Monday, March 10, 2014

Spilt Milk by Chico Buarque

I listened to the unabridged version of Spilt Milk by Brazilian writer Chico Buarque and read by Buck Schirner. 

I've been trying to expand my reading horizons by reading novels by authors I'm unfamiliar with and/or may not have even heard of before... Chico Buarque definitely falls into to this category for me, as I hadn't heard of him before until very, very recently... As in a the last couple of weeks.

I'm also trying to read novels from writers from other countries and cultures that I'd normally not read books from... I can't recall reading any other novels written by Brazilian writers, so reading Spilt Milk is another first for me.

The following is an overview of Spilt Milk by Chico Buarque on Barnes & Noble's website:
From world-renowned Brazilian writer Chico Buarque comes a stylish, imaginative tale of love, loss, and longing, played out across multiple generations of one Brazilian family. At once jubilant and painfully nostalgic, playful and devastatingly urgent, Spilt Milk cements Chico Buarque’s reputation as a masterful storyteller.

As Eulálio Assumpção lies dying in a Brazilian public hospital, his daughter and the attending nurses are treated—whether they like it or not—to his last, rambling monologue. Ribald, hectoring, and occasionally delusional, Eulálio reflects on his past, present, and future—on his privileged, plantation-owning family; his father’s philandering with beautiful French whores; his own half-hearted career as a weapons dealer; the eventual decline of the family fortune; and his passionate courtship of the wife who would later abandon him. As Eulálio wanders the sinuous twists and turns of his own fragmented memories, Buarque conjures up a brilliantly evocative portrait of a man’s life and love, set in the broad sweep of vivid Brazilian history.
First off let me say that Buck Schirner did an awesome job of narrating Spilt Milk. After listening to this novel, I can't imagine any other reader giving such an outstanding dramatic performance as Buck Schirner gave in Spilt Milk.

Spilt Milk is a very interestingly and uniquely written novel. In Spilt Milk, the character of Eulálio d’Assumpção narrates the entire novel in what appears to be the longest monologue of all time... So, we only know what's going on in this story through the eyes of a 100 year old man laying in a hospital on his deathbed.

Eulálio d’Assumpção seems somewhat lucid at the start of this novel (if you can call him lucid as he's dying on his deathbed, in pain, and is given morphine), but his narration fades fast as he has his ups and downs... Eulálio d’Assumpção talks endless about his life and rants about his experience at the hospital to whomever will listen to him. 

Eulálio d’Assumpção's memory is failing as he bounces around from subject to subject telling his life's story. He often repeats the same stories and retells them in different ways. He is also delusional (seeing his mother in the hospital for example). Also, Eulálio d’Assumpção stories about his wife's life make for interesting reading... I can't figure out how she really died. One moment it seems like she could have had tuberculosis, leprosy, or even a std. How she dies exactly is uncertain or least to me it is. So, for me, Eulálio d’Assumpção is an unreliable narrator. I also don't even know if he is actually speaking to his caregivers at the hospital when I hear him talking to caregivers and other visitors or if he just thinks he is.

So, I think Spilt Milk is an unique novel because we actually are able to hear a story narrated by someone dying in a hospital who is elderly, delusional, and may not have the best memory of his life events at this point in time. I think Chico Buarque captures the very essence of his main character and relays the events of Eulálio d’Assumpção's life in a believable and engaging way to readers.

I'd give Spilt Milk a rating of 7 stars out of 10 stars.

I usually forget to add interesting or favorite quotes I find inside books I read. This time around, however, I did remember to add a memorable quote from Spilt Milk which is: "Memory is a vast wound."  

Until my next post, happy reading!

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