Brazilian literature has a tremendous amount of depth, character, and history, so we’ve collated a list of the best Brazilian authors and novelists of all time.
Brazil is globally recognized for its rich history, incredible food, cultural diversity, and colorful street festivals. The diversity of South America’s most populous country is reflected in the books and novels written by Brazilian writers.
Many of the most respected Portuguese language authors, such as Euclides da Cunha and Clarice Lispector, are Brazilian, and the English translations of their books have been sold worldwide. The Latin American titans of literature in this post have profoundly impacted writers from every country, especially within 20th-century modernism and magical realism circles.
Although the influence of Brazil’s old colonizer, Portugal, is still evident in much of the country’s literature since gaining independence in the 19th century, Brazilian novelists have developed a unique style and voice. Consider adding the 15 Brazilian writers in this list to your reading list if you want to expand your knowledge of Latin American literature.
- Popular Brazilian Authors
- 1. Euclides da Cunha, 1866 – 1909
- 2. Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis, 1839 – 1908
- 3. Jorge Amado, 1912 – 2001
- 4. Clarice Lispector, 1920 – 1977
- 5. Hilda Hilst, 1930 – 2004
- 6. Rubem Fonseca, 1925 – 2020
- 7. Paulo Coelho, 1947 –
- 8. Moacyr Scliar, 1937 – 2011
- 9. Adriana Lisboa, 1970 –
- 10. Bernardo Carvalho, 1960 –
- 11. Mario de Andrade, 1893 – 1945
- 12. Graciliano Ramos, 1892 – 1953
- 13. José de Alencar, 1829 – 1877
- 14. Carlos Drummond, 1902 – 1987
- 15. Cecilia de Meireles, 1901 – 1964
- The Final Word On Brazilian Authors
Popular Brazilian Authors
1. Euclides da Cunha, 1866 – 1909
Euclides da Cunha is one of Brazi’s most respected 19th-century writers. Cunha was born in Rio de Janeiro and built a successful career as a soldier, sociologist, engineer, and author. Although Euclides da Cunha was born several decades after Brazil successfully kicked out the Portuguese, the country continued to suffer severe socio-economic turmoil.
As a result, Cunha’s work often covered the most pressing issues facing independent Brazil. He made a name for himself as a war correspondent during the War of Canudos, which saw the Brazilian state suppress a rebellion in the Bahia State in the 1890s.
Cunha’s book on the war titled Backlands: the Canudos Campaign is the go-to book for anyone looking to learn more about the War of Canudos and the political state of Brazil in the late 19th century. The book has been translated into several languages, and the English translation was re-published by Penguin Classics in 2010. The Backlands solidified Cunha’s place among the top Latin American writers of the 19th century.
In light of all this, we are held in sway by a mournful impression as we cross this unknown stretch of the backlands.Euclides da Cunha
2. Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis, 1839 – 1908
Born in Rio de Janeiro a decade after Brazilian independence, Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis is one of the founders of Brazil’s literary movement as an independent country. He is primarily known for his poetry, short stories, and novels. Joaquim was born into a humble family and lost his mother at an early age. Despite receiving no formal education, he learned German, French, and Greek.
As a multi-lingual young man, he was always drawn to books and worked odd jobs at his local library and printing shop. He started writing short stories and quickly gained a reputation in Portuguese literary circles. His outstanding ability was formally recognized in 1897 when he became the president of the Brazilian Academy of Letters.
Published in 1899, Dom Casmurro is one of the most important pieces of Latin American literature from the late 19th century. The novel is a fictional memoir of a jealous husband with overtones of dark comedy portrayed through Joaquim’s unique realism style.
If you enjoyed our round-up of the best Brazilian authors, we have many more articles on the best authors from around the globe. You might want to check out our list of the best Mexican authors. Or use the search bar at the top right of the page to search for authors in a country or region you are interested in.
There is nothing worse than giving the longest of legs to the smallest of ideas.Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis
3. Jorge Amado, 1912 – 2001
Jorge Amado is one of the best-known Brazilian writers on the global stage, as his work has been translated into more than 40 languages. He started writing at an early age, and at 18, he published his first novel, The Country Of Carnival.
Amado grew up on a plantation in the Brazilian state of Bahia, and much of his work integrates his early life experiences into captivating fictional narratives. His work is very varied, with his stories flipping from serious themes of racism and poverty to lighthearted tales of love and misfortune.
Captains of the Sands follows a group of orphans that survive using their cunning and ingenuity in the impoverished slums of Bahia. The story is both tragic and amusing at the same time and a perfect read for people looking to learn more about the difficulties many Brazilians faced in the 20th century.
Dona Flor and her Two Husbands is Amado’s most well-known title. The novel follows the story of a terrible gambler and an unlikely love affair.
I am a writer who has written about the life of my people, the character of my people. What I can say is that the greatest hero of the Brazilian novel is the Brazilian people.Jorge Amado
4. Clarice Lispector, 1920 – 1977
The Ukrainian-Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector is a 20th-century novelist and short story writer born to Jewish parents in Soviet-ruled Ukraine USSR who fled to Brazil to escape persecution.
She went on to study law but was distracted from her legal career by her passion for writing. She became a respected journalist when Pan Magazine published her story Triunfo in 1940.
She continued writing novels while working as a journalist. In her early 20s, she became a well-known Portuguese language writer with her novel Near to the Wild Heart, which followed the story of a young writer told using an inner monologue style that was completely new in the Brazilian literary world. Another brilliant novel by Clarice Lispector is The Passion According, which follows a wealthy Brazilian who suffers a moral crisis after crushing a cockroach.
Everything in the world began with a yes. One molecule said yes to another molecule and life was born.Clarice Lispector
5. Hilda Hilst, 1930 – 2004
Hilda Hilst, the 20th-century Brazilian novelist, playwright, and poet, was one of the leading female Brazilian authors who often explored themes of women’s rights, sexual liberation, and insanity.
Her reason for focusing on insanity stems from the fact that her father, a coffee plantation holder, had schizophrenia. While her interest in women’s rights and sexual liberation is believed to be connected to her mother, an ultra-conservative immigrant.
It wasn’t until the 21st century that Hilst’s work gained respect globally as publishers began to show interest in translating her stories into English. With My Dog Eyes: A Novel was published in English by Melville house in 2014 and is widely regarded as Hilst’s finest work. The collection of short stories explores a professor’s descent into insanity. If you enjoyed this guide on the best Brazilian authors, you might be interested in our round-up of the best Ukrainian authors.
He had understood only in that instant. And now, never again? He recalled everything perfectly.Hilda Hilst
6. Rubem Fonseca, 1925 – 2020
The Brazilian novelist and short story writer Rubem Fonseca was born in Minas Gerais and worked as a police commissioner before becoming a professional writer.
As a police officer, Fonseca got to know the darker side of Brazilian society in the middle of the 20th century when the city where he worked, Rio de Janeiro, was a hotspot for violent crime.
While working the beat, Rubem Fonseca spent his spare time writing short stories. In the 70s, his hobby snowballed into a profitable side hustle and later a full-time job.
Naturally, his life experience meant he took inspiration from what he saw and people he met as a police officer for his crime fiction novels. Fonesca’s short story collection, The Crimes of August, is a fantastic book for crime fiction fans looking to discover one of Latin America’s most entertaining modern writers.
“No writer really likes to write. I like to make love and drink wine. At my age I shouldn’t lose time with anything else, but I can’t stop writing. It’s a disease.”Rubem Fonseca
7. Paulo Coelho, 1947 –
The Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho is one of Latin America’s most well-known literary figures. His work has been translated into dozens of languages, and he’s sold over 30 million copies.He uses bizarre lead characters to build fantastic stories that weave together aspects of fantasy with hard truths about life and profound ideas about the meaning of life.
During his extensive career, he has traveled the world, often wandering off the beaten track and meeting people from all walks of life. The richness of his life experience is reflected in the captivating characters he creates in his novels.
Although it’s hard to recommend just one of Coelho’s books, arguably the best place to start is with The Alchemist, which follows a young Spaniard’s epic journey to find a lost treasure in Egypt. For an extensive list of Paulo Coelho’s work, check out our list of his 12 best books.
“It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.”Paulo Coelho
8. Moacyr Scliar, 1937 – 2011
Moacyr Scliar was born to Jewish parents in Eastern Europe who fled to Brazil to escape Nazi persecution. He was born in Porto Alegre, a part of Brazil well-known for its large German population, which grew after the end of World War II.
His work focuses on the Jewish experience in Brazil in the 20th century. Scliar published over 100 works during his career, with the most famous being Max and Cats.
The book follows the story of a young Jewish man forced to flee Germany. On his way to Brazil, he finds himself stuck on a small boat with no one for company other than a jaguar that was traveling in the hold. The journey is symbolic of the threats Jews faced in Europe.
Max and Cats plot will ring a bell for anyone familiar with Yann Martel’s Life of Pi which was published two decades later. Some people have pointed out that Martel’s work could have been plagiarized.
“We weren’t quite sure what concubines were, but we guessed: a concubine … Concubines! One thousand!”Moacyr Scliar
9. Adriana Lisboa, 1970 –
The Brazilian writer from Rio de Janeiro, Adriana Lisboa, has already impacted Brazilian literature and is expected to release plenty more fantastic books in the second half of her career. At a young age, Adriana Lisboa moved to France to study and later settled down in the United States. She’s experienced life on three continents, so her novels often tap into themes related to moving and migration.
She has also worked as a translator bringing some of the most important Brazilian novels onto the global stage. Her most significant contribution to Brazilian literature.
Crow Blue is one of Adriana Lisboa’s most widely read novels and a perfect introduction for anyone exploring her work. The story’s narrator is a 13-year-old girl, Vanja, whose mother dies, leaving her to fend for herself. Vanja goes on an epic journey from Rio de Janeiro to Colorado, hoping to find her biological father.
“Later I realized that life away from home is a possible life. One of many possible lives.”Adriana Lisboa
10. Bernardo Carvalho, 1960 –
Bernardo Carvalho is a prolific Brazilian writer who has written several very popular short stories and managed to publish eight novels in just thirteen years. Carvalho started writing as a journalist and a correspondent in New York and Paris. His work generally taps into some of the sadder aspects of modern life with protagonists who are frustrated by their failures and struggles.
His work as an author and a journalist has been recognized through several official awards, including the Portugal Telecom Prize for Literature for his novel Nine Nights. The novel, which has been translated into English, tells the tragic story of a young American who commits suicide and the nine days that led up to the tragedy.
“Wars today seem to occur at a more precise point in time but deep down they are permanent.”Bernardo Carvalho
11. Mario de Andrade, 1893 – 1945
The modernist author and novelist Mario de Andrade is a leading figure of early 20th-century Brazilian literature. He played a central role in Brazil’s literary development and influenced countless writers.
His influence is reflected by the fact that Brazil’s largest public library, The Andrade Library, is named after him and holds over three million literary items. If you’re looking to get into Brazilian literature, then you can’t afford to miss Mario de Andrade. Every Brazilian author in the second half of the 20th century has taken some inspiration from Andrade.
Macunaima is Andrade’s best contribution to magical realism, and fortunately, it has been translated into English, among other languages. It’s based on an anti-hero character who discovers truths about karma through a series of tragic events. The story was turned into a popular comedy film in 1969.
“Death to the bourgeois on his knees, smelling of religion and not believing in God!”Mario de Andrade
12. Graciliano Ramos, 1892 – 1953
Graciliano Ramos was a prolific journalist and writer who committed his career to giving a voice to the poorest and most marginalized Brazilian communities. Although his work isn’t outwardly political, Ramos was an ardent communist who took serious issue with the inequality that he believed was a product of capitalism.
His politics landed him in hot water with Brazil’s repressive regime, and he was jailed for an extended period in the 1930s. Naturally, many characters are pessimists as they’ve grown up surrounded by poverty and violence. In his book Vidas Secas (Barren Lives), he tells the story of poverty through a cyclical timeline that follows the relationship between droughts and famine in Brazil.
Writing should be done the way Alagoan laundry-women do their work. They start with an initial washing, wetting the dirty clothes at the edge of a pond or stream, wringing out the cloth, wetting it again, then again wringing it. Graciliano Ramos
13. José de Alencar, 1829 – 1877
José de Alencar was a Brazilian lawyer, and novelist often referred to as the father of Brazilian romantic literature. Beyond writing, he had an extremely successful career as a politician and played a role in creating the Brazilian Academy of Letters.
His romantic novels often touched on the then-taboo subject of romantic relationships between native Brazilians and settlers. Iracema is a story about the creation of modern Brazil through the eyes of a colonist who falls in love with a native woman. Reading Iracema will give you an interesting 19th-century perspective on colonialism while recounting a brilliantly written love story.
“It is the age of ambition that proves the mettle of men” José de Alencar
14. Carlos Drummond, 1902 – 1987
Carlos Drummond is a 20th-century Brazilian novelist and poet featured on the country’s national currency to celebrate his contribution to Brazilian literature. He spent most of his life in Rio De Janeiro, witnessing Brazil’s economic and social transition throughout the 20th century. His experience in the bustling city of Rio meant he had a pulse on modern Brazilian culture making his books brilliant reads for anyone looking to learn about this period in Brazil’s history.
His opinion of modernity was not always positive. Drummond often highlights the struggles and tragedies of the 20th-century lifestyle. His poetry is especially critical of modernity, exploring the plight of both the modern man and woman. Multitudinous Heart: Selected Poems is a collection of Drummond’s best poems that tell stories of life in his small mining town in Minas, touch on themes of social issues, and explore the concept of individualism.
“Be happy for no reason is the most authentic form of happiness.”Carlos Drummond
15. Cecilia de Meireles, 1901 – 1964
Born at the turn of the century, Cecilia de Meireles was orphaned at a young age and later raised by her Portuguese grandmother. She began writing at an extremely young age, and by the time she turned 18, she was a published poet. Her work focuses heavily on Brazilian culture, often employing powerful imagery to emphasize some of the more unique aspects of Brazil and its people.
She spent countless hours writing as a child, and she firmly believed that if more children find their passion for literature, they would live richer lives. So, she helped Brazilian children discover books and poetry by founding the Biblioteca Infantil (Children’s library) in Rio.
Romanceiro da Inconfidencia is a collection of Cecilia de Meirele’s poems that discuss Brazilian culture and history. It’s a great read if you want to learn more about Brazilian culture through poetry.
“Here is my heritage:Cecilia de Meireles
This solitary sea —
On one side it was love
And on the other forgetfulness.”
The Final Word On Brazilian Authors
From the metropolises of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro to the small mining towns and countryside, Brazilian writers from all walks of life have produced some fantastic novels, books, and poems in the past two centuries. Brazil is a country of contradictions, full of color and life, as well as poverty and strife making Brazil a true melting pot.
As a result, the country’s literature is so diverse that there’s no doubt a few of these books deserve a spot on everyone’s reading list. If you enjoyed learning about the best Brazilian authors, you might also be interested in checking out the Best American Authors.
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