I Didn’t Talk

Beatriz Bracher, trans. from the Portuguese by Adam Morris. New Directions, $15.95 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-0-8112-2736-0

Brazil’s Bracher arrives in English with this brilliant, enigmatic rumination of a novel. Gustavo, a recently retired professor, prepares to sell his family home and move away from São Paulo. The process triggers a flood of reminiscences about his parents; his career; his wife, Eliana; and his involvement with the resistance to the military regime that seized Brazil in the 1960s. Gustavo relates how his arrest and torture by the authorities precipitated the killing of Eliana’s brother, Armando, even as he insists, “I didn’t talk.” Nevertheless, Gustavo reflects that the experience turned him into a “sad and troublesome monster.” He shunned responsibility and instead attempted to redeem himself as a father and an educator, even as “Armando was always there, submerged in my thoughts.” Bracher writes that “interrogation, doubt, and listening are ways of doing,” and her novel is more concerned with investigating the sublimation of guilt than it is in answering the question of whether or not Gustavo betrayed Armando. Her refusal to allow Gustavo “to stop and put all these old things in order” transforms what could have been a conventional story about coming to terms with the past into a potent portrait of an agitated mind. Bracher is a force to be reckoned with and has crafted a haunting, powerful novel. (July)