Brazil on Twitter - Telling the Brazilian National Epic in 25,000 Tweets

Brazil is the first country to have its story told on Twitter in a saga spanning 500 years in 140-character episodes!

I draw on my acclaimed historical novel, Brazil, for this staggering task. My "Twitter Edition" is tweeted live for 10,000 indefatigable followers of the epic which opens with the Tupiniquin Indians in May 1491 and continues to the 21st century.

Brazil on Twitter couldn't be more different from my original manuscript. A South African-born author now living in Boston, I spent five years on the writing of my book about Brazil, a land that captivated me since childhood. My research included a 15,000-mile journey in Brazil, almost exclusively by bus to get a feel for the country.

My travels took me into the sertão, the arid backlands of the Northeast and to the Casas Grandes of coastal Pernambuco. I voyaged the Amazon from Belém to Manaus and rode by bus down to southernmost Rondônia. I followed the route of the bandeirantes, the Brazilian pathfinders, west of São Paulo and roamed the highlands of Minas Gerais.

The writing of Brazil took five years. Like my fictional hero, Amador Flóres da Silva, I knew periods of utter loneliness and fear; times when I felt the caatinga closing in on me. Always, I broke through the barrier. I never lost the will to understand the Brazilian ˜thing."

When I sat down to write my original manuscript, I did so the old-fashioned way by hand. It was a staggering 2,454 pages penned on unlined scribbling blocks and later typed up on a 1930s Remington Royal with a draft of 756,200 words! A typewriter bought on a yard sale for $1. The first edition of Brazil was pared down to 1,000 pages and published by Simon and Schuster.

The newest edition, with an afterword that brings the story to the 21st century, is on Amazon Kindle and also in Print (personally signed copies available.)

What I love about Twitter is the ability to reach a new worldwide audience “ one tweet at a time!" I post 20 to 40 tweets a session, numbered, and in self-contained excerpts.

In its long form, Brazil, has won accolades from reviewers and readers across the globe:

"Uys has accomplished what no Brazilian author from José de Alencar to Jorge Amado was able to do. He is the first outsider with the total honesty and sympathy to write our national epic in all its decisive episodes.“ -- Professor Wilson Martins, Jornal do Brasil.

"A Masterpiece! Brazil has the look and feel of an enchanted virgin forest, a totally new and original world for the reader-explorer to discover." -- L'Express, Paris

"Pulsing with vigor, this is a vast novel to tell the story of a vast country. Uys recreates history through the eyes and actions of an awesome cast of characters seen at 'ground level." - Publishers Weekly.

"Uys has interwoven five centuries of Brazilian history and generations of two fictional families into a massive, richly detailed novel, Michenerian in sweep and scope, informative and intriguing.  Uys has a sense of pace and an eye for detail that rarely fail him. "-- Washington Post

In the wide world of Twitter, @BrazilANovel offers a totally new and original way to discover Brazil, a great nation and its people, one tweet at a time.

Tiny Puffs of Cloud That Fell to the End of the Earth

Brazil - The Making of a Novel - Part 5
Before leaving Portugal for Brazil, I prepared a list of objectives sent in advance to potential contacts in Brazil's cultural and educational ministries, historians and others whose names had been suggested by sources I'd met in Portugal:
Notes on Research Project: Brazil 
My novel is historical and a major part of my work can be
accomplished through a study of published sources.
No matter how assiduously this is undertaken, such bookwork
cannot offer on location observation with its inestimable
value in bringing comprehension and adding reality to your
perspective. The following notes, more or less in line
with my envisaged chapter structure, indicate the kind of
material and experience I am seeking.
Creative people are not supposed to be as formal as this,
but with so vast a project in mind  I have to adopt some
kind of organized strategy for the research stage
or I'll never put it all together.
1. Rain forest
I want to describe, in detail, a single acre —
"God's Little Acre," in a way — before mankind's
arrival. I need to speak with experts at a forest research
station (outside Belém?), who can explain, in simplest
terms, the symbiosis of the forest, its creation and
the miraculous web of life that ensures its survival.
I need a geologist to outline the creation of the Amazon
basin and the forces that shaped the sub-continent
as we know it today. A zoologist to tell me about
the animal life of the virgin forest. And a sociologist
who can expound on "man and the forest," the forest's
effect on man over the centuries, both indigenous
and immigrant. (Charles Wagley, An Introduction to Brazil,
has some pertinent remarks on this theme.)
Besides these research objectives, I offered a glimpse of my story lines, enough to grasp
my plans for the book and more specific research needs:
Notes on Research Project: Brazil
“While I am aware that the role of the rain forest
in Brazilian history should not be over-emphasized,
I want to open the book with a succinct evocation
of the lifecycle of an acre of virgin rain forest;
its creation and existence before the advent of mankind.
“The first dwellers in the forest, the Indians, are seen
in the period 1492-1500, eight years leading up to the
arrival of Cabral's fleet. Emphasis is placed on
the Tupi-Guarani branch and, in particular, a Tupinamba
and a Tupiniquin group. While a novelistic technique
carries the story forward, I am equally concerned
with a sympathetic account of their lifestyle and its
value-role in the formation of Brazilian society.
“After showing Cabral's landfall, my focus turns to
the Portuguese trading empire in the East, stressing
Goa and Ormuz, in the period 1506 — 1516 to give
the reader a concept of the men and women
who first settled Brazil and their heritage.
These gleanings from my outline and in-depth reading and research were intended to convince those whose help I sought that I was involved in a serious project of which I already had more than a working grasp. A breathtaking and formidable task but which, after my two years with James Michener on The Covenant, I had every confidence of accomplishing.
I prepared a draft itinerary that would allow me to touch base with all the important locations in the novel, an itinerary clearly open to revision as priorities demanded.


Draft itinerary for visit to Brazil: July to October 1981

July 2                         Arrive Recife from Lisbon
July 3   - 7                  Recife/Olinda
July 8   - 12                Recife/Olinda area - "sugar plantation"
July 13  - 14               To Canudos - Pernambuco 'backlands' en route
July 15  - 16               Canudos
July 17  - 18               Salqueiro - Belém (surface)
July 19  - 21               Belém (Amazon forest research station etc.)
July 22                       Belém - Manaus (air)
July 23  - 26              Manaus
July 27  - 29              Manaus - Porto Velho (Madeira River?)
July 20  - Aug 8        Porto Velho - Madeira-Mamore railroad/
                                  Aripuana to Alta Floresta/ environs of Rio
                                  Roosevelt etc.
Aug 9                        Porto Velho - Brasilia (air)
Aug 10   - Aug 15      Brasília
Aug 16   - Aug 22      Brasília - Salvador via Sáo Francisco area
Aug 23   - Aug 29      Salvador
Aug 30                       To Porto Seguro
Aug 31   - Sept l         Porto Seguro - Ouro Preto
Sept 2   - 3                  Ouro Preto
Sept 4   - 10                Rio de Janeiro (lst visit)
Sept 11  - 15               São Paulo
Sept 16  - 24               São Paulo ( on coffee fazenda)
Sept 21                       São Paulo to Asuncion (air)
Sept 22  - 24              Asuncion, Paraguay
Sept 25  - Oct 3         Asuncion - Humaíta to Missiones area etc.
Oct 3    - Oct 17         Rio de Janeiro for consultations with local
Oct 18                        Return to New York.
I was to begin my trip at Salvador, the Mother City, the best possible start to a journey in search of the “real Brazil,” as people in the south refer to Bahia. From Salvador I went to Porto Seguro and Cabrália, walking along the beaches and broad bluffs that are the setting for the opening of my book along the same beach where I saw the young Tupiniquin, Aruanã, at the water's edge on a day in 1500.
Porto Seguro,  Brazil
      Tiny puffs of cloud had fallen to the end of the earth. Four... five...six were bunched together just above the horizon, and others were coming to join them. Otherwise the sky was perfectly clear, its blue expanse streaked with the blazing color of the lowering sun.
     He made a hesitant progress toward the water, squinting into the distance at the strange clouds. But even as he did so and perplexed as he was, he began to see that his first impression had been wrong. Very quickly now the swiftest clouds lifted above the water and he saw a darker line. There was a flash of understanding: Here were great canoes coming from the end of the earth.
     Aruanã watched as they came closer. The sun was gone behind the trees, and he found it difficult to discern the craft, but he stood rooted a while longer before he realized that he must hasten to the village and tell what he had seen. This made him gaze at the horizon again, to be absolutely certain, for it was a fantastic discovery for a man who had gone to seek no more than shells for First Child. They were there, darkening images now, these canoes that had come from the end of the earth.

Landing place of Pedro Alváres Cabral, Brazil, 1500

A Novelist and the Shock of History

Brazil - The Making of a Novel - Part 4
My library forays in New York over three months provided the background for my initial plotting and book proposal. With the outline complete and broad themes of the novel well in mind, it was essential to have firsthand experience of Portugal and Brazil. I couldn't go back five hundred years, but I could make a sincere and honest attempt to know the land and its people.
I was writing a novel not a history but was committed to offering as authentic and historically accurate account as possible. In April 1981, I headed for Lisbon and three months later began my journey in Brazil.
I based myself outside Lisbon at Sintra, living in a quinta on a hillside below Moorish battlements that overlooked Sintra Palace. I would use this setting for the family seat of the first Cavalcantis to go to Brazil:
Sintra Palace

Through his marriage to Inez Gonçalves, Cavalcanti's father had come to possess lands on those serene vales before the Serra de Sintra. Here between jagged rocks of antiquity crowned with fallen battlement of Moor and the distant azure expanse of the Atlantic, here was past and future, and whether Nicolau climbed through the thick woods to the lee of the old Infidel redoubt or stood on the windy headland at Cabo da Roça, he felt an intimacy with both. - (from Brazil)
Errol Lincoln Uys at Serra de Sintra

 I divided my time between the Gulbenkian Foundation, British Institute and Portuguese historic and geographic libraries and visits to sites like Jeronimos Monastery, Belem Tower, Mafra, and traveling to Coimbra, Belmont and Evora, all of which have a place in my novel. Besides 16th century Portugal, I was also interested in the mid-18th century and events surrounding the Lisbon Earthquake of November 1755, one of my Cavalcantis studying law in Portugal at the time.
Ten seconds later, there was a devastating shock. The houses opposite Paulo began to sway; the floor beneath him vibrated so violently that he struggled to keep his balance. Chimneys crumbled, loose tiles fell to the ground, crockery in Dona Clara's house shattered. Screams and the pitiful cries of animals rose. But Paulo's perception of these noises was dulled by a thundering in the earth. Terremoto! The word crashed through Paulo's senses. “Earthquake!”
Paulo was mesmerized by the houses opposite, rocking on their foundations, walls cracking and splitting, upper stories leaning toward the street, chunks of masonry falling. Terror numbed him. He stood frozen at the window, expecting death.

Three houses suddenly burst open and collapsed, burying the family of four and the servant girls. The old man did not cease his struggle to open his front door, even as the convulsions rocked the street; he, too, was entombed by an avalanche of masonry. Paulo looked beyond the opening opposite him: The city was rising and falling in waves as if upon a storm-tossed sea; landslides swept down the hillsides hurling houses toward the lower ground; distant steeples and towers whipped about wildly; clouds of dirt and dust hung in the air. The thunder of the earth, the sound of breaking timbers, the rain of roof tiles — the inconceivable noises came together in one deafening roar of destruction. - (from Brazil)
Lisbon Earthquake 1755

Imagining Brazil

BRAZIL - The Making of a Novel - Part 3
As I let Brazil seep into my imagination, my first step was to compile a detailed chronology. Alongside this, I mapped out a genealogical timeline for my major families, initially the Cardosas and the da Silvas. I later changed the Cardosas to the "Cavalcantis."
As I worked on these timelines, I began to isolate the markers for my characters, the great events where I knew they would have to be present, the sidelines of history where there might be a role for them, as yet undefined and potentially as surprising to me.
The original Chronology extends from 8,000 B.C. with north-coast Andes sites of hunter-gatherers to 1981, the year I started my research. So, for example, from 1616 to 1681, the years covering the lifespan of my character, Amador Flôres da Silva, the bandeirante or pathfinder:

Once the Chronology was complete, I had enough material to flesh out my original plotting ideas in a detailed outline, proposing a saga spanning five centuries and involving multi-generations of two families, the Cavalcantis and the da Silvas whose stories depict the major historical elements in Brazilian society.
This ninety-page document comprised an Overview of the novel, Family Trees and the Outline itself.
My ideas would constantly evolve during a year of research and travel and throughout the actual writing. There would be many variations in the plot for I could not know where the characters I created would lead me but the broad plan held firm.