Mário de Andrade

Translated by Katrina Dodson, with an introduction by John Keene

Fitzcarraldo Classics No.1 | French paperback with flaps, 320 pages
Published 17 May 2023

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Here at last is an exciting new translation of the modernist Brazilian epic Macunaíma, by Mário de Andrade. This landmark novel from 1928 has been hugely influential. It follows the adventures of the shapeshifting Macunaíma and his brothers as they leave their home in the northern Amazon for a whirlwind tour of Brazil, cramming four centuries and a continental expanse into a single mythic plane. Having lost a magic amulet, the hero and his brothers journey to São Paulo to retrieve the talisman that has fallen into the hands of an Italo-Peruvian captain of industry (who is also a cannibal giant). Written over six delirious days – the fruit of years of study – Macunaíma magically synthesizes dialect, folklore, anthropology, mythology, flora, fauna, and pop culture to examine Brazilian identity. This brilliant translation by Katrina Dodson has been many years in the making and includes an extensive section of notes providing essential background information for this magnificent work.

‘Dodson’s translation captures all the playfulness of the Portuguese text. The Brazilian colloquialisms are transposed to a fizzy American vernacular, but flora and fauna maintain their original names, inviting a surrender to the story’s strange, defamiliarising atmosphere. Andrade conceived of Macunaíma as one long poem or “troubadour ballad”: we’re lucky to hear it sung in English.’
Pablo Scheffer, Telegraph

Macunaíma is above all a vision of mythical Brazilian consciousness, a picaresque epic of birth, triumph, decline and death.’ 
— New York Times 

‘Katrina Dobson’s translation, employing a colloquial American diction with palpable African American and Deep South overtones, gives Macunaíma a consistent, credible voice in English. She inhabits and breathes life into the novel as though she were a revenant from the Brazilian jungle of a century ago…. It is not only Brazil’s complexity that Mário de Andrade captures, but that of the Americas as a whole, and to some extent that of the entire modern world.’
— Stephen Henighan, Times Literary Supplement

Macunaíma is a self-consciously nation-founding novel that reads like a thick broth of painful historical truth, quoted myth, and irreducible pleasures. Rarely is so much pleasure given and pain revealed by overlapping languages.’
— Arto Lindsay

‘An explosion of language.… The obvious comparison for English speakers would be Ulysses, as an encyclopedia of styles, of language forms.’
— Fredric Jameson

‘He’s an anti-hero hero, questioning and contradictory. Macunaíma is an emblem of the marvelous, metamorphosed into the errant question mark of his one-legged constellation. An anti-normative hero who points to a future, eventually more open, world.’
— Haroldo de Campos

‘Mário wrote our Odyssey and, with a swing of his native club, created our classical hero and the national poetic idiom for the next fifty years.’
— Oswald de Andrade

‘A deliberately provocative text, slangy, comical, antiliterary, assuming all the apparent contradictions of the struggle against European seriousness in its various forms.‘
— Pascale Casanova

Macunaíma is a miracle. There’s nothing like it in all of literature. Katrina Dodson is a hero.’
— Mario Bellatin, author of Beauty Salon

‘We are so fortunate that Mário de Andrade’s rollicking Macunaíma is finally reappearing in English in Katrina Dodson’s dazzling translation.’
— John Keene, author of Counternarratives

‘Dodson, a PEN Award-winning translator of Clarice Lispector, breathes new life into this spirited modernist classic from Brazillian writer de Andrade…. Electrifying and perplexing, this cornerstone of Brazilian literature shouldn’t be missed.’
Publishers Weekly, starred review

‘Over the course of seventeen chapters and an epilogue, violent parables and raunchy parodies nestle within one another to create a dazzling and chaotic Luso-tropical Holy Grail epic…. Perhaps through Dodson’s masterful work, Andrade will finally be widely read alongside Joyce, Woolf, and Kafka, and Brazilian modernism will be cemented in a canon that has largely excluded authors from Latin America.’
Meg Weeks, The Baffler

‘[T]old in urbane vernacular but with a vast vocabulary of indigenous words that would have been foreign even to metropolitan Brazil, [Macunaíma is] a reading experience that is wholly disorientating. It is also –perhaps rare for a modernist work – a lot of fun…. Andrade knew that the best way to begin a conversation was with a smile and a joke. Reading him almost a century later, his message is as simple and efficient as any good punchline: keep talking.’
David McAllister, Prospect

Mário de Andrade (1893–1945) was a poet, novelist, cultural critic, ethnomusicologist, and leading figure in Brazilian culture. He was a central instigator of the 1922 Semana de Arte Moderna (Modern Art Week), which marked a new era of modernism. He spent much of his life pioneering the study and preservation of Brazilian folk heritage and was the founding director of São Paulo’s Department of Culture.

Katrina Dodson’s translation of The Complete Stories by Clarice Lispector was awarded the 2016 PEN Translation Prize, the Lewis Galantière Award, and a North California Book Award. She holds a PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of California, Berkeley.

John Keene is the author, co-author, and translator of a handful of books, including Annotations and Counternarratives, published by Fitzcarraldo Editions in 2016. A 2018 MacArthur Fellow, he is Distinguished Professor and serves as department chair at Rutgers University-Newark.