14 November 2011

The Portuguese Literature Challenge

Amateur Reader (Tom, Wuthering Expectations) has cooked up one of the most tempting reading challenges this year. This was in September so the challenge is now in full swing.


The mechanics are posted here. It will basically cover pre-1920 literature translated from the Portuguese, mainly the period of Tropical Belle Époque.

The reading is to end by April 30, 2012. You can check the reading lists for Portugal and Brazil.

A group reading of The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa is pretty much a done deal sometime in the first quarter of the year. I almost bought this book the last time I went to Manila. So I guess I have to finally buy it.

This year I hope to read ten stories by Machado de Assis from Oxford Anthology of the Brazilian Short Story (2006), ed. K. David Jackson. [It's a selection that aims for comprehensiveness, containing 72 stories by 37 Brazilian writers. The most represented writers in it were Machado de Assis (10 stories, 63 pages), Clarice Lispector (9 stories, 36 pages) and João Guimarães Rosa (7 stories, 56 pages).]

Sometime next year (because my immediate reading queue is now full to brimming) I want to finish Euclides da Cunha's Rebellion in the Backlands, the "Bible of modern Brazil". I started it, and actually loved what I read so far. But the reading requires me to strain very hard. The language is ... the language of the elements. And it's full of science stuff, a bit nerdy, but really good, in a masterpiece kind of way.


  1. I am currently reading The Book of Disquiet - it is a strange book, full of aphorisms and intellectually stimulating but also simply a compendium of short diary entries, aggregated into a 'novel'. Just like you're experience with Rebellion in the Backlands, I find it a slow read, requiring close attention. The rewards are many, though, and I find I could take down a quote or two from every page.
    It would be interesting to read some more 'classic era' Portuguese/Brazilian literature but my shelves are groaning and my pockets empty. Hard to justify buying more and these are not the sort of books I tend to find in the local charity shops.

  2. Wow, that Rebellion in the Backlands sounds pretty intriguing -- thanks

  3. Hey, thanks! Yes, more please, more readers, more!

    I think I will "announce" the Book of Disquiet group-along in early January, and schedule it for, I dunno, March. No weekly schedule or nonsense like that.

    It looks like a book - like Seamus says - that will reward a number of approaches. So why ask people to forcemarch through it?

    I hope to get to Cunha's whatever-it-is sometime early next year, too.

  4. Séamus, I’m with you on the moratorium on book buying. But the Pessoa is high on the list so I hang my head. Now I’m very tempted to join the TBR Double Dare, just to clear the shelf.


    Jeremy, I think it may be your kind of book. I forgot to mention there’s a new translation (Backlands: The Canudos Campaign) by Elizabeth Lowe. It's the one read by Richard.

    Tom, yeah, the very structure of Disquiet seems to encourage a haphazard approach of reading. March seems a good time to do it. I hope to pick up and concentrate on Euclides around that time too.