Magical Realism, Writing, Fiction, Politics, Haiku, Books

domingo, marzo 06, 2011

Moacyr Scliar, RIP

The New York Times reports:

Moacyr Scliar, one of Brazil’s most celebrated novelists and short-story writers, whose existential allegories explored the complexities of Jewish identity in the Diaspora, died on Feb. 27 in Porto Alegre. He was 73. ...

Moacyr Scliar (pronounced Mwa-SEAR SKLEER) lived all his life in the city of Porto Alegre, the capital of Brazil’s southernmost state, Rio Grande do Sul, to which many Eastern Europeans, like his parents, immigrated in the early 20th century.

The city and its Jewish quarter, Bom Fim, provided him with inexhaustible source material, as did his own preoccupation with the predicament of Jews in Brazil. The protagonist of his best-known novel, “The Centaur in the Garden” (1980), is a Jewish centaur born to Russian immigrant parents.

“At home, you speak Yiddish, eat gefilte fish and celebrate Shabbat,” he told the Yiddish Book Center in 2003. “But in the streets, you have soccer, samba and Portuguese. After a while you feel like a centaur.”

He also "inspired" The Life of Pi:

“Max and the Cats,” about a Jewish youth who flees Nazi Germany on a ship carrying wild animals to a Brazilian zoo and, after a shipwreck, ends up sharing a lifeboat with a jaguar, achieved fame twice over. Critically praised on its publication in 1981, it touched off a literary storm in 2002 when the Canadian writer Yann Martel won the Man Booker Prize for “Life of Pi,” about an Indian youth trapped on a boat with a tiger.

Mr. Martel’s admission that he borrowed the idea led to an impassioned debate among writers and critics on the nature of literary invention and the ownership of words and images.

“In a certain way I feel flattered that another writer considered my idea to be so good, but on the other hand, he used that idea without consulting me or even informing me,” Mr. Scliar told The New York Times. “An idea is intellectual property.”

May he rest in peace.

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