cover image Blood-Drenched Beard

Blood-Drenched Beard

Daniel Galera, trans. from the Portuguese by Alison Entrekin. Penguin Press, $26.95 (384p) ISBN 978-1-59420-5743

Brazilian writer Galera’s novel follows a young man in a beautiful but impoverished coastal town as he tries to uncover the details behind his grandfather’s death. Still reeling from a complicated breakup, the unnamed protagonist visits his ailing father, where he’s told the mysterious story of his grandfather’s murder: no body was ever recovered, no guilty party ever found. After the young man’s father dies, the listless fellow leaves Porto Alegre for coastal Garopaba, desperately seeking some kind of personal peace while also searching out the truth about his grandfather’s end. The bulk of the story has the young man exploring tropical settings, exercising, or attempting to infiltrate the loose social network of Garopaba’s highly secretive, nefarious inhabitants. The task is made significantly more difficult by the young man’s rare condition—he’s unable to recognize faces, even those of people he’s known for years, within minutes of looking away from them. This blunt translation presents a stoic journey of self-discovery, the murder mystery functioning merely as a backdrop. Galera’s keen sense of characters and unflinching depictions of the sometimes awkward desperation of coastal life ground the story and give it a gritty feel that is consistently satisfying. (Jan.)