100 Books You Must Read to Understand Brazil. Or Not.

Dom Casmurro by Machado de Assis

Dom Casmurro by Machado de AssisBravo! Magazine has compiled a list with one-hundred essential books in Portuguese. Similar lists such as Harold Bloom’s also brings complications, but theoretically should be welcomed for it fosters discussion and study. How can a list with Brazilian authors exclude Adelino Magalhães, Affonso Romano de Sant’Anna, Carlos Nejar, Nélida Piñon and Salim Miguel and instead include Augusto de Campos, Haroldo de Campos, Fernando Gabeira and Visconde de Taunay amongst the one-hundred works most representative of Brazilian literature?

I am not questioning the authors mentioned but the method. In fact, I am a fan of Visconde de Taunay’s documentary work, important character in the romance “Avante Soldado: Para trás.”

A handful of times, the unqualified press critiques literary works. If one needs to list the one-hundred most influential works, then choose twenty authors and five of their pieces and consider it done.

These authors should include: Alberto da Costa e Silva, Ivan Junqueira, Lima Barreto, Geraldo Ferraz, Benito Barreto, Otávio de Faria, Esdras do Nascimento, Mário Chamie, Josué Guimarães, Luiz Antonio de Assis Brasil, Moacyr Scliar e Raimundo Carrero – all of whom were left out of the Bravo!’s list.

Some of the list’s strengths are including Father Antonio Vieira who came to Brazil from Portugal when he was six years old and Ukraine-born Clarice Lispector who migrated when she was seven.

It’s worth noting the authors whom I suppose must have been used as bibliographic references. In the last forty years, not one of them has written a piece that has added to our literature. It’s as if, during the Paraguayan War, a similar list were compiled exclusively with authors from the 18th century.

Pity the literature which depends on a book such as “O Que é Isso Companheiro?” by Fernando Gabeira, documentary born out of political praxis urgency, which by no means should replace an established work. 

If the criteria leads to works other than romance, short stories and narratives such as juvenile literature (another omission), then we must remember Gylberto Freyre, Carlos Guilherme Mota and Augusto Meyer.

I suspect that is what caused the insertion of Euclides who is neither a poet nor romance or short story writer, but whose “Os Sertões” could not have been excluded.

The list gets some authors right but not their works. “Seminário dos Ratos” is not Lygia Fagundes Telles’ best piece. The haste with which the list was elaborated did not go unnoticed. Paulo Leminski’s romance “Catatau” is cited as a reference when he should have been mentioned in the poetry section.

Other books by Rubem Fonseca are better than his inaugural work “A Coleira do Cão;” as it also happened with João Ubaldo Ribeiro because “Sargento Getúlio” is superior to “Viva o Povo Brasileiro.”

In sum, the list does not serve as a guide to our literature. Perhaps, it should have been made by genre thus avoiding the habitual mistakes and injustices inherent in such task.

100 essential Brazilian books, according to Bravo! Magazine

Title and authors name separated by comma.

Memórias Póstumas de Brás Cubas, Machado de Assis

Dom Casmurro, Machado de Assis

Vidas Secas, Graciliano Ramos

Os Sertões, Euclides da Cunha

Grande Sertão: Veredas, Guimarães Rosa

A Rosa do Povo, Carlos Drummond de Andrade

Libertinagem, Manuel Bandeira

Lavoura Arcaica, Raduan Nassar

A Paixão Segundo G.H., Clarice Lispector

Macunaíma – o Herói Sem Nenhum Caráter, Mário de Andrade

Lira Dos Vinte Anos, Álvares de Azevedo

O Tempo e o Vento, Erico Verissimo

Morte e Vida Severina, João Cabral de Melo Neto

Vestido de Noiva, Nelson Rodrigues

Serafim Ponte Grande, Oswald de Andrade

Crônica da Casa Assassinada, Lúcio Cardoso

Os Escravos, Castro Alves

O Guarani, José de Alencar

Romanceiro da Inconfidência, Cecília Meireles

Triste Fim de Policarpo Quaresma, Lima Barreto

São Bernardo, Graciliano Ramos

Laços de Família, Clarice Lispector

Sermões, Padre Vieira

As Meninas, Lygia Fagundes Telles

Sagarana, Guimarães Rosa

Nova Antologia Poética, Mário Quintana

Navalha Na Carne, Plínio Marcos

A Obscena Senhora D, Hilda Hilst

Nova Antologia Poética, Vinícius de Moraes

Brás, Bexiga e Barra Funda, Antônio de Alcântara Machado

Paulicéia Desvairada, Mário de Andrade

I-Juca Pirama, Gonçalves Dias

Baú de Ossos, Pedro Nava

A Vida Como Ela É, Nelson Rodrigues

A Alma Encantadora Das Ruas, João do Rio

Estrela da Manhã, Manuel Bandeira

Obra Poética, Gregório de Matos

Gabriela, Cravo e Canela, Jorge Amado

Marília de Dirceu, Tomás Antônio Gonzaga

Claro Enigma, Carlos Drummond de Andrade

Mar Absoluto, Cecília Meireles

Malagueta, Perus e Bacanaço, João Antônio

O Pagador de Promessas, Dias Gomes

Noite Na Taverna, Álvares de Azevedo

Romance D’A Pedra do Reino e o Príncipe do Sangue do Vai-E-Volta, Ariano Suassuna

Bagagem, Adélia Prado

Viva o Povo Brasileiro, João Ubaldo Ribeiro

Memórias de um Sargento de Milícias, Manuel Antônio de Almeida

Cartas Chilenas, Tomás Antônio Gonzaga

Canaã, Graça Aranha

Memórias Sentimentais de João Miramar, Oswald de Andrade

A Coleira do Cão, Rubem Fonseca

Espumas Flutuantes, Castro Alves

Um Copo de Cólera, Raduan Nassar

A Estrela Sobe, Marques Rebelo

Poema Sujo, Ferreira Gullar

Lucíola, José de Alencar

O Ateneu, Raul Pompéia

Fogo Morto, José Lins do Rego

O Quinze, Rachel de Queiroz

Seminário Dos Ratos, Lygia Fagundes Telles

Invenção de Orfeu, Jorge de Lima

Terras do Sem Fim, Jorge Amado

Broquéis, Cruz e Souza

O Encontro Marcado, Fernando Sabino

A Moreninha, Joaquim Manuel de Macedo

Morangos Mofados, Caio Fernando Abreu

O Ex-Mágico, Murilo Rubião

O Picapau Amarelo, Monteiro Lobato

As Metamorfoses, Murilo Mendes

Harmada, João Gilberto Noll

Ópera Dos Mortos, Autran Dourado

O Cortiço, Aluísio Azevedo

A Escrava Isaura, Bernardo Guimarães

200 Crônicas Escolhidas, Rubem Braga

O Vampiro de Curitiba, Dalton Trevisan

O Coronel e o Lobisomem, José Cândido de Carvalho

Os Ratos, Dyonélio Machado

O Analista de Bagé, Luis Fernando Verissimo

Febeapá, Stanislaw Ponte Preta

O Homem e Sua Hora, Mário Faustino

Catatau, Paulo Leminski

Os Cavalinhos de Platiplanto, José J. Veiga

Avalovara, Osman Lins

Eu, Augusto Dos Anaw6kx

O Que É Isso, Companheiro?, Fernando Gabeira

O Braço Direito, Otto Lara Resende

Quarup, Antonio Callado

A Senhorita Simpson, Sérgio Sant’Anna

Tremor de Terra, Luiz Vilela

Zero, Ignácio de Loyola Brandão

Galvez, Imperador do Acre, Márcio Souza

Viva Vaia, Augusto de Campos

Galáxias, Haroldo de Campos

Inocência, Visconde de Taunay

Poesias, Olavo Bilac

O Tronco, Bernardo Élis

O Uraguai, Basílio da Gama

Juca Mulato, Menotti Del Picchia

Contos Gauchescos, João Simões Lopes Neto

Deonísio da Silva, PhD, is a writer and professor of Brazilian literature at Estácio de Sá University. His most recent books include the novel Goethe e Barrabás  and the essay A Língua Nossa de Cada Dia (Our Everyday Language). He writes for Observatório da Imprensa where this article appeared originally.

Translated from the Portuguese by Aldo Jansel. You may reach him at ajans001@fiu.edu.

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