Monday, 22 August 2016

There Were Many Horses by Luiz Ruffato

There Were Many Horses by Luiz Ruffato
First published in Portuguese in Brazil as Eles Eram Muito Cavalos in 2001. English translation by Anthony Doyle published in 2014 by AmazonCrossing.
Winner of the Brazilian National Library’s Machado de Assis Award and the APCA Award for best novel.

This is my 2000s book for the Goodreads-Bookcrossing Decade Challenge 2016-17
One of my Top Ten Books of 2016
One of my WorldReads from Brazil

Where to buy this book:

How I got this book:
Purchased the ebook

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

'It’s May 9, 2000, and São Paulo is teeming with life. As Luiz Ruffato describes the scenes around him on this one typical day, he deciphers every minute and second of a metropolis marked by diversity - a mosaic of people from all over Brazil and the world that defines São Paulo’s personality at the start of the twenty-first century. The city is more than just traffic jams, parks, and global financial manoeuvring. It is alive, and every rat and dusty grocery truck informs its distinctive character.'

I hesitate to call There Were Many Horses a novel because this experimental piece of writing doesn't conform to that expected format at all. I think the closest work I have previously read was Joe Fiorito's Rust Is A Form Of Fire although There Were Many Horses spreads its vision across a whole city rather than a single corner, describing Sao Paulo via a multitude of voices. Ruffato writes about a single day by way of sixty-eight vignettes. Some are just a few lines - a horoscope or a weather report. Others, my favourites, extend to several pages of breathless stream-of-consciousness prose which I found an absolute joy to read even though their subject matter is frequently disturbing.

People die violently in Sao Paulo. Poverty, drugs, corruption, prostitution and alcoholism are rife and we learn about their victims at first hand. There Are Many Horses begins with a Cecilia Meireles quote "There were so many horses but no one remembers their names" and those words accurately sum up how I was left at the end of the book. Many of Ruffato's people are actually named, but there are so many struggling to cope with such desperate lives that they blend into a flood of humanity. I remember details now, but couldn't tell you which tale was whose and, as a reader, it doesn't matter. What is wonderfully memorable is the frantic metropolitan atmosphere created and the sense almost of having genuinely visited Sao Paulo. On the strength of There Were Many Horses though, it is not somewhere I really want to go!

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Luiz Ruffato / Contemporary fiction / Books from Brazil

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