This novel creates a fictional story for Johan Edward Jansson and his descendants, and how the family contributed to the shaping of Rio de Janeiro. Divided into two parts, the narrative first explores the arrival of Johan to Rio, as the Sweden ambassador in Brazil. He and his wife, the exotic and sensitive Brigitta, contributed to transforming a sleepy beach community, Ipanema, into one of the coolest and most charming destinations in the world. Johan’s vision and love for the city led him to build a majestic castle just in front of the beach. The year was 1904, and the magnificence and mysteries of the neighborhood allow extraordinary characters to come to life. Brigitta, haunted by the voices in her head, Laura Alvim, a rich and spoiled girl who aspires to be an actress, and Alvaro, a well-known doctor who saved countless lives, but fell victim of his own experiments with science. The second part of the book tells the story of Johan’s grandson, Otavio, and his wife Estela.
Now much more densely populated, Ipanema still maintains some of the poetry of the early days, but it is changed by a whirlwind of modern development. The country is also going through a deep transformation, due to a military dictatorship. The changes are seen through the eyes of Beto, Estela’s secret lover, and Maria Lucia, Otavio’s first love. THE CASTLES OF IPANEMA brings together multiple subplots, with facts, historical figures and fictional characters mixed into a well-orchestrated narrative. It tells a story that can be seen all across Latin America, where short memory and short-sighted decisions of a few were enough to scar the lives of many.
Publication/Status: by Companhia das Letras (Brazil) in March 2018 and by Éditions Denöel (France) in October 2018.
“In a clever and unusual way, Batalha takes the reader on a journey through the streets of the old Rio de Janeiro, filled with amusing tales told through its array of memorable characters. It’s a fun and delightful novel that makes one reflect on our own past and present.”
– Carlos Saldanha, director of the Motion Picture Rio
“There are writers that pride themselves in writing about their own neighborhood as though it could encapsulate the entire universe. Martha M. Batalha is no such writer. Her novel THE INVISIBLE LIFE OF EURÍDICE GUSMÃO encompasses not only a vast Rio de Janeiro, from North to South and across Downtown, but also spans 80 years – from 1880 through 1960 – in order to tell the story of numerous families ruled by beautiful, stubborn women. It is an epic saga, a roman-fleuve. The difference is that Martha, a contemporary author, combines drama and humor with a savoir-faire unfailingly modern.”
– Ruy Castro, writer
If I had to choose only one literary asset amongst the lot that makes THE INVISIBLE LIFE OF EURÍDICE GUSMÃO such a remarkable novel, I would chose its most unique trait, one that enhances the state of the contemporary Brazilian novel itself: its piercing, unabashed and most of all, incredibly clever sense of humor”.
– Alberto Mussa, writer
This is the courageous story of Eurídice Gusmão, born in Rio de Janeiro to Portugues expatriates during the 1920s. She is an extremely resourceful woman, with ambitious goals. However, neither her parents nor her husband, Antenor – an earnest yet stern bank employee – are supportive of her many inventive endeavors. Her sister, Guida, runs away after meeting the prestigious doctor Marcos, only to be burdened with the consequences of single parenting once he abandons the marriage around 1940. Intertwining these two powerful narratives, the author paints an enlightening picture of the progressive women of the era, and the struggles they faced while attempting to carve their own place in a male-dominated society.
As the reader follows the misadventures of both sisters on their quest for happiness and fulfillment, we are introduced to an array of amusing characters: Zelia, Euridice’s hilariously bitter neighbor keen on spreading rumors through the grapevine; Zelia’s father, Alvaro; Filomena, a former prostitute who poses as child caregiver, and Maria das Dores, Euridice’s hard-working maid.
Another pivotal character is the Bachelor Antonio, who lives with his abrasive hypochondriac mother, Eulalia, while in constant pursuit of Euridice’s attention. As Rio de Janeiro grows into its unique brand of cosmopolitan flare in the early 20th century, the author guides us through the journey of these two equally resilient women told by their point of view. It won’t be long until they realize that all the joy and fulfillment they crave are, in fact, hidden in places they have never imagined before.
Publication/ Status: by Companhia das Letras (Brazil) in April 2016; by Porto (Portugal) in July 2016; by Feltrinelli (Italy) in August 2016; by Niew Amsterdam (Netherlands) in September 2016; by Suhrkamp (Germany) in November 2016; by Denoël (France) in January 2017; by Pax (Norway) in January 2017; by Angle (Catalonia) in February 2017; by Seix Barral (Spain) in March 2017; by Oneworld (UK and World English) in September 2017 in the UK and October 2017 in the US; and Kafka Kitap (Turkey) in September 2017. Sold to Colibri (Bulgaria) and Muza (Poland). French mass market rights sold to Le Livre de Poche. Movie rights sold to RT Features, and the film will be produced under the title Invisible Lives and directed by Karim Ainouz. [192 pages]