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Beyond Carnival, Samba, and Soccer: Brazilian Fiction at the Library of Congress

(The following is a post by Marília Costa, Researcher in the Hispanic Reading Room, and Talía Guzmán-González, Reference Librarian in the Hispanic Division.)

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Brazil. Rio de Janeiro. Created / Published between 1909 and 1919.

You are probably familiar with the postcard images of Brazilian beaches, the country’s soccer stars, and samba music. Now it’s time to get to know the contemporary literature of one of Latin America’s most vibrant literary scenes. If you would like to catch up on some recent Brazilian fiction, the Hispanic Reading Room at the Library of Congress is the place to go. Founded in 1939 as the first area studies reading room in the Library of Congress, the Hispanic Reading Room is the gateway to the most comprehensive collection of Brazilian literature outside of Brazil.

Every year the Fundação Biblioteca Nacional in Rio de Janeiro awards the prestigious Prêmio Literário Biblioteca Nacional Machado de Assis to the best novel written in Portuguese and published in Brazil. Inaugurated in 1994, the prize is named after Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis (1839-1908), the country’s foremost novelist and also the first president of the Academia Brasileira de Letras, founded in 1897. Machado de Assis is the author of “Memórias Póstumas de Brás Cubas” (“Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas”) (1881), a novel widely regarded as the decisive turning point in Brazilian literature.  Intellectuals like Susan Sontag (1933-2004), an American writer, have called Machado de Assis “the greatest writer ever produced in Latin America.” So it stands to reason that this prize awarded by Brazil’s national library in recognition of literary accomplishment carries the name of one of Brazil’s most beloved writers.

Collage of books

Photo credit: Catalina Gómez, Reference Librarian, Hispanic Division.

The Biblioteca Nacional will announce this year’s prizewinner in December. While we wait for that announcement, we’ve gathered a list of the recipients of this important recognition in the past 10 years and their award winning works. Although these books have not been translated into English, we have included a literal translation of the titles here.

  1. A minha alma é irmã de Deus” (2009) by Raimundo Carrero (“My Soul is God’s Sister”)
  2. Do fundo do poço se vê a lua”(2010) by Joca Reiners Terron (“From the Bottom of the Well You Can See the Moon”)
  3. O senhor do lado esquerdo” (2011) by Alberto Mussa (“The man from the left side”)
  4. Habitante irreal” (2012) by Paulo Scott (“Unreal inhabitant”)
  5. Opisanie swiata” (2013) by Verônica Stigger (“Opisanie swiata”)
  6. Nossos ossos” (2014) by Marcelino Freire (“Our bones”)
  7. Turismo para cegos” (2015) by Tércia Montenegro (“Tourism for the blind”)
  8. Cordilheira” (2008) by Daniel Galera (“Range”)
  9. O tempo físico” (2007) by Idalina Azevedo da Silva (“Physical time”)
  10. Investigação sobre Ariel” (2006) by Silvio Fiorani (“Investigation about Ariel”)
Photo credit: Catalina Gómez, Reference Librarian, Hispanic Division.

Photo credit: Catalina Gómez, Reference Librarian, Hispanic Division.

To further explore the world of Brazilian literature and listen to writers reading from their work in Portuguese, you can visit the Archive of Hispanic Literature on Tape. Established in 1943, the archive holds recordings of authors from Latin America, Spain, Portugal, the Caribbean, as well as Latino authors in the United States. The collection includes more than 90 writers from Brazil and continues to develop on a regular basis. Some of the recordings are accessible online and all of them can be enjoyed in the Hispanic Reading Room.

If Portuguese is a language you do not read (yet!) but you want to immerse yourself in the exciting world of Brazilian fiction, the Library of Congress also houses English translations of some of the great authors you should get to know, including Jorge Amado, Patricia Melo, João Almino, and Adriana Lisboa, to name just a few.

We invite you to visit the Hispanic Reading Room and talk to our reference librarians for more recommendations. Boa leitura! Enjoy your reading!

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