After Life: An Ethnographic Novel

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Duke University Press, Apr 5, 2006 - Fiction - 183 pages
Bruna Veríssimo, a youth from the hardscrabble streets of Recife, in Northeast Brazil, spoke with Tobias Hecht over the course of many years, reliving her early childhood in a raging and destitute home, her initiation into the world of prostitution at a time when her contemporaries had scarcely started school, and her coming of age against all odds.

Hecht had originally intended to write a biography of Veríssimo. But with interviews ultimately spanning a decade, he couldn't ignore that much of what he had been told wasn’t, strictly speaking, true. In Veríssimo’s recounting of her life, a sister who had never been born died tragically, while the very same rape that shattered the body and mind of an acquaintance occurred a second time, only with a different victim and several years later. At night, with the anthropologist’s tape recorder in hand, she became her own ethnographer, inventing informants, interviewing herself, and answering in distinct voices.

With truth impossible to disentangle from invention, Hecht followed the lead of Veríssimo, his would-be informant, creating characters, rendering a tale that didn’t happen but that might have, probing at what it means to translate a life into words.

A call and response of truth and invention, mental illness and yearning, After Life is a tribute to and reinterpretation of the Latin American testimonio genre. Desire, melancholy, longing, regret, and the hunger to live beyond the confines of past and future meet in this debut novel by Tobias Hecht.

 

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AFTER LIFE: An Ethnographic Novel

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Hecht takes a second look at Brazilian street children (following At Home in the Street, 2002) in this combination of fiction and anthropology. Much of the ethnographic material flows from an ... Read full review

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Contents

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Page 12 - I soon. reached the decision to give the manuscript the form of a monologue: that was how it came back to me as 1 re-read it. I therefore decided to delete all my questions. By doing so I became what I really was: Rigoberta's listener.
Page 12 - It does not belong to me morally, politically or economically. I have respected it greatly because it played an immense role for Guatemala. ... But I never had the right to say if the text pleased me or not, if it was faithful to the facts of my life. Now my life is mine, therefore I believe that now it is opportune to say that it is not my book. ... Anyone who has doubts about the work should go to [Elisabeth] because, even legally, I do not have author's rights, royalties or any of that.
Page 12 - ... economically. I have respected it greatly because it played an immense role for Guatemala. . . . But I never had the right to say if the text pleased me or not, if it was faithful to the facts of my life. Now my life is mine, therefore I believe that now it is opportune to say that it is not my book. . . . Anyone who has doubts about the work should go to [Elisabeth] because, even legally, I do not have author's rights, royalties or any of that."1 These are serious allegations.
Page 9 - Italian poet, novelist, and critic, wrote that one of the main charges against historical fiction is that "fact is not clearly distinguished from invention and that, as a result, these works fail to achieve one of their principal purposes, which is to give a faithful representation of...
Page 9 - joining together bits of copper and bits of tin does not make a bronze statue

About the author (2006)

Tobias Hecht is a writer living in Claremont, California. His first book, At Home in the Street: Street Children of Northeast Brazil, won the 2002 Margaret Mead Award. Hecht is the editor of Minor Omissions: Children in Latin American History and Society and the translator of The Museum of Useless Efforts, by Cristina Peri Rossi. He received his Ph.D. in Social Anthropology from Cambridge University.

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