The fuel to Brazil’s literary fire

With the Olympic torch having passed from London to Rio de Janeiro, all the talk over the next few years – on the sporting front at least – will be of how one of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) wonderkids will cope with two premier global events: the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics two years later.

Brazil has, of course, been exciting 21st century interest for longer than its role as world “sportsmeister”-designate might suggest. By the time Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva – Lula – took presidential office in 2003, Brazil’s infamous, decades-long spiralling inflation was stabilising, as was its relatively new currency, the real. Under Lula, the country’s IMF debt was paid off, new social programmes were rolled out, nationwide hunger went into steep decline and oil was discovered offshore from Rio. When Lula’s successor, Brazil’s first female president, Dilma Rousseff, took over in 2011, the South American giant was already being perceived as one mighty force booming as many developed economies floundered.

Yet problems remain. Poverty, illiteracy and AIDS are, relative to some of Brazil’s Latin-American neighbours, painfully resistant to solution; drugs violence in Rio’s shanty towns – the favelas – is an enormous headache, not least for the World Cup and Olympics planners. How can such extreme, and visible, degradation be hidden, or at least ameliorated, by the time the world’s media descends on the city? Amid charged global conversation about the country’s obvious gifts and problems, books might go unnoticed. So it will perhaps come as a surprise to some that behind the popular telenovelas, the football and Carnival, as well as guns in the slums, Brazil is quietly rebooting its literary credentials.


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