Rachel de Queiroz was the first woman writer to enter the Brazilian Academy of Letters. She wrote 23 individual books and four in partnership. Her vast and precious work has been translated and published into French, English, German and Japanese. Besides, she translated 45 books into Portuguese and 38 of which were novels. She wrote weekly chronicles to O Estado de São Paulo newspaper almost until to died.
She was born in Fortaleza (CE), 17 of November of 1910, and died in Rio De Janeiro (RIO DE JANEIRO) in 4 of November of 2003. She was daughter of Daniel de Queiroz and Clotilde Franklin de Queiroz and descending for the maternal side of the lineage of the Alencar, relative therefore of Jose de Alencar, illustrious author of "the Guarani" and for the paternal side of the Queiroz, family of deeply launched raízes in the Quixadá in Beberibe.
In 1917, she went to Rio de Janeiro with her parents, trying to forget the horrors of the terrible drought of 1915, which later the novelist used as a theme in “O Quinze” (“1915”). In 1919, she went back to Fortaleza. In 1921, she entered the Immaculate Conception High School, directed by the Charity sisters, where she graduated at the Normal School as a teacher in 1925, at the age of 15.
In 1927, attracted by journalism, she began to write for “O Ceará” newspaper, where she later became a permanent editor. At the end of the 30’s, she handseled with her novel “O Quinze” (“1915”), with unexpected success in Rio de Janeiro, the former capital of Brazil, an impressive achievement for a Northeastern unknown woman writer who was only twenty years old. In this way, she launched herself in the literary Brazilian scene, heralding the banner of the social novel, deeply realistic in its dramatic description of the secular fight of a people against its misery and the drought, founding the fruitful and important cycle of the Brazilian Northeastern novel. The critic at the time was unanimous in its applause and all these favorable opinions were ratified with the granting of the “Graça Aranha Foundation” prize, in 1931.
After this sensational debut, she produces another novel - “João Miguel” (“John Michael”) - published in 1932, followed by a five-year interval in the author’s literary activities. She returns to fiction in 1937 with “Caminho de Pedras” (“Stone Path”), and in 1939, she published “As Três Marias” (“The Three Maries”), which received the “Felipe d’Oliveira Society” prize.
Only thirty-six years later, it was released her fifth novel “Dora Doralina”, which first edition, in 1975, was published by José Olympio/INL Publishers, even though, in 1950, she had printed a novel “O Galo de Ouro” (“The Golden Rooster”) as a series in “O Cruzeiro” magazine and which came out as a book in 1985. Her masterpiece, “Memorial de Maria Moura” (“Maria Moura’s Memorial”) was published in 1992 by Siciliano Publishers, a novel which gave her the “Juca Pato” trophy, granted to the winners of the prize of the “Intellectual Personality of the Year”.
She lived in Rio for many years, in the beginning on the sea-bucolic site of Ilha do Governador and later in Leblon/She used spending part of the year in Rio and another part on her farm “Não-me-Deixes” (“Leave-me-not”) in Ceara. Rachel de Queiroz has dedicated herself mainly to journalism. She stills writes a weekly column in “O Estado de São Paulo” newspaper, having collaborated in “Diário de Notícias” for a long time and, later, in “O Cruzeiro” magazine, where she used to be an exclusive chronicler. She also wrote for the following press vehicles: “O Jornal”, “Última Hora” and “Jornal do Commercio”. From her assiduous and long journalistic collaboration was extracted her first chronicle book “A Donzela e a Moura Torta” (“The Maiden and the Evil Fabulous Being”), published in 1948, followed by another literary gap until 1955, when Rachel de Queiroz returned in a new field - the theater - publishing her first drama, “Lampião” (“Lampião, the Outlaw”), based on the life of the legendary Northeastern outlaw. The play was staged in Rio in the Municipal Theater and in São Paulo in the Leopoldo Fróes Theater, where Rachel de Queiroz received the Saci prize as the best playwright of the year.
In 1957, she received the consecration prize of the Brazilian Academy of Letters, relating to her life work, the “Machado de Assis Prize.” In 1956/57, she wrote a new play, “A Beata Maria do Egito” (“Pious Mary of Egypt”), published in May, 1958, which received, in 1957, the “National Book Institute Theater Prize” and the “Roberto Gomes Prize”, granted to the best drama (by the Secretary of Education of Rio de Janeiro). The play was staged by the National Comedy Theater in the Serrador Theater, in Rio, with Glauce Rocha, Sebastião Vasconcelos and Jaime Costa, in the leading roles.
In July, 1958 she published, ten years after releasing her first chronicle book, a new volume called “100 Crônicas Escolhidas” (“A Choice of a Hundred Chronicles”), a book which gathers the best pages of this gender written by the author until that time. And in 1994, she reappeared as a chronicler, in a book, after a nine-year absence. She made her debut in books for children with “O Menino Mágico” (“The Magic Boy”), in 1971, which received a “Jabuti” prize from the “Brazilian Book Chamber”. In 1986, she published another one called “Cafute & Pena de Prata” (“Cafute & Silver Feather”), illustrated by Ziraldo.
As a diplomatic representative, she took part of the 21st session of the UNO’s General Meeting in 1966, when she served as a Brazilian delegate, specially working in the Human Right’s Committee.
She integrated the Federal Culture Council since its creation in 1967 until 1985.
In 1970, the Director General of the National Library, the writer Adonias Filho, as a fair homage, opened the exhibition “Rachel de Queiroz.”
The first woman to enter the Brazilian Academy of Letters, which, until then, was a selective masculine redoubt, Rachel de Queiroz was elected on August 4, 1977, entering into office on November 4 in the same year. The academician Adonias Filho made her reception speech. She won the "Camões" award in 1993, the more important literary prize of our language.
Translated by Thereza Christina Rocque da Motta