Brazil Loses What Many Consider Its Best Contemporary Novelist

Brazilian writer João Ubaldo Ribeiro Brazilian writer João Ubaldo Ribeiro, 73 years old, died today, from pulmonary embolism, at his home in Rio de Janeiro. He was a member of the Brazilian Academy of Letters (ABL), and had held chair number 34 since 1994.

Also a journalist and a political scientist, he penned over 20 books, published in 16 countries. He is also a writer of short-stories, crônicas, and essays.

Among his main works are Sergeant Getúlio (1971), translated into 12 languages, An Invincible Memory (1989) and The Lizard’s Smile (1989).

In 2008, João Ubaldo Ribeiro won the Camões Award, granted by the Portuguese and Brazilian governments to authors who contribute to the richness of the Portuguese language. Sergeant Getúlio and An Invincible Memory earned him the Jabuti Award, from the Brazilian Book Chamber, one of the Brazil’s most prestigious prizes.

The scholar and philologist Evanildo Bechara commented the death of his friend and colleague at the Brazilian Academy of Letters. Bechara said that the ABL was still recovering from the death of academician Ivan Junqueira when it received the sad news of the death of João Ubaldo Ribeiro.

“The ABL, which seeks to be a place for the major exponents of the Brazilian literature, just had a rude blow with the death of João Ubaldo. He was perhaps our greatest expression in prose. He was a man with books that will stay for a long time as representatives of the modern Brazilian literature. He was an educated man, not only a great prose writer, but also a great chronicler and connoisseur of everything. He was a man with a great general culture, which he sprinkled in his articles. He represented Brazil very well, both inside and outside its borders.”

Ubaldo Ribeiro was born in Bahia, but his family moved to Aracaju (Sergipe state), when he was two months old. His father, Manuel Ribeiro, lawyer of renown in the Bahian capital, and also a professor, hired a teacher to give private lessons to his little boy.

He started in journalism in 1957, working as a reporter at Jornal da Bahia. Later he moved to the Tribuna da Bahia, where he would become the editor-in-chief. Along with legendary filmmaker Gláuber Rocha, he edited magazines, newspapers and participated in the student movement at the end of the 1950s.

In 1964, João Ubaldo went to the United States, thanks to a scholarship from the American Embassy to get a masters degree in political science at the University of Southern California.

João Ubaldo Ribeiro was very active till the end of his life, collaborating regularly in O Globo e O Estado de S. Paulo newspapers. He was also a contributor to publications in Germany and Portugal.

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