"Above all, it's the writing that shines in I Didn't Talk. It's a novel that's intelligent but not showy, and Bracher's restraint makes the story all the more potent. And the story is an important one. I Didn't Talk isn't just about one emotionally bruised man; it's about the lasting effects of violence, and the way cruelty causes its victims to torture themselves."
"No one but Beatriz Bracher would be able to write a book like Antonio in Brazil today, because only she manages to write so intimately and forcefully, so ironically and bitterly, about the bourgeois upper class."
Accreting through cumulative and sometimes contradictory accounts of a crumbling São Paulo dynasty, this philosophical novel examines what people present and what they conceal, even from themselves.
On the cusp of becoming the father of a baby boy to be named Antonio, Benjamim, a graphic designer from Rio de Janeiro, has traveled to his own father's hometown of São Paulo. Although we have neither dialogue from nor, for the vast majority of the book, even a glimpse of this central character, we gradually glean through the single-sided conversations directed at him by his three interlocutors—his father's friend Raul, his grandparents' friend Haroldo, and his paternal grandmother, Isabel, who is dying alone in a hospital room—that he is seeking answers about his father, Teodoro. To what purpose, precisely, is never revealed, but as the youngest and most promising child of a prominent and once-affluent family, Teo fled São Paulo for the countryside, not just "to come into contact with the earth of our land," Haroldo theorizes. "He wanted to become it." Here he suffered from a long, untreated mental illness and eventual breakdown that led to his death when Benjamim was still a boy. The tale of his father's self-exile from the city of his birth unfolds as Benjamim learns who Teo was as a son and a man apart from the parent he knew. In gradually accumulating details, he is told of the death of his grandfather Xavier's first child and Benjamim's namesake, Xavier's subsequent collapse and commitment to a "rest home," and how the pseudo-Oedipal story of his own existence evolved from this tragedy. By chapters, the book cycles among Raul's, Haroldo's, and Isabel's recollections on the major events in Teo's and Xavier's lives and the broader family history, a careful study of the unreliability of witness filtered through memory, time, and one's own perception and self-regard. Turning the focus among these three perspectives by minute degrees, Bracher and translator Morris render a sophisticated, multifaceted portrait of a family that endures nevertheless through its decline and the prolonged fallout from the choices they made—or that were left them—through the lives they lived.
An elegant and nuanced meditation on family, class, perception, illness, and death.