Brazil

The Head of the Saint

"A 2017 LA Times Book Prize Finalist

A quirky story of love, mischief, and forgiveness from Brazil’s foremost award-winning author for young readers, in her U.S. debut. 
 
Fourteen-year-old Samuel is newly orphaned and homeless in a small town in Brazil. He lives in a giant, hollow, concrete head of St. Anthony, the lingering evidence of the village’s inept and failed attempt to build a monolith over a decade ago. He didn’t know what it was when he crawled into it, seeking shelter during a storm, but since coming there, he hears beautiful singing, echoing like magic in the head twice a day. So he stays.

Miraculously, he can also hear the private prayers and longings of the villagers. Feeling mischievous, Samuel begins to help answer these prayers, hoping that if he does, their noise will quiet down and he can listen to the beautiful singing in peace. Ironically, his miracles gain him so many fans that he starts to worry he will never fulfill his own true longing and find the source of the singing. 
 
Filled with beautiful turns of phrase and wonderfully quirky characters, The Head of the Saint is a riotous story of faith and magic that won’t soon leave your thoughts."

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And Still the Earth

"Welcome to São Paulo, Brazil, in the not too distant future. Water is scarce, garbage clogs the city, movement is restricted, and the System—sinister, omnipotent, secret—rules its subjects' every moment and thought. Here, Souza (the name is as common in Portuguese as Smith is in English) is a kind of Brazilian Everyman, struggling to preserve his integrity and hope in the face of tyranny. 

In a strikingly Brazilian way, Mr. Brandao has written a cautionary anti-Utopian novel in the tradition of Yevgeny Zamyatin's We or George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. Virtually all the phenomena Mr. Brandao describes have some real-life counterparts in the Brazil ruled by the military from 1964 until 1985. Despite the very Brazilian flavor of Mr. Brandao's writing and concerns, though, And Still the Earth makes compelling reading for foreigners. The conditions he describes and the grim future he foresees for his city may also await Lagos, Calcutta, Shanghai and Mexico City. And Still the Earth stands with Loyola Brandão's Zero as one of the author's greatest, and darkest, achievements. Yet Mr. Brandao is an optimist. His title, after all, recalls Galileo's response to his inquisitors after they forced him to recant his proof that the earth revolves around the sun: 'E pur si muove' - 'and still it moves.' At novel's end, the human spirit cannot be destroyed or dominated."

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Captains of the Sands

'Amado is Brazil's most illustrious and venerable novelist.'—The New York Times

"A Brazilian Lord of the Flies, about a group of boys who live by their wits and daring in the slums of Bahia. They call themselves 'Captains of the Sands,' a gang of orphans and runaways who live by their wits and daring in the torrid slums and sleazy back alleys of Bahia. Led by fifteen-year-old 'Bullet,' the band—including a crafty liar named 'Legless,' the intellectual 'Professor,' and the sexually precocious 'Cat'—pulls off heists and escapades against the right and privileged of Brazil. But when a public outcry demands the capture of the 'little criminals,' the fate of these children becomes a poignant, intensely moving drama of love and freedom in a shackled land.

Captains of the Sands captures the rich culture, vivid emotions, and wild landscape of Bahia with penetrating authenticity and brilliantly displays the genius of Brazil’s most acclaimed author."

A special thank you to book club member, Kaman Maxwell for the suggestion.

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City of God

"The searing novel on which the internationally acclaimed hit film was based, City of God is a gritty, gorgeous tour de force from one of Brazil’s most notorious slums. Cidade de Deus: a place where the streets are awash with narcotics, where violence can erupt at any moment over drugs, money, and love—but also a place where the samba beat 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.

When City of God erupted on screens worldwide, it became one of the most critically and commercially successful foreign films of recent years. But few were aware of the story behind the film. Written by Paulo Lins, who grew up in the favela (shantytown) Cidade de Deus in Rio e Janeiro and who spent years researching its gang history, City of God began life as a coruscating, harrowing novelistic account of twenty years in the illicit pursuits of the youth gangs born from the favela. Now available in English for the first time, City of God is a raw, powerful portrait of the countless millions of poor people all over the world."

A special thank you to book club member, Caity Grieg for the suggestion.

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The Eternal Son

"In this multi-award-winning autobiographical novel [which has won every major Brazilian literary prize], Cristovão Tezza draws his readers into the mind of a young father whose son, Felipe, is born with Down syndrome. From the initial shock of diagnosis, and through his growing understanding of the world of hospitals and therapies, Tezza threads the story of his son’s life with his own.

Felipe, who lives in an eternal present, becomes a remarkable young man; for Tezza, however, the story is a settling of accounts with himself and his own limitations and, ultimately, a coming to terms with the sublime ironies and arbitrariness of life. He struggles with the phantom of shame, as if his son’s condition were an indication of his own worth, and yearns for a ‘normal’ world that is always out of reach.

Reading this compelling book is like stumbling through a trap door into the writer’s mind, where nothing is censored, and everything is constantly examined and reinterpreted. What emerges is a hard-won philosophy of everyday life.

It is extraordinary to encounter a common human drama — the birth of a disabled child — investigated profoundly by a father who happens to be a gifted writer. The Eternal Son is an honest and insightful story by one of Brazil’s foremost contemporary novelists, here beautifully translated by Alison Entrekin. It is world literature at its finest."

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With My Dog Eyes

"Hilda Hilst (1930–2004) was one of the greatest Brazilian writers of the twentieth century, but her books have languished untranslated, in part because of their formally radical nature. This translation of With My Dog-Eyes brings a crucial work from her oeuvre into English for the first time. 

With My Dog-Eyes is an account of an unraveling—of sanity, of language . . . After experiencing a vision of what he calls “a clear-cut unhoped-for,” college professor Amós Keres struggles to reconcile himself with his life as a father, a husband, and a member of the university with its “meetings, asskissers, pointless rivalries, gratuitous resentments, jealous talk, megalomanias.”

A stunning book by a master of the avant-garde."

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