Roots of Brazil
Sérgio Buarque de Holanda, University of Notre Dame Press, £18.91
First published in 1936, this book remains a must for wanting to understand Brazilian culture and society. Buarque de Holanda explains the differences between Brazilians and other nationalities by analysing how the Portuguese, Spanish, Native Americans and Africans have all shaped the multicultural Brazil we know today. The book is a landmark in Brazilian sociology and developed the concept of ‘cordial man’, arguing that Brazilians act on emotions more than reason.
Carnivals, Rogues and Heroes: Interpretation of the Brazilian Dilemma
Roberto DaMatta, University of Notre Dame Press, £24.50
DaMatta interprets Brazil and its people from a unique perspective. He defines the values and attitudes of the country’s society by analysing three types of public ritual: carnival, Independence Day and local religious processions. Through these, the author presents the dilemma of a country with an overly authoritarian, hierarchical and violent society, which seeks a harmonious, democratic and peaceful world. This provocative book revolutionized Brazilian social anthropology.
The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas
Machado de Assis, Penguin Books, £9.99
Machado de Assis is one of the most prestigious names in Brazilian literature and one of the greatest black authors the world has seen. This novel tells the story of Brás Cubas, a decadent and nasty aristocrat of 19th-century Rio de Janeiro who decided to write his memoirs after his own death. With an incomparable sense of humour, the novel portrays Brazil of that time, with its provincial politics and slave-owning society.
Bossa Nova: The Story of the Brazilian Music that Seduced the World
Ruy Castro, Chicago Review Press, £47.20
Who has never heard the timeless song The Girl from Ipanema, or The Waters of March? These are notable examples of Bossa Nova, a popular musical genre in Brazil that came about in the 1950s. The author interviews renowned musicians and chronicles how Bossa Nova became such an astonishing success worldwide.
Brazil: A Biography
Heloisa Starling & Lilia Moritz Schwarcz, Penguin, £11.54
Starling and Schwarcz offer an engaging journey into the rich history of Brazil, a country that went through periods of violent colonization and monarchy, endured a murderous military dictatorship and is now struggling to consolidate its democracy. At the same time, it spotlights relevant aspects of Brazilian food, art and popular culture, which makes the reading even more pleasant.
Acting Globally: Memoirs of Brazil’s Assertive Foreign Policy
Celso Amorim, Hamilton Books, £38
Amorim was Brazil’s longest-serving foreign minister (1993-94, 2003-10). In a thoughtful style, he presents his memories of his time in office and explains how he worked to expand Brazil’s global influence. He describes his experience in the backstage of international politics: in Tehran, mediating with Turkey the negotiations for a nuclear agreement; in the Middle East, helping the rapprochement of Arab countries and Israel; and in the Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations.