Contemporary Brazil, Captured in Two Novels and a Journalist’s Collection
By Sheila Glaser
Jan. 24, 2020
Leia a resenha completa AQUI
THE COLLECTOR OF LEFTOVER SOULS
Fieldnotes on Brazil’s Everyday Insurrections
By Eliane Brum
Translated by Diane Grosklaus Whitty
222 pp. Graywolf. Paper, $16.
“Whenever I visit an English-speaking country, I notice Brazil doesn’t exist for most of you,” writes Brum, one of her country’s most prominent journalists. In “The Collector of Leftover Souls,” she offers something of a corrective. The articles gathered here, all previously published in Brazilian newspapers or magazines, explore the lives of everyday people: a father burying his premature son in a cemetery of shallow paupers’ graves, gold prospectors trying their luck in the jungle, women saving up for their sons’ coffins in a favela, knowing the boys won’t make it much past 20. Brum’s bent is for deeply immersive stories of the dispossessed in which she dispenses almost entirely with the conventions of objective journalism. “Sometimes people ask me: Do you get involved with your sources?” Brum writes in her introduction. “Of course I do. We don’t enter someone else’s life with impunity.”
This kind of identification of author and subject has its risks. It can tip into folksiness (as in “Old Folks Home,” which compiles stories of residents in a state-run retirement complex) or fail to suspend our disbelief (as in “Forest of Midwives,” an unmediated account of the animist practices of Amazonian “baby catchers”). Whitty’s translation, though careful, can exacerbate this sense of dissonance; she sometimes strains to find plausible English equivalents for colloquialisms, creating jarring shifts in register. But at its best, Brum’s approach produces something truly remarkable. Stories like “João Asks Raimunda to Die With Him in Sacrifice” have the emotional precision and tragic sweep of fiction. The tale of a family expelled from a Xingu River community by a hydroelectric project, it cannot help resonating in the age of the hard-right populist President Jair Bolsonaro.
Sheila Glaser is a story editor at The Times Magazine.
A version of this article appears in print on Jan. 26, 2020, Page 22 of the Sunday Book Review with the headline: The Shortlist: Literary Brazil.