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By Costa, Margaret Jull; Laub, Michel

From one of Granta’s most sensible younger Brazilian Novelists, a literary masterpiece that may holiday your heart

At the narrator’s elite Jewish tuition in a fancy suburb of Porte Alegre, a merciless prank leaves the single Catholic scholar there extraordinarily injured. Years later, he relives the episode as he examines the blunders of his prior and struggles for forgiveness. His father, who has Alzheimer’s, obsessively files each reminiscence that involves brain, and his grandfather, who survived Auschwitz, fills laptop after workstation with the fake stories of somebody wanting to forget.

This strong novel situated on guilt and the complex legacy of background asks provocative questions on what it ability to be Jewish within the twenty-first century

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Sample text

When I was thirteen I had: a video game, a VCR, a shelf full of books and records, a guitar, a pair of roller skates, a NASA uniform, a stolen No Parking sign, a tennis racket I never used, a tent, a skateboard, a rubber ring, a Rubik’s cube, a knuckleduster, and a small penknife. 12. When I was thirteen I had still never had a girlfriend. I had never been really ill. I had never seen anyone die or have a serious accident. On the night that the birthday boy fell I dreamed about his father, about his aunts and uncles and grandparents, who had all been there, about his godfather, who had perhaps helped pay for the party, even though all they provided was chocolate cake and popcorn and chicken croquettes and paper plates.

The head teacher summoned the parents of the boys who had been involved. The incident had occurred outside of school, but the staff–student coordinator nevertheless felt that it was within her jurisdiction. When my father asked me about it, he already knew that the other boys involved had told the coordinator it had been an accident, that we often played such pranks on each other and, up until then, no one had been hurt. My father was unconvinced by this explanation, he certainly didn’t treat the matter as a mere childish prank, nor did he speak to me in a jokey, confiding way or tell me about something similar that had happened to him in the past, and he made me promise never to allow such a thing to happen again, but after that he said no more about it.

The name of the guesthouse where my grandfather stayed was Sesefredo. In the notebooks, he defines it as a clean spacious establishment, quiet in the mornings and cozy and welcoming when night falls. A place where someone with typhoid fever, probably contracted from drinking a contaminated glass of milk, is cared for by the generous owners who speak German and explain in German the nature of the illness, its symptoms and the 25 percent mortality rate, and this in an age when the necessary antibiotics had not yet been invented or had not yet reached Brazil or not at least that particular guesthouse.

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