“The World is an imprisoned place”

Interviewing Joaquim Costa, Lecturer and CECS researcher, author of “Delirium Literarium”, his latest novel

Joaquim Costa is a Lecturer in the Sociology Department of the University of Minho and a researcher at CECS, thus integrating the Cultural Studies research group. Costa has recently published “Delirium Literarium”, by Chiado Editora. This is a novel based on an alter ego, according to a Madeira-born character called Ramiro, also serving as a Lecturer. Ramiro felt that his university was no longer a good place to work, so he got fired, which he saw it as a real joy. Stepping out the active world, he focuses on his dream: writing. 24 hours a day, surrounded by books, reading D. Quixote and other classic authors. Ramiro started his journey in literature by acknowledging the great contributions of Maria Gabriela Llansol, Raul Brandão, Céline, Bernardo Soares, Vargas Llosa, Nabokov, Daniel Faria, Cesário Verde. As such, Ramiro gets involved in several funny situations, posed by the author as a very accurate critic to society and to certain social standards.


Question: Why did you published this book? 

Joaquim Costa: Well, I could consider answering that with two facts. The first one is the “death of the author”. Forget about him, his motivations, psychology. This is my favourite one. The other one is the autobiographical standard of the book. Ramiro is obviously my alter ego. His academic life is similar to the one I had. If I was an accountant, Ramiro would be integrated in the business world. As an academic, I had to put him in the university world. Ramiro escaped of this world, but had to return to it and got traumatized. I got somehow motivated in that 29th of July 2009. I was considering a publication about the great authors. As George Steiner pointed out, there are a great deal of readers that read a lot and also the ones whom read few books. They tend to feel guilty about the chances they miss to read more and more.

In that end of July, I was reading Quixote and got this idea of creating Ramiro, a person that had been reading a lot. As he got insane after all that reading, he also was saved by the books, in the end. So, I have written this book during three summer vacations. My university has decided that. It was worthy, but I was exhausted in the end.


Is this world a prison, as you say in the book? Daniel Filipe has a poem “Motherland, a place of exile”.

Yes, it is. We can use a lot of words to describe it. This feeling tells us that we are living in a strange place, as if we were living in a home that does not belong to us. Who knows if we return to the old peaceful times? Ramiro does not want to live in the university, where chaos and conflicts are constantly being held. He looks around and there are exhausted people, obsessed to measure every single working items, thus leading them to the consumption of drugs, anxiety states, insomnia, etc. But there are solutions for that: resignation, silence. This reminded me of Pierre Bourdieu and his word of misery, filled with people that struggle to live. This is the university and life outside it.

The novel is a based upon the personal drama of Ramiro Ataíde. The narrative of the book tends to get closer to the reader as it unfolds.

After some time, Ramiro decides to follow his kindness, apart from his resentment. He sees all that people as ridiculous. I am not as that exactly, I am not that sarcastic. Literature has this amazing feature, to make fun of some of the most dramatic events of life. I used Bulgakov’s episode to describe the curricula storm that go every day to the universities. In that book, the devil decides to pour money in Moscow, as there were serious concerns with the prices in that time.

Who is Ramiro Ataíde, then?

It is me, without any judgment call. Although I would appreciate of being accused of something just to see what kind of things I have been missing.

Is there any other books to be published?

No. I don’t want to put milestones in this area. We have enough “milestones” in the university, the one which is only concerned with its Excellence status.




Interview & photos: Vítor de Sousa
Translation: Fábio Ribeiro