Critical and scholarly acclaim for Álamo Oliveira

and the English translation, I No Longer Like Chocolates

 

Teresa ASCENCAO, photo-based visual artist, Toronto School of Art faculty (Ontario, Canada):

 

I No Longer Like Chocolates is an honest and inspirational insight into the mind of a first generation Portuguese father. It slowly reveals the vulnerability and shock of old world ideals within a non-forgiving new world of American freedoms. As a second generation Portuguese immigrant, I am inspired by Álamo Oliveira to understand my own father in ways I had not done before. But more importantly, he draws crucial parallels on identity between culture, class, age, gender and sexual orientation within new immigrant culture. I No Longer Like Chocolates is a bittersweet story about the need for acceptance and dignity for all.

 
Anthony BARCELLOS, Professor of Mathematics, American River College (Sacramento, California), and author:

 

Joe Sylvia may no longer like chocolates, but the poor man never liked Tulare, his personal purgatory in the center of California's Great Valley. I No Longer Like Chocolates is a multi-layered meditation on misery and rejection. Joe cannot come to terms with his exile from his beloved island in the Atlantic, yet he cannot return. He lives as an unhappy witness, increasingly abandoned, to what seems to him the dissolution of his family. The gay son must be rejected. The rebellious daughter must be shunned. The henpecked son must be disdained. The assertive daughter must be endured. The reader watches Joe in mounting horror, as if we want to yell at him and tell him to salvage what he can of life and love and family, but it is all in vain. The lessons are ours to learn, not Joe Sylvia's.

 
Luciano A. CARDOSO, columnist, Portuguese Tribune [Tribuna Portuguesa] (California):

 

[Álamo Oliveira]: A unique talent, a person of integrity and a multifaceted artist – to this day I cannot believe the island could have given birth to the like of him. He is a dedicated poet, renowned playwright, famed writer and, above all, a friend among friends, whom many esteem, and truly blame for their "no longer liking chocolates." How many poems he has already sculpted, plays he has rehearsed, plots he has conceived, marchas he has choreographed, choirs he has directed, souls he has touched – frankly I haven’t the least idea. How many books already published, I also don’t know for certain. What I do know and recognize is that, thanks to his fertile imagination and writing talent, I have enjoyed some of the most tender and relaxing moments that a good read can offer us here in the far reaches of the vast diaspora, where it is no easy matter for us to read with a Lusiad avidness about what nostalgically corrodes our soul. Our melodramatic immigrant route, with its multiple components, is not easily felt by anyone who has not had the courage to "take the leap." To write a novel with elegance and good taste at the highest literary level is an undertaking within the reach of practically no one... I No Longer Like Chocolates is the humorous title of a delicious novel whose subsequent translations into English and Japanese wind up offering an extra dimension of more-than-deserved prestige for the charismatic author, whom his island adores and the Lusa diaspora has great need to read... I cannot deny: "More than ever, I like chocolates."

– Translated from "My Peccadillo," in his "Rasgos d'Alma" column, 15 Oct 2009

 

Emanuel MELO, author, translator, and administrator at Victoria College, University of Toronto (Ontario, Canada):

I No Longer Like Chocolates is the story of every Azorean family’s journey from the Old World to the new promised land, America. With heartbreaking candor, Álamo Oliveira retells Joe Sylvia’s story through memory as he sits in his wheelchair in a nursing home where his children visit, dutifully, yet less and less while he reminisces and tries to make sense of a life that started with the dream of anticipating the taste of American chocolates, and ending up with him no longer liking them. The symbolism is not lost on the reader: the dream is sweet; the reality bitter. There is much that can be said about each of the characters in the novel. Who can read this story and not recognize their own mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, grandparents; families... What particularly resonated when I first read [the original book] Já não gosto de chocolates was seeing in a Portuguese novel for the first time a son who was gay, an outsider, yet acknowledged as equally integral to the story of this family, and not relegated to silence and absence and hiddenness. The honest portrayal of John, the youngest son, who dies a horrible death not simply because of the AIDS that ruined his life but because his family rejected him, confirmed my suspicion that in order to survive, we who are gay and Azorean had to find our own private islands to live on, away from the families we love... Oliveira’s chapter on John and his partner Danny, if nothing else, presents readers with no option to forget one family member that everyone knows about but would rather keep in the closet or, at least, living far away in San Francisco or any other urban centre that will welcome and shelter the child considered deviant. With a mixture of sorrow and sometimes humour, I No Longer Like Chocolates, whether read in the original language or in the beautiful English translation, will offer the reader a profound insight into the world of the dream and the after-dream of immigrant lives with unflinching honesty, and the rejection of the “and they lived happily ever after” American illusion.

 

Clarke M. THOMAS, author, and retired Senior Editor, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pennsylvania), 1926-2009:

I am delighted with the novel. I find it a marvelous blend of descriptions of the "old country" with the musings of an immigrant man and his family. It avoids the usual sentiment on subjects, yet touches the heart. [Álamo] Oliveira delves into a number of forbidden subjects and does it well. I soon got caught up in its various novelties ("novel" is a good description) and found it quite captivating. I found myself pulled through the story, with constant surprises popping up.

Serdar TUMGOREN, journalist (Gilroy, California):

 

[Álamo Oliveira is] one of Portugal's most celebrated authors... His new book, I No Longer Like Chocolates, [is] a timely story about an immigrant's dreams of life in America and his ultimate disillusion with that dream.

Gilroy Dispatch, 7 Apr 2006

Critical and scholarly acclaim for Álamo Oliveira

and the original Portuguese version, Já não gosto de chocolates

 

 

Emanuel FÉLIX, poet and artist (Angra do Heroísmo, Terceira, Azores, Portugal), 1936-2004:

 

Only thus would it be possible to suggest that an author's entire body of work (irrespective of the strictures of genre) could demonstrate an identity of trajectories destined to extend outside the limits of a particular circumstance, specifically a geographic context, to the genuine universality of his creations. After all, he has been singled out with utmost relevance – speaking of this book and at the same time Álamo Oliveira's others (short stories and novels) – with regard to his sense of humor, dramatic tension and other situations inherent in the sprawling humanity with which the author has populated hundreds of pages, all of them marked by his incontestable stylistic virtuosity.

– Translated from the back cover of Já não gosto de chocolates, 1999

Photo by Emanuel Félix Jr.

 

 

Luiz Antônio de Assis BRASILLuíz Antônio de Assis BRASIL, Pontifical Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul [PUCRS] (Porto Alegre, Brazil):

 

It's time to proclaim: Álamo Oliveira is a great writer. I say this to you as one who lives at a great distance so has no other axe to grind than that of esthetics... [This] Álamo of Terceira, of Portugal; this Álamo of the World – a man evermore reflective, who refines his use of language increasingly with each book, who warms us more, who touches our souls more... [and] discloses a new slant on emigration by assuming a clearly intimate discourse. It is a narrative that does not skim the surface, but instead plunges into the complex intimacy of protagonists who cease to be mere emigrants in order to become full human beings.

– Translated from “A narrativa açoriana pós-revolução dos cravos: uma breve notícia.” In Via Atlântica, n.3, Dec 1999

 

[Álamo Oliveira] depicts the immigration from the Azores to California of José Silva's family... and he shows in analytical detail how emigrants, despite acquiring comfort and wealth, almost always lose their identity.

– Translated from “A América é um grande chocolate.” In Diário Insular, 15 Jul 1999; reprinted in Vértice, v.96, n.1, Lisbon, 2000

 

Natália CORREIANatália CORREIA, poet (Portugal), 1923-1993:

 

[Referring to an early work by Álamo Oliveira, she deemed that volume to be] ...one of those rare books to have appeared lately, in which [the author] instills in us respect for poetry situated and concretely lived in an environmental relationship, which thus surpasses mere literary ambition to attest to the emerging human being who unleashes the poetic act.

– Translated from her preface to Álamo Oliveira’s Pão Verde, 1971

Eduardo Mayone DIAS, emeritus UCLA, Los Angeles, California:

 

Já não gosto de chocolates, by Álamo Oliveira, a profound expert on the Azorean-Californian essence, offers outstanding thematic convergences within this novelistic vein.

– Translated from A Presença Portuguesa na Califórnia, 2002

Francisco Cota FAGUNDES, University of Massachusetts-Amherst:

 

[Novelist Álamo Oliveira is among a] group of Portuguese writers... who have family among Portuguese immigrants in the US and Canada, [and who have] written important and well-informed literary works inspired, in whole or in part, by Portuguese immigrant and other expatriate experiences. 

– From "Charles Reis Felix's Through a Portagee Gate: Lives Parceled Out in Stories." In MELUS, 2006

Vamberto FREITAS, University of the Azores (Ponta Delgada, São Miguel, Portugal):

 

The artistic journey of Álamo Oliveira ([in] poetry, theater, fiction) contains a most vital fact within itself: it is a work... unified by an insistent Azorean theme, which is the frightening uncertainty of life on the islands, to him anti-utopian and where there is always an indefinite threat, whether man-made or of Biblical force, that hovers over the beauty of the blue and abruptly loving sea... He is one of our most consistent (and persistent) artists, one of our most conscious and perceptive men of letters, with a most varied work with respect to the cultural genres, but achieving a total unit with respect to thematic and formal structure. For throughout a line simultaneously inventive and traditional in the novel, poetry and theater, he tells, (re)tells and constantly subverts the history and ideology of the political and cultural space that was given to him to live and think in this last half of the 20th century.

– Translated from Diário Insular, Sep 1999

 

Elemar GHISLENI, University of Santa Cruz do Sul (Brazil):

 

Álamo Oliveira plunges deep into the theme of emigration and produces an incomparable work. He penetrates with profound human sentiment this apparently common issue among the Azorean diaspora. He shows us the uprooting of a family of emigrants. first from their native land, then from themselves... His narrative, in short, depicts with sensitivity the Azorean-Californian emigrant panorama and takes a world-view rooted in reality. The novel represents this social reality by transporting to the literary plane the daily routine of a consumer society, its true values and socioeconomic structures. [It] presents itself as a reflection of social relationship..., and maintains the mimetic tradition in the sense of the representation of reality. For the Azorean diaspora, the novel is an accurate witness of the world and vicissitudes comprising the cosmos of the Portuguese emigrant in California. With a foundation rooted in the words of a connoisseur of this reality. the narrative is already a reference on the theme of emigration and without a doubt a relevant sociological study.

– Translated from “A representação do sonho americano na obra Já não gosto de chocolates

Master’s thesis, Institute of Letters & Arts, Pontifical Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul [PUCRS], Porto Alegre, Brazil, Oct 2000

 
Kiwamu HAMAOKA, Musashi University (Japan), translator:

 

[D]espite the sense of place of Tulare... in I No Longer Like Chocolates the theme under treatment is an absolutely universal one which must be more widely read in the world. Now, I’m not saying that other Azorean works don’t deserve to be translated. What fascinated me greatly was that universal sense of place which I still don’t know how to define well, but I can say that it’s something universal and understood.

– Translated from A propósito de Já não gosto de chocolate no Japão: Insulariedade Açoriana, digo "minha," in "Maré Cheia," Portuguese Tribune, 15 Jun 2007

Miriam Denise KELM, Federal University of Pampa/Bagé, Rio Grande do Sul (Brazil):

 

The dislocation of enormous human contingents has been a motif encountered in Portuguese literary texts in the last three decades. In the Portuguese political context of the 1960s, the wars with the colonies in Africa on one side and the crisis in the rural milieu – whose groundwork was laid slowly by the incompetence of the Salazar dictatorship – fanned the flames of Portuguese departures, above all in the direction of North America. [This theme] is encountered in the Azorean Álamo Oliveira's novel, Já não gosto de chocolates... [It] recasts uncertain facts that grow in importance and quantity and that we can perhaps call, in their dispersion, the wandering of human groups and redefinition of identities.

– Translated from "Textos contemporâneos portugueses e a temática do deslocamento," II Colóquio Sul de Literatura Comparada/Encontro ABRALIC

Institute of Letters & Arts, Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul [UFRGS], Porto Alegre, Brazil, 2003

 

Ivo MACHADO, author (Porto, Portugal):

 

Álamo Oliveira accustomed us long ago to a miraculous kind of writing, I must say, written from miracles. From page one of this novel no one can guess the drama, the saga that fills and thickens it, until a wounded heart proclaims to us that is has ceased to appreciate the flavor of chocolates... A novel of fragilities and fears, success and death, Já não gosto de chocolates is the lucid image of discovery of how utopian America is...; a novel of the plangent and bitter acculturation of expatriates; a novel of constant drama.

– Translated from Diário Insular, 1999

Joel NETOJoel NETO, journalist and author (Portugal):

 

Álamo Oliveira [is among a select group of Azorean writers who] form one of the latest Portuguese literary generations, with a clearly identifiable artistic universe and overall superior quality of technique.

– Translated from the Naoesperemnadademim blogspot, 2 Apr 2004

Carmen M. RAMOS VILLAR, University of Sheffield (Great Britain):

 

The changes in narration between [Joe Sylvia] and the individual members of his family further highlight the conflict and loss of identities in that both perspectives are given but no solution is found. His children's accounts echo the powerlessness their father feels in that they attempt to reconcile their father's preservation of old and outdated values with the social customs of the new assimilationist society. They fail to please both sides, making them turn their back on their roots as well as leaving them unable to set down new roots. They have not been able to rid or reconcile themselves with their origins before carrying on in their life journey to another stage. Their failed or failing relationships are because this tension between reconciling the two societies and their values bringing the criticism that the new society somehow corrupts any attempt to reconcile the two sides; each is punished either by death, illness, corruption to their personality, or degradation of their relationships.

– From Travelling, the Traveller and the Journey Theme in Azorean Literature

IV Congresso Internacional da Associação Portuguesa de Literatura Comparada, University of Évora, Portugal, May 2001

Lúcia Helena Marques RIBEIRO, University of Brasília (Brazil):

 

Álamo Oliveira presents, besides the dramas of emigration, a discussion about human values. Without sentimentality he displays in a brilliant text the pain of loss, of all losses, from geographic to emotional references... Azoreans survive their impoverished origins but not always the loss of values in a culture where superficiality replaces its historical myths, its family and religious rituals, that were sacred to them in their homeland. Their perplexity in the face of the discontinuity of life in another country is only less than the feeling of irremediability that returning is no longer possible.

–Translated from “Já não gosto de chocolates: Um olhar sobre a alma,” in Diário Insular, 23 Sep 1999

 

In this work, Álamo Oliveira shows what can lie on the other side of the ocean: exile and the false face of personal progress and prosperity. The author offers an examination of old age, loneliness, prejudice, death, AIDS, drugs, the banalizing of human beings, while discussing emigration and its resultant loss of identity... [T]he colonizer-colonized relationship gets reversed: in the ironic one-way street of history, the Portuguese are no longer conquering America but being conquered by her. The center no longer holds: the colony (USA) has turned itself into a world power while the former conquerors, by immigrating, become menial labor for the construction of a nation that grew only thanks to them and the hard work to which they submitted.

–Translated from A emigração e a guerra: as literaturas periféricas e os enganos do pós-colonialismo

VI Congresso da Associação Internacional de Lusitanistas, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Aug 1999

 

Emigration is justified by more than the mere desire to leave. It is justified by hunger, the profound mark of insularity, ancestral hunger, mythicalness, inherited from the tragic conditions of life since the first settlers, and from the ever-present difficulties for the islander in surviving... Emigration is justified by fear, atavistic, which is born with Azoreans... the physical conditions of the volcanic islands, permanently threatened with seismic floods, and with the uncertainty of the sea... Religion is a magic exit, whose rituals everyone accepts and maintains. Emigration is also justified, in the final analysis, by the search for happiness. Upon leaving, the emigrant thinks he is guaranteeing his encounter with the origin of everything: origin, not repetition. Everything, then, is new, things really happen, rather than imitate.

Translated from “A questão da identidade da terra: idéia de permanência na obra Contrabando original, de José Martins Garcia”

Master’s thesis, Institute of Letters & Arts, Pontifical Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul [PUCRS], Porto Alegre, Brazil, 1996

 
Gabriela SILVA, poet, teacher, TV host and blogger "Luana" (Fazenda das Lajes, Flores, Azores, Portugal):

I feel the need to put into writing this modest declaration of affection [for Álamo Oliveira]... You dream, you like your friends, you are gifted at recounting anecdotes, you like to laugh, you cry if you are emotional, you guffaw if you find humor and, perhaps, you suffer from solitude in this land of ours that is the Azores. As so many of us suffer... In you, the Azores have a great treasure of which they ought to take advantage, because you make all the islands grow, because you are a citizen of the world, because your horizons don’t just confine you to the locality where you were born. You have a universal and creative vocation that makes you the possessor of a powerful capacity always to change the things you want to. I have nothing to teach you, but much to learn from you... I close these humbly-written lines with my confession: I ÁLAMO OLIVEIRA!

Translated from "Meu querido Álamo" ["My Dear Álamo"] in Pessoas: Encontros culturais, Geneva, Switzerland, Jun 2006

 

Rosa Maria SILVA, poet, singer and blogger "Azoriana" (Angra do Heroísmo, Terceira, Azores, Portugal):

 

I have just finished reading this literary treasure. At the end I brushed away stubborn tears of emotion and hugged my beloved in silence. I cursed death, and wished to remain in my true love's embrace forever and without worry... Álamo is my writer of choice. Each word, sentence, paragraph and page is an authentic pearl I cannot dismiss. I regard Já não gosto de chocolates as an extraordinary artwork of a naked and raw truth about emigration.

Translated from "Vinte dias depois" ["Twenty days later"] in Azoriana: Terceirense das Rimas, 26 Jun 2010

 

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