Moacyr Scliar

(1937-2011)

Brazil

© Beto Scliar

 

Moacyr Scliar was one of Latin America's most important contemporary writers, who was repeatedly awarded the most distinguished prizes of his country and a great contribution to Brazilian society. He studied medicine and worked as a doctor in the public health service until his retirement. In 2003 he was elected member of the Brazilian Academy of Letters. His books have been published in over 20 countries.

 

 

Scliar is one of the few novelists in Brazil to deal with the topic of Jewish immigrants, as in O exército de um homem só (“The One-Man Army”). He is also a master of short stories, of a fantastic and absurd kind. I'm attracted by the fluid borderline between the literary and the humorous, the real and the absurd. Medicine is another topic that runs through his oeuvre. With considerable humour the author presents the issues of alienation, of religious and ethnic belonging, of the discrepancy between individuality and group identity. He became famous with the novel O centauro no jardim (“The Centaur in the Garden”) and has maintained the interest of a wide readership until present with novels such as A mulher que escreveu a Bíblia (“The Woman who wrote the Bible”), which tells the story about an unattractive girl who becomes one of King Salomon’s wives. As she is the only literate woman, she becomes the king’s historian and tells generations to come the true story of the creation of the world and the glory of King Salomon.

 

Os leopardos de Kafka (“Kafka’s leopards”) tells the story of a misunderstanding and its expansive and entertaining consequences. In 1916, in a Europe devastated by the First World War and on the threshold of the Bolshevik Revolution, the young Russian Benjamin travels to Prague on a secret mission. When he is mistakenly handed The Temple Leopards by Franz Kafka, he believes it to be a coded message. The result is a truly Kafkaesque situation.

 

One of Brazil's finest fabulists.

Alberto Manguel

 

Scliar's voice is a fresh onde, his artistic roots as firmly fixed in Jewish tradition and mythology as they are in Brazil's literary history.

The Washington Post

 

 

In O centauro no jardim (“The Centaur in the Garden”), Moacyr Scliar humorously links fairy-tale, myth and the banality of everyday life in a bourgeois society. Guedali is the son of Jewish immigrants in Brazil - and a centaur, half man, half horse. When he meets the female centaur Tita, the two of them decide to undergo an operation to be given full human form. But Guedali soon longs for his former appearance again...

 

The Centaur in the Garden is a comedic novel, a regionalist novel, a bawdy erotic novel, a realistic novel of bourgeois alienation, a metaphoric novel, a fantastic phantasmagorical novel – a weaving of the common and the mythic, a mating of contrasts and opposites.

The Washington Post

 

 

Na noite do ventre, o diamante (“The Hidden Diamond”): The family Nussembaum lives in a remote village in Russia. For Sabbath each week, Esther, mother of two sons, puts on a precious diamond ring in her humble little house. And what a diamond it is! It accompanies the reader throughout the centuries up to the present. First it is brought from Brazil to Amsterdam by a neo Christian persecuted by the Inquisition and then it is handed down from generation to generation. In the beginning of the 20th Century the family Nussembaum emigrates to Brazil. In order to bring the ring safely across the border, one of the sons swallows the ring, the other, Gregório, swallows the stone. The family soon regains the ring, the stone, however, has implanted itself in Gregório’s bowels. Will it ever be found again? The doyen Scliar once again combines occurrences bordering the absurd with historical facts and lets the reader take part in an entertaining game amid reality and fiction.

 

Os vendilhões do templo (“The Temple Hawkers”):The famous Bible scene in which Jesus furiously drives the merchants from the Temple provides Scliar with the idea for his new novel, which is set in three different eras and takes a good-humoured look into the relation between religion and commerce. The author starts off with the story of a man from 33 AD, a skilled and inventive salesman.

The second story takes place in the 17th century in the south of Brazil, in one of the Jesuits’ missionary outposts. The third and final part of the novel is set in the same place, where a small town has been built on the site of the old mission. The year is 1997. The narrator is a broke, melancholy journalist.

As in his previous works, the author looks back to tell the present through the past. And the questions that are repeatedly raised in the course of the novel do not apply to Brazil alone: What is the relationship between religion and commerce? How can ideals survive reality? Scliar once again seduces the reader in this funny, ironic novel as the masterful storyteller he is.

 

Manual da paixão solitária (“A Manual on Solitary Passion”): At a congress of biblical studies held in a Brazilian city, Harold Veiga de Assis, a famous historian and professor at a prestigious North American university, presents a paper that is based on a manuscript discovered only a few months previously in a cave in Israel that refers to a short passage in the Book of Genesis. It tells the story of patriarch Judah and how his decision to increase his clan leads to the loss of his children. Two of his sons, Er and Onan marry, one after the other, the young and beautiful Tamar, but neither of them manage to father any children. The first son, Er, is punished by God with death for his inability to procreate. Traditionally the Second son, Onan, is responsible for taking the place of his older brother. He, however, refuses to carry out this role since he considers it a humiliation and would rather spill his semen on the ground, than produce any children with her. God punishes him too, with death. Judah's youngest son Shelah is the only one left and he does not want to him to go to Tamar for fear of losing him too. Dishonoured and deprived of children, Tamar plays a trick that goes down in history. A masterly raconteur, Veiga de Assis manages to capture the attention of the congress members, which prompts Diana Medeiros, also a historian and university professor and one of Veiga de Assis' old students, to offer her interpretation of the biblical text, which in turn unleashes a heated debate. The antagonism that arises between the two professors gives way to a modern debate on the biblical facts being presented, which at the end of the day are really explorations into the fundamental feelings of human beings.

As in his previous novels, “The Woman who wrote the Bible” and “The Temple Hawkers”, Scliar uses a biblical theme to prompt the narration of two very different points of view. Typically amusing and though provoking, he addresses the basic emotions of every human being – love, hate, envy, jealousy - all of which have played a part in every human story throughout the ages.

 

La variété de son inspiration, la clarté da sa prose, sa verve enfin en ont fait un des principaux écrivains de son pays. Médecin des pauvres à Porto Alegre, humaniste plus que militant, il n’a plus rien à prouver. [...] La farce, le rire gras sont là, sous-jacents, mais parfaitement contrôlés, et c’est finalement l’écrivain qui s’impose, maître de son rire comme de sa pensée.

Jean Soublin, LE MONDE

 

Please also visit the author’s website: www.moacyrscliar.com

 

 

 

Rights (selection):

 

 

Scliar’s work is now mainly being published by Companhia das Letras, São Paulo.

 

Novels (Selection):

 

A guerra no Bom Fim, Rio de Janeiro: Expressão e Cultura 1972; Porto Alegre: L&PM 1982, 90 p.

France: Folies d’Encre 2010 Germany: Hentrich & Hentrich 2013 Romania: Univers 2012 US: Texas Tech University Press 2010

 

O exército de um homem só, Rio de Janeiro: Expressão e Cultura 1973; Porto Alegre: L & PM 1980; 2002, 176 p.

Argentina: Contexto 1988 Chile: Lom 2002 Colombia: Tercer Mundo 1988; 1995 France: Folies d’Encre Germany: Weitbrecht 1987, pb Goldmann 1989, pb Suhrkamp 2000, pb Lilienfeld 2013 Mexico: Alfaguara 2005 Portugal: Caminho 2002 Spain: Txalaparta 2004 US: Ballantine 1986

 

Os deuses de Raquel, Rio de Janeiro: Expressão e Cultura 1975 ; Porto Alegre: L&PM 1983, 2001, 125 p.

Germany: Hentrich & Hentrich 2013 Romania: UniversUS: Ballantine 1990

 

Os voluntários, Porto Alegre: L&PM 1980, 203 p.

Kuwait: Alsurra (Arabic) 2017 US: Ballantine 1988

 

Max e os felinos, Porto Alegre: L&PM 1981, 2001, 78 p.

Kuwait: Alsurra (Arabic) 2017 Canada: Les Intouchables 2003 (French), Key Porter Books China: Shanghai 99 Colombia: Ediciones B 2006 France: Presses de la Renaissance 1991, Folies d’Encre 2009 Italy: Meridiano Zero 2004 Lithuania: Charibde 2016 Romania: Univers 2014 Slovenija: Modrijan US: Ballantine 1990, Penguin 2003, Plume 2003

 

A estranha nação de Rafael Mendes, Porto Alegre: L&PM 1983, 287 p.

France: Belfond 1986 Germany: Weitbrecht 1989 Spain: Circe Ediciones 1988 Romania: UniversUS: Crown Books 1988, Ballantine

 

Sonhos tropicais, São Paulo: Companhia das Letras 1992, 212 p.

France: Belfond 1994*

 

O centauro no jardim, Porto Alegre: L & PM 1997; São Paulo: Companhia das Letras 2004, pb 2011, 247 p.

Argentina: treintayseis 2014 (Latin America) France: Belfond 1985; Folies d’Encre 2011 Germany: Hoffmann und Campe 1985, 2013; Volk und Welt 1988, pb Rowohlt 1989 Israel: Maariv Book Guild 1988 Italy: Voland 2002 Netherlands: Wereldbibliotheek 1994 Portugal: Caminho 1986, 2017 Romania: Univers 2014 Russia: Amphora 2002* Spain: Swan 1985, Cículo de lectores 1986* Sweden: Tidens 1988 US: Ballantine Books 1985, pb 1988, University of Wisconsin Press 2003, Texas Tech University Press 2011

 

A Majestade do Xingu, São Paulo: Companhia das Letras 1997, pb 2009, 210 p.

Croatia: HENA COM France: Albin Michel 1998 Portugal: Caminho 2000 US: Texas Tech University Press

 

A mulher que escreveu a Bíblia, São Paulo: Companhia das Letras 1999, pb 2007, 216 p.

Arabic: Almutawssit France: Albin Michel 2003, Folies d'Encre Italy: Voland, 2004 Mexico: Alfaguara 2001, pb 2003 Portugal: Plátano 2009

 

Os leopardos de Kafka, São Paulo: Companhia das Letras 2000, 117 p.

China: Shanghai 99 Czech Republic: Aurora 2002 Denmark: Hjulet 2012 France: Folies d’Encre 2017 Germany: Lilienfeld 2013 Italy: Voland 2006 Portugal: ASA 2002 Romania: UniversSpain: Rayo Verde 2012US: Texas Tech University Press 2011

 

Na noite do ventre, o diamante, Rio de Janeiro: Objetiva 2005, 167 p.

 

Os vendilhões do templo, São Paulo: Companhia das Letras 2006, 296 p.

 

Manual da paixão solitária, São Paulo: Companhia das Letras 2008, 215 p.

 

Eu vos abraço, milhões, São Paulo: Companhia das Letras 2010, 255 p.

 

 

Stories (Selection):

 

A balada do falso Messias, São Paulo: ática 1976, 85 p.

US: Ballantine Books 1987*

 

O carnaval dos animais, Porto Alegre: Movimento 1978, 74 p.

France: Belfond 1987, Serpent à Plumes 1999, Folies d’Encre 2010 US: Ballantine Books 1986*

 

O olho enigmático, Rio de Janeiro: Ed. Guanabara 1986, 185 p.

France: Belfond 1990* US: Ballantine Books 1989*

 

A orelha de Van Gogh, São Paulo: Companhia das Letras 1989, 163 p.

France: Belfond 1992* Italy: Voland 2000 Portugal: Caminho 1994 Sweden: Tranan 2011

 

Contos reunidos, São Paulo: Companhia das Letras 1995, 437 p.

US: University of New Mexico Press

 

 

Participation in anthologies:

Abécédaire incomplet de l'humour juif, France: Folies d’Encre 2011

 

 

Essays (Selection):

 

Saturno nos trópicos, a melancolia européia chega ao Brasil, São Paulo: Companhia das Letras 2003, 274 p.

 

 

Young readers (Selection):

 

A colina dos suspiros, São Paulo: Moderna 1999, 128 p.

Colombia: Ediciones B 2008

 

Um sonho no caroço do abacate, São Paulo:Global 1995, 75 p.

France: Orphie

 

 

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