Subscribe to Granta today

How To Read Brazil

|

On 5 July Granta announced the first ever list of twenty Best of Young Brazilian Novelists. The collection is currently available in Portuguese to be translated into English and published in November by Granta and in Spanish and Chinese by our international partners next year. Here we asked three Best of Young Brazilians – Daniel Galera, Vanessa Barbara and Chico Mattoso – for their own list of three essential books by Brazilian authors to find out which writers of past generations inspire them the most.

Daniel Galera

Many Brazilian authors played an important role in my life as a reader, and curiously two of them, João Gilberto Noll and Hilda Hilst, write in a prose style that is very lyrical, sensual and full of metaphysical weight, whereas my own style is more straightforward, realist or merely physical. I would mention A fúria do corpo by Noll and Fluxo-Floema by Hilst as two particularly intense works.

A fúria do corpo (The fury of the body), by João Gilberto Noll

In this novel an unnamed character moves aimlessly around a seedy Rio de Janeiro facing unusual and sometimes shocking situations. There’s almost no plot and the unifying element is the human body, which goes through a journey of pleasure and decay. Noll’s nameless, drifting kind of characters sometimes appear in my own writing. In other books he describes my home city Porto Alegre in a personal way that appeals to me.

Fluxo-Floema (Flux-Phloem), by Hilda Hilst

This was Hilda Hilst’s first book of prose after establishing herself as a poet. Her narrators see death, mystery and eroticism in the world’s simplest details and rant beautifully about it. The flow of her sentences never fails to impress me. The metaphysical probing and the rejection of plot in her work are more radical than Noll’s, but somehow she’s able to go on and on and keep the book gripping and readable. I never tried to imitate her – that would make no sense – but she inspired me to develop my own style to the limit.

Grande Sertão: Veredas (The Devil to Pay in the Backlands) by João Guimarães Rosa

Finally, I can’t help mentioning Grande Sertão: Veredas by João Guimarães Rosa. I was already twenty-two years old when I read it – already a self-published author – and the experience went way beyond my highest expectations. I´m not sure I can say anything really new about this which is considered by many the greatest Brazilian novel ever published. It´s a Faustian epic of awe-inspiring scope. In terms of language and mythical quality, it stands for the Brazilian inland of the ‘sertão’ as Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian for the American West. A difficult, weird, true and timeless novel.

All three books are written in one single, long section without breaks or paragraphs (in the case of ‘Fluxo-Floema’, each of the five ‘stories’ is a section of its own), which may or may not have to do with the effect they had on me as a reader. I really can’t tell. They didn’t directly influence my own writing style, but their fearlessness left a mark on me. They remind me to try to go all the way.

*

Vanessa Barbara

Memórias Póstumas de Brás Cubas (The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas), by Machado de Assis

This is a memoir written by a dead man with a good sense of humour and mediocre character, who may be dead but is still the narrator, so you have to respect him. After all, ‘frankness is the prime virtue of a dead man’. Considered a serious classic author in Brazil (you have to read him at school), Machado de Assis wasn’t as serious as it seemed. His novel is strangely amusing and has a subversive style, unusual chapters and a unique voice. It is dedicated ‘to the worm who first gnawed on the cold flesh of my corpse’ and is wonderfully written. I always laugh out loud in some passages, even knowing them by heart. He’s my favourite Brazilian writer, often compared to Lawrence Sterne, Kurt Vonnegut and Samuel Beckett.

Excerpt: For some time I debated over whether I should start these memoirs at the beginning or at the end, that is, whether I should put my birth or my death in first place.

Grande Sertão: Veredas (Great Backlands: Tracks), by Guimarães Rosa

If Machado de Assis is our Lawrence Sterne, then Guimarães Rosa is our James Joyce. Grande Sertão is a difficult novel, full of neologisms and a peculiar rhythm, situated in the remote and arid backlands of Brazil. The main character is Riobaldo, an urban middle class man who ends up as an outlaw, and his concealed love for Diadorim, another ‘jagunço’.

Excerpt: The hours were endless. The sun was pouring down on the back of our necks. The sun, the burning sun, under which I sweated; my hair was wet, and the inside of my clothing, and I had an itch in the middle of my back; parts of my body were numb. I kept on shooting.

A Lua Vem da Ásia (The Moon Comes from Asia), by Campos de Carvalho

This is a relatively unknown novel from a relatively unknown writer. A Lua Vem da Ásia is narrated by a man who thinks he’s in a concentration camp that he formerly thought was a luxury hotel. ‘I cannot tell whether it is in Europe or in Asia, or even in Polynesia.’ He seems obviously crazy and is actually locked in a mental institution, but there’s logic in his insanity. The prose is satirical, pessimist and yet profound. In a quick and eccentric style, he describes his pathetic attempts to make sense of his life, a random succession of absurd events. It’s a fragmentary shattered novel, constructed by a chaotic mind.

Excerpt: At sixteen I killed my Logic professor. Claiming self-defense – and what defense might be more legitimate? – I was found innocent by five votes against two and went to live under a bridge over the Seine, even though I was never in Paris. I let my beard grow full in my mind, bought a pair of glasses for short-sightedness and spent the nights stargazing, a cigarette between my fingers.

*

Chico Mattoso

Contos (Short stories), by Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis

Machado de Assis is best known for amazing novels such as Memórias Póstumas de Brás Cubas and Dom Casmurro, but few people outside Brazil are aware of the greatness of his short stories. He could easily be placed on a level with masters like Chekhov, Maupassant, or Hemingway. Machado had a great eye for detail and was a sharp and sophisticated observer of the human condition, and these qualities somehow seem to be refined in his short stories. They are funny and sombre, delicate and cruel; to read them is a constant delight. Machado is always giving me lessons on style, intelligence, subtlety and wit. His wild inventiveness knows no boundaries. I can’t recommend him enough.

Angústia (Anguish), by Graciliano Ramos

Angústia is one of those novels that not only moves or compels you, but can make you physically sick. Graciliano Ramos is a master of post-modern realism. Some critics have described this book (which was published in 1936) as ‘existentialist avant la lettre’. Graciliano brings us to the hell of subjectivity, to its most dreadful demons. Everything in this unsettling novel exudes pain and misery – but there is also space for moments of surprising lyricism. The book’s brilliant use of stream of consciousness amazes me every time I read it, and the last pages’ monologue is one of the most beautiful – and sad – pieces of fiction I have ever read. There are no wasted words in Graciliano’s books. All of his sentences are like daggers that stab you directly in the heart.

Três Mulheres de Três PPPês (Three Women of Three P’s), by Paulo Emilio Salles Gomes

I don’t think this book has had proper recognition in Brazil yet. To me it is one of the most brilliant works of Brazilian fiction in the second half of the twentieth century. Paulo Emilio was a film critic who started to write fiction in his late years. This book – his first novel – was written when he was in his 60s, and is a masterpiece. Its apparent simplicity hides a kaleidoscopic – and hilarious – investigation of São Paulo’s snobbish and vulgar upper class during the 1940s. The book is comprised of three novellas whose protagonists – all named Polydoro, hence the title – are men who suffer in the hands of powerful and manipulative women. Três Mulheres has an amazing freedom of style and yet it sounds miraculously composed. It’s the kind of book that makes you want to start writing immediately. ■

You can read the full list of Best of Young Brazilian Novelists here and an interview with the editor of Granta em português and one of the seven judges for the selection process, Marcelo Ferroni here.

Comments (29)

You need to create an account or log in to comment.

  1. Sinibaldi

    Tue Jul 10 16:13:35 BST 2012

    El pensar liviano.

    En el
    liviano y
    candoroso
    canto veo
    la tristeza
    pasar donde
    el viento
    entonces
    regresa.

    Francesco Sinibaldi

    #
  2. Charmin Patel

    Thu Jul 17 05:01:32 BST 2014

  3. gaurav8955

    Thu Jul 31 12:32:58 BST 2014

    I actually enjoyed reading it, you will be a great author

    http://www.watajoke.com/category/hindi-jokes/

    #
  4. assydanut

    Sat Jan 04 22:22:27 GMT 2014

    Thanks for your marvelous posting! I actually enjoyed reading it, you will be a great author. www.suma-bailesti.ro

    #
  5. khare

    Thu Jul 17 16:50:16 BST 2014

    <a href="http://ArizonaJumboLoans.com/contactUs.php">How to Find Us</a> Contact Us Link Page, that is it for my Site Here http://ArizonaJumboLoans.com/contactUs.php !

    #
  6. saderf

    Tue Oct 07 18:00:12 BST 2014

    I really like the dear information you offer in your articles. I’m able to bookmark your site and show the kids check out up here generally. Im fairly positive theyre likely to be informed a great deal of new stuff here than anyone else http://vasectomy-cost.tumblr.com/

    #
  7. galihadiputra

    Thu Oct 16 08:04:56 BST 2014

    ‘Lloyd? But whey di pickney is, eeh? Him is pure crosses. Di good Lord only know di trouble I seen.’ It was his mother’s voice. He stood and turned to meet her. ‘You waan get sick, pickney? Out here inna di pourin rain a nighttime?’ She stood under the brightly coloured umbrella someone had left on the bus. ‘Come. You grandfadda be aaright. You tink di sea can kill him?’ Lloyd walked towards his mother and the shelter of the umbrella and together, they walked through the dark streets of Kingston, the dirty rain water sweeping the streets, masking the smell of sewage, taking the garbage of the city into the sea. Lloyd heard his grandfather’s voice in his mind: I come from a line of fishermen.
    http://www.ionliga.com
    http://arenaliga.com/
    http://www.topseonow.com
    http://www.yurosie.web.id
    http://www.topseonow.com/855online-com-agen-bola-sbobet-ibcbet-casino-338a-tangkas-togel-online-indonesia-terpercaya/
    http://www.topseonow.com/rajamerah-com-situs-judi-poker-online-terbaik-terpercaya/
    http://www.topseonow.com/bolapelangi-com-agen-bola-sbobet-ibcbet-casino-338a-tangkas-togel-online-indonesia-terpercaya/
    http://www.topseonow.com/idrpoker-com-agen-texas-poker-online-indonesia-terpercaya/
    http://www.topseonow.com/daunpkr-com-agen-domino-online-indonesia-terbaik-terbesar-dan-terpercaya/
    http://www.topseonow.com/ingatpoker-com-agen-poker-online-terpercaya-dan-terbesar-di-indonesia/
    http://www.yurosie.web.id/855online-com-agen-bola-sbobet-ibcbet- #

  8. JOHN817726

    Sun Jul 20 21:03:21 BST 2014

    They went off the track and whistled the dogs in as they went over a field, the lambs prone and folded next to their mothers. Some of the smaller lambs wore blue polythene jackets against the rain and they looked odd in that first light and overprotected.
    http://www.liputan6.com

    #
  9. khare

    Fri Jun 13 08:13:31 BST 2014

    <a href="https://sites.google.com/site/dmaportland/">D.M.A. Portland, Oregon</a> Company Function: DMA Portland reviews effectiveness of marketing channels of a national vendor in the local Portland, OR metropolitan area. For more information on DMA Portland, please visit the website https://sites.google.com/site/dmaportland/ ...

    #
  10. khare

    Fri Jun 13 08:14:09 BST 2014

    <a href="http://strategiccampaignsinc.weebly.com/">marketing</a> Strategic Campaigns Inc (Kansas City, MO) reviews jobs, advancement opportunities, and future goals. Read Strategic Campaigns inc reviews and testimonials. Please click here http://strategiccampaignsinc.weebly.com/ ...

    #
  11. khare

    Fri Jun 13 08:15:01 BST 2014

    <a href="http://www.linkedin.com/company/veritas-inc-">Veritas Inc sales tips</a> Veritas Inc Reviews Success of Cheeseburgers for the Homeless. Veritas Inc (Atlanta, GA) is quickly becoming the authority in sales and marketing in the Southeast region of the United States. The company attributes a large part of their success. Please visit http://www.linkedin.com/company/veritas-inc- ...

    #
  12. fanta

    Mon Oct 06 10:52:52 BST 2014

    I really like the dear information you offer in your articles. I’m able to bookmark your site and show the kids check out up here generally. Im fairly positive theyre likely to be informed a great deal of new stuff here than anyone else http://new-life10.blogspot.com/

    #
  13. Galarz

    Sat Oct 11 14:59:40 BST 2014

    Auto Mobile Code
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DRPRY1dpACE

    Secret Millionaire Society
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FQEC9_t-f5o

    My Cash Bot
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ULaVkwy251w

    Auto Mobile Binary
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WbD2UuM64j4

    Newbie Launch Formula
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0jjnjQGm_o0

    223 Average People Made $1857 A Day for 90 Days With This Cash Bot! Can YOU? Watch This Video NOW! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ULaVkwy251w

    #
  14. BrettKilb3

    Wed Aug 13 06:06:26 BST 2014

    http://howtopleaseaman.org/ Hello There. I discovered your weblog using msn. That is an extremely http://lynxconcept.com/ well http://growingmushrooms.org/ written article. I’ll make sure to bookmark it and return to http://fantasticdecks.com/ learn extra of your helpful info. Thanks for the http://boatbuildingplans.org/ post. I’ll certainly return.

    #
  15. yumi

    Wed Aug 20 09:58:36 BST 2014

    I believe there are many more pleasurable opportunities ahead for individuals that looked at your site.
    http://khoedep360.com/
    http://www.lamdepkhoe.com/
    http://khoedep360.com/?s=b%E1%BB%87nh+x%C6%B0%C6%A1ng+kh%E1%BB%9Bp
    http://www.lamdepkhoe.com/search?q=b%E1%BB%87nh+x%C6%B0%C6%A1ng+kh%E1%BB%9Bp
    Bệnh xương khớp chiếm tỷ lệ cao về độ tuổi người già mắc phải. Bệnh xương khớp gây đau đớn, đặc biệt là vào giai đoạn thời tiết chuyển giao mùa. http://www.lamdepkhoe.com/2014/07/chua-tri-benh-xuong-khop.html

    #
  16. vcc murah

    Mon Sep 01 10:36:59 BST 2014

    jual vcc murah untuk verifikasi paypal http://vccmurah.net

    jual akun paypal terverifikasi http://vccmurah.net/category/jual-akun-paypal-terverifikasi/

    #
  17. 3

    Mon Oct 13 13:22:17 BST 2014

    I really like the dear information you offer in your articles. I’m able to bookmark your site and show the kids check out up here generally. Im fairly positive theyre likely to be informed a great deal of new stuff here than anyone else http://vasectomycost0.wordpress.com/

    #