Rubem Fonseca

Brazil

Writer

Guest of the DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Programme 1985

Rubem  Fonseca DAAD


The literature of Brazil, these are books which only have two things in common: they are written in the same language, namely Portuguese, and are, mostly, written on the American continent. Rubem Fonseca made this comment during his time as a DAAD Scholarship holder in the former West Berlin in 1985. He continued: "This is a lot, in fact it's everything."

The literature of Brazil, these are books which only have two things in common: they are written in the same language, namely Portuguese, and are, mostly, written on the American continent.
Rubem Fonseca

Fonseca himself has developed his own narrative style. He uses the day-to-day language of his home country in his short stories and detective stories to raise a critical voice, above all, against Brazil's exceedingly rich upper class, compared with the majority of the Brazilian population.

Typical for Fonseca's style is his mordant black humour, combined with irony and cynicism, and the way he entwines a number of shorter and longer plots into a net of suspense-packed motives that take you by surprise each time anew. In 1989 two of his collections of short stories were published in German for the first time, followed by three of his novels in 2003 and 2004: Bufo & Spallanzani published in the Portuguese original in 1985 and in English translation in 1990; Grenzenlose Gefühle, unvollendete Gedanken (Portuguese original Vastas emoções e pensamentos imperfeitos published in 1988 and in English translation in 1988 as Vast Emotions and Imperfect Thoughts; and Mord im August (1990) - a political thriller about the President's suicide in Brazil in 1954, in which he interweaves reality and fiction.

Rubem Fonseca was born in 1925 as the son of a Portuguese immigrant. Today he lives in Rio de Janeiro, the city where he grew up. The law graduate worked as professor as well as a senior civil servant in leading positions, such as director of the electricity works in Rio and director of the cultural department at the Ministry of Education. He later became a journalist, film critic, and screenwriter, before committing himself entirely to literary writing.

Since receiving the Brazilian literature award Prémio Camões in 2003 and, in the same year, the renowned Juan-Rolfo-Award, Fonseca has been considered one of the most widely read and most successful writers in Brazil. In 2012 he was honoured with the Prémio Literário Casino da Póvoa for his novel Bufo & Spallanzani, and in July 2015 he received the Prêmio Machado de Assis, Brazil’s most important literary prize.