Synopses & Reviews
From world-renowned Brazilian writer Chico Buarque comes a stylish, imaginative tale of love, loss, and longing, played out across multiple generations of one Brazilian family. At once jubilant and painfully nostalgic, playful and devastatingly urgent, Spilt Milk
cements Chico Buarques reputation as a masterful storyteller.
As Eulálio Assumpção lies dying in a Brazilian public hospital, his daughter and the attending nurses are treatedwhether they like it or notto his last, rambling monologue. Ribald, hectoring, and occasionally delusional, Eulálio reflects on his past, present, and futureon his privileged, plantation-owning family; his fathers philandering with beautiful French whores; his own half-hearted career as a weapons dealer; the eventual decline of the family fortune; and his passionate courtship of the wife who would later abandon him. As Eulálio wanders the sinuous twists and turns of his own fragmented memories, Buarque conjures up a brilliantly evocative portrait of a mans life and love, set in the broad sweep of vivid Brazilian history.
"Lovely details and a fine sense of place are offset by sluggish plotting and underdeveloped characters in this slim novel from Brazilian singer/composer Buarque. EulÃ¡lio d'AssumpÃ§Ã£o is from an affluent Brazilian family. Now elderly, ill, and living in a nursing home, his memory is not always reliable. Echoing Sebald's Rings of Saturn, in his bedroom EulÃ¡lio recalls his life: the opulent mansion in the Copacabana section of Rio de Janeiro where he grew up; his prominent ancestry; a senator father and fashionable mother who traveled to Europe to buy clothes for every season; and the economic difficulties that have made his current situation nowhere near as grand as his past. In first- and second-person, EulÃ¡lio talks of meeting his wife, Matilde, at the memorial service for his father. She was wearing a 'garment as rigid as armor... a naked body under it could have danced without being noticed,' and his desire for her is instant and extraordinary. The two marry and start a family, but a visiting French engineer tests these nascent bonds. There's plenty to like, though more of a sense of the sweeping grandeur of history, or a more energetic storyteller, would have made it more effective. Agent: Laurence Laluyaux, Rogers, Coleridge and White, U.K." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
An Amazon Best Book of the Month
Winner of both of Brazil's major literary prizes, the Portugal Telecom Award for Literature and the Premio Jabuti for best fiction work
"I read Spilt Milk in a single night, awed and deeply moved. How did he do it? Buarque has breathed the story of a whole country into a single, unforgettable man with a soul as big as Brazil. But he's also written one of the saddest love stories, and one of the truest."Nicole Krauss
"Chico Buarque is at the forefront of a new wave of writing that should make you rethink everything you thought you knew about South American literature. When I finished reading his last novel, Budapest, my face ached from smiling at its ingenuity, its audacity, its freshness, its line-by-line effulgence, its irresistible narrative momentum."Jonathan Franzen
In Spilt Milk [Buarque] confronts the themes that make Brazil squirm, from the stain of slavery to the inferiority complex the country has historically felt when it compares itself to Europe.”The New York Times
Deft and moving. . . . At its heart is the idea that everything, our very lives, is an illusion, in which we cling most desperately to that which matters least. Class, status, breeding fade away, and we are left with what we least expect. . . . Whats most remarkable about the book, though, is not that it somehow manages to internalize more than 100 years of Brazilian history but, rather, the way it also exists almost outside of history, outside of time.”Los Angeles Times
"Buarque, a pillar of the Latin American New Song movement, gives us a fractured, refractive vision from a character seemingly in the foothills of dementia. . . . We find we are in the hands of a master storyteller. It becomes clear why this novel won major literary prizes when first published in Brazil."Cleveland Plain Dealer
Buarque is an elder statesman of bossa nova, and a legend for his subversive opposition to Brazils brutal military dictatorship. . . we can think of Spilt Milk as a prose equivalent of a Barnett Newman paintingthe irritating outbursts and hallucinations about his crazy daughter end up being the strips that measures, divides, and shapes the sweep of colorful narratives that pours out of Eulálio. . . . Eulálio ends up being an idol, a wraith who, at 150, is not quite dead and not quite living.”The Daily Beast
Buarque is regarded in Brazil as a vital cultural stalwart, an artist who, since the early 60s, continues to examine his country and instill large social change . . . In the protagonist of Eulálio Assumpção, the 100-year-old descendant of Portuguese invaders and the beneficiary of colonialisms vast harvest, Buarque fashions a grudgingly likeable narrator . . . Buarque takes his time with Spilt Milk, a book whose real story sits beautifully obscured by Eulálios skipping incoherence. . . . Spilt Milk is a necessary, often painful examination of not just a mans wounds but also of a countrys complicated past.”ZYZZYVA
Lovely details and a fine sense of place . . . . Echoing Sebalds Rings of Saturn . . . . [When] Eulálio talks of meeting his wife . . . his desire for her is instant and extraordinary. . . . Theres plenty to like.”Publishers Weekly
"A brilliant comic monologue by a Brazilian novelist, in which a hospitalized centenarian curmudgeon on morphine becomes entangled in his own deception-filled life story."Shelf Awareness
Musical, charged with sensuality and sparkling with surrealist humor, irresistibly seductive.”La Vanguardia
A Balzacian saga arranged in best Rio style. In less than 200 pages, it covers more than two hundred years of the history of the Assumpção family, and, through this dynasty of rulers, the history of Brazil.”Livres Hebdo
"Chico Buarque has crossed a chasm with his writing, and arrived at the other side. To the side where one finds work executed with mastery."José Saramago
Buarque writes like a man with a cigarette in one hand and a drink in the other. Shoulders slumped, a wrinkled linen suit; you join him at the bar to hear his wild story.”Los Angeles Times