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Contemporary Jewish Writing in Brazil

An Anthology

Nelson H. Vieira

Publication Year: 2011

Contemporary Jewish Writing in Brazil showcases a diverse range of modern Jewish writers from one of South America’s most vibrant, multicultural communities. Brazil’s population is largely Catholic; its Jewish population today numbers about 120,000 mostly upwardly mobile Jews living in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, and Pôrto Alegre. Brazilian Jewish writers often use the testimonial and fantastic modes of Latin American literature to expose anti-Semitism, explore the challenges and opportunities for the Jewish diaspora in South America, and reexamine historical and cultural connections to the Old World. This anthology features the work of such internationally recognized figures as Moacyr Scliar and Clarice Lispector, including two early stories by Lispector that have never before appeared in English translation. Of special note are Samuel Rawet, the father of modern Jewish writing in Brazil; Alberto Dines, a prominent public and literary figure in the 1970s and 1980s; and more recently acclaimed writers such as Cíntia Moscovich.

Published by: University of Nebraska Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. ix-xiv

This research project, the critical introduction, and the ensuing translations anthologized here represent the first panorama of twentieth century Brazilian Jewish fiction available to an English-speaking audience. Although there have been several English translations of Brazilian Jewish fiction beyond the works...

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pp. xv-lxxxii

Tropical Jews? Jews in the tropics? The questions suggest an oxymoron not only for those unaware of the existence of a Latin American Jewish Diaspora but also for others who tend to envisage all Jews within familiar U.S. and/or Old World historical contexts...

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Interview with Moacyr Scliar

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pp. lxxxiii-xcviii

This unpublished interview took place in November 1998 in Providence, Rhode Island, during Moacyr Scliar’s one-month stay as writer-inresidence in the Department of Portuguese and Brazilian Studies at Brown University, sponsored by Brown University and the Brazilian Ministry of Culture...

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Marcos Iolovitch

Marcos Iolovitch was born in Russia in 1907 and emigrated to Brazil with his family, under the auspices of the philanthropic Jewish Colonization Association (jca), during the early part of the twentieth century to work on the Quarto Irmãos farm in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul...

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Excerpts from On a Clear April Morning

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pp. 3-16

On a clear April morning in the year 19...when the steppes had begun to turn green with the happy coming of spring, in Zagradowka, a small and cheerful Russian village in the province of Kersan, very pretty circulars with colorful illustrations were scattered about, describing the excellence of the climate, the fertility of the land...

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Clarice Lispector

Clarice Lispector was born in the Ukraine in 1920 and died in Rio de Janeiro in 1977. Fleeing from the pogroms in Russia, her family arrived in Brazil in 1921. After a Yiddishkeit childhood and early adolescence in the Brazilian Northeast...

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pp. 19-26

Actually nothing happened on that gray afternoon in April. Nevertheless, everything predicted a grand day. He had let her know that her coming would constitute the big moment, the greatest event of their lives. For that reason she entered the avenue bar...

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Me and Jimmy

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pp. 27-30

I still remember Jimmy, that boy with disheveled brown hair covering the elongated cranium of a true-born rebel. I remember Jimmy, his hair, and his ideas. Jimmy thought that nothing exists as good as what’s natural. That if two people like each other, there is nothing to do but to love each other, simple as that. That everything else in men that moves away...

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Elisa Lispector

Elisa Lispector was born in the village of Sawranh, Ukraine, in 1911 and came to Brazil as a little girl. She died in Rio de Janeiro in 1989. She spent her adolescence in Recife in Northeast Brazil and the rest of her life in Rio de Janeiro...

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Excerpt from In Exile

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pp. 33-40

She turned back to the first source of her bitterness, to the first warning that the Jew is a separate being, someone who has a reason for struggling and suffering. To suffer always, even in his worship of God. In church, where Eudóxia had taken her one afternoon...

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Out of Sheer Despair

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pp. 41-46

You know, Doctor, I like these therapy sessions because they’re completely informal. None of that lying down on the couch, your sitting behind me with a pad of paper and a pen in hand, calling to mind an envoy sent by the Holy Office in search...

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Jacó Guinsburg

Jacó Guinsburg was born in Bessarabia in 1921 and at the age of three, along with his family, disembarked in Santos, São Paulo, Brazil. After several years in the interior of the state of São Paulo, his family moved to the capital city of São Paulo in 1930, where he remains today. Literary critic, publisher, and professor...

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pp. 49-52

Miriam leaned over her mother’s shoulder. She couldn’t manage to contain her emotion. A quiver ran through the little girl’s body. Oh, how good it was to have a birthday and to get pretty things! And on top of everything that brooch...

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Figures in the Darkness

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pp. 53-54

Rachel brusquely folded the pages of the newspaper. Below her very white forehead, her eyes withdrew into their dark, light-spotted depths. On her oval face, framed by black curly hair, two lines that radiated at an angle, on both sides of her slightly aquiline nose, creased even more, in apparent contradiction to her voluptuous...

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Samuel Rawet

Samuel Rawet was born in 1929 in Klimontow, a small Polish town and shtetl near Warsaw that was destroyed during World War II. He emigrated to Brazil at the age of seven along with his family and settled in the northern lower-class suburbs...

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Christmas without Christ

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pp. 57-64

Tear a man away from his peace, his silence, his routine of cutting a slice of meat or taking a sip of ordinary wine on an extraordinary day, raise his criminal face stigmatized by who knows what habits, leave his body exposed inside-out in visceral nudity, a new buffoon fondled by the scourge of bruising caresses...

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pp. 65-68

What shadow recrudesces around him? What bitter rebellion builds up into distorted moments and nullifies any perception whatsoever of objects as objects? Suddenly he identifies himself as a receptor of adulterated images, incapable of a concrete, singular, immediate encounter with the other...

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Rosa Palatnik

Rosa Palatnik was born in Poland in 1904 and died in Brazil in 1979. Well-known internationally in Yiddish literary circles as an accomplished short-story writer, she left her native land in 1928 and went to Paris, where she lived for ten years...

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Two Mothers

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pp. 71-82

At Eleventh Square, near the Jewish butcher, next to the narrow steps that lead to a large church, sits Chaie-Sara on a stone bench, impatiently waiting so long for her good friend Beile-Guitel, who comes almost every day from distant Ipanema so that, according to Chaie-Sara’s words, the two women would unburden their suffering maternal hearts, each one with her own story...

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Judith Grossmann

Judith Grossmann was born in the state of Rio de Janeiro in 1931 and is the daughter of Rumanian immigrants to Brazil. Educated in Anglo-Germanic letters, she received her degree from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro in 1954...

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Mrs. Büchern in Lebenswald

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pp. 85-90

Nobody in Lebenswald knew for certain who Mrs. Büchern was. Where she had come from. How she had come. Why she had come. Since her youth Mrs. Büchern was on a pilgrimage to atone for her sins. She had not been in Buchenwald. But she had not escaped Lebenswald. There she was. She had come with little baggage...

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Alberto Dines

Alberto Dines was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1932, his parents having immigrated to Brazil from the Ukraine. Journalist, biographer, short-story writer, screenplay writer, and film critic, Dines began his studies in the city of São Paulo...

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Death in Paradise: The Tragedy of Stefan Zweig

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pp. 93-100

‘I entered the bedroom and remained there I don’t know how long without raising my head. I couldn’t or I didn’t want to look. On the two modest beds, pushed together, lay the master with his handsome face slightly altered by its paleness. The violent death had not left any visible signs of violence; he was sleeping without his eternal...

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Sônia Rosenblatt

Sônia Rosenblatt was born in Bessarabia and as a refugee fled to Brazil, where she settled in the northeastern city of Recife, capital of the state of Pernambuco. Her memoir...

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Clouded Memories

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pp. 103-114

In 1939 the Germans had already occupied Poland, and the small state of Bessarabia, where Lipcani was embedded, was claimed by Russia, which had wanted it back. The small state of Bessarabia remained in the control of Rumania from the end of the First World War until 1940, even though it was always coveted by Russia...

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Samuel Malamud

Samuel Malamud was born in the Ukraine in 1908 and emigrated to Brazil with his parents in 1923. He died in Rio de Janeiro in 2000. He received his law degree in 1932 from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. Following his arrival in Brazil...

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Excerpt from Stops in Time

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pp. 117-128

At dawn on the thirtieth day, creaking with fatigue, the Desirade began its approach to the entrance of Guanabara Bay. During the night nobody in third class had slept, almost all being immigrants on their first voyage. Brazilian soil was near, and those whose destination was Rio were packing their suitcases...

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Francisco Dzialovsky

Francisco Dzialovsky was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1952. He completed his undergraduate studies in geography and environmental Studies and his graduate studies in contemporary philosophy at the Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro....

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Excerpt from The Third Testament

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pp. 131-142

Whatever is revealed in confidence sooner or later ends up in the public domain, especially when keeping secrecy pertains not to one or two people but to the entire community. Therefore, it is impossible to explain how, for years at a time...

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Eliezer Levin

Eliezer Levin was born in the southern colony of Baron Hirsch in 1930 but at the age of five moved to the city of São Paulo, where he remained the rest of his life. An engineer by profession as well as a businessman and author, Levin wrote for the Jewish press of São Paulo and centered most of his narratives...

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New York, New York

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pp. 145-148

Everybody who goes to New York always has something to relate. I wouldn’t be the exception, even though it wasn’t exactly what one might have foreseen. Right on my first afternoon, it being the anniversary of my mother’s death, I tried to discover where I could find an Orthodox synagogue for the afternoon and evening...

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A Schoolmaster’s Requiem

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pp. 149-152

Schoolmaster José, an old friend of my father, expired at nine o’clock in the morning on a Friday, in the old folks’ home where he had been living for some time. He was a little more than seventy years old, widowed, without children...

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The Seed from Safed

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pp. 153-156

I met Dona Esther by accident, an old friend of my mother’s, at one of those watering-hole resorts where I was spending a short spell. Despite her seventy-some-odd years, I found her to be hale and hearty and even somewhat loquacious...

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The Tenth Man

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pp. 157-160

Max didn’t have a good reputation in our community, but to me his stories were very entertaining. He had dropped his studies early on in order to be able to work, since his father, a victim of an accident, had become an invalid. Due to his business activities, which were numerous, he ended up knowing most of the small...

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Mr. Samuel

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pp. 161-164

It was one Sunday morning, very early, when I received that phone call from Mr. Samuel. Although he was an old neighbor of my father, I only knew him superficially. When both of them, almost within the same period of time, became widowers...

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Paulo Jacob

Paulo Jacob was born in Manaus, Amazonas, where he studied and later graduated from law school. He began his career as magistrate, a judge of judicial law, in the district of Canutama on the Purus River in 1952. In this capacity he traveled...

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Excerpt from A Patch of Moonlight Fell on the Jungle

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pp. 167-176

Tishah b’Av, ninth day of the Jewish month of Av. Remembrance of the destruction of the temples of Jerusalem. A date of much suffering for the Jews. The first temple crushed by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 bc. The other destroyed by Titus in 770 ad. The holy Beth Hamikdash ravaged with much disrespect to the sanctuary...

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Amália Zeitel

Amália Zeitel was born in Campinas, São Paulo, in 1933 and died in 1992. She graduated in theater in the School of Communication and Arts at the University of São Paulo in 1971 and completed her ma in fine arts at the same university in 1974...

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Strawberries with Cream

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pp. 179-184

‘Hello.’ ‘Marilia?’ ‘Who is it?’ ‘It’s me; don’t you remember anymore?’ ‘Mother of God! Julia! How are you?’ ‘It’s not Julia; it’s Alicia.’ I had less than a second to pull myself together. ‘Of course, Alicia, I guess I didn’t recognize your voice.’...

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Esther Largman

Esther Largman was born in Salvador, Bahia, in 1934 and is a historian by profession. She received her ba and ma degrees in geography and history from the Faculty of Philosophy of the Federal University of Brazil in 1955 and in 1956 entered...

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Polish Girls

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pp. 187-198

It was still November, but summer seemed to have arrived with all its force. It was very hot, the mangos were already ripened, and in the neighbor’s yard many of them were lying on the ground, half ripe, half rotten...

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Bernardo Ajzenberg

Bernardo Ajzenberg was born in 1959 in São Paulo, where he studied in Jewish primary and middle schools before enrolling in 1977 in the University of Campinas, São Paulo (unicamp) to study economics. He never completed the program since he soon went to Israel to harvest oranges and later traveled...

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Excerpt from Goldstein & Camargo

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pp. 201-220

Early on in life I became one of those callous individuals who doesn’t believe in the existence of platonic love. However much she represses herself or is repressed, perhaps even due to this, the lay sister who secretly loves some lad always feels her sex vibrating amid her desires— or between her legs, to be more...

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Roney Cytrynowicz

Roney Cytrynowicz was born in São Paulo in 1964. He studied economics and received his doctorate in history from the University of São Paulo. He has worked as copyeditor for the daily Folha de São Paulo and also editor for the Jewish magazine...

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The Secret Life of the Clocks

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pp. 223-226

It has been many years since I last slept at my grandfather’s house. I haven’t seen him for many years. When I enter his home, everything seems familiar to me, as if I had lived there the same amount of time as he did. I am overcome by a feeling of tranquility, by the security of an affection more ancient than remembrance...

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Shed II

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pp. 227-232

Stefan made Mlotek’s acquaintance five days before the surgery. ‘I want a new face,’ he said. ‘You will have one,’ he heard, during the longest dialogue of the consultation. Stefan did not notice a tiny movement on Mlotek’s face, his eyes opening in order to augment his angle of perception, his eyebrow raised by his forehead. One of his lovers, right after the war, had confidentially revealed...

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Samuel Reibscheid

Samuel Reibscheid was born in São Paulo into a family of immigrants from Galicia who arrived in Brazil in 1925; he grew up speaking Polish, German, and Yiddish...

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My Name Is Job

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pp. 235-242

My name is Job. In a family that chooses only biblical names out of habit, from time to time someone is called Job. I was born in São Paulo; I live in São Paulo. My parents came from Poland more than fifty years ago. They established themselves here, began their lives anew, procreated children, and paid taxes...

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Moacyr Scliar

Moacyr Scliar was born in 1937 in Porto Alegre, a city with the third largest Jewish community in Brazil, in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul, noted for its gaúcho regional and folkloric culture of cattle raising and farming. Indelibly marked by his Jewish Russian heritage, Scliar considers himself a cultural...

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In the Bosom of Abraham

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pp. 245-248

Life was excellent in the bosom of Abraham, according to the report our grandfather periodically sent us from there, availing himself of a medium who lived on our street and who charged a small fortune for this service. But we all agreed that we would do anything to receive news from such a good and charming man...

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The Children of the Androgyne

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pp. 249-250

In childhood we suffered a great deal with that home situation. On the rare occasions we went out into the street (always together and holding hands: we felt more protected like that), the neighbors would point to us, laughing and sneering: look at the children...

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The Necrologists

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pp. 251-260

One doesn’t come to this art by chance, wrote the necrologist Kurt in one of his autonecrologies (he composed one per day, upon waking: it’s an exercise, he declared, equivalent to other people’s jogging). The term ‘art’ seemed a bit strong for the necrologist Everaldo, who modestly considered himself to be a laborer...

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Jaime Lerner

Jaime Lerner was born in São Paulo in 1959. At the age of seven he, along with his family, emigrated to Israel, where he studied and later graduated from the Academy of Cinema and tv, Beit Zvi. While living in London, he completed a master’s degree...

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pp. 263-270

Hirsch cast his eyes on his new companion and was filled with affection. I like him, he thought, reminding himself he rarely erred in these first impressions of his. The man smiled at him while being introduced; he hesitated a little and finally extended his hand, bowing a bit. Hirsch’s son invented some excuse and left them alone...

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Cíntia Moscovich

Cíntia Moscovich was born in Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul, in 1958 and graduated from the School of Communications at the Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul with a major in journalism; she received her master’s degree in literary theory...

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Sheine Meidale

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pp. 273-284

It was in the late sixties. I am absolutely sure because I remember everybody piled up in the living room of our apartment, Mother popping corn in the kitchen, the Philips tv screen blinking in black and white and there, in the monochrome image, Man stepping on the moon for the very...


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pp. 285-288

E-ISBN-13: 9780803226968
E-ISBN-10: 0803226969

Publication Year: 2011