‘São Bernardo’ by Graciliano Ramos – A Proud Man Fails


‘São Bernardo’ by Graciliano Ramos    (1934) – 169 pages              Translated from the Portuguese by Padma Viswanathan


Paulo, the owner of São Bernardo ranch, is a proud man but he meets his match when he marries Dona Madalena.

From the poorest backwoods northeast region of Brazil, Paulo Honório had to claw his own rough way up in the world. He started out as a field hand. After a knife fight over a woman, Paulo, at eighteen, wound up in prison for over 3 years where he learned to read and write. Afterwards somehow, by hook or by crook, Paulo becomes the owner of São Bernardo, the ranch where he had been taken in as a boy. Now, together with his lawyer and his bookkeeper, Paulo runs a successful ranch operation, and he takes great pride in his accomplishments. In his opinion, a chicken farm might be more useful than all the libraries in the world.

And then Madalena enters his life. She is 27, and he is 45. She becomes his trophy wife, but she has a mind of her own.

Madalena entered here full of good thoughts and good intentions, but those thoughts and intentions collided with my cruelty and selfishness.”

She is a schoolteacher, and she is interested in literature, politics, art, and religion. She wants to help those who are less fortunate who live near the ranch. This infuriates Paulo.

I don’t like clever women, the ones calling themselves intellectuals are abominations.”

Paolo is worried that his wife is a communist or socialist. When Madalena sees Paolo beating one of his workers, he tries to explain that sometimes it was necessary. Madalena asks, “But it’s cruel. Why do you do it?”

Paolo is still proud. “What the Hell. I don’t go around debating grammar, but I’m pretty sure I know best how to run my ranch.”

Later, Paulo is filled with regret.

Words of remorse came into my mouth, but stupid pride made me swallow them again.”

Finally Paolo has to admit, “I wrecked my life. I wrecked it stupidly.”

The author of ‘São Bernardo’, Graciliano Ramos, was a politician and a lifelong member of the Communist Party of Brazil himself.


Grade:     A







7 responses to this post.

  1. Good stuff! Required reading for blokes in the #insert patriarchal society Bride Market because they think that women in their own culture shouldn’t have minds of their own.

    Liked by 2 people


  2. This sounds like a great read! I’m going to seek out a copy. Thanks for another great review as always, Tony.

    Liked by 1 person


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