Rarely translated Brazilian fiction,
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This review is from: Granta 121: Best of Young Brazilian Novelists (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 clear distinctive voice that might compel publishers to commission translations. I hope I'm wrong.