The first of Brazilian author Verissimo's novels to be translated into English, The Club of Angels is a finely plotted and carefully detailed study of ten deaths, the deaths of ten gourmands following their favorite meals. The men have been friends for more than twenty years, meeting once a month for sumptuous feasts together. They represent all levels of society and have achieved differing degrees of professional success, enjoying and respecting each other because of their shared love of food and their long friendship.
When Ramos, their leader, dies of AIDS, a mysterious successor, Lucidio, suddenly appears and begins to plan and prepare their feasts. One by one, month after month, the club members die, but no one suggests canceling the meals, each of which features the favorite main course of one of the members. In fact, Verissimo suggests that the dramatically increased when he knows that his death is the end result of the meal. It is, in fact, the victim who always asks for the one extra portion of the meal, even after it becomes obvious to the club members that the person taking the extra portion will die.
Verissimo explores the phenomenon of death philosophically--"We grow up with our murderer," he says, and "We never [know] when he [will] kill us." But, he believes, "knowing the hour and manner of our death [is] like being presented with a plot, with a denouement, with all the advantages that detective fiction has over life." Knowing when and how one will die is the ultimate privilege, he believes. An ironically named "Mr. Spector" features prominently in the ending, by which time only Daniel, the narrator/chronicler of the events, and Lucidio remain alive.
Playing with the reader's perceptions from the outset, Verissimo writes with tongue firmly in cheek, the ironies piling up as the deaths continue. His observations about life and death, about men and their friendships, and about our responsibilities, if any, to each other add depth to this clever novel. The ending, which extends the concept of "orgiastic release" to its logical conclusion, will satisfy even the most jaded reader. Strange, thoughtful, and darkly humorous, this novel is a fine introduction to a writer whose next novel, Borges and the Eternal Orangutans, contains broader humor within a more imaginative structure. Mary Whipple
on 15 April 2002
The book is about a group of friends who share the love for good food. After they hire a chef to cook for them on their monthly meetings, one of the members dies after having a second helping of the dish. And the same ritual appears to happen to one of them every meeting.
The predictability of the series of deaths does not have a negative effect on the story at all. Moreover, it's the very object of this funny narrative about how the fear of dying adds spice to our lives. The author's prose is involving. You'll flip through the pages as if you were enjoying your favourite dish...
on 8 March 2014
Compact novella about a group of 10 once promising Brazilian men and their dining club. For more than 20 years they have met in their homes once per month to indulge in food and drink. After the death of founder Ramos, who memorably declared a dozen years earlier that the club had at that moment reached its zenith, not every member is keen to continue... A stranger named Lucídio offers to prepare the opening dinner of season 22 in the apartment of narrator Daniël. He offers wonderful appetizers, a phenomenal main course (club member Abel's favorite) and a tongue melting desert. There is just one potion left of the main dish. Anyone for seconds? Of course Abel is the first to raise his hand...
By next morning Abel is dead.
And this repeats itself every month in Daniël's strangely decorated apartment. Whoever consumes the left-over portion of his favorite dish, dies soon after.
Daniël's account provides detailed accounts of the club members and their intricate histories, likes and dislikes. His best portrayal is of himself: accident-prone, fat, 3 times married, cannot keep his mouth shut, wearing woolen socks and sandals and creator of a fictional pair of lesbian Siamese twins. Remarkable man, Daniël. Plenty of quotations (?) from Shakespeare's tragedy "King Lear" and biblical lore because in Catholic Brazil the club is committing the deadly sin of gluttony.
Full of ideas and surprises and recommended reading for foodies, students of Shakespeare and canonic law and fans attending the football World Cup in Brazil, esp. if your team plays in Porto Alegre.
This would make a good TV-movie. A club of gourmands is rescued from imminent decay by the chance encounter of one member, Daniel, the narrator, with a brilliant and enigmatic chef, Lucidio. The latter is employed as the group's chef because his food is to die for. Literally.
Verissimo's humorous novels are commendably short and his prose is easy to get on with, thanks to the translator. This one is (again) about the wasted life of a scribbler, the nature of desire, of insatiability, and how much one is in control of one's fate. Would you die for an ideal?