Autran Dourado

Autran Dourado

AUTRAN DOURADO

Son of a judge, born in Minas Gerais, Waldomiro Freitas Autran Dourado (1926-2012) studied Law and during his 20’s worked as a journalist and stenographer at the State Assembly. His literarydebut was the novel TEIA (WEB), in 1947. Then came SOMBRA E EXÍLIO (SHADOW AND EXILE) and TEMPO DE AMAR (TIME FOR LOVE), both novels receiving important prizes. In 1955, already living in Rio de Janeiro, he published NOVE HISTÓRIAS EM GRUPOS DE TRÊS (NINE STORIES IN GROUP OF THREE, which won a prize from the National Book Institute. Autran was the presidential Press Secretary during Juscelino Kibitschek’s government and, in 1961,

he stood out with the publication of A BARCA DOS HOMENS (THE BARQUE OF MEN), chosen as the best book of the year by the Brazilian Writers Union. His literature has a tragic content, but the atmosphere is poetic, and his characters compose primitive types, loners, misfits in the world around them. The novel A SECRET LIFE was turned into a movie; THE OPERA OF THE DEAD was chosen by Unesco for their collection of Representative Works from Universal Literature. He was also awarded with the Brazilian Goethe Prize, the Brazilian Pen-Club Prize and with the Jabuti, one of the most traditional literary awards in Brazil.

A SECRET LIFE (UMA VIDA EM SEGREDO)

After the death of her father, young Biela, 17 years old, already a motherless orphan, starts to live with Conrado, her cousin, who takes her to be with his family in a small town. Constança, Conrado’s wife, tries to adapt Biela to a social life according to their social standing and orders beautiful dresses, teaching Biela how to behave like a rich, well educated lady. But Biela only feels well when she is among the farm workers. She gets close to them after a great heartbreak. According to the author himself, his favorite work, this novel became a movie in 2001.

Movie trailer link: here.

Publication/Status: First edition in 1964 from Editora Civilização Brasileira. Published by Rocco, in 2000; Knopf (US), in 1969; Carl Hanser Verlag (Germany) and Editorial Bruguera (Spain). [132 pages]

THE BELLS OF AGONY (OS SINOS DA AGONIA)

The novel is a recreation of Seneca’s myth about Fedra and Hipólito. The story develops in the XVIII century Vila Rica, and is told through three perspectives. João Diogo Galvão, his wife, Malvina, the redhead, and his son Gaspar, Malvina’s stepson, compose the vertices of an impossible love triangle. The mixed blood Januário holds the task of being the hand armed by fate to precipitate the final clímax. These rivals are, to a large extent, the opposite of each other, and that’s why they complete one another. Torn by impossible love and by agony, these characters are classical portraits.

Intensely in love, guilty, vengeful, they live their burdens with the fatalism of the greatest dramatic works.

Full English translation.

Publication/Status: Published by Rocco, in 1999; by Métailié (France) in 1988; Peter Owen (England) in 1988; Alfaguara (Spain) in 1978. [322 pages]

THE OPERA OF THE DEAD (A ÓPERA DOS MORTOS)

Originally launched in 1967 and included by Unesco in a collection of the most representative works from world literature, this narrative is a dive in the past of Honório Cota’s family. An old townhouse, which in its baroque architecture, already eroded by time, reveals the destiny of its residents, scarred by tragedy, in the Minas Gerais countryside. As the years pass by, the house gets impregnated with the ghosts of the ancestors, who create death signs out of objects and environments. After the death of her parents, Rosalina lives in this oppressive environment, with just her maid, the mute Quiquina, for company.

She spends her days sewing fabric flowers and wandering among still watches and rotten walls. The house’s routine changes with the arrival of José Feliciano. A handyman, looking for a job from town to town, Juca Passarinho, as he is called, slowly enters the enigmatic house’s universe and Rosalina’s austere life.

Publication/Status: Published by Rocco (Brazil) in 1999; by Adda Korn Editora (Argentina) in 1987; Peter Owen (England) in 1980. [252 pages]

THE TRACE OF THE EMBROIDERY (O RISCO DO BORDADO)

Set in the mythic Duas Pontes (Two Bridges), which would return in other books as a synthesis of the introspective universe of the author’s characters, this novel is a trip to the past of the writer João da Fonseca Ribeiro. As João goes back to his hometown and meets old relatives and companions from his childhood, he puts together a jigsaw puzzle of what was lived and what was imagined, completing and expanding memory fragments which are his early years’ narrative. Like in a Bildungsroman, the reader goes on learning how João became what he is, his harsh route to the discovery of sexuality, friendship and literature.

Hookers, farm workers, friends, old relatives cross João’s path, who starts to see the trace under the embroidery which is his own life story.

Publication/Status: Published by Rocco (Brazil) in 1999; Penguin (England) in 1984; Alfaguara (Spain) in 1978; Métailé (France) in 1994; Gyldendal (Norway) in 1992.