Why is Graciliano Ramos barely read outside of Brazil?

My thoughts on it are here: a piece for the Global Literature in Libraries Initiative on one of Brazil’s best-loved writers and why we’ve never heard of him.

Graciliano Ramos: All educated Brazilians have read at least one of his books and more avid readers will readily name a favorite among his novels. In 1941, a national literary poll in Brazil named him one of the country’s ten greatest novelists—one of only four living authors on the list—and his reputation seems only to have increased in the sixty years since his death, with all his books still in print, special issues on anniversaries, and beautiful boxed sets.

Paulo Scott, a rising Brazilian literary star, opens a 2012 essay about his literary hero in Asymptote by marveling at how little-known Graciliano is in the wider literary world. It’s unjust: “If we were to take stock of Brazilian writers from the first half of the twentieth century—from among those writers who produced the most relevant parts of their oeuvre in the first half of the twentieth century—and ask which writer has had the greatest impact and influence on the way Brazilian writers write today, I have no doubt that the name of Graciliano Ramos would make the top of the list.” In Brazil, in other words, in literary circles at least, a mention of Graciliano Ramos almost inevitably elicits passion. A mention of him in North America elicits a blank stare. Why?


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