Spilt Milk

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Overview

From world-renowned Brazilian writer Chico Buarque comes a stylish, imaginative tale of love and loss. Spilt Milk is the story told by hundred-year-old Eulálio d’Assumpção as he lies on his deathbed, rambling to his nurses and visitors through a haze of morphine and memory. Ribald, hectoring, and occasionally delusional, Eulálio jumps through time and space, melding history and fantasy to unravel the story of his family, his heritage, and a changing nation.

He begins by ...

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Spilt Milk

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Overview

From world-renowned Brazilian writer Chico Buarque comes a stylish, imaginative tale of love and loss. Spilt Milk is the story told by hundred-year-old Eulálio d’Assumpção as he lies on his deathbed, rambling to his nurses and visitors through a haze of morphine and memory. Ribald, hectoring, and occasionally delusional, Eulálio jumps through time and space, melding history and fantasy to unravel the story of his family, his heritage, and a changing nation.

He begins by retracing his youth as the son of a conservative Brazilian senator and wealthy coffee exporter. Proud of his noble heritage — and eager to recount it for anyone within earshot — he recalls trips to Europe with his father, who introduces him to cocaine, sex, and a disciplinary whip that has been passed down through four generations of military men. At his father’s funeral, the teenage Eulálio falls powerfully in love with a dark-skinned choir girl named Matilde. His memory floods with exquisite detail as he recalls their furtive after-school courtship and the late-night rendezvous that led to their unlikely marriage. But the birth of their daughter marks a moment of crisis for the Assumpção line, and Eulálio struggles to understand why the love of his life seems to be withdrawing from him.

In Spilt Milk, Buarque conjures an evocative portrait of a man’s life, his loves, and the chaos of memory, all set against two hundred years of Brazil’s turbulent history.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
As a songwriter [Buarque] tends toward lilting compositions that draw on bossa nova and samba, while as a novelist he is a master at generating discomfort, and in Spilt Milk he confronts the themes that make Brazil squirm, from the stain of slavery to the inferiority complex the country has historically felt when it compares itself to Europe…Mr. Buarque once remarked that when an idea comes to him, it "can serve just as well for a 200-page novel as for a song with 15 couplets," and Spilt Milk is in fact derived from a song of his released in 1987. That song, Old Francisco, was sung from the point of view of an elderly freed slave looking back on the sorrows and hardships of his life, whereas Spilt Milk, though similarly pensive, shifts the focus to his oppressors. But both are lyrical tales of regret and failing remembrance that highlight Mr. Buarque's gift for narrative and the telling detail.
—Larry Rohter
Publishers Weekly
Lovely details and a fine sense of place are offset by sluggish plotting and underdeveloped characters in this slim novel from Brazilian singer/composer Buarque. Eulálio d’Assumpção is from an affluent Brazilian family. Now elderly, ill, and living in a nursing home, his memory is not always reliable. Echoing Sebald’s Rings of Saturn, in his bedroom Eulálio recalls his life: the opulent mansion in the Copacabana section of Rio de Janeiro where he grew up; his prominent ancestry; a senator father and fashionable mother who traveled to Europe to buy clothes for every season; and the economic difficulties that have made his current situation nowhere near as grand as his past. In first- and second-person, Eulálio talks of meeting his wife, Matilde, at the memorial service for his father. She was wearing a “garment as rigid as armor... a naked body under it could have danced without being noticed,” and his desire for her is instant and extraordinary. The two marry and start a family, but a visiting French engineer tests these nascent bonds. There’s plenty to like, though more of a sense of the sweeping grandeur of history, or a more energetic storyteller, would have made it more effective. Agent: Laurence Laluyaux, Rogers, Coleridge and White, U.K. (Dec.)
From the Publisher
An Amazon Best Book of the Month
Winner of both of Brazil's major literary prizes, the Portugal Telecom Award for Literature and the Premio Jabuti for best fiction work

"I read Spilt Milk in a single night, awed and deeply moved. How did he do it? Buarque has breathed the story of a whole country into a single, unforgettable man with a soul as big as Brazil. But he's also written one of the saddest love stories, and one of the truest."—Nicole Krauss

"Chico Buarque is at the forefront of a new wave of writing that should make you rethink everything you thought you knew about South American literature. When I finished reading his last novel, Budapest, my face ached from smiling at its ingenuity, its audacity, its freshness, its line-by-line effulgence, its irresistible narrative momentum."—Jonathan Franzen

“In Spilt Milk [Buarque] confronts the themes that make Brazil squirm, from the stain of slavery to the inferiority complex the country has historically felt when it compares itself to Europe.”—The New York Times

“Deft and moving. . . . At its heart is the idea that everything, our very lives, is an illusion, in which we cling most desperately to that which matters least. Class, status, breeding fade away, and we are left with what we least expect. . . . What’s most remarkable about the book, though, is not that it somehow manages to internalize more than 100 years of Brazilian history but, rather, the way it also exists almost outside of history, outside of time.”—Los Angeles Times

"Buarque, a pillar of the Latin American New Song movement, gives us a fractured, refractive vision from a character seemingly in the foothills of dementia. . . . We find we are in the hands of a master storyteller. It becomes clear why this novel won major literary prizes when first published in Brazil."—Cleveland Plain Dealer

“Buarque is an elder statesman of bossa nova, and a legend for his subversive opposition to Brazil’s brutal military dictatorship. . . we can think of Spilt Milk as a prose equivalent of a Barnett Newman painting—the irritating outbursts and hallucinations about his crazy daughter end up being the strips that measures, divides, and shapes the sweep of colorful narratives that pours out of Eulálio. . . . Eulálio ends up being an idol, a wraith who, at 150, is not quite dead and not quite living.”—The Daily Beast

“Buarque is regarded in Brazil as a vital cultural stalwart, an artist who, since the early ’60s, continues to examine his country and instill large social change . . . In the protagonist of Eulálio Assumpção, the 100-year-old descendant of Portuguese invaders and the beneficiary of colonialism’s vast harvest, Buarque fashions a grudgingly likeable narrator . . . Buarque takes his time with Spilt Milk, a book whose real story sits beautifully obscured by Eulálio’s skipping incoherence. . . . Spilt Milk is a necessary, often painful examination of not just a man’s wounds but also of a country’s complicated past.”—ZYZZYVA

“Lovely details and a fine sense of place . . . . Echoing Sebald’s Rings of Saturn . . . . [When] Eulálio talks of meeting his wife . . . his desire for her is instant and extraordinary. . . . There’s plenty to like.”—Publishers Weekly

"A brilliant comic monologue by a Brazilian novelist, in which a hospitalized centenarian curmudgeon on morphine becomes entangled in his own deception-filled life story."—Shelf Awareness

“Musical, charged with sensuality and sparkling with surrealist humor, irresistibly seductive.”—La Vanguardia

“A Balzacian saga arranged in best Rio style. In less than 200 pages, it covers more than two hundred years of the history of the Assumpção family, and, through this dynasty of rulers, the history of Brazil.”—Livres Hebdo

"Chico Buarque has crossed a chasm with his writing, and arrived at the other side. To the side where one finds work executed with mastery."—José Saramago

“Buarque writes like a man with a cigarette in one hand and a drink in the other. Shoulders slumped, a wrinkled linen suit; you join him at the bar to hear his wild story.”—Los Angeles Times

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781455898169
  • Publisher: Brilliance Audio
  • Publication date: 12/3/2013
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 5.40 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

A two-time winner of the Prêmio Jabuti, Brazil’s most prestigious literary award, Buarque has written acclaimed novels, plays, and poetry, and is a legendary figure in Latin American music. He lives in Rio de Janeiro.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 24, 2013

    At the othe result

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