The English-language debut of a master stylist: a compassionate but relentless novel about the long, dark harvest of Brazil’s totalitarian rule
A professor prepares to retire—Gustavo is set to move from Sao Paulo to the countryside, but it isn’t the urban violence he’s fleeing: what he fears most is the violence of his memory. But as he sorts out his papers, the ghosts arrive in full force. He was arrested in 1970 with his brother-in-law Armando: both were vicariously tortured. He was eventually released; Armando was killed. No one is certain that he didn’t turn traitor: I didn’t talk, he tells himself, yet guilt is his lifelong harvest. I Didn’t Talk pits everyone against the protagonist—especially his own brother. The torture never ends, despite his bones having healed and his teeth having been replaced. And to make matters worse, certain details from his shattered memory don’t quite add up... Beatriz Bracher depicts a life where the temperature is lower, there is no music, and much is out of view. I Didn't Talk's pariah’s-eye-view of the forgotten “small” victims powerfully bears witness to their “internal exile.” I didn’t talk, Gustavo tells himself; and as Bracher honors his endless pain, what burns this tour de force so indelibly in the reader’s mind is her intensely controlled voice.
Brazil's Bracher arrives in English with this brilliant, enigmatic rumination of a novel. Gustavo, a recently retired professor, prepares to sell his family home and move away from S o Paulo. The process triggers a flood of reminiscences about his parents; his career; his wife, Eliana; and his involvement with the resistance to the military regime that seized Brazil in the 1960s. Gustavo relates how his arrest and torture by the authorities precipitated the killing of Eliana's brother, Armando, even as he insists, "I didn't talk." Nevertheless, Gustavo reflects that the experience turned him into a "sad and troublesome monster." He shunned responsibility and instead attempted to redeem himself as a father and an educator, even as "Armando was always there, submerged in my thoughts." Bracher writes that "interrogation, doubt, and listening are ways of doing," and her novel is more concerned with investigating the sublimation of guilt than it is in answering the question of whether or not Gustavo betrayed Armando. Her refusal to allow Gustavo "to stop and put all these old things in order" transforms what could have been a conventional story about coming to terms with the past into a potent portrait of an agitated mind. Bracher is a force to be reckoned with and has crafted a haunting, powerful novel.