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Another Country: Afro-Brazilian Writing

December 2018

Image: José Alves de Olinda, Ark of Eshus. Wood, vegetable fiber, and metal. Museu Afro Brasil, São Paulo, Brazil.

This December, we bring you a selection of literature from Afro-Brazilian writers who explore questions of identity, inequality, and resistance. Franciane Conceição Silva provides a panorama of Afro-Brazilian writing from its inception. Cristiane Sobral strikes a tone of defiance and determination in poems translated by MacArthur fellow John Keene. Ricardo Aleixo contributes three poems, including an homage to thirteen youths killed by police in Salvador, Bahia, in 2015. Jean Wyllys takes readers to the Salvador neighborhood of Aflitos in three works of micro-fiction. Felipe Botelho Correa introduces readers to Afonso Henriques de Lima Barreto, a contemporary of Machado de Assis who wielded literature as a weapon against prejudice. And we also bring you a Barreto story published in English for the very first time. With an introduction from issue co-editors Eric M. B. Becker and John Keene. 

Words Without Borders thanks the Consulate General of Brazil in New York for its support of this issue.

Another Country: Afro-Brazilian Writing, Past and Present
By Eric M. B. Becker & John Keene
If the literature of a country with the second largest black population worldwide (only Nigeria has a larger black population) does not include that population in its literature, one must ask which Brazil we’re speaking of when we speak of Brazilian…
Insurgent Voices: A Panorama of Afro-Brazilian Writing
By Franciane Conceição Silva
“Politicians know I’m a poet. And that poets face death when their people are oppressed.”
Translated from Portuguese by Bruna Dantas Lobato
Black Teeth and Blue Hair
By Afonso Henriques de Lima Barreto
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I didn’t know. Ignorance is a kind of blindness.”
Translated from Portuguese by Eric M. B. Becker
Afro-Brazilian Crusader: On Lima Barreto
By Felipe Botelho Correa
According to Barreto himself, the aim of his crusade was to produce a type of literature that he defined as “militante,” engaging with the society’s most pressing issues and communicating these issues to a wider audience in accessible language.
In Aflitos
By Jean Wyllys
She was furious! She grew silent again, went upstairs, and searched the nightstand. The pistol was there.
Translated from Portuguese by John Keene
Four Poems
By Cristiane Sobral
Time, lord of the hours / reigns sovereign
Translated from Portuguese by John Keene
Three Poems
By Ricardo Aleixo
A Black man is always somebody’s Black man.
Translated from Portuguese by Dan Hanrahan