Autobiographical information (in English)

I am Italian-Brazilian and I am fifty-two years old. I moved from São Paulo, Brazil, to Florence, Italy, on October 2016 with my wife Patricia and our old cat, Filó.

First of all, I would like to tell you a little about my career as a journalist, author and professor. In Brazil, I was editor of several newspapers and magazines (I graduated in Journalism). I completed Master and PhD in Communication Sciences at the University of São Paulo (USP), where I investigated the limits and possibilities of the biographical narratives. My studies have merged into three distinguished books in the ecosystem of Brazilian journalism, whose titles translated into English would be something like this:

  • “The World Of The Others: 22 Profiles and An Essay” (2014, third edition, a collection of biographical texts and an essay entitled “The Art of Profile”)
  • “Biographies & Biographers: Journalism On Real Characters” (2002; deriving from my Master’s degree, it discusses fundamental questions of the biographical activity in the second half of the twentieth century);
  • “Biographism: Reflections on Life Writing (2014, second edition, based on my PhD thesis, in which I deal with the “mentality” of contemporary biographers).

I have also published two novels (both in portuguese also): “The Surface Above Us” (2015) and “Foreigners In The N Train” (1997). “Foreigners…” is a realistic-literary narrative on how the illegal Brazilian immmigrants live in New York City and what they think about their conditions. It won the “Jabuti Prize” (1998), the highest national prize in Literature in Brazil.

I was also a co-founder of the Brazilian Academy of Literary Journalism (ABJL, acronym in Portuguese), which I managed and taught (2005-2011), and a member of the International Association of Studies of Literary Journalism (ialjs.org). In ABJL, I introduced in the postgraduate course – a Master of Art in Narrative Journalism – the following disciplines: “Biographical Journalism”, “Memoir” and “Autobiography”.

Between 2011 and 2015, I was a professor of “Journalistic Methods and Techniques” (degree and post-graduation) in the Faculdade Cásper Líbero, one of the country’s most prestigious journalism schools.

In addition, I have written biographical narratives with Narrative Journalism methods and techniques for companies, families and individuals interested in reconstructing their memories. In this line of work, I launched two biographical books: “Doctor Challenge” (2011), the story of Luiz Garcia, an irreverent and hick entrepreneur from the West of Brazil who became an important player in the telecommunicatiom and agribusiness sectors; and “Ivens Dias Branco” (2013), the founder and president of M. Dias Branco S/A, a major Brazilian producer in food sector. Second edition of “Ivens” is on the way (Ivens died on June 2016).

And why did I come to Italy after all? In fact, for years I had wanted to come to Italy to stay for some time, but I had never had these three things simultaneously: time, money and the inviting context. This time, the context started being created when I realized that I was too tired of almost everything I had done and, professionaly speaking, quite unmotivaded. In Brazil, at the present moment, the situation is very unfavorable for the “old” journalists of my generation – which sounds a little nonsense for me, because, in fact, I’ve never felt so young in my life (repeating: I am 52).

The reduction of job contracts is certainly due to the Internet boom, but not only to that. Being a young tool in itself, the so-called “journalistic websites” have hired most of the talented young journalists available in the last fifteen years. I’m talking about twenty-something-people willing to work for a salary – or even as a free-lancer (self-employed) – three or four times lower than that one of an experienced and highly trustworthy professional.

That is, in terms of wages and working conditions, the situation in Brazil (as in all over the world, I assume) is negative for mature and audacious professionals of writing, also because many newspapers and magazines have put an end in their business and/or have been tremendously downsized. Besides, Brazil has no tradition in Narrative Journalism, my specialty, and that pushed me to become almost a full-time professor of “creative writing” (or whatever you name it) – a nobel activity, for sure, but that does not thrill me most.

Thinking better, Besides, the alleged context for me to come to Italy – the one I am trying to summarize up to this point – had gone far beyond media market trends and of my personal choices. It reached also the political sphere. I explain.

Before moving to Italy, I had a plan of doing a research (post-doctoral level) in the City University of New York (CUNY). Professor Nöel Carroll (Department of Philosophy) had already read my project and promptly accepted to be my supervisor.

My research project – entitled “Philosophy of Biography: Concepts and Practices Between Lives and Arts” – proposes that a human life may be interpreted by biographers as an esthete interprets a single artwork or a body of work of art. Everything seemed to walk smoothly concerning that plan.

However, in the meantime, the process of impeachment of Dilma Rousseff, the 36th President of Brazil, began on 2 December 2015, precisely 13 months after her election for a second four-year term. Rousseff, a member of the Workers Party, was charged with criminal administrative misconduct and disregard for the federal budget in violation of article 85. She was formally impeached on 17 April 2016.

The Rousseff’s impeachment in itself is still fairly controverse. Some famous prosecutors advocates that it was a coup devised by the defeated candidate of presidency, Aecio Neves, and the vice-president of Rousseff, Michel Temer, who took over the federal government, following what it is written in the Constitution. Apart from that debate, which still touches the heart of all Brazilian, the undiscussable facts are these:

1) The Brazilian economy experienced a quick downturn which lead to recession; 2) Demonstrations of hatred among citizens sympathetic to the political proposals of the left and citizens inclined to the political ideas of the right – in this case, people who for the first time in their lives have expressed their proud outloud: “I am rightist” – have polarized the country in a similar way to what affected the United States in 2016. 3) The scholarhip system managed by the Federal Government research institutes, such as CNPq and CAPES, collapsed. Suddenly, all research projects in progress (of all levels) were canceled and the research proposals got no response concerning funding.

I was among the deprecated ones, and by that time I had no job and no Plan B. On the other hand, I recalled myself that I have dual citizenship: Brazilian (jus solis) and Italian (jus sanguinis). My mom is italian.

Then I firmly decided to come to Italy. I made contacts with some scholars of the University of Florence and managed to become a Visiting Fellow. After some months, however, I realized I would not be able to conduct my post-doctoral research rightly, not only because of the lack of financial resources,  but also because I realized that the Sociology and Media Department was not the best choice for me to feel confortable enough. I finally  took a decision to postpone it, and so it is.

Well, after thirty years of career, what could I do then? I have thought deeply about that question (even after arriving in Florence). I think I still have a lot to do. I believe we can always do something new, concerning career and lifestyle. However, I definitely did not want to do it again and again in the same country, same city, same degraded professional atmosphere. After all, I had built up a considerable intellectual reputation and had some savings, at least.

Anyway, something needed to be changed, both professionally and intimately.

I believe that here in Florence I can move forward again, but in another way, in another place, in another country, and in a different lifestyle. I come from São Paulo, a modern, dynamic, and creative megalopolis, but also very expensive, chaotic, polluted, and traffic-insane. I am talking about 18 million inhabitants and eight million vehicles in the metropolitan area. Compared to São Paulo, Florence is as much small as manageable, despite the millions of tourists circulating around the The Duomo (The Main Cathedral).

Concerning the study of Italian: between June 2016 and January 2017 I studied this beautiful language at home, alone, doing free online courses, reading children books, listening to podcasts and watching Italian movies without subtitles. Since I moved to Florence, I have been watching a lot of TV every day, listening to everyday conversations as much as possible, and improving the receptive and textual skills. On January 2017, I enrolled in an Italian course at level B1 in the Centro Linguistico di Ateneo (CLA) at the University of Florence. I completed the B2 level on February 2018.

Speaking instead of my interests, I like reading, although in recent years the time for reading is been very little. The reading of novels, which I have always liked most, is unfortunately reduced. I consider myself a fan of cinema. I also love TV series and music (classical, jazz, and Brazilian Bossa Nova, above all). Psychologically speaking, I consider myself a reserved and introspective man, but witty and with a good sense of humour.

PS: This website has been recently remodeled for two reasons: 1) make easier for the Brazilian students to research its collection of texts on Journalism/Literature and Narratives (fiction and nonfiction). 2) To reactivate one of my favorite “hobbies”: short personal essays on Behavior, in order to rethink (some of my) atitudes. Since April 1st, 2018, I have been publishing a new post every Sunday under the name “Psicoisas – Rethinking Atitudes“.

May/2018

COPYRIGHT © 2018 BY SERGIO VILAS-BOAS