Brazil has erupted into protest. Last Thursday, more than two million Brazilians took to the streets in more than 80 cities for demonstrations in which police employed percussion grenades and tear gas.
The demonstrations were sparked by a rise in public transport fares. But they quickly broadened to encompass long-term anger over government corruption and inefficiency, failure to invest in public services and – against that backdrop – the £9 billion (Dh51bn) cost of hosting the 2014 World Cup.
It’s a far cry from the jubilant scenes broadcast to the world when Brazil was awarded the World Cup back in 2007. So what has happened since? What is Brazil’s place in the world, and where is it heading? Time to hit the books.
• Turn first to the acclaimed Brazil on the Rise (Palgrave Macmillan, Dh62) by the New York Times reporter Larry Rohter. Rohter the was South American bureau chief in Rio de Janeiro from 1999 to 2007, and his book charts the overthrow in the 1980s of the post-Second World War military dictatorship and Brazil’s emergence as a stable democracy and an economy of global significance. Brazil is now the world’s ninth largest economy in real terms. But income inequality is still among the highest in the world; about 11 million Brazilians live in slum housing, many in Rio and Sao Paulo.
• But Brazil is a country as naturally wondrous as it is politically and economically complex. See Brazil by Michael Palin (W&N, Dh142) for an engaging guided tour. Brazil’s Amazon region is bigger than Europe, and its population is a colourful mixture informed by African, Portuguese and German immigration. Palin’s journey takes him from the gold miners of the Venezuelan border to the Iguacu Falls on the border with Uruguay.
• A new generation of novelists is telling the story of Brazil and achieving world renown. For a portrait in fiction of Brazil today, turn to Granta 121: The Best of Young Brazilian Novelists (Granta Publications, Dh74). Writers including Michel Laub and Laura Erber contribute short stories.
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