Thursday, October 7, 2010

Reading about Brazil and some good fiction

I typically read books in pairs. There is usually a nonfiction book on the table by my bed and during the time it takes me to read that one I zip through a couple of fiction books, some serious, some frivolous.

By coincidence I just finished both current titles this week. They are both worth mentioning.

The nonfiction work was “The Accidental President of Brazil: A Memoir,” by Fernando Henrique Cardoso. The preface is written by his good friend President Bill Clinton.

This biography, published in 2006, was a candid and very enjoyable telling of not just President Cardoso’s political career but (more interesting to me) the historical transformations within Brazil over the past 30 years.

Quoting a flyleaf blurb: “In this most engaging and very personal history of twentieth-century Brazil, a genuine philosopher-king recounts how he combined principle and pragmatism to transform a harsh military dictatorship into a hopeful modern democracy. Readers with only a passing curiosity about Brazil will enjoy this rare ‘lessons learned’ memoir by one of the foremost statesmen of our times.”

I really liked it and would recommend it to others seeking to understand Brazil's history, political culture and social transformation.

The fiction title was “Snow Falling on Cedars,” by David Guterson. This 1994 novel, winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award and the American Booksellers Association Book of the Year Award, is written in a soft, ambient style while also laying out a detailed murder mystery in the context of a rural community steeped in cultural divides and prejudice.

The story takes place on the isolated island of San Piedro in north Puget Sound in the 1950s. A local white fisherman is found dead on his boat. A resident Japanese-American man is accused of the crime.

Storylines of childhood friendships, a close yet strained bi-racial community and harbored prejudice are illuminated by the impact of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the subsequent internment of San Piedro’s residents of Japanese decent.

Some wounds don’t heal well. The novel explores if it is possible for the people of a place like San Piedro to overcome their history together, and if so, how.

It was a very dreamy, yet engaging read. 

If you would like to borrow either book, let me know.


Fabio Bossard said...

I've heard of this book Snow falling on cedars. Have you ever read To Kill a mockingbird? I've heard a lot about this book. It's a classic. I also found it at Saraiva for R$15 in English, but hesitated and didn't buy it.
My list of books in English just grows and grows. One that I am pretty excited to read is The Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison.

Jim said...

Fabio - folks my age all across the US read "To Kill A Mockingbird" in high school. It was required reading in most English classes. Great book. I don't have a copy, otherwise I would offer to lend it to you. I do have another American classic: "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" which I would be happy to lend.

Fabio Bossard said...

Cool! You know what? I tried to read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, but that was more than ten years ago and my English wasn't as good as it today, so I didn't finish it.

Jim said...

Fabio - if you would like me to mail you the book, send me an email with your details. No problem.

Or come visit and look over my bookshelf. You can borrow any title.

Fabio Bossard said...

Don't worry about it, buddy! But thanks anyway. I am in the middle of reading Pride and Prejudice. I am loving it. Have you read? This one I am reading in Portuguese, though.

I can schedule a visit to Niteroi. Actually I've been making plans to visit my friend who lives in Icarai for a month and it always falls through.