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José Américo de Almeida: A bagaceira (Trash)

Till this novel, the Brazilian novel was generally a pale imitation of European prototypes, with a refined language, far removed from the language of the common people. Américo de Almeida was no common person but he made the Brazilian novel closer to the ordinary Brazilian, both in language and in theme. This is no drawing room novel but a novel of Brazilian passion out in the Brazilian wildlands.

Valentim is a ruined cattle rancher on the sertão. The drought has left him destitute and he now comes down to the lowlands with his daughter, Soledade. Dagoberto, a farm owner in the lowlands reluctantly takes them in and, inevitably, Lúcio, Dagoberto’s son falls for Soledade. But, as this is Brazil, Dagoberto’s cruelty – to his employees, to his son and to his guests – takes front stage, as he assumes almost a Godlike role. Only the local police threaten him and then for political reasons, not to preserve justice. The inevitable tragedy happens, leaving victims all over the place though, of course, it is Soledade who is the real victim – at least, in part, because of her passionate nature, while Dagoberto runs after death till he finds it, leaving Lúcio the not very happy victor. Passion is now a staple theme of the Brazilian novel.

Publishing history

First published 1928 by Castilho
First published in English 1978 by Peter Owen
Translated by R.L. Scott-Buccleuch