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São Bernardo

São Bernardo

by Graciliano Ramos, translated from the Portuguese by Padma Viswanathan

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Paulo Honório is a sometime field hand who has kicked and clawed and schemed his way to prosperity, becoming master of the decrepit estate São Bernardo, where once upon a time he toiled. He is ruthless in his exploitation of his fellow man, but when he makes a match with a fine young woman, he is surprised to discover that this latest acquisition, as he sees it, may be somewhat harder to handle. It is in Paulo Honório’s own rough-hewn voice that the great Brazilian writer Graciliano Ramos, often compared to William Faulkner, tells this gritty and dryly funny story of triumph and comeuppance, a tour de force of the writer’s art that is beautifully captured in Padma Viswanathan’s new translation.

Additional Book Information

Series: NYRB Classics
ISBN: 9781681373850
Pages: 192
Publication Date:


Shortlisted for the UK Society of Authors' TA First Translation Prize

The complexities of life in rural Brazil come sharply into focus in São Bernardo. Nearly a hundred years after its publication, the funny, ruthless narrator of this novel is as fascinating and relevant as any narrator being written today.
—Idra Novey

I was swept up by the humor, cadence, beautiful weirdness—and above all the voice, relentless and a little nuts, of São Bernardo.
—Peter Orner

Viswanathan, through her soulful translation, breathes new life into Ramos’s slangy, unvarnished, beguilingly funny prose. Honorio’s voice might be gruff, but it also sings.
—Eric Puchner

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.
—Paulo Scott, Asymptote

This new translation of São Bernardo from the Brazilian Portuguese by Canadian writer Padma Viswanathan is as much a reiteration as it is a refashioning. . . . Viswanathan has made a precious contribution to the body of English-language literature, adding to it the vibrant voice of one [of] the most important figures of 20th-century Brazilian letters.
—Arthur Ivan Bravo, The Los Angeles Review of Books

Graciliano Ramos’s São Bernardo is a quick read that grabbed me from the first paragraph. . . . Honório is a fascinating character, and Ramos beautifully renders him through Honório’s own elisions and incapacity to articulate.
The Mookse and Gripes

Ribeyro . . . is mildly Borgesian in approach, both stylish and imaginative. . . . Ramos' metier . . . is a kind of gnarled subtlety and rueful wisdom that lends a quirky, canny element to his appealing story.
—Paddy Kehoe, RTÉ

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