Brazilian Book Club: Canaan, by Graça Aranha

brasilobserver - Aug 18 2015
book club

(Leia em Português)

The next Brazilian Bilingual Book Club of the Embassy of Brazil will be discussing Canaã (original spelling is Chanaan), translated into English as Canaan (Boston, USA, 1920 and London, UK, 1921).


By Nadia Kerecuk*

José Pereira da Graça Aranha was born in São Luís, State of Maranhão on 21 June 1868. He was a prodigy child and went on to read Law in Recife. He started his professional life as magistrate first in Rio de Janeiro and, then, in Porto do Cachoeiro in the State of Espírito Santo. It was there that he would try a case of young immigrant mother from a German settlement that was accused of killing her own baby, fictionalized in his major novel Canaan.

Canaan was described as a “novel of ideas” soon after its publication. Brazil had an official policy to bring immigrants to Brazil to occupy and settle in its vast territory and, also, to replace slave labour force once the Abolition of Slavery came into force. Additionally, a number of private “immigration companies” appeared at the time exploiting the possibility of bringing immigrants to Brazil. The narrator offers a critical overview of effects that the arrival of immigrants created.

Gaining early recognition as a novelist, Canaan’s author benefitted from favourable reviews first in Paris. Anatole France (1844-1924) hailed Canaan as “the great American novel”. The New York Times reviewed Canaan after the publication of its translation into English stating that it “views humanity through the telescope of cosmic philosophy, as a baby taking its first uncertain steps toward Utopia”.

Graça Aranha became a diplomat initially under the wing of the notable Joaquim Nabuco. As his private secretary, he worked at the Embassy of Brazil in London becoming a skilled negotiator. He became acquainted with intellectual currents in pre-WWI Europe meeting and corresponding with some of the most notable authors.

On his return to Brazil he advocated social, political and artistic reform in earnest, he became a leading figure in the 1922 Week of Modern Art, which he launched with a lecture entitled ‘The Emotional Aesthetic of Modern Art’ on 13 February 1922. He died in Rio in 1931.

Find more about the novel and the author here.

*Nadia Kerecuk is Convenor of the Brazilian Bilingual Book Club of the Embassy of Brazil in London




When: 20 August

Where: Embassy of Brazil in London

Entrance: Free