The Collector of Leftover Souls: Field Notes on Brazil’s Everyday Insurrections

Graywolf. Oct. 2019. 232p. ISBN 9781644450055. pap. $16. LIT
Prize-winning Brazilian journalist, novelist, and documentarian Brum (One Two) here presents shorter articles and long-form features written from 1999 through 2015 that elevate the lives of some of Brazil’s most marginalized communities. The collection begins with pieces revolving around the theme of birth, following midwives whose calling takes them throughout the Amazon to deliver babies, and concludes with a moving story about a woman named Ailce, whose entire life was devoted to the care of others and upon retirement is tragically diagnosed with terminal cancer. In between, readers glimpse the everyday of “ordinary” Brazilians. There’s the couple whose home and livelihood are destroyed by the Bel Monte hydroelectric dam, and narratives of the joy and heartbreak of mothers, daughters, and sons living in favelas (slums). For Brum, who carefully explains in her introduction that “a news story means stripping off the clothes of ourselves to don the Other,” every report is a chance to demonstrate compassion and love for the people who manage to invent a meaningful life from near impossible beginnings.
VERDICT Beautifully translated from Portuguese by Whitty, these accounts make up an unforgettable compilation documenting the lives of those largely underrepresented in literature. While the stories are specifically Brazilian, the insights they reveal are universal.
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