Gringa Reads

Top 15 Brazilian Novels of the 21st Century – Part 2

ListsZoe Perry3 Comments

Continued from Part 1, here are the remaining seven books highlighted in Brasil Post's list of the 21st Century's best Brazilian books so far, which I've used as a springboard for exploring even more great Brazilian writing.

9. Opisanie Świata by Veronica Stigger

This book has a special place in my heart, and since its publication in 2013 has featured on lists of favorites by critics and bloggers all over Brazil. It has won the Machado de Assis prize for best novel, from the Brazilian National Library Foundation, the São Paulo prize for Debut Author Over 40, the Prêmio Açorianos literature prize, and was a finalist for both the Jabuti and the Portugal Telecom prize. And just look at this beautiful book:

Veronica Stigger first got my attention with Os Anões. Her writing is fresh, smart, exciting, shocking, hilarious and absurd. Opisanie swiata is her first novel (she has published several collections of short stories), and this longer format has allowed her to be just as daring, surreal and funny as in her previous work, but also has given her room to create a fascinating, multi-layered story spanning decades of history and an ocean.

It was included in the latest issue of Machado de Assis magazine, to be launched at the Paris Salon du Livre (click the link to read a short sample). I was also recently selected to participate in a translation residency this June, leading up to the FLIP literary festival in Paraty, Brazil, where I am so excited to continue working on its translation. Interested in a longer sample? Let's talk.

10. Nove Noites by Bernardo Carvalho

Nine Nights, translated by Benjamin Moser, was published by William Heinemann in 2007. You can read an excerpt here. He's been shortlisted for the São Paulo prize three times in the Best Book of the Year category.

11. O Movimento Pendular by Alberto Mussa

A couple of Mussa's books have been published in English, but not this one, which won the Machado de Assis prize in 2006. It has been published in French, Turkish and Romanian. The Mystery of Rio, translated by Alex Ladd, was published by Europa Editions in 2013, and in 2008, The Riddle of Qaf, translated by Lennie Larkin, was published by Aflame.

12. Sinfonia em Branco by Adriana LisboaAdriana Lisboa's writing is lyrical and moving, and it comes as no surprise that she is also a musician and poet. Symphony in White, translated by Sarah Green, was published in 2010 by Texas Tech University Press. In 2011, the same publisher released Hut of Fallen Persimmons, by the same translator. Alison Entrekin's beautiful translation, Crow Blue, was published by Bloomsbury in 2013. Lisboa is also a translator, and has brought several English-language authors into Portuguese, including Cormac McCarthy. Her novel Hanoi, shortlisted for the São Paulo prize, was published in Brazil in 2013. Her short story Success was used for the 2013 Harvill Secker Young Translators' Prize – you can read Lucy Greaves' winning translation here.

13. A Chave de Casa by Tatiana Salem Levy


Tatiana was one of Granta's best young Brazilian novelists back in 2012. Hailed as one of Brazil's most promising young writers, I'd say she has firmly arrived. Making regular appearances at international literary festivals, she is part of the Salon du Livre Brazil delegation this year. This book, her debut novel, was published by Scribe in English as The House in Smyrna just last month, February 2015 and translated by Alison Entrekin. It has also been translated into French, Italian, Romanian, Spanish, and Turkish.

She has since written two more novels, Dois Rios and Paraíso. You can read Lucy Greaves' translations of some of her other work here.

14. Manual da Paixão Solitária de Moacyr Scliar

To be honest, I knew very little about Moacyr Scliar (who unfortunately passed away in 2011) or his writing, except for Max and the Cats, due to the controversy sounding Yann Martel's other, slightly more successful book, curiously also about a shipwrecked boy on a lifeboat with a big cat. So, I was shocked (pleasantly surprised?) to learn that his work has been translated extensively. According to his wikipedia page, twelve books have been translated to English, mostly by Eloah F. Giacomelli, as well as Margaret A. Neves and Thomas O. Beebee. That's a lot, but on that page you'll also see how prolific he was, and a lot of them seem to be out of print. This one, a retelling of the Bible story of Onan, with a modern twist, won the Jabuti prize in 2009.

15. Vozes do Deserto by Nélida Piñon

Nélida Piñon is another writer I know relatively little about. She was once president of the Academia Brasileira de Letras, and had a couple of English translations published in the 1990s, but this one, Voices of the Desert, translated by Clifford Landers, was published by Knopf in 2009. A retelling of the legend of Scheherazade.

Phew, that was a lot of men, huh? Still, I have to say I was impressed by the number of books and authors on this list in English translation. Nine out the fifteen books are already in English – an inspiration, I think, to keep trudging onward.