book cover

Photo © Michael Sommers.

There has been a lot of ink spilled in recent times about all the enormous and myriad changes taking place in Brazil; from the swelling of the middle classes and the pacification of favelas to the behind-the-schedule-ness of Brazil’s preparations for the upcoming 2014 World Cup.

Far less newsworthy, but just as interesting are the changes taking place in Brazil’s robust literary scene.

Recently, when I was in Rio de Janeiro browsing through books at one of the few remaining livrarias that once littered the Zona Sul neighborhoods of Ipanema and Leblon, I came across (and actually purchased) a book entitled Os Melhores Jovens Escritores Brasileiros,” launched by Granta literary magazine in July of this year.

An English-language edition – The Best of Young Brazilian Novelists– was just released in North America this fall. Granta, which has been around since 1882, has been publishing these national compilations of writers to watch since 1983 when it launched a prescient The Best of Young British Novelists edition featuring stories by the up-and-coming likes of Martin Amis, Ian McEwan, and Salman Rushdie.

Granta, which has been around since 1882, has been publishing these national compilations of writers to watch since 1983. I have to admit that – like many of my Brazilian friends – while I’m fairly well versed in the Brazilian 19th and 20th-century classics (I’ve spent countless hours with the likes of Machado de Assis, Jorge Amado, and Clarice Lispector), I’m sadly quite clueless when it comes to contemporary Brazilian fiction. Consequently, I pounced upon this intriguing (and inexpensive) volume with a considerable degree of curiosity.

According to Granta’s Brazilian editor, Marcelo Ferronio, in an interview posted on the magazine’s web site, there exists a young generation of Brazilian writers under 40 who, while continuing to draw on the country’s literary traditions, are producing a fresh crop of national fiction that is strongly influenced by popular culture and foreign fiction. These elements appear in the selection of short stories by 20 of the most promising young writers from all over the country.

Ferronio claims that the English-language version of the The Best of Young Brazilian Novelists is all the more special viewed how difficult it is to get Brazilian fiction translated, especially into English.

Says John Freeman, editor of the British-based Granta: “We buy Brazil’s clothes, we admire its football, we dance to its beats, but the dream-life of the nation – something contemporary fiction creates in a unique and vital way – remains mostly invisible to us, simply because of a lack of translation. I’m hoping this issue can change that a little, and introduce writers who will be with us for decades.”