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A Death In Brazil: A Book of Omissions - Peter Robb

Day 1 - page 18

I didn't know what baroque writing meant until I read this book. If not anything else, I'll be reading this book for it's dreamy lines and a kind of story telling style that I wish I could have.

Some of the best lines that I found were:

Obtuse fearlessness stayed the hand with the knife, impassive calm put a little wobble in the spin of violence.
He laid out his life in words.
The danger passed and he went back to telling me about himself, between declarations of loved and spasms of murderous rage.
The police didn't always miss, when they shot into a crowd of Brazilians.
Money in Brazil was something you dealt in fistful. You didn't bother to count it.
This and a little money and a lot of soap operas kept people's minds off who exactly was running the country and how they were doing it.

India is not far off from this. If I let my imagination fly, I could see media corporations strategizing on how to spin the minds of the whole country by creating certain kind of content and shoving it to people with aggressive marketing strategies. If nothing else, the content will be interesting enough that people won't talk about other stuff. Well, may be this ain't imagination at all.

Day 2 - page 38

I can't help myself comparing cultures and the way of life between Brazil and India. Although I find much similarities between cities in Brazil and cities in India like Mumbai, but I guess I can say that for any big city on Earth. To my surprise, Brazilians are big lunch people. We Indians, on the other hand, are just big food people. We can have heavy, stuffed food at any time of day.

What I adore from the beginning is Robb's charming use of adjectives. It almost feels like a super power to have.

Here are a few lines that I liked till now:

The Brazilians who shaped the Brazilian institutions - the white Brazilians - had always lacked confidence in their racially bastard society.

Colonial Brazil, was ruled by Portuguese, which apparently were really promiscuous people. So Brazil was populated with black, whites, indios, and descendants of black and white, black and indio, indio and white, and endless further variants. Generations of this led to a racially mixed society where a white person would have a mixed race offspring and that offspring might have a more racially complex offspring. The veil between the races got thinner and thinner until it was invisible.

Racial Superiority (white people are superior to people of other races), which was the bedrock of the idea behind ruling cast began to break and they had to eventually give it up.

I cannot stop myself but to think that if a racially mixed society can lead to peace between the races, can a religiously mixed society can lead to harmony among Indians?

While I thought about it, a horrible thought crossed my mind. What if the religious extremists, the one leading their religion, have become the white Brazilians? What if they know that religious intermixing would lead to a religiously accepting society where people would understand each other? That way, they could loose all their power over people. That way, they eventually will have to give up the idea of their religious superiority. That way, they won't be able to incite fear against other religions.

So in a sense, Yes, sex, more inter-religious and inter-cast sex is the solution to India's hate.

Gilberto's familiarity with the jokes and locutions of Brazil's illiterate masess, his knowingness about their social and culinary and sexual habits as well as their language, shattered decorum. It was specially startling to the guardians of ruling values that the entirely white and irreproachably fidalgo grandson of plantation masters should have been so familiar with the daily life of his social inferiors - it seemed like a betrayal of his class and race.
The waiters raced in and out with trays of sweating beer bottles and glasses wrapped in napkins.
Cachaça and beer were the universal drinks in Brazil.

Like we say - this is world famous in all of India :)

Day 3 - page 54

Night had fallen suddenly and hid the inky cloud that were trailing low over the city roofs.
José hadn't wanted Lula as his president because Lula was too like himself.
The faster prices rose, the busier the street dealing got and the fuller the bars. I never understood why.

Day 4 - page 100

Day by day, I am getting familiar with Brazil's culture, history and its contribution to Indian cuisine. Day by day, I find things that are common between our nations. I am starting to think that the title is a bit metaphorical than a physical one.

Here are the lines I liked this time:

No trace of Islamic contamination in the land of the true cross.

I wonder if Islam had a bad reputation in 16th centuary too?

the Tupi skipped and danced with us to the sound of one of our tambours, in such a manner that they are much more of our friends than we theirs.

I've never found a friendship that was 50-50. It's always an uneven ratio and somehow, we're ok with it. Somehow, we fill eachother's insecurities and make each other's company bearable. Although, trouble ensures when this equilibrium begins to change. That's when friendships break.

As his letter went on, the rhetoric of the sales pitch gave way to an unfeigned sense of wonder.
With a population a fifteenth the size of France's, a seventh Spain's, a third even of little England's, the only way tiny Portugal was going to people its new overseas territories was by engendering colonists in situ with the help of the locals.

I think there are only two ways you can truely dominate a piece of land. Either exterminate the local population so that there's no more people left to claim it, or become a part of the local community and make them a part of you to become an us.

The little group of Brazil's rich are sylphs inhabiting a little airborne milieu out of sight of everyone else.
Globo telenovelas brought together a vast and scattered audience of mainly illiterate people, gave a whole population stories to share and something to keep them quite. Most of them were about conflicts over sex and money in immensly wealthy white families living in huge aparments overlooking Rio, which was the Globo city.

Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi?

Sometimes when it rained at night, walking home and sticking to the covered pavements and arcades, you would see a thin hand or a dark foot protruding from under the piece of cardboard in the darkness as you were about to step on someone's bed. People brought their children here and left them, when they thought they were old enough to fend for themselves on the street. Other children came on their own.
When he fed the poor, people called him a saint and when he asked why theyr were poor, people called him a communist.
He clung to his past for a long time. His whole family did was like that. The Northeast was like that.

Day 5 - page 153

Sugar had run in the blood of Fernando Collar's family, but the sweetness was long gone.
Their owners, as the Jesuits complained, at the slightest annoyance threw their slaves alive into the furnace or killed them in various harbours and inhumane ways

Black people were like goats up for slaughter. But why are goats like goats? Because they can't fight for their rights.

First up to depose was the white bearded priest notorious for his activity among the local boys and for his passivity and dishonest touchings.

Happy to see that priests werre working dilligently in that era too.

It had to populate Brazil or perish, and the Portuguese men threw themselves into the task with a will. They killed or enslaved the men and slept with the women and informal polygamy was the norm.

I sometimes think that overpopulation is the result of these greedy colonist trying to keep hold of more and more land, and the indigenous population trying to out populate them.

In vain the sodden prelate's spiritual authority was explained to them by the other passengers.


Late on Friday night, when the last client - usually me - had tottered off, and the chairs and tables were stacked, the floor swept, the kitchen cleaned, accounts done, the waiters paid and the last glass washed, Vava vanished into the dark and he never reappeared untill halfway through Monday. The secret of Vava's elation was his house at the beach.
Discriminations in the kitchen matched the vaster ones in the streets.
Through their bank loans and investments the English controlled Brazil's economy and had to be accomodated, and a show was put on out of respect for their human rights concerns.
The striking workers were nearly as shocked as the army generals to see how strong they are.

when the workers go marching out...
we want to be in that number
when the farmers go marching in...
we want to be in that number

A hundred and forty thousand metal workers stopped working at the beginning of April. The government's labor court pronounced the new strike led by Lula illegal. A hundred thousand workers, with their woment and children, who were gathered in the football stadium, saw the army helicopters hover overhead. The helicopter's doors were open and the people below could see the soldiers' machine guns raked above the crowd. The din of rotors drowned the speakers' voices; the crowd stayed still and sang the Brazilian anthem against the noise.

Laws are something that we as a group agree upon. If 140,000 people do not agree to a certain law and protest, are the protest illegal or the law itself?

Countless of them were still licking the waves of the Northeast's coaster waters.
The drab and useless old Brazillian standoff between wealth and labor, privilege and deprivation was acted out again, and thoughtful Brazilians were mortified.