Sunday, June 16, 2024

Leiden University Literature Afternoon with Author Micheliny Verunschk

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By Roy Lie Atjam

Leiden, May 13, 2024, the Embassy of Brazil in the Netherlands hosted the launch of the book “O som do roar da onça” or “The Sound of The Jaguar’s Roar,” which in Dutch is “De brul van de jaguar.” The book was written by the Jabuti Award-winning(2021) Brazilian author Micheliny Verunschk, who hails from Pernambuco, Brazil.

The launch took place in Room 1.01 of the PJ Veth Building at Leiden University. It is believed that Albert Einstein himself lectured in this very room while in Leiden. The attendees included the Consul-General of Brazil in Amsterdam Mr Alexandre Vidal Porto, Mr Felipe Ferreira Marques Cultural Attaché, students, special invitees, and members of Brazilian Studies Leiden.

Prof. Dr. Sara Brandellero interviewed Micheliny Verunschk, the author of “De brul van de Jaguar”, with Anne Lopes Michielsen serving as interpreter. During the interview, Micheliny elaborated on the significance of the jaguar, describing it as a figure of power, not subordinated, and venerated in the Americas. Micheliny’s approach as a researcher was unconventional; she did not use tape recordings and cameras. Instead, she engaged in conversations with indigenous people to familiarize herself with their way of life. She also drank Ayahuasca tea and underwent an initiation ceremony to ensure she captured the story accurately.

Brazil, book launch. Section of the audience

The novel De brul van de jaguar tells the story of one of the most shocking crimes committed in the name of science and colonialism. Two German scientists, the naturalist botanist Carl Friedrich Philipp von Martius and the zoologist Johann Baptist von Spix. They took several objects from Brazil to Germany (Munich) as part of their scientific expedition, including thousands of plants, reptiles, insects, and other materials, as well as two children, the miranha girl Iñe-e and the boy Juri who were allegedly given as a gift. Once in Munich, Iñe-e and Juri became study objects at the university and proudly presented to the court of King Maximilian Joseph I.

Speaking at the launch of the book “O som do roar da onça” or “The Sound of The Jaguar’s Roar,” which in Dutch is “De brul van de jaguar,” written by the award-winning Brazilian author Micheliny Verunschk, who is from Pernambuco, Brazil, Mr Felipe Ferreira Marques delivered the following address. It is both an honor and a pleasure to welcome you all to the University of Leiden for this special literary afternoon with Micheliny Verunschk, a distinguished Brazilian author celebrated not only in Brazil but now, thanks to the new Dutch edition of her book “O Som do Rugido da Onça”, also here in the Netherlands.

Dr Sara Brandellerdo, Micheliny Vernuschk and Anne Lopes Michielsen.

Micheliny Verunschk’s work serves as a profound exploration of the indigenous cosmologies of Brazil. Her narrative masterfully integrates elements of Miranha cosmology, among others, in a rich and complex system of beliefs that deeply connect the spiritual with the natural world. By including these indigenous perspectives into the fabric of her storytelling, Micheliny not only highlights these rich traditions but also invites us to reconsider the ways in which we understand history and the natural world.

Her literary inputs go beyond storytelling; they challenge us to reevaluate the narratives of Brazil’s colonial past. Through her powerful characters and their journeys, Micheliny offers a poignant critique of the historical injustices inflicted upon indigenous peoples. She reshapes our understanding of history, urging readers to acknowledge and reflect on the impacts of colonization that resonate to this day. Her work is a testament to the power of literature to question, to transform and to heal.

This event is not only a celebration of Micheliny’s work but also a recognition of the collaborative efforts that made this afternoon possible. I would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to Marmer Publishers for their commitment to bringing this wonderful book to Dutch readers. Their dedication to sharing diverse voices is what brings us together today.

Furthermore, I express my deep gratitude to Ms. Anne Lopes. Translating literature is no small feat. Your skillful translation has opened the doors for Dutch-speaking audiences to experience Micheliny’s captivating storytelling.

And of course, our profound thanks go to Dr. Sara Brandellero, who will be guiding our literary discussion today. Dr. Brandellero’s expertise in Latin American literature is invaluable, and her insights will certainly enrich our conversation and understanding of Micheliny’s work.

As we proceed with today’s program, I invite you all to engage openly in the discussions, share your perspectives, and perhaps see the world a little differently through the lens of Brazilian literature. May today’s discussion inspire and provoke, leaving us with new ideas and a greater appreciation for the stories that shape our world. Thank you, I wish you all an enriching literary afternoon. A reception and book signing session concluded the Brazilian-style book launching afternoon.

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