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The Boys from Brazil by Ira Levin

The Boys from Brazil (original 1976; edition 1976)

by Ira Levin

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1,566256,921 (3.67)70
Title:The Boys from Brazil
Authors:Ira Levin
Info:Random House (1976), Edition: 1st ed, Hardcover
Collections:Your library
Tags:Literary Fiction

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The Boys from Brazil by Ira Levin (1976)


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English (20)  Dutch (1)  Italian (1)  Danish (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (24)
Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
Enjoyable read, very interesting. Seems more plausible nowadays by the science, but much less so in how the boys might end up. Still seems like far too many variables. But no matter, it's still pretty compelling. ( )
  Jon_Hansen | Apr 22, 2017 |
Levin wrote really gripping stories. Such fun to read, even if they are implausible. ( )
  Kaethe | Oct 17, 2016 |
Ira Levin

The Boys from Brazil

Michael Joseph, Hardback, 1976.

8vo. 254 pp. First Edition


It’s rather a pity that the basic premise of this novel has by now become so well-known as to spoil at least part of the fun. If you are one of the lucky ones who are still ignorant, consider the following “hypothetical question”. Why would anybody in the mid-1970s want to kill 94 totally inconspicuous civil servants aged between 64 and 66 on certain dates in order to save the Aryan race and establish the Fourth Reich? Today you’re in a much better position to guess the right answer than were the first readers of the novel forty years ago. But it’s still a challenging problem, isn’t it?

On the other hand, this was my third reading (second in English) and I found the book as gripping as ever, more so if anything. Knowing the big spoiler, it’s a pleasure to notice the subtle hints casually dropped by the author and the numerous blind alleys, all of them vastly more probable than the horrifying truth, which his perplexed characters explore. In any case, though, it is better to appreciate the craftsmanship on re-reading, not on the first reading by proxy. So my advice is to beware of synopses, tags, lists of characters and other trivia like that. My last spoiler is the ambiguous disclaimer from the copyright page:

This book is a work of fiction. The events described in it are imaginary, and the characters – with the exception of persons of note referred to by their true names – are also imaginary and not intended to represent specific living persons.

Ira Levin is not an especially gifted writer, let alone a great one, but his graceless and rather over-descriptive style works surprisingly well for a science fiction thriller. The beginning is a tad slow and the climax a little drawn-out, but that’s the full list of Mr Levin’s vices in this novel. The pace quickly picks up after ten pages or so, and there is no putting down for the next 240. The plot is complex, complete and satisfyingly ambiguous towards the end. The prose may be indifferent, but it is breathtakingly readable and this is what really matters in books of this kind. Just occasionally, Mr Levin can surprise with a thought-provoking insight into history and human nature (the same thing, really):

Almost all the young Germans who offered to help Liebermann were children of former Nazis. It was one of the few things that made him think God might be real and at work, if only slowly.

If you enjoy the novel, by all means do see the 1978 movie adaptation. It sticks close to the book and does an excellent job. It could hardly be otherwise with a cast like that. Gregory Peck is widely held to have been badly miscast as the evilest Nazi of all. I beg to differ with this assessment. I would say he is cast against type but pulls it off very well indeed. Laurence Olivier did a good deal of crappy cameos towards the end of his illustrious screen career, but Ezra (Yakov in the novel) Liebermann, the fiercest Nazi hunter of all, is neither a cameo nor a crappy part. Indulging to the full his passion for weird accents (but not the one for histrionics), Olivier gives a superb performance. The supporting cast includes James Mason and Lilli Palmer (still lovely in her sixties). Watch out for a youngish Bruno Ganz some 25 years before he nailed Hitler in Der Untergang (2004). ( )
1 vote Waldstein | Oct 5, 2016 |
The story is intriguing but hard to read when you consider someone had actually thought to do this. ( )
  GeneHunter | Mar 13, 2016 |
Nazis! Genetic engineering! Mystery! Peril! Death! Did I mention Nazis? The premise is great, a nice little science-fictiony take on the old nature-vs-nurture debate. Perhaps not so timely today as it once was (given that the real people in the book are all dead of old age if nothing else), but still a good story. ( )
1 vote melydia | Oct 23, 2015 |
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» Add other authors (14 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Levin, Iraprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cain, ChelseaIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dell'Orto, AdrianaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nicolaas, ThomasTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Jed Levin
Nicholas Levin
Adam Levin

And the memory of 
Charles Levin
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Early one evening in September of 1974 a small twin-engine plane, silver and black, sailed down on to a secondary runway at Sao Paulo's Congonhas Airport ...
“Well, you have to admit that, strictly from a scientific viewpoint, it’s a step forward.”
“It’s a technique, and like any other technique you can mention, it can be put to either good or bad uses.”
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Six former SS men, dispatched from Brazil by the notorious former commandant of Auschwitz to kill ninety-four men, become the targets of aging, increasingly shortsighted Nazi-hunter Yakov Liebermann.

(summary from another edition)

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