Felipe Martinez, an independent researcher from San Diego, California, is “investigating the absence of Brazilian author João Guimarães Rosa (1908-1967) in the English-speaking world.” To this end he has set up a website called “A Missing Book,” where he invites “any and all inquiries, submissions of articles, essays, translations, etc. concerning João Guimarães Rosa.” The first response links to this site, where you can read the entire (long out of print) translation of his masterpiece, the novel Grande Sertão: Veredas, translated as The Devil to Pay in the Backlands by James L. Taylor and Harriet de Onís (Knopf, 1963). The second response says “I have cherished it from the first time I was lucky enough to read it and have made it my life’s mission as a writer and filmmaker to disseminate the reputation of this, one of greatest novels ever written.” I’ve heard of it but never read it, which I guess is not an uncommon phenomenon.


  1. I’m an admirer of “Os Sertões” by Euclides da Cunha, and presumably there’s some resonance between the books.
    The book is not just out of print, you can’t buy it for less than $400.
    Portuguese-language literature in general is underappreciated.

  2. Just for kicks, I’m actually in the process of translating Dom Casmurro, a Machado de Assis classic that has been poorly translated into English at least twice.
    My own poor translation, which is still in its infancy, is here: http://dom-casmurro.anagrammatically.com/
    Despite Rabassa having translated two of de Assis’ earlier books, The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas and Quincus Borba, the English-speaking world still doesn’t know enough about de Assis.
    Jorge Amado should be more well known too, at least as well known as Garcia Marquez.

  3. Wow! Yes! I’ve been wanting to read this for so long!
    Thank you, thank you for the link. I don’t mean to disparage your daily blogging, but this is why I’ve subscribed for two years, because I had a feeling that eventually you’d give me something perfect.

  4. marie-lucie says

    If someone wants a copy of “Os Sertões”, I have one and can copy it for you if you can’t find it otherwise. You will have to wait a few more weeks though, as I am away from home right now, but it won’t cost you $400.

  5. I’m an admirer of “Os Sertões” by Euclides da Cunha, and presumably there’s some resonance between the books.
    Frankly, I suspect I’ve been confusing them all these years. Apparently my brain has room for only one neglected classic about the Brazilian backlands.

  6. It’s “Grande Sertão: Veredas” that’s $400+. A lot of out-of-print books can easily be bought, but not this one. “Os Sertões” can be found.

  7. marie-lucie says

    JE, I see that I was confused by the THE in “the book”.
    There must be a few libraries that have Grande Sertão?

  8. The Minuteman library system (Greater Boston) has two copies. The most recent edition was published in Rio by Nova Fronteira in 2001. I’d be surprised if you can’t find a copy for much less than $400, but maybe you need to go to Brazil.

  9. I think perhaps John Emerson means The Devil to Pay in the Backlands, which does seem to go for hundreds of dollars on AbeBooks. I wouldn’t rule out happening on a used copy in a not-online used bookstore, since demand is probably also low.
    Grande Sertão: Veredas isn’t out of print, as vanya points out. It’s R$59 (about 30 bucks) new on submarino.

  10. You can also find it in French translation (entitled “Diadorim”) for 23 Euros.

  11. rootlesscosmo says

    U of Chicago Press published an English translation of Os Sertões under the title Rebellion in the Backlands.

Speak Your Mind