From A Crime is Afoot:
Fonseca was born 11 May 1925 in Juiz de Fora, in the state of Minas Gerais, but he lived most of his life in Rio de Janeiro. In 1952, he started his career as a low-level cop and, later became a police commissioner, one of the highest ranks in the civil police of Brazil. Following the steps of American novelist Thomas Pynchon, a close friend of Fonseca, he refused to give interviews and felt strongly about maintaining his privacy.His stories are dark and gritty, filled with violence and sexual content, and usually set in an urban environment. He claimed a writer should have the courage to show what most people are afraid to say. Authors from the rising generation of Brazilian writers, such as Patrícia Melo or Luiz Ruffato, have stated that Fonseca’s writing has influenced their work.
He started his career by writing short stories, considered by some critics as his strongest literary creations. His first popular novel was A Grande Arte (High Art), but Agosto is usually considered his best work. In 2003, he won the Camões Prize, considered to be the most important award in the Portuguese language. In 2012 he became the first recipient of Chile’s Manuel Rojas Ibero-American Narrative Award. He died in Rio de Janeiro in 15 April 2020 at the age of 94 just 26 days before his 95th birthday.
Throughout his professional career, Fonseca had a close relationship to cinema, as several of his short stories and novels where adapted to film and to television, and also working as a screenwriter. His first screenplay was for the 1971 film Lúcia McCartney, Uma Garota de Programa directed by David Neves and based on Fonseca’s 1967 short stories “Lúcia McCartney” and “O caso de F.A." The film starred Adriana Prieto in the leading role as a prostitute obsessed with the Beatles.
In 1974 he wrote the screenplay for the film Relatório de Um Homem Casado directed by Flávio Tambellini and based on his short story “Relatório de Carlos." The film tells the story of a married lawyer who gets romantically involved with one of his clients. Yet the relationship turns into an obsession, and the female lover realizing she'll never manage to separate him from his wife, decides to run away with another man.
A year later Fonseca worked on the screenplay of A Extorsão, also directed by Tambellini. The crime thriller follows a couple as they get blackmailed in a compromising situation, but as they refuse to play the game, their daughter gets kidnapped.
After a long hiatus, Fonseca returned to cinema writing the screenplay of Stelinha in 1990. Starring Estér Góes and directed by Miguel Faria Jr. the drama tells the story of a young rock singer who meets his childhood heroine, a famous singer who is now wallowing in alcohol and sex. The film was the winner of the Best Screenplay Award at the Gramado Film Festival, along with other numerous awards including for Best Film Best Director and Best Actress.
In 1991, filmmaker Walter Salles (Central Station. The Motorcycle Diaries) made his directorial debut with Fonseca’s acclaimed novel High Art, adapted to the big screen by the writer himself and Matthew Chapman. Released in the U.S. by Miramax Films as Exposure, the film starred American actor Peter Coyote, with Tchéky Karyo, Amanda Pays, Raul Cortez, Giulia Gam and Paulo José, among others. Set in Rio de Janeiro, the thriller follows an American photographer that becomes involved in the world of "knife culture" when he sets out to find the killer of one of his models. Janet Maslin her New York Times review of the film described it as “moody” and “ambitious.”
His novel Agosto, about the suicide of President Getúlio Vargas, was produced as a miniseries by the Globo network in 1993, and directed by Jorge Furtado, Giba Assis Brasil, Paulo José, Denise Saraceni and José Henrique Fonseca, son of the writer.