December 17, 2018

Winnipeg
-13° C, Partly cloudy

Full Forecast

Advertisement

Advertise With Us

Brazilian family struggles with grief

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 16/9/2017 (457 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

For reasons unknown, good first novels set in Brazil by Canadian writers are proliferating. Cape Breton-based Sarah Faber’s All Is Beauty Now is this year’s most daring and successful experiment in this rich subspecies.

Daring, in that Faber has not only set her fiction in the Rio de Janeiro of the early 1960s — a time and place predictive of but far removed from the present-day political, social and economic realities of Brazil — but she has also given us intriguing facets of the little-known story of a group of Americans from the Civil War’s losing side. They fled to Brazil in the 1860s and are the antecedents of the family at the centre of this novel.

Faber is daring, too, in that she succeeds in deploying a narrative strategy that daunts many a more seasoned writer: the use of the present tense.

Faber has a very good reason for using this tactic. The novel opens with what becomes the novel’s fateful epicentre: a scene depicting the disappearance of the family’s oldest daughter, Luiza, on the beach in Rio where the three daughters are playing. All of the novel’s subsequent brief and episodic chapters are narrated, always in the present, through the alternating third-person voices of Luiza and of the rest of the family: Dora, the beautiful but brittle and grieving mother; Hugo, the manic, alternately brilliant, fulminating or despairing father; Magda, the rigid and impassioned second daughter; and Evie, the youngest and most fanciful of the girls.

Get the full story.
No credit card required. Cancel anytime.

Join free for 30 days

After that, pay as little as $0.99 per month for the best local news coverage in Manitoba.

 

Already a subscriber?

Log in

Join free for 30 days

 

Already a subscriber?

Log in

Subscribers Log in below to continue reading,
not a subscriber? Create an account to start a 30 day free trial.

Log in Create your account

Your free trial has come to an end.

We hope you have enjoyed your trial! To continue reading, we recommend our Read Now Pay Later membership. Simply add a form of payment and pay only 27¢ per article.

For unlimited access to the best local, national, and international news and much more, try an All Access Digital subscription:

Thank you for supporting the journalism that our community needs!

Your free trial has come to an end.

We hope you have enjoyed your trial! To continue reading, we recommend our Read Now Pay Later membership. Simply add a form of payment and pay only 27¢ per article.

For unlimited access to the best local, national, and international news and much more, try an All Access Digital subscription:

Thank you for supporting the journalism that our community needs!

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Mon to Sat Delivery

Pay

$34.36

per month

  • Includes all benefits of All Access Digital
  • 6-day delivery of our award-winning newspaper
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 16/9/2017 (457 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

For reasons unknown, good first novels set in Brazil by Canadian writers are proliferating. Cape Breton-based Sarah Faber’s All Is Beauty Now is this year’s most daring and successful experiment in this rich subspecies.

Daring, in that Faber has not only set her fiction in the Rio de Janeiro of the early 1960s — a time and place predictive of but far removed from the present-day political, social and economic realities of Brazil — but she has also given us intriguing facets of the little-known story of a group of Americans from the Civil War’s losing side. They fled to Brazil in the 1860s and are the antecedents of the family at the centre of this novel.

Faber is daring, too, in that she succeeds in deploying a narrative strategy that daunts many a more seasoned writer: the use of the present tense.

Faber has a very good reason for using this tactic. The novel opens with what becomes the novel’s fateful epicentre: a scene depicting the disappearance of the family’s oldest daughter, Luiza, on the beach in Rio where the three daughters are playing. All of the novel’s subsequent brief and episodic chapters are narrated, always in the present, through the alternating third-person voices of Luiza and of the rest of the family: Dora, the beautiful but brittle and grieving mother; Hugo, the manic, alternately brilliant, fulminating or despairing father; Magda, the rigid and impassioned second daughter; and Evie, the youngest and most fanciful of the girls.

As the narrative unfolds, it becomes evident that the entire family, grieving Luiza and searching for its lost centre, has begun to disintegrate in Brazil. Their painful dissembling in their guarded mansion in Rio resonates beyond their garden’s walls as they prepare for a relocation to Canada, where Hugo will seek better treatment for his disease.

But Canada is never portrayed as anything but a cold, grey, soulless and alien place that the whole family dreads; Brazil, by contrast, is outsized and profligate in its glittering and sunstruck decadence. It is sadly apt that Luiza reads about Brazil in a book of poems by Elizabeth Bishop, given to her by a shady and adulterous expatriate who haunts the family. Bishop’s Brazil, as her readers know, is a haunted paradise, forever alien, forever almost accessible to the North American imagination.

The powerfully cumulative effect of these alternating episodes is to create a dreamlike penumbra over the family’s restricted lives. This dream state is just what Faber seeks to evoke as she shuttles backward and forward over Luiza’s disappearance, laying bare the family’s successive secrets until by novel’s end we are given their fatally related pathos from within each character’s refracted vision.

That present tense, suspending the family in its paralyzed agony, works all too well: as the family finally prepares to embark for the long voyage to an unknown and cold half-continent, Faber’s readers have returned to the novel’s mysterious point of departure better, more sadly and more fully informed.

Phrase to phrase and sentence to sentence, Faber has given us a luminous, finely written account of a family’s estrangement from itself and from what it reverently dreamed of, but could never fully live in, as its Brazilian home.

Raised in Brazil, Neil Besner taught Canadian literature at the University of Winnipeg for 30 years.

Advertisement

Advertise With Us

You can comment on most stories on The Winnipeg Free Press website. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective January 2015.

Advertisement

Advertise With Us