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

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