I love recommending Brazilian literature. In my litfic circles I tend to read loads and loads of American and British books, and not nearly enough Brazilian ones, so from time to time I like to write these posts dedicated to highlighting the books from my homeland. I usually will have a post talking about the books that make it to my end-of-the-year lists – like this one: The Best Books I Read in 2021 – Part 1: Brazilian Books – but today I wanted to talk about every single book I read this year because my taste in literature is so specific that I thought it’s worth talking about books I didn’t like as well, because for sure they’ll appeal to some readers.
I’ll be doing it chronologically just because it’s nice to look back and see what interested me in January and how that’s different from what interested me now in December. Also! A lot of these aren’t available in translation but I wanted to talk about them to my English-speaking audience as well – I’ll let you know for each title when there are translations available.
De silêncios e demoras by Cristiano de Sales
This was the year that I read the most Brazilian poetry, and I really enjoyed it. This one is an indie published collection from a poet living in Curitiba and I thought this was very good. I find it super hard to talk about poetry but – this was good. If you’re looking for something a bit off the beaten path, this is a nice option. Not available in translation.
Coração subterrâneo by Olga Savary
More poetry! I loved that this one was a collection which felt very of the North of Brazil, where I come from. Olga Savary has already passed away, and this is a selection of her best poems and… this was very good and transported me right to Belém. Not available in translation.
Descobri Que Estava Morto by João Paulo Cuenca
This was my first Brazilian novel of the year and, whew, it was not very good! I am quite sorry to say that because I was looking very much forward to it – it’s about a man who finds out someone who was impersonating him died, and so he is legally dead. This is more of a rant about the corruption of Rio de Janeiro’s rich, but it was just so… confusing, pointless and sexist. Not available in translation.
Revolta e protesto na poesia brasileira by Andre Seffrin
This is a collection of poems about revolution and protest from Brazilian authors spanning centuries, and it was such an interesting read! It also included a short biography for each poet. It’s not available in translation.
A Samba for Sherlock by Jô Soares
I read this one in English (original title is O xangô de Baker Street), so it’s definitely available in translation but it’s rather old so maybe it’s not so easy to get a copy. This is a Sherlock Homes story taking place in the late 1800s Brazil involving a series of murders that seem eerily similar to Jack the Ripper’s. My husband and I didn’t enjoy it, but the rest of the book club quite enjoyed it, so it’s really dependent on your sense of humor, I think! It’s also available in German, Spanish, French, Dutch, Russian, Polish… as far as I know.
Dom Casmurro by Machado de Assis
Oh this was GOOD. It’s probably the most quintessential Brazilian book ever, if only because we are all forced to read it in High School. It tells the story of Bentinho as he grows up in his privileged household and falls in love with Capitu, his neighbor who belongs to a lower social position. This made for enough conversation with my husband for days and days. It’s available in English with the same name.
Quarto de Despejo by Carolina Maria de Jesus
Another incredible read, Quarto de Despejo is the real diary of Carolina de Jesus, who describes her life in a favela in São Paulo in the 1960s. I loved her clear, dispassionate and sometimes poetic writing, and her way of describing people and their real, imperfect personalities. This is available in English as Child of the Dark.
Torto Arado by Itamar Vieira Junior
This was a GORGEOUS read. It tells the story of two sisters who have an accident and one of them loses their tongue, so the other learns to communicate with her and for her. It’s a very interesting story with a social tone, full of family secrets and drama and putting the Black people in conditions akin to slavery to the front and telling their stories. It’s vivid, emotional, beautiful. Highly recommend, an easy 5 stars. This will be available in English this year as Crooked Plow (and it available in German as Die Stimme meiner Schwester).
Nothing Can Hurt You Now by Simone Campos
This I also read in English (original title is Nada vai acontecer com você), and it comes out in February 2023 in English! Yay! This is a mystery/thriller about a young woman who disappears, and her sister believes she’s been kidnapped. The police won’t do anything about it, so she joins forces with a mysterious woman who claims to be her sister’s girlfriend and while trying to find her, she uncovers secrets, faces her own prejudices and must confront her past. It was a slow start (and a male-gazey one) and I wasn’t sure about this for about half, but then BAM the story picked up pace and it just never stopped and by the end I was breathless. This was very good! And very dark. Like, very dark. A lot of the topics are also not dealt with or analyzed a whole lot, but rather just presented to the reader (which is part of why I felt it was male gaze-y) and this could have been a lot more of a character study but it works best, as I see it, as a gritty story about women in a violent man-dominated world. I have a review in case you’re interested.
Mulher com Brânquias by Patrícia Baikal
I really like Latin American horror/weird/magical fiction, and I love finding new authors to fawn over. Unfortunately this isn’t one of them for me. The story is about a woman who starts seeing a giant fish anywhere she goes, and no one else can see it, but she’s convinced that she is slowly transforming into a fish and that it’s not all in her imagination. I love the concept, but didn’t love the execution – it was just so dry and predictable, I felt like I’d already read this way before reaching the end. I read this in audio, which was not great either. It’s not even that it was bad, it’s just that it was okay! A lot of people seem to enjoy it, so maybe it was just me. Not available in translation.
Olhos d’água by Conceição Evaristo
Oh, what a wonder of a book. Olhos D’Água is a collection of stories about Black characters living in poverty, putting in the forefront all the stories that are not getting told. Brutal, incredible, packing a punch, I don’t think there was a single story that was just “meh”, they are all so incredibly vivid and I loved them. Not available in English translation (yet!! Please someone translate this) but it’s available in French as Ses yeux d’eau.
3 thoughts on “Every Brazilian Book I Read in 2022 – The Best, the Worst, and the Just Okay [English Version]”
Very varied & interesting reads! I’m looking forward to reading Torto Arado next year!
Oh these sound so good! And I’ll be keeping my eye open for when the others are available in English (I’ve only got one reading language unfortunately)
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