Brazil | Marta’s story deserves to be told, but who deserves to tell it?

Marta, through a spokesman, tells Terra that she is unaware of the letter in which she authorized Graciano’s research. Farah, similarly, dismisses any agreement. He tells the Terra writer that a biography would be inappropriate given Marta’s age and that “she has at least 10 more years in her career. Imagine how many chapters more this book could have.” Raising the concern that may be closer to the heart of the matter, he adds that “it’s her right to earn profits in any business opportunity that arises. Why forfeit them?” If Graciano pushes for publication, Farah threatens legal action. It is unclear if the limited self-publication program constitutes a problem for Farah.

Sadly, following the heady early days of intimacy and disclosures, direct contact between Graciano and Marta has all but ceased. Castro, author of the Garrincha biography that was tied up in courts for 11 years, tells Terra that he would not risk a biography of a living person. In fact, he says he would wait 10 years after the subject had died to avoid “idealization or distortion” (Bruno Ceccon, “Ruy Castro desaconselha biografia de ‘vivos’ ”). “[Marta] has the big problem of being alive,” Castro says. “For this reason, my subjects were Nelson Rodrigues, Garrincha and Carmen Miranda—all dead. And, even then, I had problems.”

Graciano has received support from Bebeto and Jorginho, founders of the grassroots football group Instituto Bola Pra Frente, and Minister of Sports Orlando Silva. One must empathize with Graciano, who has produced a heartfelt work with resonance for Brazilian women and unheralded women athletes around the world. Given the profusion of “authorized” footballer biographies and ghostwritten confessionals—consider the £5 million advance paid in 2006 to Wayne Rooney, who was 20 at the time, for a five-book deal—we think that Graciano’s work represents a refreshing iteration, peppered not with trivia or tales of self-indulgence but testimonials to passion and transformation. Marta, with her talent and resistance to gender typing, has moved beyond mere celebrity to become a Brazilian cultural resource like educator Paulo Freire or musician Caetano Veloso. Her story deserves to be told now, not when she is gone.

In the United States, Graciano could claim First Amendment protection in a regime that, according to the Publishing Law Center, permits unauthorized biographies “providing that the biography is accurate and does not invade the subject’s right of privacy, misappropriate his/her right of publicity, infringe copyright protected material of the subject, engage in unfair competition or violate a breach of confidence with the subject” (Lloyd L. Rich, “Publication of an Unauthorized Biography,” 2002). In Marta’s case, the real issue is probably financial. As the Publishing Law Center article states, authorized biographies customarily attract less interest if another biography already exists.

Legislators in Brazil have been moved to revise laws that have helped erect such barriers to the free flow of information. Antônio Palocci, a member of the Chamber of Deputies from São Paulo, suggests a new paragraph in federal statutes that would allow “free dissemination of biographical information about public persons or about those who have participated in activities of communal interest.” Attorney Deborah Sztajnberg, who represented Carlos biographer Paulo Cesar, has assisted in drafting the new language. “At present,” she says, “nobody else is going to write anything else about Brazil, much less biographies.” She still battles to return the Carlos book to shops.

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