The following books (mostly by Brazilian writers) are available in English translation and give lively perspectives regarding the culture and history of the Northeast through imaginative works of poetry and prose.


Alves, Castro.  The Slave Ship.  Edited by José Cassais.  Canoas, RS, Brazil:  Enigmax Editoria, 2011.

Castro Alves, 19th-century abolitionist poet of Bahia, first publicly presented this long, haunting anti-slavery poem in 1868; it was published posthumously as O Navio Negreiro in 1880.  The poem was influential in mobilizing national sentiment leading to the abolition of slavery in Brazil in in 1888.


Amado, Jorge.  Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon.  Translated by James L. Taylor and William L. Grossman.  New York: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2006.

One of the most renowned writers of the Latin American literary boom of the 1960s, storyteller Jorge Amado presents in this novel an entertaining panorama of small town life in the Northeast of Brazil in the 1920s, taking humorous aim at the foibles and pretentions of human behavior in all social classes.


__________.  Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands: A Moral and Amorous Tale.  Translated by Harriet De Onis.  New York:  Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2006.

Dona Flor, a long suffering widow, marries an upright man with none of the profligate inclinations of her first husband, only to discover that she is inextricably linked to both of these husbands in the intricate and humorous interplay of reality and imagination.


__________.  The War of the Saints.  Translated by Gregory Rabassa. New York:  Random House Publishing Group, 1995.

In an exuberant, fast-moving tale enlivened by the intoxicating rhythms of carnival, Amado presents another tour-de-force, weaving together the concrete and the mystical and leading to inexplicable results that reflect the magic one can actually experience in Bahia.


Rosa, João Guimarães.  The Devil to Pay in the Backlands. Translated by James L. Taylor and Harriet de Onis.  New York:  Knopf, 1963.  (originally published as Grande Sertão: Veredas, 1956)

A classic in Brazilian literature, Guimarães’ epic novel gives unusual access to the complexities of early-20th century life in the inhospitable sertão (the rural backlands of Northeast Brazil) as told to an unidentified listener by a footloose bandit who recounts the monotonous and seemingly endless days and years of his life, and offering a reflection as well on large issues such as friendship, trust, betrayal, evil, and love.


Vargas Llosa, Mario.  The War at the End of the Worlds.  Translated by Helen R. Lane.  New York : Farrar Straus Giroux, 1984.

This historic novel by Peruvian writer Vargas Llosa tells the tragedy of Canudos, the isolated community of outcast followers of the charismatic Antônio Conselheiro in the lawless backlands of Brazil’s Northeast, and the cataclysmic battle between these outcasts and the Brazilian Army that destroyed Canudos in 1896-97 at an horrific sacrifice of life and innocence on both sides.