Thursday, January 2, 2014

Beard full of blood - São Paulo

Yesterday I finished my book called "Barba Ensopada de Sangue" (Beard Full of Blood) by Daniel Galera. I don't actually remember why I decided to buy the book--I remember seeing only a tiny mention of it in the Folha de São Paulo when the Jabuti literary prize finalists were announced. But somehow I found it, and I am so glad that I did.

It was breathtaking. A story that walked slowly then ran then returned to plod along with details and daily life. And built several times to a peak that had me flipping pages before my Portuguese comprehension caught up. I had to re-read pages and ask for translations and explanations from BH. Not only was this my first "modern" Portuguese-language novel (I have read Amado and some others in novel form, and Verissimo in short story) but it was my first entrée into reading a book with local dialects and words. At a certain point I was so sucked into the story that I just skipped words that I didn't recognize and ran and stumbled on.

It is, in a banal description, a coming of age story. A young man's father kills himself after mentioning that the grandfather was killed in a small town in the south of Brazil. I think I am not giving away too much (as in, this book will not soon be translated to English) when I say that the man finds the answer for why his grandfather was killed, yet still lives, after 100 knife stabs. The narrator tries to find this grandfather, and the story reveals shortly that the narrator has a rare neurological disorder that means that he forgets a face 15 minutes after the person has left his presence. It is an amazing story. 

And stories within the story...characters each with their own stories. One crazy character named Bonobo has an ancient Beetle that he has nicknamed "Tubarão" (shark) and runs a pousada in between getting high and driving drunk. I can only beseech the author to provide a sequel with Bonobo's parallel life. And my favorite: a fifteen-year old dog named Beta who begins depressed at the loss of the narrator's father's life, gets run over by a car, then recovers by swimming each day in the open ocean with the narrator.

I admit that I am not too familiar with the contemporary Brazilian writers. I did learn that Galera came in third for the Jabuti for this book--that means there were two other books this year that the judges found to be better. Hard to believe. He did win the São Paulo literary prize for this book. I am going to go get his other two books immediately.

Just wow.

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