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Granta 121: Best of Young Brazilian Novelists [Paperback]

John Freeman
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

8 Nov 2012
Since Granta's inaugural list of the Best of Young British Novelists in 1983 - featuring Salman Rushdie, Ian McEwan, Kazuo Ishiguro, Martin Amis and Julian Barnes - the Best of Young issues have been some of the magazine's most influential. In 2010, Granta looked beyond the English-speaking world with Best of Young Spanish-Language Novelists. Now, with its first-ever issue fully translated in partnership with Granta em Portugues, the magazine continues its work of celebrating emerging talent from around the world.

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Granta 121: Best of Young Brazilian Novelists + Granta 120: Medicine (Granta: The Magazine of New Writing) + Granta 122: Betrayal (Granta: The Magazine of New Writing)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Granta Publications Ltd (8 Nov 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1905881630
  • ISBN-13: 978-1905881635
  • Product Dimensions: 20.8 x 14.2 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 330,816 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

John Freeman has been editor of Granta since 2009. He is the author of The Tyranny of E-mail and former president of the National Book Critics Circle. His criticism has appeared in The New York Times, the Guardian and the Independent.


Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Eileen Shaw TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
There were two stories/excerpts that I particularly enjoyed - Lettuce Nights by Vanessa Barbara and The Count by Leandro Sarmatz. I wanted to read more of Lettuce Nights which describes the ménage of Ada and Otto in old age: "... and everything ended in a theatrical fight in which she screamed `Drop the knife!' while he squirted lavender water at her. A couple of lunatics, Otto concluded, thinking back on ping-pong afternoons with Ada - the dented balls, extreme paddle manoeuvres, Otto shouting that it didn't count because the ball had hit her finger..."

The Count, I believe, is the most adventurous being the story of a ham actor who played Dracula in a series of road-shows during and after WWII. Set in Germany, it concerns Flescher, whose main concern is to get back to his home city of Cernowitz, the city in Bucovina (The Ukraine) where he was born. In the chaos that was Europe after the war he played different roles, masquerading as a German in Germany and a Pole in Poland.

"In the distance he could now see the chimneys, the plumes of smoke reaching into the sky. He was anxious to reach the outskirts of the city. Who will have survived of his relatives and acquaintances to hear him intone a Kaddish in homage to those who departed?

That night in Cernowitz they were massacring anyone who spoke the German language."

One of the excerpts here is oddly calm, almost cold - Michel Laub sets out a numbered series of fragments from his life, mostly concerning the death of his dog, Champion.

Miguel Del Castillo's short story Violeta is set during the time of the military dictatorship in Uruguay. "Violeta was taken prisoner more than once because of her son's subversive activities, her head inside water barrels...
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By Philoctetes TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
There's quite a range of themes here but not that much about Brazil or Brazilianess.
I liked the story about a woman moving back to Rio, maybe one or two more, but this volume's a curiosity at best.

Gives you some names to look out for if Brazilian writing in translation does burgeon, which it probably will.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Rarely translated Brazilian fiction 19 Nov 2012
By Ripple TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
With a booming economy, the next World Cup and the next Olympics, we are going to hear a lot about Brazil in the next few years. Granta has taken the opportunity to highlight 20 young Brazilian writers. Sadly, Brazilian works seldom get translated into English so this is a rare and welcome insight to the creative youth of this vast and varied country. There isn't a single writer here whose work I wouldn't read more of if it were translated, although how much will get translated is probably still quite small, not least as the writing is good but not as notably different as say a Bolano. Repressive government often leads to creative writing and Brazil, while not perfect, has had a more stable democracy in recent years and for much of the lives of these writers. Partly that might reflect the large number of writers from the Southern city of Porto Alegre where outlooks are more similar to Western views.

There are few clear "themes" - although I was surprised at the focus on the past, mainly personal, with several looking at personal loss, childhood etc. It doesn't feel like a country looking to the future as much as you might expect.

The most memorable story for me was Tatiana Salem Levy's Rio love story; you can almost feel the humidity in the writing. This contrasts nicely with the more serious issue based piece by JP Cuenca that tells a very different Rio life and the social challenges the city faces. These two are relatively unusual in that they are specifically about Brazil as well as being by Brazilians, and perhaps more interesting for that.

Much Spanish language South American fiction that is translated tends to be slightly bizarre. This probably reflects titles selected for translation as much as the work itself.
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars There is more to `new writing' than fiction 2 Dec 2012
Format:Paperback
Granta's obsession with 'young [insert nationality] novelists' continues unabated.

Brazil is a fascinating country. I would like to learn more about the place. Granta 121 is a missed opportunity.

From the brief author biographies included with each piece in this edition of 'the magazine of new writing', it is clear that most of them also write non-fiction. So why the need to restrict yet another precious edition of Granta to young novelists? To add insult to injury, many of the pieces are extracts from forthcoming novels. Like I'm going to read one chapter of a novel! I skipped most of these.

In terms of the fiction, a number of the short stories included in this collection are pretty good, but there is more to 'new writing' than fiction. Granta seems to have forgotten this.

To add further insult to injury, I see from an advertisement included in the magazine that the theme of Granta 123 is to be 'Best of Young British Novelists 4'.

Granta used to be a fantastic, eclectic mix of fact and fiction. It isn't any more. I think it might be time to cancel my subscription.
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good stories, abusive editing (3.5 stars) 4 Oct 2013
By A. J. Sutter - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is a good assortment of stories, but the versions presented here are quite different from the originals. Concurrently with this issue, Granta's Brazilian affiliate published its issue 9, « O melhores jovens escritores brasileiros ». Each issue contains 20 stories by as many authors; 14 of them appear in both languages, while in the cases of 6 authors, a different story is presented in English and in Portuguese. On its own, each edition is a better than average anthology, maybe around 4.5 stars. It's when I compared the two that I felt at least another star must come off.

As far as the substance of the stories goes, I enjoyed about two-thirds of them, and admired a couple more, even though I wasn't always so keen on the most common themes or moods in the collection. Stories about difficult relations with parents or about events in the past outnumber more romantic stories, for example, and rather serious stories far outnumber more light-hearted or suspenseful ones. No stories focus on working life, and there isn't much that is anchored in Brazilian history or society specifically, other than two stories about Rio, a loving meditation on the city by Tatiana Salem Levy and an entertaining rant by J.P. Cuenca. Those two stories, the politically-themed story by Julián F. [sorry: Amazon's robots misread his name as an obscenity], and an entertaining tale of suburban consumerism by A. Prata were probably my favorites in the English edition. I also enjoyed some stories about contemporary urban life by A. Xerxenesky and C. Bensimon. Xerxenesky is one of the six authors with different stories in the two issues, the others being L. Sarmatz, L. Geisler, R. Luisas, C. Mattoso, and C. Saavedra. Some of these contributions were better in one language or the other, or equally good in both, or equally annoying -- so it would be tough for me to say that either the English or the Portuguese version has a better selection. One tip, though: Salem Levy's very lyrical story ends the Brazilian volume, and I would recommend reading it last in English, too. The story that closes the English volume, "Apnoea," by Daniel Galera is quite strong, but in a much darker mood.

It may matter to some readers, though, to know that the stories in the English-language edition have been very puzzlingly, or even disturbingly, edited. Important descriptive phrases or even whole sentences or paragraphs have been elided in almost every story. In some cases (e.g., stories by Julián F., J. Arancibia Contreras and M. Del Castillo) these changes occur in the *final sentence* of the story, effectively shifting the meaning of the whole work. (On the other hand, a phrase has been added to the end of E. Fraia's story as if to make its point more obvious, but this intervention is relatively harmless.)

I don't want to spoil the plots of the stories for those will read them only in English, so I'll cite just a couple of mild examples. In the Portuguese version of Fraia's "A Temporary Stay," the tennis-playing protagonist is referred to by only a personal pronoun throughout; in the English-language version he is given a name, Nilo. The final sentence of the Portuguese version of Del Castillo's "Violeta" brings some nice closure; in the English version, the entire sentence is dropped, making the story much flatter. C. Aguiar's "Teresa" is divided into numbered sections in the original, making its parable-like structure easier to understand; these are eliminated in English.

Salem Levy's story is also told in short episodes, and the original's divisions between these have not been strictly observed, which results in changing the meaning of some passages. And while the ending of that story wasn't tampered with, there are many other important changes to the text. An entire section of 100 words has been dropped. The story is addressed to the narrator's lover, abandoned in some Northern Hemisphere (European?) city when the narrator decided to return to Rio, but many deletions erase the narrator's affect toward that character. E.g., whenever the narrator address the lover with the phrase "meu amor" ("my love"), this is not reflected in the English. Important sentences and adverbial phrases in the second section of the story, describing the lover's reaction to the news of the narrator's departure, have also been suppressed. And the English title of the story, "Blazing Sun" continues in this vein: the original name was "O Rio sua" -- "Your Rio", addressed to the lover. Changing this not only furthers the erasure of the lover but ignores an important meaning of the story: as the narrator says near the end, "I think that I don't need you in order to have you with me, after all." The new title is a bad choice for a simpler reason, as well: the narrator repeatedly emphasizes the *humidity* of the city, not its sunlight.

The sample above is a tiny fraction of the changes like this that I found -- and there could easily be others. I can't rule out that some were proposed by the authors themselves, but it seems unlikely that so many authors felt that their stories in Portuguese needed so much improvement, and always by cutting (the exception being Fraia's story, where material was added in a couple of places). It also is hard to believe that so many different translators would drop such important chunks of so many stories through carelessness. In any case, it should have been up to the editors to have caught such errors (and simpler ones: even with my so-so Portuguese I was able to find the occasional howler, such as when the Portuguese for "hour" was translated as "day," @171). My suspicion is rather that it was the editors who instigated these ubiquitous random and disfiguring cuts. Fortunately, even when those cuts are serious, they aren't mortal wounds: you can still enjoy this collection despite them, especially if in blissful ignorance of what's missing.
4.0 out of 5 stars Solid Collection 17 July 2014
By Patrick Mc Coy - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Granta 121: The Best Of Young Brazilian Novelists edited by John Freeman was first published in autumn of 2012 and I thought it might offer a nice introduction to modern Brazilian society. That is if that is at all possible, since it is, as Jorge Amado said “not a country, but a continent,” huge, diverse in race and social standing. Like all collections there will be hits and misses for me as a reader, but there were quite a few stories that made the grade in my opinion. The book is organized by age, so the eldest writers come first, but I have to say that my favorite story in the whole collection was the last story, “Apnoea,” by 35 year old Daniel Galera. It was a story about fathers and sons and living and dying. There were several references to Jorge Luis Borges classic short story “The South,” which prompted me to find it and read it on the internet, all in all a powerful and engaging story. For example, there’s Ricardo Lisias’ compelling story of a Brazilian chess champion’s crack up involving his suspect friendship with a Bolivian President. In “Animals” by Michael Lamb, he remembers his father and growing up with his father’s wisdom and pet dog. “Lettuce Nights” by Vanessa Barbara is story about a man trying to get on in life after the death of his long-time wife. There were several coming of age stories that I felt were heartfelt and resonated well, one of them was “A Temporary Stay” by Emilio Frian about a Brazilian tennis player unsure about his future in London. Another was, “Valdir Peres, Juanito and Polseki” about a status war among 10 year olds and their toys and possessions. “”Tomorrow, Upon Awakening” by Antonio Xexenesky was also a coming of age story about a teenage boy getting away with his younger girlfriend as he is trying to find himself and what it all means. “Rat Fever” by Javier Arancibia is an unusual story about an injured translator’s conflict with a giant coke-sniffing rat in his country house. “Sparks” written by 32 year old Carol Benismon was entertaining and was contemporary in away that was startling for some reason with references to Doc Martens, iPods, and indie music. Overall, I felt the collection was pretty solid, there were few stories that failed to interest me at all. I look forward to reading more of some of these authors in English in the future.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rarely translated Brazilian fiction 19 Nov 2012
By Ripple - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
With a booming economy, the next World Cup and the next Olympics, we are going to hear a lot about Brazil in the next few years. Granta has taken the opportunity to highlight 20 young Brazilian writers. Sadly, Brazilian works seldom get translated into English so this is a rare and welcome insight to the creative youth of this vast and varied country. There isn't a single writer here whose work I wouldn't read more of if it were translated, although how much will get translated is probably still quite small, not least as the writing is good but not as notably different as say a Bolano. Repressive government often leads to creative writing and Brazil, while not perfect, has had a more stable democracy in recent years and for much of the lives of these writers. Partly that might reflect the large number of writers from the Southern city of Porto Alegre where outlooks are more similar to Western views.

There are few clear "themes" - although I was surprised at the focus on the past, mainly personal, with several looking at personal loss, childhood etc. It doesn't feel like a country looking to the future as much as you might expect.

The most memorable story for me was Tatiana Salem Levy's Rio love story; you can almost feel the humidity in the writing. This contrasts nicely with the more serious issue based piece by JP Cuenca that tells a very different Rio life and the social challenges the city faces. These two are relatively unusual in that they are specifically about Brazil as well as being by Brazilians, and perhaps more interesting for that.

Much Spanish language South American fiction that is translated tends to be slightly bizarre. This probably reflects titles selected for translation as much as the work itself. But for those looking for the Portuguese equivalent, there are some suitably strange tales on offer from Ricardo Lisias and Javier Arancibia Contreras for example. Vinicius Jatoba's Still Life is also a highly original and sad piece.

In a collection of short stories there are usually one or two that don't gel with the reader. For me, there were none of those here. I'd happily read any of these writers in translation but there isn't what I'd call a distinctive voice that might compel publishers to commission translations. I hope I'm wrong.
5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars White wash 20 Mar 2013
By Alessandra Santos - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It is commendable that Granta publishes the work of new writers from developing countries. For that reason alone, their selection of young Brazilian writers is probably worthwhile to read. Nevertheless, this short stories collection is embarrassing in terms of representation. In a country like Brazil where most people are of African descent (Brazil is the second largest African country in the world after Nigeria, according to Henry Louis Gates), Granta did not include one single black writer from Brazil in this anthology. They should be ashamed. Almost all contributors are of European descent, with the exception of one who has middle eastern ancestry. Granta's intentions are great, but the result is middle-class, elite, white writers as usual.
This volume is yet another testament to the attempt to portray the developing world as "civilized." Enjoy the reading anyway, even though it does not reflect Brazil's reality at all.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No reason not to get this one 14 Feb 2013
By scarter - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
If you liked the "Best of the Young Spanish Novelists," then you really have to get this volume as well.
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