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The Devil to Pay in the Backlands by João…
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The Devil to Pay in the Backlands (1956)

by João Guimarães Rosa

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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» See also 47 mentions

English (3)  Italian (1)  Portuguese (1)  All languages (5)
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"João Guimarães Rosa is sompletely the Melville-Faulkner-Rulfo-Joyce-Proust-Mann of Brazil. Only few English readers know it. A so-far proven translational impasse, Grande Sertão: Veredas, Guimarães Rosa’s seminal and single novel, was only published in English once, in 1963, and has since been out of print. My project posits that given the absence of Grande Sertão: Veredas from most any English literary discourse outside of (most often) Brazilianist circles, Grande Sertão: Veredas (or João Guimarães Rosa) is a missing book." ( )
2 vote | FWMartinez | Dec 15, 2011 |
I have quit reading this book. I'm about half way through and I've read enough. Please understand that it isn't that I've quit for any negative reason, no, I've gotten what I needed or wanted from what I have read of it.

The story takes place in the sertão, the Brazilian backlands at the turn of the century (19th to 20th). It's a monologue told in Riobaldo's voice and that voice goes on for the 500 pages plus. It's long-winded and uses Portuguese names and name places in a way which makes the entire book challenging to read. I started reading and found it dense, difficult to read, but I had worked so hard to get my hands on a copy that I decided that I needed to put the effort in and read it. So I have, and I'm glad that I did. It's taken me a month to read half the book and that's where I've quit.

This is Riobaldo's musings of traveling as a jagunço, an outlaw, a fighter against government forces. He wanders, with affiliation to first one chieftain and then another. He's a man with a heart and with a sense of right and wrong and strong loyalties. It's the story of his actions, emotions about his actions, his loves, confusions, really, I guess his inner feelings about everything in life. He talks about his love for two people: Diadorim, a man who he travels through life with and whom he loves and is strongly attracted to but never acts upon his attraction; and Otacília, a girl he meets in his travels whom he has placed on a pedestal, loves romantically, and has vowed to marry. Religion, or at least God and the Devil (So-and-so, he whose name is not spoken) come up in Riobaldo's thoughts about life often, his thoughts on warring and suspecting that the devil is in the street, in the whirlwind, in the backlands.

The aspect of this book that I connect with is Riobaldo and his feelings. He is a romantic figure and a terribly lovable character. His emotions are expressed in the writing. The language is complex and there are some beautiful images, especially of the landscape and the warriors, but it is the emotional aspect that has caught me. As I said, I read half the book and it was enough, that is, I am satisfied.

I've fallen in love with Riobaldo. I guess it's the fact that he is emotional, that he expresses his thoughts and emotions. He isn't the first character that I've fallen for, but he's the most recent. What he does is give me a feeling of connection to an certain place. It's the Brazilian backlands, yes, but it's also an emotional state of being, of being in his mind, what he is, a jagunço, firmly rooted in the sertão. I appreciate who he is.

This book is virtually impossible to find. I spent a year trying to buy a used copy. I was finally able to borrow it through my library via InterLibrary Loan. If you have a copy of this book, treasure it or send it to me.

The original story was published in Portuguese as "Grande Sertão: Veredas" in 1956. It was translated into English in 1963 and reprinted in 1971. There has been a rumor that New Directions would republish it but it has not yet happened. It would be really nice if someone would once again make it available to those who are trying to find it to read (as opposed to collect). I've read somewhere that a movie has been recently proposed (2009) based on this book. And there is a summary of the story in Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Devil_to_Pay_in_the_Backlands ( )
4 vote estellak | Feb 26, 2011 |
What Rosa does whith the language in incredible! Is like a huge poem. And the relashionship between Riobaldo and Diadorim the most poetic in all literature; quite like that in Shakespeare's sonets. A different kind of friendiship, much deeper. ( )
  diadorim | Nov 8, 2009 |
Showing 3 of 3
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» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Rosa, João Guimarãesprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lidmilová, PavlaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Onis, Harriet deTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Taylor, James L.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

Is contained in

Has the adaptation

Has as a reference guide/companion

Has as a study

O "O". A ficção da literatura em Grande Sertão:Veredas by J A Hansen

As formas do falso ; um estudo sobre a ambiguidade no Grande Sertão : veredas by Walnice Nogueira Galvão

Grande sertão: Veredas em seu cinquentenário - Seminário Guimarães Rosa by Marli Fantini

Grande sertão: Veredas em seu cinquentenário - Seminário Guimarães Rosa by Marli Fantini

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Rioboaldo, an old rancher, tells a silent vistor from the city about his life as a bandit in the backlands.

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