Rubem Fonseca (1925 – 2020)

descarga (1)Sad to hear Rubem Fonseca, a Brazilian writer, passed away on 15 April 2020. He was 94 years of age.

He was born 11 May 1925 in Juiz de Fora, in the state of Minas Gerais, but he lived most of his life in Rio de Janeiro. In 1952, he started his career as a low-level cop and, later became a police commissioner, one of the highest ranks in the civil police of Brazil. Following the steps of American novelist Thomas Pynchon, a close friend of Fonseca, he refused to give interviews and felt strongly about maintaining his privacy.His stories are dark and gritty, filled with violence and sexual content, and usually set in an urban environment. He claimed a writer should have the courage to show what most people are afraid to say. Authors from the rising generation of Brazilian writers, such as Patrícia Melo or Luiz Ruffato, have stated that Fonseca’s writing has influenced their work.

He started his career by writing short stories, considered by some critics as his strongest literary creations. His first popular novel was A Grande Arte (High Art), but Agosto is usually considered his best work. In 2003, he won the Camões Prize, considered to be the most important award in the Portuguese language. In 2012 he became the first recipient of Chile’s Manuel Rojas Ibero-American Narrative Award. He died in Rio de Janeiro in 15 April 2020 at the age of 94 just 26 days before his 95th birthday. (Source: Wikipedia)

Further reading:

Rubem Fomseca (Carmen Balcells Literary Agency)

Rubem Fonseca’s “The Taker and Other Stories” Reviewed by Dan Bevacqua (Words Without Borders) 

Blame It on Rio, by James Polk

English translations

  • High Art (translation Ellen Watson. Harper & Row, New York, 1986)
    [Original title: A Grande Arte (1983)]

  • Bufo & Spallanzani (translation Clifford E. Landers. Dutton, New York, 1990)
    [Original title: Bufo & Spallanzani (1986)]

  • The Lost Manuscript aka Vast Emotions and Imperfect Thoughts (translation Clifford E. Landers. Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, London, 1997) [Original title: Vastas Emoções e Pensamentos Imperfeitos (1988)]
  • The Taker and Other Stories (translation Clifford E. Landers. Open Letter, New York, 2008)
  • Crimes of August: A Novel (translation Clifford E. Landers. Tagus Press, Dartmouth Massachusetts, 2014) [Original title: Agosto (1990)]

3185344What 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 politics – waits to ensnare him.

A bestseller when published in Brazil, Italy and Mexico, The Lost Manuscript, like other novels by Rubem Fonseca, utilise the thriller framework to present searing insights into the human psyche. Filled with fascinating detail of the high camp world of Carnival costume design, the intricate history of precious stones, the nature of dreams and the subtlety of film-making, it is absorbing at every level.

The translator of The Lost Manuscript, Clifford E. Landers, is professor of political science at Jersey State Collage (USA). He has translated novels by Jorge Amado, Joao Ubaldo Ribeiro, Patricia Melo and Chico Buarque.  (Source: back-cover blurb).

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