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A Death in Brazil: A Book of Omissions (John MacRae Books)by Peter Robb
Synopses & Reviews
Combining travel, history, culture, and his own memories of twenty years of Brazilian life, the author of Midnight in Sicily delves into the past and present of a country that affects our imagination like few other places on earth
From his own near murder in Rio at the hands of an intruder twenty years ago and continuing through the recent slaying of a former president's bagman who looted the country of more than a billion dollars, violent death poses a steady threat in Peter Robb's brilliant travelogue through modern-day Brazil. It's not death, however, that leaves a lasting impression but the exuberant life force that emanates from the country and its people.
Seeking to understand how extreme danger and passion can coexist in a nation for centuries, Robb travels from the cobalt blue shores of southern Brazil to the arid mountains of the northeast recounting four centuries of Brazilian history from the days of slavery to the recent election of the country's first working-class president. Much more than a journey through history, Robb renders in vivid detail the intoxicating pleasures of the food, music, and climate of the country and references the work of Brazil's greatest writers to depict a culture unlike any other.
With a stunning prose style and an endlessly inquisitive intellect, Robb builds layer upon layer of history, culture, and personal reminiscence into a deeply personal, impressionistic portrait of a nation. The reader emerges from A Death in Brazil not just with more knowledge about the country but with a sense of having experienced it and with a deep understanding of its turbulent soul.
"The death of the title refers to a recent event, but Times Literary Supplement writer Robb gets his mysterious subtitle most directly from Machado de Assis, a 19th-century Brazilian novelist considered at length for his ability to weave discussion of the nation's racial and economic disparities into his wildly popular serial fictions for women's magazines. The term's origins, however, are biblical; First and Second Chronicles were called 'Omissions' because they contained information left out of the preceding Books of Kings. Although Robb tries to fill in some of the gaps in recent Brazilian history, he doesn't so much uncover new data on the spectacularly corrupt 1990 — 1992 presidency of Fernando Collor as pull together some of the many disparate sources. Collor's rise and fall, and the murder of his chief henchman, form a solid backbone for the book, but one from which Robb frequently wanders to ruminate on centuries of Brazilian history filled with eroticism and violent upheaval. He also recounts his own travels through modern Brazil, devoting as much attention to the sensual delights of buchada de bode (stuffed goat's stomach) as he does to a threatening encounter with the military police. The overall result is a bit of a jumble, but it's a delightful jumble: a Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil with a Latin beat. At various points, Robb compares the unfolding Collor scandal to the soap opera staples of Brazilian television, and he's managed to capture the story's lurid surrealism with a deft, erudite touch. Agent, the Wylie Agency. (May)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[F]ascinating....Similar in approach to At the Tomb of the Inflatable Pig, about Paraguay, but with considerably more art and decorum." Booklist
"[A] glittering chiaroscuro portrait....It is the Brazil that Mr. Robb sees beyond the sensations that gives his book its great traveling dimension." Richard Eder, The New York Times Book Review
"An affectionate, probing cultural portrait, as stark as it is entertaining." Kirkus Reviews
Robb's chronicle flashes from intimate present day Brazil to a richly detailed and often dangerous past, enhanced by the gorgeous climate, lush landscapes and cobalt-blue waters.
Deliciously sensuous and fascinating, Robb renders in vivid detail the intoxicating pleasures of Brazils food, music, literature, and landscape as he travels not only cross country but also back in time—from the days of slavery to modern day political intrigue and murder. Spellbinding and revelatory, Peter Robb paints a multi-layered portrait of Brazil as a country of intoxicating and passionate extremes.
About the Author
Peter Robb has divided his time between Brazil, southern Italy, and Australia during the past quarter century. He is the author of Midnight in Sicily and M: The Man Who Became Caravaggio (0-312-27474-2), a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year. He writes for The Times Literary Supplement and the London Review of Books.
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