Bells of Agony

Autran Dourado, Author
Autran Dourado, Author Peter Owen Publishers $33.95 (236p) ISBN 978-0-7206-0681-2
Reviewed on: 11/28/1989
Release date: 12/01/1989
Dourado's ( Pattern for a Tapestry ) third novel to appear in English translation calls on mythology and history to evoke, indirectly, repressive politics in Brazil following a 1964 political coup. If Dourado falters, it is not for want of potent atmosphere or strong characterization, but because he cloaks his allegorical tale too assiduously in allusions and disguises--namely, the legend of Phaedra and Hippolytus, which he reinterprets-- and an 18th century setting. On the surface, the novel tells the story of Malvina, the beautiful, conniving wife of an elderly Brazilian, and Januario, a hot-blooded half-breed. As part of a ruse to win the love of her husband's son, who has whetted her sexual appetite, Malvina encourages the advances of Januario, hoping to persuade him to kill her husband. The author skillfully evokes the murky blend of Inquisitorial Catholicism and the superstitions of a volatile society of whites, Indians and blacks--masters and slaves. But his relentlessly disingenuous roman a clef , whose roots lie buried in the intrigues of Brazilian political life in the 1970s, is beyond reach of average American readers. (May)
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