Category: Brazil Page 2 of 3

Lygia Fagundes Telles: As Meninas (The Girl in the Photograph)

The latest addition to my website is Lygia Fagundes TellesAs Meninas (The Girl in the Photograph). This novel was set in the late 1960s and published in 1973, during the period of the military dictatorship in Brazil. It tells the story of three young women – Ana Clara, Lorena and Lião – who are studying at university and living in a hostel together, run by (fairly liberated) Catholic nuns. We follow the stories of the three women (not one as the title implies)and their relationships. Lorena comes from a rich family but she is the only one of the three who is still a virgin as she is obsessed with a married, much older doctor who does not seem to reciprocate her feelings. Ana Clara comes from a poor background but has been successful as a model but is now in a harmful relationship with a drug dealer, though engaged to an unattractive rich man. Lião is the revolutionary, her boyfriend is in jail and she is concerned that her group are all talk and no action. The three get on well but very much struggle with their lives which do not seem to improve much during the course of the book.

Helena Parente Cunha: Mulher no Espelho (Woman Between Mirrors)

The latest addition to my website is Helena Parente Cunha‘s Mulher no Espelho (Woman Between Mirrors). This is a feminist, modernist novel. The author and the main character are seemingly two sides of the same coin, with the character, who pushes against the author, but does not push against the patriarchal society in which she has been brought up. We see her both as a child and young woman, bullied by her father and expected to conform to his rigid rules and later as a wife and mother, dominated by her overweight, drunk, unfaithful, bullying husband and even by her wayward sons. Meanwhile there is continued antagonism between the author and character, with each woman defending her approach to life and the patriarchal society. Only towards the end, when her husband and sons have gone off, does the character finally break out…somewhat.

Heloneida Studart: Selo das despedidas (later: Sem dizer adeus) [Seal of Farewell]

The latest addition to my website is Heloneida Studart‘s Selo das despedidas (later: Sem dizer adeus) [Seal of Farewell]. This is a grim feminist novel, which starts with the suicide of a woman, Maria das Graças Nogueira de Alencar, from a distinguished family. She leaves her eight notebooks to her niece, Mariana and we follow the content of the notebooks during the course of the book, as well as following the stories of Mariana, Leonor, her younger sister, and Mimi, their mother and sister of Maria das Graças. The three women have all had miserable marriages, boring in the case of Mariana, who is a lawyer but much worse for the other two. We also learn that Mariana and Maria das Graças were both, in family tradition, intended to remain old maids so that they could look after their mother in her old age. Both rebelled. All the women in the book have a miserable time, from being sent to a convent or even thrown out on the street for those who had dared to have pre-marital sex to controlling and often brutal marriages or, in the case of Maria das Graças, being denied any love. Studart does not mince her words, though she herself was married with six sons and and an adopted daughter, saying, for example there is no hate that can compare to that between a husband and his wife.

Bernardo Carvalho: Mongólia [Mongolia]

The latest addition to my website is Bernardo Carvalho‘s Mongólia [Mongolia]. A young Brazilian, son of an important CEO, goes missing in Mongolia and a diplomat, working temporarily in the Brazilian Embassy in Beijing, is sent off to find him, though he is seemingly reluctant to do so. He eventually gets some idea why the missing son had disappeared, involving Buddhist goddesses, a diary in Tibetan and a young Buddhist nun who is raped by an abbot but later helps him to flee Mongolia when Stalin closes down the monasteries and murders the monks in 1937. Our diplomat (none of the Brazilian characters are named) has to hire a guide and heads off to the remote parts of Mongolia looking for the missing son, with a host of problems involving weather, insects and unreliable informants but beautiful landscape, all made more complicated by the diplomat’s impatience and impetuosity. It is a superb book, wonderfully told, with a completely unexpected twist. Sadly it is available in French, German and Italian but not English.

João Ubaldo Ribeiro: Sargento Getúlio (Sergeant Getúlio)

The latest addition to my website is João Ubaldo Ribeiro‘s Sargento Getúlio (Sergeant Getúlio). Sergeant Getúlio is a tough and brutal sergeant in the military militia who has to take a prisoner from the backlands to Paulo Afonso, Bahia. However, there are a lot of people who do not want him to succeed but the sergeant is a very determined and ferocious man. The story is told in a monologue by the sergeant who is proud of the many violent and brutal acts he has committed, including torturing his current prisoner, killing his pregnant girlfriend when she cheated on him and killing at least twenty people (he has, as he says, lost count, as with the number of women he has had). We may admire him for his courage and determination – nothing and nobody will stand in his way – while despising him for his cruelty and violence, albeit in a very cruel and violent part of the country.

Mário de Andrade: Macunaíma (Macunaíma)

The latest addition to my website is Mário de Andrade‘s Macunaíma (Macunaíma). When it first appeared, this was quite a revolutionary book, in that it was unlike other Brazilian novels of the time. We follow the story of Macunaíma, who is a trickster, a mythical person, who can perform magic but who is always up to no good, particularly where the opposite sex is concerned. We follow his birth and early years (he has sex with his sister-in-law when he is six years old by changing into a handsome prince), his accidental but foretold killing of his mother and his journey, with his brothers, to São Paulo, where they encounter a man-eating giant, whom he kills twice and who kills him twice. Both survive their deaths. We meet talking animals, people turned into stars, the Sun and her three daughters, and a host of other magical creatures, people and events, all written in a colourful language and all focussing entirely on Brazil and things Brazilian. It is great fun, very original and entirely unpredictable.

Adriana Lisboa: Azul-corvo (Crow Blue)

The latest addition to my website is Adriana Lisboa‘s Azul-corvo (Crow Blue). Our heroine is Evangelina, known as Vanja, a thirteen year old, born in the US but who has spent most of her life in Brazil with her Brazilian mother, Suzana. Like most of the women in the family, Suzana dies young and Vanja is left with Elisa, her mother’s foster-sister. She tracks down Fernando, her mother’s ex-husband and her legal (but not biological) father, in the United States. She contacts Fernando, a former Brazilian guerrilla, and he takes her in. With his help and the help of Carlos, the son of illegal Salvadorean immigrants, she endeavours to track down her biological father, who may not even know of her existence. The issue of who our real parents are, of the issues surrounding immigration, both legality and cultural aspects as well as the guerrilla war in Brazil are all key to this excellent novel.

Erico Veríssímo: Caminhos cruzados (Crossroads)

The latest addition to my website is Erico Veríssímo‘s Caminhos cruzados (Crossroads). This tells the stories of a host of characters who live on or have connections with a street in Porto Alegre, where Veríssímo lived. It is a thoroughly miserable tale. Most of the characters, rich or poor, married or single, young or old, are unhappy with their lot. A woman is unhappy about their financial problems. Her husband wins a large sum on the lottery and she is even more unhappy, worried about thieves, beggars and pedlars and worried that they are still living beyond their means. Married men are unfaithful, with lovers or going to prostitutes. Most of the children do not get on with their parents and vice versa. Some are genuinely poor, with one married man having lost his job, spending his time reading novels instead of looking for another job while his wife and son have little to eat. There is no redemption, no happy ending as their lives seem to get worse over the course of the book.

Graça Aranha: Canaã (Canaan)

The latest addition to my website is Graça Aranha‘s Canaã (Canaan). We initially follow two German immigrants to Brazil who are looking to buy a plot and grow coffee. The two, however, are very different. Milkau is eager to enjoy the New World and keen on nature, while Lentz still very much feels that European civilisation is superior and has the right to exploit what he considers a primitive country and people. Despite their differences, they remain friends and business partners. Later in the book, however, we meet Mary, daughter of German immigrants but born in Brazil. Her father dies before she is born and her mother works as a servant. Mary also becomes a servant in the family, when her mother dies. However, when she becomes pregnant by the grandson of the patriarch and the patriarch, her protector, dies she is thrown out. Things go from bad to worse for her, despite Milkau’s help. At the same time, we also see the Brazilian legal system in action, a totally corrupt system, of which Mary is one of the victims. This is a Brazilian classic, as much for the important themes it deals with as with the quality of the writing,

Nélida Piñon: A república dos sonhos (The Republic of Dreams)

The latest addition to my website is Nélida Piño‘s A república dos sonhos (The Republic of Dreams). This is a long and complicated family saga, which jumps around chronologically – we start off with the family matriarch, Eulália, dying but she takes six hundred pages to do so. Madruga is an ambitious young man in Galicia, Spain some time after the First World War. As the region is poor, many Galicians emigrate to Brazil, with some succeeding but many returning as failures. Madruga manages to raise the money, aged thirteen, and heads off to Brazil, where he will make his fortune. He returns to Galicia to marry a Galician woman, and they have six children, one who dies as a baby and another who is killed in a car crash as an adult. Much of the book is about the dysfunctionality within the family but also about their dreams and the stories, particularly those Madruga learns from his grandfather, which will continue to influence him throughout his life. It is a superb and complex tale, one of several first-class novels written by women of that era in Brazil.

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