Bonsai – Alejandro Zambra

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Hailed as a great Latin American literary event, this stylistically innovative, elliptically told tale of a young man and his love who mysteriously disappears is, as the narrator tells us, “a simple story that becomes complicated.” Through both the distance and closeness of these young lovers, Alejandro Zambra brilliantly explores the relationship between art, love, and life. Bonsai is accessible yet profound-as one critic in Chile’s Capital newspaper put it, “Brief as a sigh and forceful as a blow.”

American Pastoral – Philip Roth

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As the American century draws to an uneasy close, Philip Roth gives us a novel of unqualified greatness that is an elegy for all our century’s promises of prosperity, civic order, and domestic bliss. Roth’s protagonist is Swede Levov, a legendary athlete at his Newark high school, who grows up in the booming postwar years to marry a former Miss New Jersey, inherit his father’s glove factory, and move into a stone house in the idyllic hamlet of Old Rimrock. And then one day in 1968, Swede’s beautiful American luck deserts him. For Swede’s adored daughter, Merry, has grown from a loving, quick-witted girl into a sullen, fanatical teenager—a teenager capable of an outlandishly savage act of political terrorism. And overnight Swede is wrenched out of the longed-for American pastoral and into the indigenous American berserk. Compulsively readable, propelled by sorrow, rage, and a deep compassion for its characters, this is Roth’s masterpiece.

Budapest – Chico Buarque

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Perhaps Brazil’s most influential and beloved composer and musician, Chico Buarque is also a highly praised poet, playwright, and novelist. In Budapest, Buarque introduces the story of a ghostwriter who immerses himself in the Hungarian language. José Costa lives in Rio de Janeiro. Fated to remain in the shadows of his illustrious clients, Costa breaks free of this fate and spontaneously buys a ticket to Budapest. In the city by the Danube, he falls in love with a strangely enchanting woman named Kriska, who offers to teach him the Magyar language in the most intimate of ways. First, however, he must observe the old proverb “There is no life outside Hungary” and abandon his thoughts of samba, sunbathers on Ipanema, Sugarloaf Mountain, and his wife in Rio, to turn himself over to a strange, hallucinogenic world of pumpkin rolls, late-night discos in old Buda, endless bottles of Trojak wine, and, of course, Kriska, the willful seductress and disciplinarian who is as hard to fathom and tame as the language she speaks. But what will become of José, now Zsoze, when his time in Budapest comes to an end and life as he knows it is turned upside down?

On Chesil Beach – Ian McEwan

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In 1962, Florence and Edward celebrate their wedding in a hotel on the Dorset coast. Yet as they dine, the expectation of their marital duties weighs over them. And unbeknownst to both, the decisions they make this night will resonate throughout their lives. With exquisite prose, Ian McEwan creates in On Chesil Beach a story of lives transformed by a gesture not made or a word not spoken.

The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald

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The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s third book, stands as the supreme achievement of his career. This exemplary novel of the Jazz Age has been acclaimed by generations of readers. The story of the fabulously wealthy Jay Gatsby and his love for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan, of lavish parties on Long Island at a time when The New York Times noted “gin was the national drink and sex the national obsession,” it is an exquisitely crafted tale of America in the 1920s. The Great Gatsby is one of the great classics of twentieth-century literature.

Ancient Tillage – Raduan Nassar

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For André, a young man growing up on a farm in Brazil, life consists of ‘the earth, the wheat, the bread, our table and our family’. He loves the land, fears his austere, pious father who preaches from the head of the table as if it is a pulpit, and loathes himself, as he starts to harbour shameful feelings for his sister Ana. Lyrical and sensual, told with biblical intensity, this classic Brazilian coming-of-age novel follows André’s psychological and sexual awakening, as he must choose between body and soul, duty and freedom.

Barren Lives – Graciliano Ramos

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A peasant family, driven by the drought, walks to exhaustion through an arid land. As they shelter at a deserted ranch, the drought is broken and they linger, tending cattle for the absentee ranch owner, until the onset of another drought forces them to move on, homeless wanderers again. Yet, like the desert plants that defeat all rigors of wind and weather, the family maintains its will to survive in the harsh and solitary land. Intimately acquainted with the region of which he writes and keenly appreciative of the character of its inhabitants, into whose minds he has penetrated as few before him, Graciliano Ramos depicts them in a style whose austerity well becomes the spareness of the subject, creating a gallery of figures that rank as classic in contemporary Brazilian literature.

The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde

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The Picture of Dorian Gray is an 1891 philosophical novel by Irish writer and playwright Oscar Wilde. First published as a serial story in the July 1890 issue of Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine, the editors feared the story was indecent, and without Wilde’s knowledge, deleted five hundred words before publication. Despite that censorship, The Picture of Dorian Gray offended the moral sensibilities of British book reviewers, some of whom said that Oscar Wilde merited prosecution for violating the laws guarding the public morality. In response, Wilde aggressively defended his novel and art in correspondence with the British press. Wilde revised and expanded the magazine edition of The Picture of Dorian Gray1890) for publication as a novel; the book edition1891) featured an aphoristic preface — an apologia about the art of the novel and the reader. The content, style, and presentation of the preface made it famous in its own literary right, as social and cultural criticism. In April 1891, the editorial house Ward, Lock and Company published the revised version of The Picture of Dorian Gray.

The Catcher in the Rye – J. D. Salinger

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Anyone who has read J.D. Salinger’s New Yorker stories ? particularly A Perfect Day for Bananafish, Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut, The Laughing Man, and For Esme ? With Love and Squalor, will not be surprised by the fact that his first novel is fully of children. The hero-narrator of THE CATCHER IN THE RYE is an ancient child of sixteen, a native New Yorker named Holden Caulfield. Through circumstances that tend to preclude adult, secondhand description, he leaves his prep school in Pennsylvania and goes underground in New York City for three days. The boy himself is at once too simple and too complex for us to make any final comment about him or his story. Perhaps the safest thing we can say about Holden is that he was born in the world not just strongly attracted to beauty but, almost, hopelessly impaled on it. There are many voices in this novel: children’s voices, adult voices, underground voices-but Holden’s voice is the most eloquent of all. Transcending his own vernacular, yet remaining marvelously faithful to it, he issues a perfectly articulated cry of mixed pain and pleasure. However, like most lovers and clowns and poets of the higher orders, he keeps most of the pain to, and for, himself. The pleasure he gives away, or sets aside, with all his heart. It is there for the reader who can handle it to keep.

Sir Dour – Machado de Assis

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Machado de Assis was a novelist, poet, playwright, and short story writer. In Brazil, he is considered one of the greatest writers of Brazilian literature, having influenced Brazilian literary schools of the late 19th century and early 20th century. Machado de Assis was multilingual, having learned French, English, German, and Greek. He founded the Brazilian Academy of Letters and Sir Dou is considered his masterpiece.