July 14, 2021
As a child in Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro, Letícia Tórgo took refuge in books while her airline employee parents were absent. As an adult, she inherited their curiosity to explore the world, and the author, playwright, and translator chose Québec as her new home, carrying her passion for language and writing in her luggage.
“During my childhood, when my mother was home, we would often go to the library, and she would tell me to pick out whatever I liked,” Letícia says in a phone interview. “Together we would always come away with five books.” She was so taken with words that when she was barely eight, she had already written and illustrated her first book for fun. In 2014, when she came to Montréal with her husband, that book, which she is attached too, was tucked in her luggage.
The arts network
Upon arriving in Québec, Letícia didn’t waste a minute integrating to the cultural milieu. “Many jobs in the arts are subsidized by Emploi Québec, so I didn’t have access to them with my work visa […] I started volunteering to establish my network of contacts and to meet people,” she says. She also kept a few artistic projects going in Brazil.
Thanks to her volunteer experience for events, including the Festival TransAmériques (FTA) and for companies such as Productions Hôtel-Motel, the artist developed her professional environment and refined her French.
A driver of inspiration
Because in addition to learning the language of Molière, Letícia is particularly interested in languages themselves, their limitations, and how they are understood. Before arriving in Québec, she wrote O príncipe dos porquês, a young adult story about the different meanings of the word “why” in Portuguese. “In Brazil, there are five ways to say “why” […] Portuguese has complex language issues too,” she explains.
Now able to write in Portuguese, English, and French, Letícia says lets her ideas guide her. “The ideas come in the language they choose. It’s like they decide […] I just write.”
Talking about her mother in another language
Among her many projects, Letícia recently completed a book, Je parle de toi dans une autre langue, which addresses the difficulty of expressing yourself in another language.
“At the same time, it talks about my mother being so far away,” she says. “She gave me my mother tongue as a legacy, and the title of the book reflects my remote relationship with her and my relationship with languages.”
This passion for reading that she shared with her mother as a young girl is still at the heart of their relationship. On her brief trips to Brazil, Letícia goes through the bookshelf at home, where she discovers in some books highlighted passages and annotations by her mother that are just for her. Even by text message, the two lovers of literature send each other passages from books they think the other will find interesting. “We are in opposite seasons, but we connect through books,” the author says.
A CALQ grant recipient for another of her recent projects, to write a play called Quand la mort ne vient pas, Letícia feels increasingly confident with the language and says the grant was confirmation that she is on the right path. “It always comes as a surprise that I can write and have the money to do what I want to complete the project,” she says.
Thanks to the grant, the author was able to have her book copyedited and took part in a mentorship with Diversité Artistique Montréal, which supports immigrant artists in their career development. The play, which she is now letting “settle,” looks at death from the perspective of a woman who, after a cancer diagnosis at the age she saw her mother die, has to learn to accept living after having been convinced she would die.
Production manager and assistant stage manager for the play MargueriteThis link will open in a new window by Émilie Monnet (Productions Onishka This link will open in a new window), astrologist, a translator of writings, including those of Laurence Dauphinais, Maxime Carbonneau, Pascal Brullemans and Olivier Sylvestre, Letícia is comfortable juggling different roles. “I like to fly in life. Many authors work in different artistic disciplines to make money and write when they have time, but for me, it’s different,” she says.
She recently moved to the Eastern Townships, and she is pursuing independent studies on First Nations. Above all, she sustains the desire to plunge into every adventure available to her, letting the writing come to her, “like a force.”
You have received a CALQ grant and would like to share your experience or a testimonial? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.