(Click the following if you missed last’s week’s 5 Must-Read Jamaican Authors post.)
For this week’s edition of Read Your World, we will be traveling from Jamaica to Brazil, a country with a long and colorful history and an exciting literary scene. Brazil is interesting because it’s one of the more ethnically diverse countries in South America, and this diversity is reflected in its literature.
Currently, the country is suffering from a serious economic recession, is mired in corruption scandals and anti-government protests, so traveling to Brazil may not be ideal. But if you still find yourself planning a trip there this year, be sure to read the proper travel books and keep up with current events, but most importantly read the proper literature.
P.S. – Paulo Cuelho was left out of this list deliberately. He is famous enough already and certainly isn’t the only author worth your time and interest.
Jorge Amado – Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands
Amado’s work is known for reflecting the cultural melting pot and Mestizo/Mestiço aspect of of Brazil. He died in 2001 but remains one of the better known writers of modernist Brazilian literature even today.
It surprises no one that the charming but wayward Vadinho dos Guimaraes–a gambler notorious for never winning—dies during Carnival. His long suffering widow Dona Flor devotes herself to her cooking school and her friends, who urge her to remarry. She is soon drawn to a kind pharmacist who is everything Vadinho was not, and is altogether happy to marry him. But after her wedding she finds herself dreaming about her first husband’s amorous attentions; and one evening Vadinho himself appears by her bed, as lusty as ever, to claim his marital rights.
Adriana Lisboa – Crow Blue
Lisboa is the youngest author on this list and a definitely a talent we should all keep our eyes on. She’s a vegan (awesome!) and currently lives in Colorado. Crow Blue is Lisboa’s most recently translated novel.
I was thirteen. Being thirteen is like being in the middle of nowhere. Which was accentuated by the fact that I was in the middle of nowhere. In a house that wasn’t mine. in a city that wasn’t mine, in a country that wasn’t mine, with a one-man family that, in spite of the intersections and intentions (all very good), wasn’t mine.
When her mother dies, thirteen-year-old Vanja is left with no family and no sense of who she is, where she belongs, and what she should do. Determined to find her biological father to fill the void that has so suddenly appeared in her life, Vanja decides to leave Rio de Janeiro to live in Colorado with her stepfather, a former guerrilla notorious for his violent past. From there she goes in search of her biological father, tracing her mother’s footsteps and gradually discovering the truth about herself.
Rendered in lyrical and passionate prose, Crow Blue is a literary road trip through Brazil and America, and through dark decades of family and political history.
Bernardo Carvalho – Nine Nights
Carvalho is an acclaimed author whose novels have been shortlisted for the São Paolo Prize for Literature 3 times in the last 8 years.
This powerful, award-winning Brazilian novel is reminiscent of Naipaul, Faulkner and Conrad in its exploration of human behaviour on the edges of civilization.
In August 1939, a twenty-seven-year old American ethnologist, brilliant and from a solid background, mysteriously commits suicide in Brazil while studying among the tribes of the Amazonian basin. He leaves behind him seven letters, alleging different motives for his suicide: to some, he said he had contracted a terrible disease; to others, he said that he could not recover from his wife’s betrayal with his own brother (but he wasn’t married, and he didn’t have a brother).
In the present, the narrator becomes obsessed with the search for an eighth letter he is convinced must have existed.
As the reader observes, his search slowly drives him mad — a Marlowe haunted by the fate of his own Kurtz. This is truly a remarkable novel.
Paulo Lins – City of God
City of God is a semi-autobiographical work of fiction set in Rio de Janeiro where Lins grew up. It is also the only book of his to be published so far. In 2002, the novel was adapted into the critically film of the same name.
The searing novel on which the internationally acclaimed hit film was based, City of God is a gritty, gorgeous tour de force from the Brazilian street. Cicade de Deus, the City of God, is one of Rio’s most notorious slums. Yet it is also a place where samba rocks till dawn, where the women are the most beautiful on earth, and where one young man wants to escape his background and become a photographer.
City of God is a sprawling, magnificently told epic about gang life in Rio’sfavelas, based on years of research and Pualo Lins’s firsthand experience growing up in Cicade de Deus. A book that gives voice to the dispossessed of multiethnic Brazil, City of God will earn Paulo Lins more well-deserved international acclaim.
Hilda Hilst – The Obscene Madame D
Hilst had a long writing career of almost 50 years and won many Brazilian literary prizes. She is known for exploring controversial topics such as queer sexuality and obscenity, among other things.
The Obscene Madame D is the first work by acclaimed Brazilian author Hilda Hilst to be published in English. Radically irreverent and formally impious, this novel portrays an unyielding radical intelligence, a sixty-year-old woman who decides to live in the recess under the stairs. In her diminutive space, Madame D—for dereliction—relives the perplexity of her recently deceased lover who cannot comprehend her rejection of common sense, sex, and a simple life, in favor of metaphysical speculations that he supposes to be delusional and vain.