Brazil

Brazil

2.8 5
by John Updike
     
 

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They meet by chance on Copacabana Beach: Tristao Raposo, a poor black teen from the Rio slums, surviving day to day on street smarts and the hustle, and Isabel Leme, an upper-class white girl, treated like a pampered slave by her absent though very powerful father. Convinced that fate brought them together, betrayed by families who threaten to tear them apart,…  See more details below

Overview

They meet by chance on Copacabana Beach: Tristao Raposo, a poor black teen from the Rio slums, surviving day to day on street smarts and the hustle, and Isabel Leme, an upper-class white girl, treated like a pampered slave by her absent though very powerful father. Convinced that fate brought them together, betrayed by families who threaten to tear them apart, Tristao and Isabel flee to the farthest reaches of Brazil's wild west — unaware of the astonishing destiny that awaits them . . .

Spanning twenty-two years, from the mid-sixties to the late eighties, BRAZIL surprises and embraces the reader with its celebration of passion, loyalty, and New World innocence.

"A tour de force . . . Spectacular." — Time

"Updike's novel, as tender as it is erotic, becomes a magnificently wrought love story . . . . Beautifully written." — Detroit Free Press

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Nothing Updike has written before prepares the reader for this book, a tale of doomed lovers with wry reference to the Tristan and Isolde legend. Black street kid Tristao Raposo, 19, first sees blonde, convent-educated Isabel Leme, 18, on a beach in Rio; both recognize that they are fated to be lovers. He is sophisticated in the ruthless rapacity of the poor; she is ``accustomed to the logic and wealth of power,'' but both are starry-eyed idealists and romantics who decide to defy Isabel's diplomat father and run away together. Forcibly parted for two years by her father's henchmen, the pair eventually reunite and begin a series of ill-fated adventures that lead them into the Brazilian jungle and into the heart of darkness. Recounting the lovers' tragic trajectory from heedless passion to degrading toil to false security to ironic, brutal death, Updike draws a panoramic picture of Brazil over the past three decades, depicting a country in social and economic chaos with a huge, despairing underclass and a largely heedless wealthy population. In settings as varied as the country's topography--Rio, Sao Paulo, Brasilia, the gold mining area of the Dourados, and the jungles of the Mato Grosso--Updike delineates the tyranny of the white men over people of color, the despoilation of the land, the demise of the spiritual dimension in the modern world. He has assimiliated an astonishing amount of knowledge about flora and fauna, native tribal customs and lore, including sorcery. Indeed, it comes as no surprise when the narrative segues into magical realism. Despite its emphasis on the enobling qualities of true love, this is a dark book that speaks of ``a steady decay from birth to death.'' Even Updike's language is different here: the intellectual legerdemain, the shimmering metaphors and caustic humor are largely abandoned for a straightforward narrative prose. Whether or not this will be the ``breakthrough'' book to a larger audience that his publisher foresees, this is an intriguing story that takes Updike into new territory in many senses of the word. 75,000 first printing; BOMC selection. (Feb.)
Library Journal
Setting his 16th novel in Brazil, Updike explores the passion that flares up between Tristao, a black street boy, and upper-class Isobel. This BOMC alternate has a 75,000-copy first printing.
Kirkus Reviews
The indefatigable Updike only occasionally succeeds here. Tristo, a black teenager from the favela, encounters Isabel, a rich and sheltered young daughter of the elite, one afternoon on Rio's Copacabana beach—and when Isabel takes him home and gives her maidenhead to him, both kids discover a love union like that of their storied counterparts, Romeo and Juliet. With Tristo, Isabel flees Rio, ahead of her father's armed posse, and they make it as far as So Paulo. There, Isabel is wrenched away—but this is only the first of a number of forced (and false) partings, around which, together, Isabel and Tristo will turn to gold-mining, prostitution, living among jungle Indians, and finally re-civilization. Isabel will even resort to the help of magic to have Tristo returned to her, at the price of a shaman-induced change in respective skin-colors for them both—Updike's woolliest turn in a story fanciful with twists and turns, touristy aper‡us, and sexual philosophy. Like a slab of abused plywood, the novel is forever coming apart into its separate laminates. Updike at times (especially when he's trying to write suspenseful scenes, or violent ones) seems to be using the exotic foreignness of his setting as an excuse for over-vividness, somewhat like Karl May's old German romances of the American Indian. Elsewhere, more cunningly, he seems to be subverting some of Latin-American magic realism's more bloated clich‚s by overturning them into a kind of realistic-magic fiction. But, again, as in the African-based The Coup, he seems to think he needs another continent to try to tell the story of a wholly other—and maybe to tell a story, period. The Updikean intelligence anddraughtsmanship and sex-awe constantly obtrude, weakening the narrative big picture, studding the book with perceptions and alertness galore but never with quite the air of exotic metaphysical enchantment the novelist seems to seek. Saul Bellow's finest book, Henderson the Rain King, is still unchallenged as the only American novel of our era to do that. (First printing of 75,000; Book-of-the-Month Dual Selection for March)

From the Publisher
“Steamy . . . breathtaking . . . In Updike’s novel, our vast South American neighbor emerges as a country both ancient and new.”—The New Yorker
 
“There is a wonderful drive to the novel, true lyricism, real drama. . . . Updike has rare insight into the psychology of sexual behavior and the mysterious, almost otherworldly devotedness Tristão and Isabel share.”—Chicago Tribune
 
“The book [is] thrilling, not only by its own rights, as an action-driven narrative designed to thrill, but also as an instance of a contemporary master, one whom we thought we had figured out long ago, daring to reinvent himself before our jaded eyes.”—The New Criterion

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780449911631
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
08/28/1996
Pages:
272
Sales rank:
921,808
Product dimensions:
5.41(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.59(d)

What People are saying about this

Michiko Katukani
Couched as a retelling of the Tristan and Iseult legend, Brazil begins as an arch fairy tale and ends as a modern-day soap opera full of racial and sexual cliches. It does for racial understanding what Mr. Updike's angry, bitter portraits of women in The Witches of Eastwick and S did for communication between the sexes. -- The New York Times
From the Publisher
“Steamy . . . breathtaking . . . In Updike’s novel, our vast South American neighbor emerges as a country both ancient and new.”—The New Yorker
 
“There is a wonderful drive to the novel, true lyricism, real drama. . . . Updike has rare insight into the psychology of sexual behavior and the mysterious, almost otherworldly devotedness Tristão and Isabel share.”—Chicago Tribune
 
“The book [is] thrilling, not only by its own rights, as an action-driven narrative designed to thrill, but also as an instance of a contemporary master, one whom we thought we had figured out long ago, daring to reinvent himself before our jaded eyes.”—The New Criterion

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Meet the Author

John Updike was born in Shillington, Pennsylvania, in 1932. He graduated from Harvard College in 1954 and spent a year in Oxford, England, at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art. From 1955 to 1957 he was a member of the staff of The New Yorker. His novels have won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Rosenthal Foundation Award, and the William Dean Howells Medal. In 2007 he received the Gold Medal for Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. John Updike died in January 2009.

Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
March 18, 1932
Date of Death:
January 27, 2009
Place of Birth:
Shillington, Pennsylvania
Place of Death:
Beverly Farms, MA
Education:
A.B. in English, Harvard University, 1954; also studied at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art in Oxford, England

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Brazil 2.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The entire story required the reader to disregard logic and any type of true emotion. The characters were entirley unbelievable and it was impossible to make any connection. Don't waste your time on this book even if you are an Updike fan. I will never look at a yam the same way again.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book for a book club. It was just awful. I know Updike does better than this effort. Not worth your time to read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago