Joaquim Arena

Joaquim Arena wins Premio Oceanos 2023

Joaquim Arena’s novel Siríaco e Mr. Charles won the Premio Oceanos 2023, a leading Brazilian literary award, on December 7, 2023.

Oceanos-Prêmio de Literatura em Língua Portuguesa (English: Oceanos-Prize for Literature in the Portuguese Language) is a Brazilian literary award for poetry and prose founded in 2003. In the first years, only works by Brazilian writers were eligible for the Portugal Telecom-sponsored award until 2007 when Portuguese-language works from other countries were considered. Now run by the Oceanos Foundation, in partnership with the Itaú Cultural Foundation and linked to the Brazilian Itaú Bank, it is worth $60,000. Some of its previous winners have been Luís Cardoso, Itamar Vieira Junior, Djaimilia Pereira de Almeida, and Marília Garcia.

The 2023 edition had 2,654 works submitted by 487 different publishers, 1,188 of which were poetry and 1,466 were prose. There were 41 semi-finalists (21 in poetry and 20 in prose) chosen by a jury of 159 people. Of these 41, 24 were Brazilian, 14 were Portuguese, two were Cape Verdeans, and one was Mozambican. The semifinalists were announced in September before the finalists were revealed at the end of October.

The winner in the prose category for 2023 is Siríaco e Mr. Charles by Joaquim Arena published by Quetzal. Mixing historical reality and invention, the book recounts the unlikely friendship between the young Charles Darwin and the old black man and former slave Syriac, which takes place on the island of Santiago, in Cape Verde. Syriac, who suffered from vitiligo was educated in the so-called “exotic court” of Queen D. Maria I, alongside a retinue of twelve dwarfs and African dwarfs. Charles Darwin, in his youth, spent 16 days on the island of Santiago, where he began his first investigations for the book “The Origin of Species”.

The winner of this year’s edition of the Oceanos Prize in the poetry category was the Brazilian poet Prisca Agustoni, originally from Switzerland, with her collection O Gosto Amargo dos Metais published in Brazil by 7LETRAS.


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