Some time before Carnival of Hope was published, I had a few scenes from the novel posted on a Brazilian website. It was the carnival scene where Thereza, the woman who my protagonist Tomas is in love with, wins a place on a bus going to the South, to what she believes is a job and a better future. Distraught, Tomas is only able to watch her leave, leading to their separation. In order to stop him suffocating in his own grief, his mother takes him to the house of candomblé, a religion which she believes in but Tomas has rejected, in order to witness a religious ceremony which she believes will purge him of his desire for Thereza.
I was not prepared for the barrage of attacks which came in once the scenes had been posted, many of them with a religious bent, but I am also sure that many had to do with the fact that I had depicted what real poverty was like in the North of the country. Tribal; 3RD World; Creepy; Uncivilized; anti-Christian and ignorant; … were some of the comments. One commentator remonstrated with me for having depicted the candomblé ceremony in one of the scenes. I explained that millions in Brazil practise it. In fact, on New Year’s Eve, up to 2 million Brazilians flock to the beaches in Rio, and many perform aspects of a candomblé ritual when they float offerings out to sea for Yemanja, goddess of the sea. “… although there is no possible way to stop ignorance in Brasil, there is no reason to glorify it,” I was tersely told.
I had not yet grown my writer’s armour of a thick skin, and I was devastated by the response. That caused me to put the novel away for a while, to try and work out what I had done wrong. I couldn’t even look at the comments about the scene again for some time. But as I started to learn more about the evangelical Pentecostal churches sweeping through the country to challenge the old faiths, of Brazilians uncertainty about whether they were a modern country (pre President Lula and rapid economic growth), it started to dawn on me: the commentators were not saying that the writing was bad, what they were saying was that I was embarrassing them and their country by revealing these aspects of Brazilian culture. But my intention of writing about it was not to embarrass, but to reveal the truth about a part of the underbelly of the society, which is part of what writing should be about.
With my new realization, I was able to return to the novel. I did not remove the scenes that the commentators had criticized. Instead, Tomas’ rejection of his mother’s candomblé religion was intensified, to become as critical as the Brazilian commentators on my scenes. In addition, in one of the final scenes, Tomas is in a struggle for survival, and like many who are not religious at these moments, he considers calling on his mother’s faith for help. Due to the comments my scenes had received and the intensification of Tomas’ views on religion in earlier scenes, I felt it was necessary to change the decision Tomas took at that moment. But you’ll just have to read Carnival of Hope to find out what that decision was.
In your country, would there be outrage at the depiction of religious ceremonies in a novel? Say, in India from the Hindu or Sikh faith? Why do you think the response may be different to that in Brazil?
About the Book
A poor idealist forced to teach in secret, and reluctant to abandon his mother. A determined young woman, desperate to escape the struggles and tragedies of a dangerous Brazilian shantytown. A carnival competition offering hope of a better future in the South...
But what lies behind the sinister practices of carnival?
What’s become of former winners who have disappeared?
The route out to a new life is not as easy as it appears, and as the competition spirals into a corrupt and perilous deception, it plunges the young loves into a fight for their lives.
"Compelling and intelligently written." - Marilou George (Confessions Of A Reader)
"Heartbreaking in its portrayal of just how poor these people are" - Joo (KUF Reviewer)
"CARNIVAL OF HOPE is a love story that examines a society, warts and all, with an ending that allows room for the reader’s imagination and sense of wonder." - Susan Anderson, Author of Serfina Florio Series
"It was a heartbreaking story, but also a story showing the toughness of people in really awful conditions. The ending is perfect." - Julie Evett
About the Author
George Hamilton studied at the University of East London, majoring in development economics. He likes to know what’s going on around the world, to delve into the customs and practices of different cultures, and in Carnival of Hope, he turns his sights on the Nordestinos of North-Eastern Brazil. He currently lives in London, England.
Carnival of Hope is currently available at all Amazon online stores.
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