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For such a massive country, Brazil seems to have a dearth of writers in English translation when you compare it to neighbouring Argentina, for example. Setting aside your Clarice Lispectors and your Paulo Coelhos, I’d hazard a guess and say that it’s tricky for most non-Portuguese speakers to name any other Brazilian writers off the top of their head.
But, if you do a bit of rooting and reading around, there are plenty of contemporary Brazilian writers that you should know (and read)—here’s my pick of just five.
(Please note that this series focuses on authors and essayists. For poets from Brazil, check out this post.)
Born in Porto Alegre in 1982, Carol Bensimon is a novelist and short story writer perhaps best-known in English for her novel We All Loved Cowboys (trans. Beth Fowler). Her other novels include Sinuca Embaixo d’Água and O Clube dos Jardineiros de Fumaça, both of which were nominated for the prestigious Jabuti Prize. She’s also been translated into Italian and was named one of the Best Young Brazilian Writers by Granta.
Natalia Borges Polesso
Named as one of the Bogotá39 in 2017, novelist, poet, and short story writer Natalia Borges Polesso has around half a dozen full-length books to her name, including Amora (translated into English by Julia Sanches), Controle, and Recortes para álbum de fotografia sem gente. Amora won her the Jabuti Prize in 2016, along with many other major literary awards.
Read my review of Amora here.
Ana Paula Maia
Musician, screenwriter, and novelist Ana Paula Maia published her first book online and her career took off from there. Now, the Nova Iguaçu-born author has over half a dozen titles to her name, amongst them De gados e homens (forthcoming in English from Zoë Perry), Enterre seus mortos, and Assim na terra com embaixo na terra. The latter two titles both won her the São Paulo Prize for Literature in 2018 and 2019.
Noemi Jaffe was born to Serbian Jewish parents in São Paulo in 1962 and currently has over a dozen works of critically acclaimed and widely translated fiction and non-fiction to her name. In English, she’s perhaps best known for What are the Blind Men Dreaming? (trans. Julia Sanches), although her other works include A verdadeira história do alfabeto and Írisz: As Orquídeas. Jaffe also works as a creative writing teacher and columnist.
Alongside Borges Polesso, Porto Alegre-born Verónica Stigger—a writer, art critic, and university professor—was also included on the Bogotá39 list in 2017 and has a dozen published works to her name to date. Known for its diverse approach to genre, Stigger’s writing runs the gamut from novel to novella, flash fiction to poetry and includes titles such as Opisanie świata (trans. Zoë Perry).