Coutinho, Sônia 1939–
Coutinho, Sônia 1939–
(Sônia Valquíria de Sousa Coutinho)
PERSONAL: Born 1939, in Bahia, Brazil. Education: Graduated from Santa Ursula University; Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, master's degree.
CAREER: Translator and journalist. Primary school teacher in Salvador, Brazil, beginning 1972; Department of Education and Culture, Bahia, Brazil, worked in education and teacher training, late 1970s–early 1980s; Art and Alternative Education Center, founder, 1986–. University of Austin, Austin, TX, resident writer, 1997.
AWARDS, HONORS: Ashoka fellowship, 1994; Jabuti prize for best volume of short fiction, for Lucrécia's Poisons; Jabuti prize, 1998, for Os seios de Pandora: uma aventura de Dora Diamante.
Reunião: Contos, Publicaçõs da Universidade da Bahia (Salvador, Brazil), 1961.
Do heró inútil (short stories), Ediçoes Macunaíma (Salvador, Brazil), 1966.
Nascimento de uma mulher (short stories), Civilização Brasileira (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), 1970.
(Translator) Ann Charters, Kerouac: uma biografia, Campus (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), 1973.
Uma certa felicidade (fiction), Livraria F. Alves Editora (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), 1976, 2nd edition, Rocco (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), 1994.
Os venenos de Lucrécia (short stories), illustrated by Jader Estevão, Editora Ática (São Paulo, Brazil), 1978.
O jogo de Ifá: Romance (fiction), Editora Ática (São Paulo, Brazil), 1980.
O último verão de Copacabana (novel), J. Olympio Editora (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), 1985.
Atire em Sofia (fiction), Rocco (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), 1989.
O caso Alice, Rocco (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), 1991.
Rainhas do crime: ótica feminina no romance policial, Sette Letras (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), 1994.
(Translator) Susan Quinn, Marie Curie: uma vida (biography), Scipione (São Paulo, Brazil), 1997.
(Translator) Evelyn Lau, As outras (novel), Scipione (São Paulo, Brazil), 1998.
(Translator) Anchee Min, Azaléia vermelha: vida e amor na China (nonfiction), Scipione (São Paulo, Brazil), 1998.
Os seios de Pandora: uma aventura de Dora Diamante (fiction), Rocco (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), 1998.
Mil olhos de uma rosa (short stories), 7 Letras (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), 2001.
Also author of Guerreira Maria. Contributor to anthologies.
WORK IN PROGRESS: O fim de ano mulher sozinha, a collection of short stories.
SIDELIGHTS: Brazilian writer Sônia Coutinho is the author of short stories and novels that typically feature women protagonists living in the big city and trying to find self-fulfillment in a changing Brazilian society. As Luiza Lobo put it in a chapter on the author published in Latin American Women's Writing, "the women characters in Sonia Coutinho's work break free from traditional dichotomies and adopt a postmodern conception of the city as a theatrical site in which forms of alterity can be enacted…. They achieve this not as voyeurs but in pleasurable adventures and as the performers of their own futures. Their otherness allows them to see the postmodern city as a text made up of complex new meanings, and thus to escape the metaphysical dualisms traditionally imposed on them: consumer/consumed, male/female, and cultural/natural." The quest of her characters to break free of existing molds often ends unsatisfactorily, however, because society is against their attempts. "Coutinho's women find it almost impossible to integrate themselves in society as it stands," commented Lobo. "Instead they must either stay within the confines of the home or wander the streets."
Lobo also noted how Coutinho's fiction is unique within contemporary Brazilian literature, combining elements of fiction and autobiography with, in some cases, devices usually found in crime novels. The result, attested Lobo, "may signal the emergence of a new genre…. It may also signal a parallel between the present phase of Brazilian women's literature and [a new] 'female phase' of women's writing."
Coutinho told CA: "Since childhood, I've always loved reading. First I read books for children and then lots of adult books from my father's bookcase. He was a poet and we had many books at home. I then began to write short stories and show them to my teachers at school.
When I was nineteen years old, I published one of my stories in a literary supplement in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. From then on, reading and writing have been an essential part of my life.
"Many writers are permanent references for me. For instance, Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector. I don't know if she has influenced me, but I always read her books with great awe and pleasure.
"The act of living in itself, the process of discovering the meanings of life, this is the basic source of my writing. I think there are many unconscious elements in my writing. The most surprising thing I discovered while writing was … myself. Writing for me has always been a process of self-discovery.
"I don't have a favorite book among the ones I've written. My favourite one is always the next book I'm going to write. Indeed, I hope my writing will be a sort of enlightment for the reader. I hope my stories enable the reader to have and understand experiences he or she would never have otherwise."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
World Literature Today, spring, 1986, Malcolm Silverman, review of O último verão de Copacabana, p. 295.
Ashoka Web site, http://www.ashoka.org/ (November 16, 2005), "Sônia Souza Coutinho."