Silviano Santiago

Silviano Santiago


Silviano Santiago writes fiction and literary criticism, and many of his novels are viewed as canonic by Brazilian critics and common readers. He received the José Donoso Ibero-American Prize of Letters for his work in September-2014. Born in Formiga, a small town in Minas Gerais, he moved as a child to Belo Horizonte, the capital of the state, where he got a BA in Literature at an early age. In Rio de Janeiro, he continued studies in French Literature and received a scholarship to go to Paris for his Ph.D. at Sorbonne. In the sixties and seventies, he was a visiting professor in universities around the world. His vast work (35 published books) includes poetry, short stories, novels, and essays.

Nowadays he contributes to the major newspaper and magazines in Brazil, both to the general public and specialized publications. He has been awarded all important literary prizes: Portugal Telecom, Mario de Andrade, Jabuti, Machado de Assis (for his whole work), besides José Donoso, for the first time given to a Brazilian author. In 2017, he won the Book of the Year/Jabuti prize for his novel MACHADO, and in Oceanos he got the second place, this award having already been given to him as the first winner two years ago for A THOUSAND STOLEN ROSES. He is currently finishing a new volume of essays to be published by Companhia das Letras in 2018.


Against a backdrop detailing Rio de Janeiro’s urban modernization process and the leveling of colonial grand residences across the city, Silviano Santiago’s novel narrates the last four years in the life of Brazilian author Machado de Assis (1839-1908). He has reached old age at the moment the former Imperial Court is divided by the ample and airy Parisian style boulevard, Avenida Central, lined on both sides by magnificent art nouveau buildings. In a letter, he mentions he’ll live out his days exiled from the city that saw his birth, and where he witnessed the abolition of slavery (1888) and the transition from a monarchical to a republican regime (1889). The novel finds Machado recently widowed, overcome by congenital illness, struggling with the final revisions of Memorial de Aires (Counselor Aires’s Memoirs). And it observes the metamorphoses that define a new Carioca society at the moment when its citizens submit the command of the Young Republic to military, engineers, and doctors.

Presented as a biography of the greatest Brazilian novelist, MACHADO does not settle for descriptions of concrete facts or a school teacher’s lesson of Brazilian Social History. It penetrates into the intricate private and public life of Carioca high society, and of the founder and president of the Academia Brasileira de Letras. It utilizes an extended bibliography and original materials from that era. MACHADO is a hybrid work in which image and newspaper cuttings are collaged into literary writing.

MACHADO was welcomed as one of the best novels of 2016 by several newspapers and magazines, won the ‘Book of The Year Prize’ at Jabuti Awards 2017 and got the second prize at Oceanos Awards 2017.

Publication/Status: by Companhia das Letras (Brazil) in October 2016. [421 pages]


In 1952, two boys casually meet in Belo Horizonte while waiting for the tram. They become close friends. Sixty years later, Zeca, by then a renowned music agent and producer, agonizes in a hospital bed. While sitting by and watching him, the retired Brazilian History professor understands that he is losing not only his life partner but also his possible biographer. It is needed that roles are inverted, and it is up to him to write his inseparable friend’s story. In their youth, they delight themselves with their charming literary mentor, Vanessa; with Marilia, they learn to listen to Ma Raney’s jazz and get involved in an impossible love triangle. They distance themselves: one goes to Paris for his Ph.D., the other studies Journalism in São Paulo.

They meet again in Rio de Janeiro, but their different styles separate them: Zeca lives among drugs and rock & roll and ridicules his well succeeded academic but unhappy friend. Beyond questioning the limits of fiction and memory, biography, and autobiography, this à clef narrative offers the rich testimony of a period and an exceptional friendship.

Winner of Oceanos Literature Awards, 2015.

Publication/Status: by Companhia das Letras (Brazil) in 2014. Sold to Editorial Corregidor (Argentina) and Baldini & Castoldi (Italy). [280 pages]


Eduardo da Costa e Silva – official identity of Stella Manhattan – is an employee at the Brazilian consulate in New York, protected by Colonel Valdevinos Vianna, who secretly likes to wear himself in black leather clothes and turn into the violent Black Widow. Around them, there are characters as diverse as Aníbal, a paraplegic intellectual and voyeur; his libidinous wife, Leila; and Paco, an anti-Castro Cuban known as La Cucaracha. The novel articulates a game of appearance and reality, public and private, oppression and liberation, and has the city of New York as the background for an attack against the Colonel perpetrated by a group of Brazilian exiles there, people involved with political and liberation movements of all kinds – from the Black Panthers to Latin-American revolutionary guerrillas.

Publication/Status: Originally published by Nova Fronteira in 1985 and by Rocco (both in Brazil) in 1991. It was also published by Editions Métailié (France), Duke University Press (USA) and Editorial Corregidor (Argentina). [272 pages]


The story takes place in Rio de Janeiro in 1937, which was then the capital of Brazil, and narrates the feelings experienced by renowned Brazilian writer Graciliano Ramos when he leaves prison. He had been arrested in 1936 by the Vargas’ dictatorship, and his experience is used in this novel as a metaphor to understand the military regime that started in the country in 1964. The novel has a long flashback telling the mysteries around poet Cláudio Manoel da Costa’s death in the end of the 18th century, and thanks to this it can be read as a vast panorama of the phenomenon of discretionary powers in Brazil. Written as a pastiche in the first person, IN FREEDOM is a private diary of Graciliano Ramos (1892-1953) which would be unknown until then.

It is fake but possible, and the reader believes he is reading the notes written by Graciliano during prison on his day to day life, on politics and aesthetics.

Winner of Jabuti Award-1981 for best novel.

Publication/Status: Originally published by Paz&Terra in 1981 and then by Rocco, in 1994. Also published by Editorial Corregidor (Argentina) in 2003. [256 pages]