Nara Vidal, owner of Capitolina Books, takes on our questionnaire.
What is a typical day for you?
I work on a number of projects, so a typical day is quite unpredictable, and it suits me, as I can get bored very easily. Usually, I start the day writing fiction. It can be something I am working on like a novel or a short story collection, or it can be something I just felt like writing. This normally happens at around 5am. There is nothing like the stillness of the early hours. It is like the world has completely stopped and floats about without any idea of how it is going to turn out.
I then, work on the Capitolina Books catalogue or blog. Capitolina Books is my online shop that only sells contemporary Brazilian writers. Usually less well-known authors who are true gems. Link to Capitolina Books is the Brazilian Translation Club, a workshop that happens every month in central London and is free to all.
I also edit a travel publication called Walk the Talk Magazine and this is pure fun. Travel, hotels, restaurants, all the light and good stuff.
By then it is probably lunch and a time I take to read the news. An hour or so before I pick my kids up from school I will read. After school pick up and I am at their service: cook, driver, cleaner, teacher. I am free again after 9pm when I catch up with the whole day. I tend to be connected most of the day on social media, but that is a massive distraction and I should stop.
How do you choose which books to carry?
I tend to “forget” to carry a book, so when I see a bookshop, I have to buy one. It is an interesting way to grow your book collection.
What are you most excited about in the next 12 months?
I am finishing a novel. Before I start writing a new book, I get very excited. Then, as the writing process begins, I struggle to engage, my mind disperses. If I can get to the middle of it, then I get excited about finishing it and it goes quicker. I am excited to finish a novel.
I am also very excited to conclude the translation project I started in partnership with the Department of Spanish Portuguese and Latin American Studies at UCL. A bunch of very talented translators, professional or not, working on less known Brazilian writers. We will turn all this into a book and I cannot wait to see the result of something so brilliant and rich.
What was your favourite subject at school and why?
Geography. I would dream of visiting all the countries in the books. This was way before the internet was invented, so there was this fascination for the yet unknown. Also, my mum was my Geography teacher and I guess she probably passed on her passion to me.
What surprises you about your job that you didn’t expect?
I am surprised all the time by the quality in contemporary Brazilian literature. As I like to read the books I sell, I encounter immense talent. The surprising part of it is because only a minuscule amount of literature is read by a large number of people. Well known authors will also have media coverage, but there should be a more balanced approach to assure less known or unknown authors are also talked about. Then, everyone would be surprised.
I read all sorts of books, so here are some I really enjoy. I can’t have favourites as they change often.
- Things We Lost in the Fire by Mariana Enriquez – Argentinean author, Enriquez combines the very hard task of writing horror stories with the South American tradition of the fantastic and supernatural.
- A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolfe – An essay that I have read a number of times and moves me as a feminist act of empowerment, above all.
- Olhos d’Água by Conceição Evaristo – A brilliant Brazilian writer, Evaristo has a delicate and sensitive narrative for the violence and poverty that haunt Brazil.
- A Cup of Rage by Raduan Nassar – This minuscule novel has sex, rage, density and is exquisitely narrated. A work of art. The translation into English by Stefan Tobler is extraordinarily good.
- In Cold Blood by Truman Capote – I love Capote’s short stories too, but this one is a classic.
Is this the most unfair question of all? Only one? “Babette’s Feast” still moves me every time. There is so much in it.
I don’t like cold things, and this applies to people as well as food. Even my salad I like it warm. Therefore, I am not a sandwich person. I would have a slice of pizza instead any day.
Coffee or tea
Coffee all the way. Many (too many) cups a day. I cannot drink instant coffee, but apart from that I’m easy.
Which author, living or dead, would you like to write your biography
An absurd answer, but if you dream, dream big: Herta Muller.