Lorena Travassos drags a suitcase along the Lisbon pavement. Anyone passing by it might ask: airport, train station, bus station? But Lorena’s stop is different and what she brings in her suitcase are not clothes. Once upon a time, the goods she carries would be confiscated, even burned, if they ended up in the wrong hands.
Inside is the catalog of the Greta bookstore, a online which sells books and other materials produced by women, and which is about to open in the Valsa space, on Angelina Vidal Street, for a poetry event.
Arriving at her destination, the Brazilian teacher organizes the books: Susan Sontag, Simone Weil, Simone de Beauvoir, Judith Butler. Works written by women who fought for equality and which appear alongside new names in literature: Judite Canha Fernandes, Ana Freitas Reis, Carolina Zuppo Abed, Gabriela Abreu.
The embryo of a bookstore
Giving a voice to those who don’t have it. In this case, to the women who write and who struggle to be read. This was an idea that began to form during the pandemic. Lorena, professor of Visual Communication at Universidade Nova de Lisboa and specialist in colonial archives and genre studies, has always wanted to have a bookstore. And Lisbon lacked a space dedicated to literature by women. “When we go to a bookstore, there are always very few books written by women,” she says.
The name, contrary to what the reader may think, has nothing to do with Greta Thunberg. It was rather inspired by a passage fromThe one thousand and one nights in which a character says: “I am a woman with breasts and cracks”.
Lorena liked the term, but she didn’t want to get into the idea of “crack” as a “vulva”, because there are women who don’t have it, as she says. “I like crevices better,” she explains. “Fresta as an opening space”.
Thus, with the idea already outlined, the teacher launched a campaign of crowdfunding and managed to raise money to set up the site, which has been operational since October 2021. Greta bookstore was born, an opening space that celebrates the progress made by women in literature, promoting already known works on feminism, but also promoting books from small publishers.
More voices in literature
“A woman was stabbed to death this Monday by her husband in the middle of a public road”. Judite Canha Fernandes declaims like someone whispering in a friend’s ear. The commotion subsides and silence prevails in the room.
It is the first verse of the poem “Notícias de any país” from his book China’s Dish Fury and which clearly illustrates the raison d’être of the Greta bookstore: to give visibility to women.
It is an extraordinary coincidence that the first space that houses Greta’s books and her authors is located on Angelina Vidal Street, the name of the 19th century journalist and writer who defied convention and fought for the rights of women and workers. She wrote and published at a time when a woman had to ask her husband’s permission to publish.
Today, Judite Canha Fernandes, the poet who declaims, no longer has to hide her poetry in religious robes or under her pillow to be found centuries from now. But the poet also knows that there is still a way to go.
It’s just that Judite only managed to leave her name on the pages of books at the cost of a few battles. 15 years ago, he committed the madness of switching from Biology to poetry and the path was not always easy, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything: “I always liked the work I did, but liking is one thing, being your thing is very different” .
Writing is hard work for anyone. “Nobody lives only from writing”, as the poet Ana Freitas Reis, author of the book Cord. But it is even more difficult for a woman. “There is still a difference in terms of salary and visibility in relation to men”, recognizes Judite Canha Fernandes. And this struggle for equality remains political and necessary, they say.
Judith writes about her wounds and finds healing in writing. Ana, who is also a psychologist, types on her typewriter and books are born from the fury of the keys. But they do not belong to a “feminine literature”, an expression that these two authors abhor.
“I don’t know what this feminine thing is. Women write differently, think differently, start from a different place, why do you think there is a common essence?”, asks Judite.
Poetry as a political weapon
Gabriela Abreu’s voice is sweetened by the Brazilian accent. Her big brown eyes watch everything as she’s on stage. She, who is a journalist and responsible for the event Sarau Delas, finds herself between prose and music, which is how to say it, in poetry.
“By writing, I can share what I live and invent what I don’t,” says the author of Midnight. “I can save a woman on the corner. I make myself in that place”.
The idea that literature is a vehicle for change is very much present in the Greta bookstore’s DNA. And so this will not be forever a space onlinebelieves Lorena, who wants to create a physical space where those groups that, for centuries, have been excluded from the literary discussion can be present: women, of course, the LGBTQIA+ communities, migrants and Afro-descendants.
A place where people feel and think about literature, which is what Carolina Zuppo Abed, writing teacher and author of hobbies. She feels poetry viscerally. A Brazilian woman of Syrian origins, she says she hides in humor to defend herself against her natural shyness. But she is incisive with her ideas – and her writing. She wants to make her words “a life policy”.
It is she who says, in relation to the poem “Notícias de uma país any” that Judite declaims: “We can be here talking intellectually for hours. But Judite’s poem goes through the intellect, through the body, through the emotion”.
Books go through all these layers. Words transport readers. And those that haven’t always been read “write in a million ways” – that’s what Judith never tires of saying. The Greta bookstore wants to open “gaps” in literature so that all these women can now have a voice.
Ana da Cunha
He was born in Porto, 25 years ago, but since 2019 he has made the Alfa Pendular his home. In Lisbon, she discovered a love for stories, listening to and telling them on Avenida de Berna, at Universidade Nova de Lisboa.