An Invincible Memory

Jooao Ubaldo Ribeiro, Author HarperCollins Publishers $25 (504p) ISBN 978-0-06-015622-0
A family saga spanning nearly 400 years, this absorbing epic novel lays bare the soul of the Brazilian nation. Whaling, war, macumba, slavery, murder, cannibalism and Brazil's struggle for independence add momentum to Ribeiro's lyrical, effusive, sonorous, serpentine prose laced with a touch of magic realismsomething of a cross between Melville and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. (The author himself has rendered the fluent translation.) At the center is Amleto Ferreira, a 19th century paterfamilias and conniving bookkeeper who defrauds a baron of his wealth; Amleto's ladylike, long-suffering wife Teolina; and their children, among them a priest, a romantic poet and a soldier. A bestseller in Brazil, the novel graphically portrays the terrible cruelty inflicted by whites on blacks, mulattos and Indians; the lives of these native peoples unfold in dozens of intertwined stories. The relationship between Merinha, patient, Penelope-like servant girl, and runaway slave Budiao is moving. Also memorable are 100-year-old Great Mother Dadinha and Maria da Fe, a bandit warrior who converses with birds and seeks special power from a sorcerer's charms. Catapulting his tale into the 1970s, journalist Ribeiro ( Sergeant Getulio ) creates a stunning portrait of a people who, though outwardly mirthful, are still not free. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1989
Release date: 01/01/1989
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