SERGIO VILAS-BOAS IN FIRST PERSON
Any autobiographical writing of a living person will always be in progress, but here you will find essential info about me. So, let’s visit “Sergio Vilas-Boas in first person”…
First of all, I would like to tell you a little about my career as a journalist and author. In Brazil, I was an editor for several newspapers and magazines (I graduated in Journalism in 1993). I completed my Master’s and Ph.D. in Communication Sciences at the University of São Paulo (USP), where I investigated the limits and possibilities of the biographical narratives.
My research has 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: Twenty-Two Profiles And One Essay” (Manole, 2014, 3rd edition) – a collection of biographical writings and one essay entitled “The Art of Profile”.
- “Biographies & Biographers: Journalism On Real Characters” (Summus, 2002) – this derives from my Master’s degree thesis and discusses fundamental questions of the biographical activity in the second half of the twentieth century.
- “Biographism: Reflections on Life Writing (Editora Unesp, 2014, 2nd edition) – based on my PhD thesis, in this book I deal with the “mentality” of contemporary biographers.
I was also a co-founder of the Brazilian Academy of Literary Journalism (ABJL, acronym in Portuguese). I taught at the ABJL (and also managed it) from 2005 to 2011. During this period I introduced to the postgraduate course – a Master of Arts 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 Brazil’s most prestigious journalism schools.
OTHER THAN JOURNALISM
I have published two novels (both in Portuguese as well):
- “The Surface Above Us” (Editora Amarilys, 2015). This novel narrates how the young Hugo’s worldview is altered by the lifestyle and the way of thinking of Jaime, an anthropologist.
- “Foreigners In The N Train” (1997). “Foreigners” is a realistic-literary narrative on how the illegal Brazilian immigrants live in the New York metropolitan area and what they think about their conditions. It won the “Jabuti Prize” (1998), the highest national prize in Literature in Brazil. One of its chapters has been included in Luso-American Literature: Writings by Portuguese-Speaking Authors in North America.
In addition, I have created and produced biographical narratives for companies, families, and individuals interested in reconstructing their memories. In this line of work, I have launched books both as an author and as a ghostwriter. Two examples of biographies written by me (in Portuguese) as an author:
- “Doctor Challenge” (2011) – the life story of Luiz Garcia, an irreverent Brazilian entrepreneur in the telecommunications and agro-food sectors.
- “Ivens Dias Branco: Simple, Creative, Practical” – about the founder of M. Dias Branco S/A, one of the largest corporate groups in the production of pasta and biscuits in South America.
Another job I have is storytelling consulting. I help would-be writers create and develop their literary projects (fiction and nonfiction) – from their ideas to the final versions.
And why did I come to Italy? Well, after thirty years as a career journalist, writer, and professor, what else could I do? I have thought about this for a long time. I truly believe we can always do something new in life and career, whenever possible. Preferably something challenging.
But I certainly didn’t want to do it again in the same country (Brazil), in the same city (São Paulo), in the same professional sphere. I had built a considerable intellectual and material structure and, therefore, the ideal context for arriving in Italy was created for many factors.
The first of the them concerns “quality of life”. São Paulo is a dynamic, modern and avant-gard city, but at the same time it is chaotic, polluted, and has a crazy traffic. There are twenty million inhabitants, which makes it the fifth most populous metropolitan area in the world. About eight million cars run there daily.
Compared to São Paulo, Florence is smaller and much more manageable. In Florence, I have a different style of life: simpler, with few material goods (no car, for example, I use a bicycle instead), and in a deep harmony with myself. As a matter of fact, here in Tuscany I have the impression that time is running in my favor, not against me.
Regarding my interests, I like to read: newspapers, magazines, websites, but above all books (print and digital). I remember well the first book that struck me: “One Hundred Years of Solitude”, by Gabriel García Márquez. I was 17 then. In addition to Márquez, I like Philip Roth, Truman Capote, Italo Calvino… Paul Auster, Gay Talese, Jonathan Franzen, Paul Theroux, Joan Didion… Graciliano Ramos, Clarice Lispector, Sérgio Sant’Anna… And many other fantastic journalists/authors.
I’ve seen thousands of movies in my life. How would my life be without Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese, Federico Fellini, Billy Wilder, Alfred Hitchcock, Francis Ford Copolla? And Quentin Tarantino, Pedro Almodóvar, David Lynch, Stanley Kubrick, Ettore Scola… And Ridley Scott, Clint Eastwood, Ang Lee, Bernardo Bertolucci, Françoise Truffaut… Needless to say, I go to the movie theaters often.
Since the early 2000s I have been very attracted to high quality TV series, like “Homeland”, “Better Call Saul”, “Black Mirror”, “House of Cards”, “Easy”…. “Big Little Lies”, “True Detective”, “Fargo”, “Doctor Foster”, “Modern Love”, “Rectify”…. “Little Fires Everywhere”, “River”, “The Affair”, “Top of the Lake, “When They See Us”, “Tales of The City”, “Seven Seconds”, “This Is Us”… Well, I watch TV Series as much as I can (almost daily).
MUSIC AND DEFINITIONS
However, my real passion has always been music. Classical, jazz, soul, rhythm & blues, bossa nova, MPB (Brazilian Popular Music), and the Great American Songbook. Among the jazz masters I would gladly include Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Bill Evans, and Keith Jarrett, of course. Cole Porter, Johnny Mercer, George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, and Rogers & Hart are among my favorite American songwriters.
There are so many other American great guys I’d like to mention: Marvin Gaye, Al Green, Bill Whiters… Singers? So many: Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Sarah Vaughan, Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Gregory Porter, Diana Krall, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Norah Jones…
Under the influence of some Brazilian masters of songwriting like Tom Jobim, João Gilberto, Caetano Veloso, Djavan, and João Bosco I learned to play acoustic guitar as a hobby when I was a teenager. Recently, while living in Florence, I decided to resume playing it (I hadn’t played it for almost thirty years).
I am also a fan of psychology. Not by chance, since April 2018 I have been writing articles and essays (in Portuguese) for a website I designed: “Repensando Atitudes” [“Rethinking Attitudes”], focused on reflections on who we believe we are and how we can do our better to be able to think clearly and act safely (see photo above).
By the way, speaking of psychology, how would I define myself? I’d put it like this: “A reserved, introspective, thoughtful, and loyal man. A man who loves to be with kind and witty people.” Patricia and I have been together for 25 years. We have no children (a mutual choice). In November 2020 I will turn 55.