2012 Crime Fiction Alphabet, F is for Fonseca


My intention, in this new edition of the Crime Fiction Alphabet, is to introduce you Spanish or Portuguese language writers of crime fiction. My letter “F” is for Fonseca.

Rubem Fonseca is considered one of Brazil’s most influential writers, and was awarded the Prémio Camões—considered the Nobel Prize of Portuguese language literature—for his body of work in 2003. That same year he was awarded the Juan Rulfo Prize. He is the author of eight novels, including High Art, Vast Emotions and Imperfect Thoughts, and Bufo & Spallanzani, all of which have been published in English translation. One of his famous characters is Mandrake, a cynical and amoral lawyer and the basis for an HBO series.

High Art (Harper & Row, 1986). Translated by Ellen Watson. Originally published under the title A Grande Arte in 1983.

From the Publisher: High Art is a crime/thriller story set in Brazil that is reminiscent of Raymond Chandler, with vivid descriptions of the urban landscape and interiors and a fast-paced dialogue. A criminal lawyer in Rio named Mandrake is working on a case involving the murder of two prostitutes. a case that grows and has implications far beyond what it first appears to be. There are other murders and also Mandrake’s continual entanglements with different women. Against an erotic and violent background the story unfolds with the discovery of a mysterious organization that traffics in cocaine out of Bolivia. The novel gives a stark portrait of Brazilian society from the European postcolonial oligarchy (complete with incest, madness, political-financial wheeling and dealing) to the extremes of poverty both urban and in the interior. Finally the pieces of the puzzle come together. though leaving still an element of mystery as Mandrake finds solace with the nubile Bebel. (Zenos Books)

Bufo & Spallanzani (Dutton 1990). Translated from the Portuguese by Clifford E. Landers. Originally published under the title Bufo & Spallanzani in 1986.

On a dead-end street in Rio, Delfina Delamare, socialite wife of multimillionaire Eugenio, is found shot in the heart. The original verdict of suicide is soon dismissed, but this is no ordinary murder. Delfina’s jewels are still on her body, and whoever pulled the trigger carefully unbuttoned her blouse first, then rebuttoned it, leaving a serene, scarcely blemished corpse. In the glove compartment is a new novel, The Lovers, with a personal inscription from the author, Gustavo Flavio. He is the first suspect. (Information available at various on-line bookshops). 

The Lost Manuscript (Bloomsbury, 1997), aka Vast emotions and imperfect thoughts (Ecco Press, 1998). Translated by Clifford E. Landers. Originally published under the title Vastas emoções e pensamentos imperfeitos in 1988. 

From the Publisher: What better place to hide a collection of priceless jewels than among the glitter and ostrich feathers of Rio’s Carnival parade? Fonseca’s narrator, a film director, is amazed to find himself suddenly the custodian of such a valuable horde after the nocturnal visit of a young dancer who he later learns from the television news has been murdered. This windfall will allow him to film a story by the famous Russian writer Isaac Babel about whom he is passionate. Before he even has a script in hand, the director finds himself pursued by Brazilian smugglers and flying towards Berlin where a web of skulduggery – literary and political – waits to ensnare him. (Bloomsbury)

The Taker and Other Stories (Open Letter, 2008). Translated by Clifford E. Landers.

From the Publisher: Most widely admired for his short fiction, The Taker and Other Stories is Fonseca’s first collection to appear in English translation, and it ranges across his oeuvre, exploring the sights and sounds of the modern landscape of Rio de Janeiro. Rubem Fonseca’s Rio is a city at war, a city whose vast disparities—in wealth, social standing, and prestige—are untenable. In the stories of The Taker, rich and poor live in an uneasy equilibrium, where only overwhelming force can maintain order, and violence and deception are essential tools of survival. (Open Letter)

Rubem Fonseca at Wikipedia

The Crime Fiction Alphabet 2012 is a Community Meme hosted by Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise. By Friday of each week participants try to write a blog post about crime fiction related to the letter of the week. Click HERE to visit the contribution of other participants.

8 thoughts on “2012 Crime Fiction Alphabet, F is for Fonseca

  1. José Ignacio – Oh, I’m very glad you chose to profile Fonseca. What a fascinating writer!! Many years ago I lived in Brazil for a short while – in Fonseca’s home town of Juiz de Fora in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais. It is good that he’s gotten some of the acclaim he deserves.

    1. Margot, how nice to find out. I’ve not been in Juiz de Fora, but I did travell around Minas Gerais when I lived it Brasil. A fascinating State with some interesting places like Ouro Preto, the first Brazilian city to be declared World Heritage Site if my information is correct.

      1. José Ignacio – I didn’t know you’d travelled in Minas Gerais! That is great to know. I went to Ouro Preto once when I was there; it is a beautiful old city isn’t it? I’m not sure I have my facts right but I believe you’re correct about its being the first Brazilian city declared a World Heritage Site.

      2. Actually I did quite a lot of travelling around the two years I lived in Brazil Margot. From the Amazon to Iguazu and from Pantanal to Bahia. I love that country. Beleza.

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