Brazilian Writers in Honor of the 2016 Olympics

Brazil is a huge and magnificent country. Many don’t even realize that it is about the same size as the continental United States. After declaring their independence from Portugal in 1822, they began their meteoric economic rise. Brazil was colonized by the Portuguese who used African slave labor for 350 years. Since the end of slavery in 1888 the blend of Native, African, and European culture has yielded many talented writers, amongst a variety of other excellent achievements.

Machado de Assis (1839-1908)

Assis was an incredibly bright writer who was self-taught in French, English, German, and Greek. Machado was one of the first writers to incorporate a mixed-race couple in Brazilian literature. His book Epitaph of a Small Winner paired a black construction worker with a Portuguese washwoman. Woody Allen himself called Machado “witty, insightful, brilliant, and…modern.” The use of the word modern by Allen is significant because the book was written in 1881, which takes place almost 100 years before the “modernism” movement began.

Hilda Hilst (1930 – 2004)

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Regarded in Brazil as a wildly engaging writer, Hilda Hilst is known for her ability to mix between human intimacy, insanity, and the supernatural. She is known for being highly experimental often incorporating themes found in acting, poetry, and literature. The best way to start reading Hilst is one of her later works With My Dog Eyes.

Moacyr Scliar (1937-2011)

Scliar is credited with illuminating Jewish culture in Brazil. He grew up in Porto Alegre which was mostly populated by German Jews. One of his most famous books is about a boy who is stranded on a ship while escaping Nazi capture. His “companion” on the ship was a jaguar. This story has an very similar plotline to The Life of Pi and a series of plagiarism accusations were made after it won a Pulitzer.

Jorge Amado (1912 – 2001)

Probably the most prolific Brazilian writer is Jorge Amado. Before he was 19 years old, he had already published six Bahia novels, and he did not slow down. Over the course of seven decades he created over 5,000 fictional characters. His most famous book Captains of the Sands “would have made Henry Fielding or Charles Dickens proud,” according to Colm Tóibín who wrote the 2013 Penguin Classics introduction.

Paulo Coelho (1947-)

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His book The Alchemist is probably the most widely read book from a Brazilian author in North America. Coehlo captured the hearts of millions with his dynamic tale of a boy trying to find his way through Egypt. The book has a sense of biblical type fables that come together to communicate an important life lesson.

 Adriana Lisboa (1970-)

Breaking from tradition, Lisboa writes about cultures that are not Brazilian or Portuguese. Her focus is on interactions with other cultures and traveling to different countries. The Guardian wrote that Lisboa bridges the “gap between the vitality of Brazilian literature and its presence in the world.” She recently won Best of Young Brazilian Novelists for her 2013 book Crow Blue.

Clarice Lispector (1929-1977)


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Her in-depth use of geographical landscapes as her literary foundation is reminiscent of the style used by James Joyce. Lispector used a style of writing called interior monologue which set her apart from many other authors in her time. This style allowed her to write deeply personal and emotional books which catapulted her into literary success.

Rodrigo de Souza Leão’s (-2008)

Rodrigo de Souza Leão is one of Brazil’s more psychedelic writers. His most famous novel All Dogs Are Blue takes the reader through the mind of a schizophrenic narrator who is slowly losing his sense of reality. This book is an autobiography, so his hallucinations and insights have a sense of realism to them that is rare to find in fictional literature.



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