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The Brazilians [Paperback]

5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

16 Aug 1996
A country warmly hospitable and surprisingly violent, physically beautiful, yet appallingly poor--these are the contrasts Joseph Page explores in The Brazilians, a monumental book on one of the most colorful and paradoxical places on earth.Once one of the strongest market economies in the world, Brazil now struggles to emerge from a deep economic and social crisis, the latest and deepest nose-dive in a giddy roller-coaster ride that Brazilians have experienced over the past three decades. Page examines Brazil in the context of this current crisis and the events leading up to it. In so doing, he reveals the unique character of the Brazilian people and how this national character has brought the country to where it is today--teetering on the verge of joining the First World, or plunging into unprecedented environmental calamity and social upheaval. Not since Luigi Barzini's The Italians has a society been so deeply and accurately portrayed.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: DaCapo Press (16 Aug 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0201441918
  • ISBN-13: 978-0201441918
  • Product Dimensions: 22.9 x 15.2 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 795,897 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

About the Author

Joseph A. Page, a professor of law at the Georgetown University Law Center, is the author of Peron, which was translated into Spanish and became a South American bestseller. He also wrote The Revolution That Never Was and Bitter Wages.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best for genuine insights 18 July 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I found this book illuminating. It's written by a foreigner who really knows and loves Brazil; whilst pulling no punches on it's huge problems.

Each chapter handles a different topic - from religion and television (the cult of the telenovela) to the haves and have nots, violence and Lula as a political phenomenon (shame it's a little out of date on this). There are also chapters on the different ethnic groups.

Information is peppered with personal experience and is never trivial, narcissistic or superficial (unlike the Malathronas book).
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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  30 reviews
45 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A superb portrait of contemporary Brazil 12 Jun 2001
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Joseph Page's "The Brazilians" is a very enjoyable portrait of modern-day Brazil, quite possibly the best book on the country in English. Anyone traveling to Brazil for business or pleasure should read it. The book's jacket describes Page as a law professor at Georgetown, and with a lawyer's thoroughness and balance, Page explores the characteristics that make Brazil special -- the warmth, spontaneity and sensuality of the people, their unique blend of African, European and indigenous heritage, the music, soccer, Carnival, telenovelas -- without overlooking the country's often overwhelming problems, such as crushing poverty, environmental degradation, a boom-and-bust economy, violence and corruption.
Although Page presents a comprehensive view of Brazil, he unfortunately neglects two topics that should be part of any portrait of the country. The first is its much-maligned capital, Brasília, which gets hardly a mention in this book. Brasília's founding in the late 1950's, its rapid growth and its decline into a moth-eaten, sun-baked museum of outmoded architectural ideas could have filled an entire chapter. For an engaging and upbeat view of Brasília -- more positive than anything I've ever heard from the Brazilians themselves, all of whom seem to loathe their capital -- check out Alex Shoumatoff's "The Capital of Hope."
Page also doesn't say much about Brazilian food and drink, which is too bad, because from the moquecas of Pernambuco to the huge steaks of the South to the fish of the Amazon, Brazilian cuisine is a delight. A cup of Brazil's strong coffee accompanied by pão de queijo, a kind of popover laced with cheese, makes a breakfast fit for an emperor. Brazilian beer is just right for a hot afternoon, its wines are underrated, and the caipirinha -- a refreshing concoction of cachaça (a spirit distilled from sugarcane), crushed limes and sugar -- is surely one of the best cocktails in the Western world. Brazilian food and drink deserve wider recognition outside Brazil, but they don't seem to get any here.
These minor complaints aside, Page has written a superb book. If you read only one book on Brazil, read this one.
48 of 50 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Informative, but an outsider's partial understanding 3 May 2007
By Victor A. Vyssotsky - Published on Amazon.com
I've lived in Brazil, and read many books about various aspects of Brazil's people, economy, history, government, military and culture. This book contains a lot of information that I hadn't known, and that I find fascinating. So it's well worth reading.

But it's a foreigner's view; Page has visited many times, knows many Brazilians, and is married to a Brazilian. Even so, I found many of his comments and views unrecognizable to me; perhaps one must live in the country and work there, in the local economy, paid in Brazilian currency and working with ordinary Brazilians, to absorb various subtleties of life in Brazil and of interaction among ordinary Brazilians, that Page omits, or may even be unaware of. For example, his account of economic activity in Brazil makes it clear that connections are vital for business success and that many of the most successful firms in Brazil are family firms. But what he doesn't say, surprisingly in view of the fact that he's a professor of law in the US, is that Brazilian commercial law is so different from commercial law in the US that it is very hard, and takes a very long time, to get a commercial dispute settled through the Brazilian legal system. So, as a practical fact, any sensible business owner in Brazil depends on family connections and close friends to straighten out and resolve problems involving contracts.

Page also plays down the size and vitality of Brazil's middle class. This seems to be because of his own political views, but it seriously misrepresents the way Brazil actually functions. A good example of the true Brazil of today is the aircraft company EMBRAER, which I recently saw referred to as "the Boeing of regional jets"; indeed, right now in the US I keep seeing EMBRAER turboprops and EMBRAER regional jets in use all over the US by a lot of airlines. EMBRAER started out as a Brazilian government initiative, but became truly successful after it was privatized. I knew a number of the engineers and technicians who helped to found EMBRAER and make it successful, and they were neither members of the elite nor from impoverished backgrounds. A very few came from rich families and a very few came from impoverished backgrounds, but the large majority were from families of professionals or families that owned small businesses. What they had in common was extremely high intelligence, a good education, and determination to make EMBRAER succeed in the commercial market, which it has. Most of them got their primary, secondary and university education in the public educational system, which is much better, at least in the Southeast, than Page gives it credit for. People I have since encountered, from similar backgrounds, are at the heart of the steady effort in Brazil to master nuclear technology.

US government treatment of Brazil and the government of Brazil has often been shabby, to put it kindly. Everyone I knew in Brazil welcomed Americans, including me, provided we identified with Brazilian views on international relations, rather than with US government views. I don't know how many times, but it was many, while I lived there, that the local CIA station chief visited me so that I could tell him what lay behind some grievance that had Brazilians badmouthing the US government; he lived in an American compound, drove an American automobile, and was regarded with deep suspicion by almost all the ordinary Brazilians he met.

As for the destruction of rainforest and the awful treatment of the few remaining clans of wild native Americans, it is no worse, and in most ways less destructive, than the way in which the European settlers of North America treated indigenous people and despoiled the environment. Many Brazilians, possibly most of them, resent being lectured by people from the US and Europe about how Brazilians should conduct themselves in the Amazon basin, in the Pantanal, in the remaining fragments of the original coastal forest, in the extensive grasslands of Goias and in the part of the Northeast that is subject to frequent drought. Almost all the Brazilians I knew when I lived there were as aware as people in the US and Europe of the ecological and social problems involved in opening up the backlands. But what would you have had them do? Turn 3/4 of Brazil into a wilderness preserve? impossible. I think Brazil has done quite well to preserve its ecology and the culture of its remaining native Americans as well as it has, and, what's more, Brazilians are still learning in these topics, just as we are, and the record is improving steadily.

In summary, Prof. Page's portrayal of Brazil is analogous to what I would expect to find in a book by Jacques Chirac purporting to explain the United States to French readers; there are a lot of good facts here, but a conceptual disconnect.
31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding, for the Academic or the Hedonist 14 Dec 1999
By J. Wright - Published on Amazon.com
This book is marvelous. It offers plenty of keen insight into Brazil, and helps explains why Brazil is such an enthralling country. Page has the learned discipline of an academic, but covers interesting and serious topics in a style that is easily understood and digested. All English speakers will enjoy reading this book before they journey to Brazil, and you'll be able to appreciate and understand Brazil much better after reading this book. Furthermore, this book has no serious competition. There isn't another book that can so concisely give you a better understanding of modern day Brazil.
56 of 63 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cry , beloved Brazil? 22 Feb 2000
By Carlos R. Lugo-Ortiz - Published on Amazon.com
Brazil has certainly captured the imagination of most people around the world mainly because of its biological diversity, the carnival in Rio, and its soccer superstars. In fact, people tend to glamorize the country and its people, thinking of the sensuality and docility of Brazilians, the nice rhythyms of 'bossa nova' and 'samba', and the colorful tropical setting. There is, however, a strong, violent undercurrent in Brazilian culture, and Page's book exposes all the sources and manifestations of these in a clear way. There is violence against nature (as the despoiling of the Amazon forest and the sad case of Cubatao show); there is violence against homeless children in the streets; there is violence against women in order to 'save the honor'; there is violence against the poor in the 'favelas', mostly by neglect and drug trafficking... One wonders, by the end of the book, how Brazilians have been able to strive thus far and how they'll be able to cope with the serious challenges posed by overpopulation and poverty, among other things.
Page does a good job at trying to explain what is Brazilian by delving into the history of the country. The colonial past certainly branded the country, with its strong slavery component (slavery was abolished only in 1888 in Brazil) and almost medieval social stratification of masters and slaves or, later, peons. Page contends that many of the attitudes and dynamics generated by these have perdured, in one way or another, to this day, even in big cities. Also, Page emphasizes the influence of the many immigrant groups (Portuguese, Japanese, Italians, and Germans)and religions (Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, and 'candomble' and 'umbanda') in marking the country. It is, indeed, so rich a tapestry of influences, that one sometimes feels somewhat lost in trying to grasp what is truly Brazilian.
I highly recommend this book to anybody interested in this fascinating country. Page is sometimes condescending in his exposition, but he is always interesting and provides good food for thought and discussion.
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Married to a Brazilian 5 Dec 2001
By J. Gardner - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
My wife and I met in Seminary. She is from Brazil and we plan on moving there when I graduate. I have been to Brazil several times over the past few years and have fallen in love with their culture. But until I read this book, I did not know much of the history of South America's largest country. Page's book is an easy read, entertaining, and very factual. I found my self turning to my wife on a regular basis to discuss what I had just read. He was always right on! If you are planning a mission, vacation, or know a bunch of Brazilians, you have got to read this book. Call it Brazilian History 101. A great intro into Brazil's culture and history
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