Jonathan Blitzer: You’re originally from northern Brazil—Mossoró—but your novels bring you to the geographic heart of the country: Brasilia. How did you wind up there, exactly?
João Almino: I did not want to revisit the Northeastern regionalist literature that I so admired, and I wanted to depart from the prevailing Brazilian literature of the time. Brasilia represented the new, was somehow an empty space with no literary tradition, and it therefore gave me more freedom to create. I knew the city, since I had lived there for a few months in 1970 and then again later, on three different occasions. I should also add that I could easily bring the Northeast to Brasilia, a city of immigrants.
JB: What interests you most about Brasilia?
JA: First of all, the city as a symbol or a myth that, as a project, accompanied the whole history of independent Brazil. Also the city as a metaphor for the modern world—with its promises and its frustrations. The tension between the futuristic project, the utopia, and the current urban chaos. The contrast between the rational elements of the project, still visible in the so-called Pilot Plan, and the spontaneous, irrational developments which surround it in the satellite cities and mystic communities. Also, the city as a crossroads of several Brazils, and its transcultural nature, through which I can see the country as whole.
JB: Do you have any particular memories of Brasilia growing up? You were just a boy when it was being developed… and yet I imagine you still must have felt its newness somehow…
JA: I didn´t live in Brasilia when I was growing up, but I have childhood memories of the city, reading about it in newspapers and magazines, listening to stories of family members who had visited it during its construction and even following on the radio all the events of its inauguration. The construction of Brasilia attracted the attention not only of Brazilians from all corners, but also of foreigners who were fascinated by the boldness of its project.