Nassar is tremendously adept at capturing the existential anguish of a troubled mind. It’s not easy or uplifting reading,...


A prodigal son’s homecoming gives ample reason to think that everyone might have been better off if he’d just stayed away.

Brazilian writer Nassar is being rediscovered in his own country, where, though never quite forgotten, he fell into near silence for 40 years following the publication of this novel and its companion novella, A Cup of Rage. During that time, he retreated to the countryside, where he grew up and took to farming. In this slender story, young André has followed much the same course, having tired of his father’s sternly pious ways and gone off to the big city to try to make a life there. It didn’t work: “The happiness I had imagined existed beyond our father’s realm was no more than an illusion.” André is a study in torment, and what torments him the most is a decidedly unhealthy attachment to his sister, Ana: “Ana was my illness, she was my insanity, my air, my splinter and chill, my breath, the impertinent insistence in my testicles.” Well, now. When he is not warding off thoughts of Ana, he is out in the sheepfolds and livestock pens, carefully eyeing the “smug nanny-goat” or trying to dissuade his siblings from taking his example and heading off to the metropolis themselves; confesses one to André, perhaps improbably, “I want to be known in the brothels and in the alleys where tramps sleep, I want to do lots of different things, be generous with my own body….” Ah, but that way trouble lies. Nassar’s story has all the gloominess of Eugene O’Neill’s Desire Under the Elms, and it’s just as packed with allusion to classical mythology and literature, as when, in closing, André’s mother cries out “an ancient lament that to this day can still be heard along the poor Mediterranean coast” even if it issues from the Brazilian rain forest.

Nassar is tremendously adept at capturing the existential anguish of a troubled mind. It’s not easy or uplifting reading, but his dark view of the world commands attention.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8112-2656-1

Page Count: 144

Publisher: New Directions

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2016

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A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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This is good Hemingway. It has some of the tenderness of A Farewell to Arms and some of its amazing power to make one feel inside the picture of a nation at war, of the people experiencing war shorn of its glamor, of the emotions that the effects of war — rather than war itself — arouse. But in style and tempo and impact, there is greater resemblance to The Sun Also Rises. Implicit in the characters and the story is the whole tragic lesson of Spain's Civil War, proving ground for today's holocaust, and carrying in its small compass, the contradictions, the human frailties, the heroism and idealism and shortcomings. In retrospect the thread of the story itself is slight. Three days, during which time a young American, a professor who has taken his Sabbatical year from the University of Montana to play his part in the struggle for Loyalist Spain and democracy. He is sent to a guerilla camp of partisans within the Fascist lines to blow up a strategic bridge. His is a complex problem in humanity, a group of undisciplined, unorganized natives, emotionally geared to go their own way, while he has a job that demands unreasoning, unwavering obedience. He falls in love with a lovely refugee girl, escaping the terrors of a fascist imprisonment, and their romance is sharply etched against a gruesome background. It is a searing book; Hemingway has done more to dramatize the Spanish War than any amount of abstract declamation. Yet he has done it through revealing the pettinesses, the indignities, the jealousies, the cruelties on both sides, never glorifying simply presenting starkly the belief in the principles for which these people fought a hopeless war, to give the rest of the world an interval to prepare. There is something of the implacable logic of Verdun in the telling. It's not a book for the thin-skinned; it has more than its fill of obscenities and the style is clipped and almost too elliptical for clarity at times. But it is a book that repays one for bleak moments of unpleasantness.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1940

ISBN: 0684803356

Page Count: 484

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1940

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