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Crimes of August

A Novel

Rubem Fonseca

Publication Year: 2014

Rubem Fonseca's Crimes of August offers the first serious literary treatment of the cataclysmic events of August 1954, arguably the most turbulent month in Brazilian history.

A rich novel, both culturally and historically, Crimes of August tells two stories simultaneously. The first is private, involving the well-delineated character of Alberto Mattos, a police officer. The other is public, focusing on events that begin with the attempted assassination of Carlos Lacerda, a demagogic journalist and political enemy of President Getulio Vargas, and culminate in Vargas's suicide on August 24,1954. Throughout this suspenseful novel, deceptively couched as a thriller, Fonseca interweaves fact and fiction in a complex, provocative plot. At the same time, he re-creates the atmosphere of the 1950s, when Rio de Janeiro was Brazil's capital and the nexus of political intrigue and corruption.

Mattos is assigned to solve the brutal murder of a wealthy entrepreneur in the aftermath of what appears to be a homosexual liaison. An educated and introspective man, and one of the few in his precinct not on the take from the "bankers" of the illegal lottery, Mattos suffers from alienation and a bleeding ulcer. His investigation puts him on a dangerous collision course with the conspiracy to depose Vargas, the novel's other narrative thread. The two overlap at several points, coming to their tragic end with the aged politician's suicide and Mattos's downfall.

Published by: Tagus Press at UMass Dartmouth

Title Page, Other Works in the Series, Copyright

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To readers of Crimes of August in English

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pp. vii-viii

The novel blends historical fact (the assassination attempt against Carlos Lacerda, resulting in the death of Air Force Major Rubens Vaz; the political plot to depose President Getúlio Vargas) with a fictional murder (the death of entrepreneur Paulo Gomes Aguiar). It takes place in Rio de Janeiro, then the nation’s capital, during the period of August...

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One

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pp. 1-20

The night doorman of the Deauville Building heard the sound of footsteps stealthily descending the stairs. It was one a.m. and the building was enveloped in silence.
“Well, Raimundo?”
“Let’s wait a little,” the doorman replied.
“Nobody else is coming. Everybody’s already asleep.”
“One more hour.”
“I gotta get up early tomorrow.”
The doorman went to the glass door and looked out at...

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Two

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pp. 21-32

The front pages of the newspapers carried headlines about the death of the industrialist Gomes Aguiar. The police, according to Commissioner Ramos, had a clue to the “robbery” that couldn’t be revealed in order not to hinder the investigation. Several photos of Gomes Aguiar and one of Alberto Mattos, with the caption “Inspector leads the...

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Three

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pp. 33-42

It was six in the morning when Mattos’s telephone rang.
“It’s me.”
Silence.
“Remember me?” Alice.
Only three years had gone by.
“I know you like to get up early, that’s why I called at this hour . . .”
It was as if he were at the edge of an abyss, ready to fall. Three years earlier he had called Alice’s home, her mother had come to the phone and said that...

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Four

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pp. 43-55

“Is the money guaranteed? What about the house?” asked Alcino.
“Yes, yes, didn’t I tell you that already?” replied Climerio. “And the job, too. Investigator. Besides that, if I go to Vice, like they promised, I’ll take you with me. Getting a spot in Vice is better than winning the lottery.”
“I got a wife and five kids to support,” said Alcino.
They were at Climerio’s house, 32 Rua Sicupira, in Cachambi, where...

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Five

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pp. 56-72

Compact groups of people began coming out of the São José school. Neither Climerio nor Alcino, who carefully scrutinized everyone’s face, succeeded in spotting the journalist Lacerda. Finally, the school’s doors were shut.
Climerio gestured to Alcino, and the pair returned to Nelson’s taxi.
“Goddamn! The man had already left. See what you did?”
“I didn’t get the message...

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Six

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pp. 73-84

On Friday, around seven A.M., carrying an empty suitcase, Climerio returned to the home of the gunman Alcino.
“The shit’s hit the fan,” said Climerio. “That fucker Nelson turned himself in to the police yesterday. Today they took him to the Military Police barracks, and the bastard spilled his guts. I shouldn’t have trusted the son of a bitch. You’d better go into...

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Seven

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pp. 85-97

“I’m not going to be able to see you today. I’m going on a trip,” said Luiz Magalhães.
“Where are you going?”
“Uruguay. Business. But I’ll be back on Tuesday. What’re you going to do this weekend?”
“Don’t know.”
“You don’t know? You’d better not do anything foolish.”
Could he suspect something? thought Salete. Luiz was very jealous. He had once told her he’d...

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Eight

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pp. 98-106

Ilídio, the numbers game bankroller assaulted by Inspector Mattos, was a proud man. He had started his life as lawbreaker by working for Mr. Aniceto Moscoso, the great numbers game financier in Madureira. With extreme efficiency he provided security for Mr. Aniceto’s betting sites. He avoided the use of violence but, when necessary, hadn’t hesitated to kill the...

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Nine

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pp. 107-123

The morgue’s autopsy reports on Paulo Gomes Aguiar and the findings by Forensics of evidence of the Deauville crime were handed over to Inspector Mattos that morning as he was leaving for the Catete Palace. He quickly skimmed the two procedural documents. Nothing beyond what the examiners had told him informally over the phone. He put them in his desk...

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Ten

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pp. 124-133

Day was beginning to break when Climerio abandoned his small place in the country, Happy Refuge, carrying a small suitcase with clothes, a few papers, a revolver with six bullets, and the fifty-three thousand cruzeiros Soares had given him two days earlier when he met with him in Republic Square downtown, beside the Campo de Santana. The money had been...

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Eleven

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pp. 134-142

Alice and Pedro Lomagno lived in a spacious mansion on Avenida Oswaldo Cruz that had belonged to his father.
Alice was first to arrive at the breakfast area. The pantryman, as always, had set the table for two and was serving Alice when Lomagno entered. He was dressed for tennis and had a racket in his hand. He greeted Alice, kissing her affectionately on the...

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Twelve

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pp. 143-160

It was shortly past midnight when Chicão asked his friend Zuleika for the keys to her car.
“I don’t know when I’ll be back. Don’t wait up for me.”
“You didn’t tell me what you’re gonna do.”
“I’m taking a big shot to get his rocks off with a girl at the Hotel Colonial, on Avenida Niemeier. He tells his old lady he’s going to São Paulo and heads there to get some strange. I think...

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Thirteen

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pp. 161-173

Pádua spent the rainy morning in his office, flexing his arm muscles and thinking. He phoned Old Turk’s mother as agreed. A promise was a promise, even when made to an outlaw.
“You worried, boss?” asked Murilo, who rarely saw Pádua so somber.
“No,” replied Pádua.
However, Pádua was very worried. He regretted having killed Old Turk. In...

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Fourteen

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pp. 174-191

Vitor Freitas, in a secret meeting with several members of his party, the PSD, called his colleagues’ attention to the UDN campaign to take advantage of the dissatisfaction of the military and of the unsettled political atmosphere resulting from the Tonelero attack.
“The UDN has mobilized its best orators to demand the furlough or resignation or deposing of Vargas. If any of these...

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Fifteen

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pp. 192-203

Dona Maria left Tinguá very early Sunday morning, taking advantage of a ride from Onofre Braga, who was going to Rio to visit a sick relative.
Arriving at Vilar dos Teles, Dona Maria phoned an acquaintance of hers, Lieutenant Niemeier, of the air force.
Some time later, two private automobiles stopped in front of 57 Santa Isabel. The cars were marked with two white...

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Sixteen

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pp. 204-214

The exchange and coffee markets opened in an air of anticipation; the majority of players were still unsure as to the interpretation of Resolution 99 by Sumoc, the money and credit oversight board, which set the floating rate of the currency.
Prices in dollars for coffee and other merchandise had come to vary in accordance with the free-exchange rates, whose average...

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Seventeen

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pp. 215-222

That Tuesday morning, as troops of the army, air force, and navy, supported by planes, helicopters, and military vehicles, closed the circle around Climerio, on the Tinguá mountainside, Colonel Adyl, accompanied by a heavily armed escort, taking prisoner João Valente, second-in-command of the now-defunct personal guard of president Vargas, invaded the Catete Palace...

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Eighteen

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pp. 223-231

“I’ve got to give Senator Freitas some information. He’s pressuring me.”
Rosalvo remained silent, meditating.
“You told me the inspector is investigating a homicide in which the senator may be involved. Just what crime are we talking about?”
Teodoro, the Senate security officer, and Rosalvo, aide to Inspector Mattos, were conversing in a restaurant on General Osório Square, in...

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Nineteen

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pp. 232-238

The burn that Salete had caused on Mattos’s hand with boiling water had healed, created a scab, and the inspector had removed the scab, but Salete knew nothing of that, because she hadn’t appeared at the inspector’s apartment since Alice had moved there. Alice had answered the phone the two times she called Mattos’s home. Salete had hung up without saying...

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Twenty

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pp. 239-244

Shortly before noon, Mattos arrived at the precinct to relieve Pádua. Normally he would get there earlier, to inform himself in detail about the incidents of the evening before with the inspector of the previous shift. But that day he was inclined to have the least possible contact with Pádua.
Pádua was waiting for him. “I want to talk to you.”
“It’s enough to give me the...

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Twenty-one

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pp. 245-248

Among the papers Colonel Adyl de Oliveira had found upon breaking into Gregório Fortunato’s drawers and files when he invaded the Catete Palace were documents relating to the crooked deals in the Cexim, brokered by Gregório along with Arquimedes Manhães and Luiz Magalhães, the lover of Salete Rodrigues, Inspector Mattos’s girlfriend. According to the documents...

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Twenty-two

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pp. 249-254

Alzira Vargas do Amaral Peixoto discovered her father, as she herself said, the day she lost him for the first time. It was the year 1923, and her father had left for a revolution that never seemed to end, the first among many others in his life. He seemed very tall, and powerful, in his blue colonel’s uniform of the Provisional Auxiliary of the Military Brigade with black boots and baldric...

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Twenty-three

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pp. 255-263

Mattos read in Monday’s newspapers the brigadiers’ communiqué about the Sunday meeting at the Aeronautics Club. To the inspector, the note, sketchy and obscure, would through its veiled threats increase the rumors flying in the city. “The general officers of the Brazilian Air Force, identifying with the feelings of the corps stemming from the criminal facts brought to...

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Twenty-four

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pp. 264-273

Alone in his bedroom, Vargas slowly removed his clothes and put on the striped pajamas lying on the pillow.
Fresh in Vargas’s memory was the humiliated face of his daughter when they left the meeting, arm in arm. Alzira had gone with him to his bedroom to tell him that the cowards had left; those loyal to him were ready to do battle.
He had refused to fight. He had asked...

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Twenty-five

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pp. 274-282

Late that night, Mattos walked amid the crowd of people forming immense lines near the Catete Palace to see the dead president; he was looking for a bar open at that hour to drink a glass of milk. But they were all closed.
Many people were crying and shouting; one group was singing the national anthem off-key and with faulty lyrics.
Using his police ID, Mattos entered...

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Twenty-six

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pp. 283-288

In the Gávea clinic, Ilídio received the visit from an emissary of Eusébio de Andrade. The numbers game high command wanted to know whether he was involved in the death of the inspector. The emissary added that the peg-leg lawyer had been let go and that Eusébio de Andrade’s personal lawyer, Mr. Silva Monteiro, a member of the Brazilian Bar Association and professor at...


E-ISBN-13: 9781933227597
E-ISBN-10: 1933227591
Print-ISBN-13: 9781933227580

Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2014

Series Title: Brazilian Literature in Translation Series

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Brazil -- Politics and government -- 1954-1964 -- Fiction.
  • Fonseca, Rubem -- Translations into English.
  • Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) -- Fiction.
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