The title of this book makes reference to "Chega de saudade", a revolutionary song written by Tom Jobim, that was recorded for the first time in 1958. Ruy Castro shows us how the Bossa Nova started ("A história" = the story), but he also introduces the reader to the lives of the musicians who "made" the Bossa Nova ("as histórias" = the stories), for example Joao Gilberto,Tom Jobim, Vinicius de Moraes and Sylvia Telles, among others...
When we read "Chega de saudade" we are told Bossa Nova's story as if it were a tale: we get to know important facts about that movement, but also entertaining gossip regarding the people who were part of it. Reading this book is quite easy, and you will find that the author makes you smile from time to time with his ironic commentaries. Due to the fact that this is the original version in Portuguese, you won't miss the subtle nuances of meaning that sometimes are lost in the English translation, and you will be able to take delight in several wordplays that Ruy Castro makes throughout the book.
On the whole, I highly recommend "Chega de saudade". I give it 5 stars, because I think it is a perfect example of an entertaining but useful book regarding the history of an important movement in Brazilian music. I particularly love this book because I think that it adds a "human dimension" to Bossa Nova. I like to enjoy the songs, but also to know about the lives of those who wrote them, and what inspired the creators regarding each particular song...
Of course, this book by itself is not enough: you will need to learn more, and listen to the songs "Chega de saudade" talks about. But where can you find a book that exhausts a subject?. I haven't been that lucky yet, so I will gladly settle for one that allows me to start studying the subject, and that makes me more interested in it :)
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If you look for a comprehensive account of almost all the musicians involved in Bossa Nova including what they earned for what, if you want to know which of Miucha's recipes Joao was crazy about (couscous with fish) or who ironed Joao's pants minutes before he went onstage at the famous bossa nova concert in Carnegie Hall, N.Y. 1962 (Brazilian Vice Consul Dona Dora Vasconcellos - admittedly an absolutely hilarious story), if you can be amused by Brazilian musicians forever coming late to appointments, or drinking themselves into hospital frequently (Vinicius, Baden Powell, Maysa ...) - this is your book. If you care to know who dated who among all those wonderful Brazilian musicians of the 60s or who was the Girl from Ipanema (Heloisa Eneida Menezes Paes Pinto, age 18 in 1962) - this book is a must for you. If you share Ruy Castro's contempt for politically engaged music (however naïve) in times of military dictatorship or if you believe that Tropicalismo, which was started by Gilberto Gil, Tom Ze, Caetano Veloso among others after the air went out of Bossa Nova in 1967, was "a ye ye ye renovation movement" - you'll absolutely love it. But if you care for the music - if you want to know how musicians worked and felt, what ideals they looked up to and which traditions they respected - forget it and go look for something else. Faute de mieux (because it deals mainly with the post Bossa Nova period) you might look into Caetano Veloso's own book "Tropical Truth": much more intelligent, much more respectful (especially towards people like Roberto Carlos or Nara Leao), insightful and although pretty intellectual much more heartfelt and humane than Ruy Castro's comprehensive compendium of Bossa Nova gossip. (Out of disappointment I might make it look worse than it really is: there are amusing and interesting parts. At least you get to learn some about all those fantastic poets and singers and composers, especially Joao Gilberto. But on the whole a huge let down.)
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