo, uma terra de oportunidade. Um lugar onde compreende o que uma mulher precisa para se reinventar num país onde as mulheres são invisíveis.

Dr. Ahmed is a Pakistani Muslim woman raised in London and trained in four medical specialties in the United States. This is the memoir of her personal two-year quest and journey deep into the Islamic world of Saudi Arabia, where she lived and worked as a doctor.

Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China (a.k.a. Cisnes Selvagens, 1991), Jung Chang

“Cisnes Selvagens” faz-nos penetrar profundamente na China; dso palácios às celas de prisão, das grandes manifestações insurreccionais à intimidade dos quartos, onde as confidências das mulheres passam de mãe para filha. Impressionante na sua dimensão, inesquecível nas suas descrições do longo pesadelo da China, é simultaneamente um importante documento de história contemporânea e um extraordinário testemunho do espírito humano. Combinando o intimismo da memória com o fôlego épico de um grande romance, “Cisnes Selvagens” conta a história de três mulheres – a própria Jung Chang, a mãe e a avó materna – cujos destinos reflectem a história tumultuosa da China do século XX. à medida que os anos passam nesta bem urdida trama familiar, vemos três vidas desdobrando-se uma após outra, através do amor, da tragédia e da renovação.

Chang recounts the evocative, unsettling, and insistently gripping story of how three generations of women in her family fared in the political maelstrom of China during the 20th century.

Memoirs of Cleopatra (a.k.a. As memórias de Cleópatra, 1997), Margaret George

A autora do best-seller mundial “A Paixão de Maria Madalena” está de volta com um convite irrecusável: a visita ao Antigo Egipto e à vida de Cleópatra, a rainha do Nilo. “As Memórias de Cleópatra” são uma saga fascinante sobre ambição, traição e poder, mas também são uma história de paixão. Depois de ser exilada, a jovem Cleópatra procura a ajuda de Júlio César, o homem mais poderoso do mundo. E mesmo depois do assassinato daquele que se tornou o seu marido, e da morte do segundo homem que amou, Marco António, Cleópatra continua a lutar, preferindo matar-se a deixar que a humilhem numa parada pelas ruas de Roma. Na riqueza e autenticidade das personagens, cenários e acção, “As Memórias de Cleópatra” são um triunfo da ficção. Misturando história, lenda e a sua prodigiosa imaginação, Margaret George dá-nos a conhecer uma vida e uma heroína tão magníficas que viverão para sempre.

Bestselling novelist Margaret George brings to life the glittering kingdom of Cleopatra, Queen of the Nile, in this luch, sweeping, and richly detailed saga. Told in Cleopatra’s own voice, this is a mesmerizing tale of ambition, passion, and betrayl, which begins when the twenty-year-old queen seeks out the most powerful man in the world, Julius Caesar, and does not end until, having survived the assassination of Caesar and the defeat of the second man she loves, Marc Antony, she plots her own death rather than be paraded in triumph through the streets of Rome. Most of all, in its richness and authenticity, it is an irresistible story that reveals why Margaret George’s work has been widely acclaimed as “the best kind of historical novel, one the reader can’t wait to get lost in.” (“San Francisco Chronicle”).

Os três casamentos de Camilla S. (1997), Rosa Lobato de Faria

Os Três Casamentos de Camilla S. é a autobiografia de uma velha senhora que aos noventa anos decide contar a sua vida, incluindo o que ela possa ter de inconfessável. Desde os ambientes à narrativa (que atravessa quase um século de história), estamos perante um livro adequadamente romântico e profundamente moderno, onde estão presentes a poesia e o maravilhoso a que a autora nos habituou. Com este, na altura, o seu terceiro romance, Rosa Lobato de Faria confirmou o lugar de destaque no panorama da nova ficção portuguesa

Girl power – Women in literature, an overview

An interior with a woman reading, Carl Larsson

In A Literature of Their Own, Elaine Showalter shows how women’s literature has evolved, starting from the Victorian period to modern writing. She breaks down the movement into three stages — the Feminine, a period beginning with the use of the male pseudonym in the 1840s until 1880 with George Eliot’s death; the Feminist, from 1880 till the winning of the vote in 1920; and the Female, from 1920 till the present-day, including a “new stage of self-awareness about 1960.”

When discussing the characteristics of each of these phases, she looks at how other literary subcultures (“such as black, Jewish… or even American”) to see how they developed. A female solidarity always seemed to exist as a result of “a shared and increasingly secretive and ritualized physical experience… the entire female sexual life cycle.” Female writers always wrote with this commonality and feminine awareness in mind. Therefore, women’s writing and women’s experiences “implied unities of culture.”

Showalter finds in each subculture, and thus in women’s literature, first a long period of imitation of the dominant structures of tradition and an “internalization of its standards of art an its views on social roles.” This Feminine phase includes women writers such as the Brontës, Elizabeth Gaskell, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Harriet Martineau, George Eliot, Florence Nightingale, and the later generation of Charlotte Yonge, Dinah Mulock Craik, Margaret Oliphant, and Elizabeth Lynn Linton. These women attempted to integrate themselves into a public sphere, a male tradition, and many of them felt a conflict of “obedience and resistance” which appears in many of their novels. Oddly enough, during the Victorian period, women flooded the novel market and comprised a healthy segment of the reading public — still, women writers were left “metaphorically paralyzed.” The language with which they could fully express their experience as women and their sufferings as they still identified themselves within the confines of Victorian bourgeois propriety.

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