Graciliano Ramos

(1892 – 1953)


© by the author


Graciliano Ramos was born in Brazil in 1892. He started to work as a journalist for various magazines and newspapers in 1904, assuming different pseudonyms. In 1933 he published his first novel, Caetés. The author received several prizes, including the Brazilian National Prize for Children’s Literature for A terra dos meninos pelados (“The Earth of the Naked Boys”) and the Felipe de Oliveira Prize for his complete works. His most important novel, Vidas secas (“Barren Lives”), was awarded the prize of the William Faulkner Foundation and made into a movie, which received two awards of its own. In his novel Memórias do Cárcere (“Memories of Prison”), which was published posthumously, he describes his years in prison under Vargas’ dictatorship. Graciliano Ramos is considered a classic among Brazilian contemporary authors.


In Vidas secas (“Barren Lives“), a classic in Brazilian literature, Graciliano Ramos describes the life of a peasant family from the northeast of Brazil moving from place to place in order to escape a drought, enduring hardships while still dreaming of a better life. Written in austere but captivating prose, the reader is immediately drawn into this cyclical story, envisaging the torrid landscape under a merciless sun and feeling with these outstanding characters whom life has treated so badly.



Angústia (“Anguish”) tells the story of Luis da Silva. Plagued by a sense of inferiority and obsessive destructive fantasies and after an agonizing inner journey, he commits a murder. After an emotional breakdown, Luis da Silva starts evoking different stages of his life, his unhappy childhood on his father’s deteriorated estate, episodes of near starvation, the depressing routine of an unknown journalist. Mingling the past with the present, which is hardly more positive, forever on the lookout for odd jobs, Luis’ mind grows more and more disturbed.

When he meets his neighbour, the beautiful Marina, Luis immediately falls in love with her. He starts dreaming of a better future that might bring some kind of sense into his life, but, impoverished as he is, he cannot offer Marina what she is looking for – money and luxury. Marina turns to the wealthy Julião, and Luis, already depressed, starts to give free reins to his ever-increasing jealousy and hatred. Envious of Julião’s money, his desire for revenge and destruction increases. When Marina falls pregnant, Luis is finally driven over the edge and kills Julião.

In this masterpiece, Graciliano Ramos once again enchants the reader with his precise and dry prose, which only emphasises the starkness of his characters and their surroundings. With great expressive force, he gives testimony to the socially and psychologically refined relationships of his protagonists and their inner developments, which are characteristic of all his novels.



Graciliano Ramos is of the naturalistic tradition in the literature of Brazil, but this novel is not mere social protest. The author has a keen visual sense, and the reader becomes one with the part of the earth where Fabiano’s life unfolds... Barren Lives is a moving novel, one to ponder on.

Library Journal


In Vidas secas, considered as the main work of Graciliano Ramos by the majority of literary critics, it is simply impossible not to be moved. [...] One of the most impressing aspects of his work is the constant actuality of its topic.


[Caetés] has the same universal force as Anna Karenina or Madame Bovary.




Original editions and rights sold (selection):



Caetés, Brazil: 1933, Rio de Janeiro: Record 2003, 304 p.

Portugal: Portugália Editora 1965, Europa-América 1984, Caminho 1990, 195 p.


São Bernardo, Brazil: 1934, Rio de Janeiro: Record 2002 (last edition:2009), 272 p.

Finland: Porvoo 1992, Söderström 1961 France: Gallimard 1936, 1986, 2015 Germany: Fischer 1961, Hanser 1960 (rights available) Hungary: Europa 1962 Italy: Bollatti Boringhieri 1993 Netherlands: Copperns & Frenks, 1996 Peru: Colmena Polen: Wydaw 1985Portugal: Publicações Europa-América 1983, Caminhos 1991 UK: Peter Owen 1975 Uruguay: Banda Oriental 2007 US: New York Review of BooksVenezuela: Monte Avila Editores 1980


Angústia, Brazil: 1936, Rio de Janeiro: Record 2003, 240 p.

France: Gallimard 1992 Germany: Suhrkamp 1978, 1994 (rights available) Italy: Fratelli Bocca 1954 Mexico: Páramo 2008Netherlands: Copperns & Frenks, 1995 Portugal: Portugália Editora 1962, Europa-América 1984, Caminho 1991 Spain: Alfaguara 1978 Uruguay: Independencia 1944, Banda Oriental 2013US: A.A. Knopf 1946, Greenwood Press 1972


Vidas secas, Brazil: 1938, Rio de Janeiro: Record 2003, 176 p.

Argentina: Editora Capricornio 1958, Corregidor 2001 Belgium: Novib’s-Gravenhage/NCOS 1981 Bulgaria: Cyx Knbot 1969 Cuba: Casa de las Américas 1964 Czech Republic: Statni Nakladatelstvi, Krásné Literatury 1959, Jubdy a Umêni Denmark: Tørke 1986 France: Gallimard 1964, Chandeigne 2014 Germany: Horst Erdmann 1965, Suhrkamp 1981 (rights available), Wagenbach 2013 Greece: Electra Hungary: Europa Könyvriadó 1967Italy: Nuova Accademia 1961 (“Terra Bruciata”), Nuova Accademia 1963 (“Siccittà”), Biblioteca del Vascello, 1993 (“Vite Secche”) Netherlands: Het Wereldvenster 1981, Copperns & Frenks 1998 Portugal: Portugália Editora 1965, Europa-América 1983, Caminho 1991 Spain: Espasa-Calpe 1974, S.A. Bruguera Sweden: Pontes 1993 Turkey: Can Yayinlari 1985 Uruguay: Nuestra América 1970; Banda Oriental 2004 US: University of Texas Press 1965, 5th edition 1999


Brandão entre o Mar e Amor, 1942


Infância, 1945, Rio de Janeiro: Record 2003, 272 p.

Argentina: Siglo Veinte 1948, Beatriz Viterbo 2010  France: Gallimard 1956 Germany: Wagenbach 2013Netherlands: ArbeiderspersPortugal: Europa-América 1984, Caminho 1992 UK: P. Owen 1979 Uruguay: Banda Oriental 2013


Insônia, 1947, Rio de Janeiro: Record 2003, 192 p.

France: Gallimard 1998 Greece: Electra (year of publication unknown) Italy: Fahrenheit 451 2008 Portugal: Publicações Europa-América 1962, Caminho 1994


Memórias do Cárcere, 1953, Rio de Janeiro: Record 2003, 728 p.

France: Gallimard 1988 Peru: Colmena Portugal: Portugália Editora 1970, Europa-América 1983, Caminho 1993


Viagem, 1954, Rio de Janeiro: Record 2003, 256 p.


Linhas Tortas, 1962, Rio de Janeiro: Record 2003, 448 p.


Viventes das Alagoas, 1962, Rio de Janeiro: Record 2003, 272 p.


Alexandre e outros heróis, 1962 (Ed. Leitura “Histórias de Alexandre”), Rio de Janeiro: Record 2003, 206 p.

Uruguay: Banda Oriental 2010



For young readers:

O estribo de Prata (a story from “Histórias de Alexandre”), 1984, Rio de Janeiro: Record 2002, 36 p.


A terra dos meninos pelados, 1937, Rio de Janeiro: Record 2002, 88 p.

German: Nagel & Kimche 1996 (rights available)




Histórias incompletas, Porto Alegre: Livraria do Globo 1946, 145 p.




Cartas de amor a Heloísa, 1992, Rio de Janeiro: Record 1994 (last edition 1996), 91 p.


Cartas, 1980, Rio de Janeiro: Record 1994, Salvador: EDUFBA 2008, 208 p.