Connect with us


Books: Failed search for next giant

Legacy Phuket Gazette



PHUKET: I’ve long sought for the successors to the twentieth century giants of Brazilian literature, Jorge Amado and Erico Verissimo. So far, I’ve failed.

Daniel Galera’s novel Blood-Drenched Beard (The Penguin Press, New York, 2014, 374pp) is the latest disappointment. The prose is pedestrian, the pace leaden and the plot improbable, shading into preposterous. The entire mess limps along in a wild overabundance of unnecessary detail. The kindest word to apply to the novel is mediocre.

Like Erico Verissimo, Daniel Galera is from Porto Alegre, capital of Brazil’s southernmost state of Rio Grande Do Sul. Descendants of Azorean Portuguese, Germans, Italians and Poles, the people here are called gauchos and speak a Spanish-inflected Portuguese influenced by Argentina and Uruguay. Galera’s novel does have a strong sense of place: he brings to life the coastal villages and densely forested hinterlands of Santa Catarina, just north of Rio Grande do Sul.

For some reason, Galera insists on leaving his protagonist unnamed, referring to him simply as ‘he’ which causes all manner of confusion when other characters enter the picture and it’s unclear to whom the pronoun refers.

The novel opens with the protagonist meeting his father in a remote town in Santa Catarina. The father tells him that he is dying and intends to commit suicide. His only request is that his son take his old dog Beta to be put to sleep by a vet.

He also tells his son the strange story of the death of his own father who had come to live in a small fishing village called Garopaba. His temper and knife-fighting skills had made him unpopular among the menfolk and one night at a dance, they turned off the lights and plunged a great many knives into his body. The year was 1969.

Our hero looks like his grandfather, especially when he grows a beard. So after his father’s funeral, where he refuses to meet his older brother Dante, who has stolen his girlfriend Vivienne, he goes to live on the beach in Garopaba too, hoping to learn more about his grandfather’s fate. Like many towns in Thailand, Garopaba is in the process of transforming from a fishing village to a tourist resort. The 2008 tourist season has just ended with the onset of the antipodean winter.

Our hero brings along the dog Beta and gets a job as a swimming instructor at a health club. A physical education teacher, he is also a triathlete, having competed in Hawaii’s Iron Man contest. He soon lands a girlfriend, Dalia, a tall, pretty, curly-haired single mother who works as a waitress in a pizzeria. Here’s the culmination of their romance, told in typically clumsy prose:

“He kneels next to the sofa Dalia is sitting on and kisses her. The bitter coffee tastes nice in her saliva. They shoo away the dog, close the living room shutters, take off their clothes, and are soon in the bedroom.”

This is on page 82. There are 300 more pages to go, mostly wheel-spinning. The hero attends a folk music concert, a county fair, a travelling circus, a whale-watching voyage. He dumps Dalia, falls in love with a beautiful black graduate student, and is dumped by her in a wildly improbable series of events involving buried treasure and dreams which predict a fatal future. He makes a few friends, but the locals evade his questions about his grandfather: “Everyone he has tried to talk to about his grandfather’s death now ignores him. Some watch him with hostile looks as he walks through the village center, while others greet him with exaggerated friendliness. At times he worries that he is being paranoid.”

Halfway through the book, he receives a tip from a journalist friend that the policeman who
investigated the murder is now retired in a nearby town. He learns that his grandfather actually rose from the blood-soaked dance floor and ran out to disappear in the ocean. Then he gets even more improbable news from his grandfather’s old girlfriend, who is now dying of cancer. I don’t want to spoil the climax, but it was a long, slow, torturous way coming. And not worth the trip.

— James Eckardt


Get more from The Thaiger

📱 Download our app on Android or iOS
👋 Have your say on our Thailand forum
🔔 Subscribe to our daily newsletter
📺 Subscribe / Join for daily shows
👍 Like/Follow us on Facebook
🐦 FOLLOW us on Twitter
📷 FOLLOW us on Instagram


Join the conversation and have your say on Thailand news published on The Thaiger.

Thaiger Talk is our new Thaiger Community where you can join the discussion on everything happening in Thailand right now.

Please note that articles are not posted to the forum instantly and can take up to 20 min before being visible. Click for more information and the Thaiger Talk Guidelines.

Click to comment

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply

Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Follow Thaiger by email:

Vietnam9 hours ago

Ho Chi Minh launches 3-stage reopening plan, international on January 1

Kanchanaburi10 hours ago

Border shacks to be demolished for aiding Burmese immigrants

Tourism11 hours ago

Tourism calls for Russia and India to be added to safe list

Welcome back to Thailand!

Thaiger is getting behind local businesses for the restart of tourism in Thailand - up to 50% discounts across all advertising packages!

Economy11 hours ago

Bank of Thailand plans real-world test of digital currency in 2022

Hua Hin12 hours ago

Hua Hin calls for delay in reopening amid Covid-19 infections

Chiang Mai12 hours ago

Chiang Mai Covid-19 infections swell ahead of reopening

Join the conversation on the Thaiger Talk forums today!
Koh Samui14 hours ago

Thailand’s bars and beach parties remain strictly closed (cough)

Coronavirus (Covid-19)14 hours ago

Covid-19 Sunday: Deaths fall to low of 56, provincial data

Tourism15 hours ago

Ministry of Foreign Affairs sings praises of Thailand Pass

Coronavirus (Covid-19)16 hours ago

Covid-19 in prison: outbreaks from overcrowding now subsiding

Coronavirus (Covid-19)16 hours ago

Covid-19 deaths receding, but still here; 1 month old baby dies

Crime1 day ago

Van packed with 39 illegal burmese workers stopped in Phichit

Vietnam1 day ago

Vietnam to test reopening starting with Phu Quoc Island

World1 day ago

Chinese law to limit homework and tutoring pressure on kids

Bangkok1 day ago

Thai man takes grandfather hostage in Bangkok standoff

Thailand1 month ago

Morning Top Stories Thailand | Police to end protests, Human Trafficking | September 14

Thailand8 months ago

Thailand News Today | Thai Airways in rehab, All go for Songkran | March 4

Tourism8 months ago

Phuket’s nightlife. Yes, bars and clubs are still open | VIDEO

Phuket8 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid passport talks, Thai Airways heads to court | March 2

Tourism8 months ago

Phuket Thai food treats you need to try | VIDEO

Thailand8 months ago

Thailand News Today | Bars, pubs and restaurants ‘sort of’ back to normal | Feb 23

Tourism8 months ago

In search of Cat & Dog Cafés in Phuket Town | VIDEO

Thailand9 months ago

Thailand News Today | Gambling crackdown, Seafood market to reopen, Vlogger challenge | Jan 21

Thailand9 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid testing for visas, Business impact, Vaccine approval | January 19

Thailand9 months ago

Thailand News Today | Weekend Bangkok bombs, Thailand fires, Covid update | January 18

Thailand9 months ago

Thailand News Today | Stray car on runway, Indonesian quake, 300 baht tourist fee | January 15

Thailand9 months ago

Thailand News Today | Governor off respirator, sex-trafficking arrest, condo prices falling | January 14

Thailand9 months ago

Thailand News Today | Chinese vaccine, Thailand ‘drug hub’, Covid update | January 13

Thailand10 months ago

Thailand News Today | Bangkok may ease restrictions, Phuket bar curfew, Vaccine roll out | January 12

Thailand10 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid latest, Cockfights closed down, Bryde’s Whale beached | January 11