Published in Brazil on the 40th anniversary of the Golpe de 64, I Didn’t Talk can be read as one of many novelistic catalogs of 20th-century atrocities. As with the works of W. G. Sebald and Patrick Modiano, this is a slim, dense novel that lingers in the eddies of personal memory and historical reckoning ... she [Bracher] is interested in the conditions that make such retellings possible, in the many ways one might catalog the library of a national and personal past ... At just 160 pages, with no chapter breaks, the novel reads as a sharp intake of breath, or a syncopated panting. Scraps of prose, quotations from characters, and jagged excerpts from other literary texts accumulate. They mingle with and contradict each other. We are far, here, from the powerful moral certainty of the dictator novel, that classic Latin American subgenre. If Gustavo’s narration can be called a confession, its delivery is far more baroque than a typical denunciation or plea of innocence ... Polyvocal if not cacophonous, these pages unfurl alternatives to the received order of things—the dictatorship’s account of its history, but also the triumphalist narrative of resistance. Gustavo’s way of reframing his personal history opens these 'settled' stories up for revision in a rowdy, Swiftian, fictional public sphere.
Gustavo, the...narrator of Beatriz Bracher's I Didn't Talk, wastes no time addressing the story that changed, and almost ruined, his life ... he was arrested with his best friend and brother-in-law...(as) the two had links to left-wing anti-government groups; for this, they were confined to jail and tortured...the torture cost Gustavo two teeth and the hearing in his right ear. Armando fared worse; he was eventually shot to death by soldiers. The physical torture was temporary, but the emotional torture has never ended for Gustavo ... The structure perfectly mimics the train of thought of a man caught in an endless cycle of guilt and self-doubt, and who still bears the scars of torture, both physical and otherwise ... The pacing of the novel is similarly effective ... I Didn't Talk isn't just about one emotionally bruised man; it's about the lasting effects of violence, and the way cruelty causes its victims to torture themselves.
I Didn’t Talk, Beatriz Bracher’s first novel to be published in English, revisits the Brazilian military dictatorship that lasted from 1964 to 1985, tracing the impact it had on multiple generations. The narrative follows Gustavo, an educator who was picked up and then released by the military in 1970, and who holds himself responsible for his brother-in-law’s death at the hands of the government following his own arrest ... Told largely in stream-of-consciousness style, the book weaves Gustavo’s retelling of his own memories with extracts from the personal papers of his friends and associates that he finds as he’s preparing to move out of his family home.
I Didn’t Talk...gently confronts pain without sacrificing wit, a book which merges together a fraught past and an uncertain future ... Structurally, the book is a chapterless journal which splices together the diary entries of a man confronting his past with quotes, excerpts and impressions from a number of sources--family journal entries, songs, poems, an...over-the-top novel his brother José is writing that is loosely based on their childhood. The protagonist Gustavo...and brother-in-law Armando both find themselves seized as political prisoners by the government and are tortured for information. Gustavo survives, Armando dies.
...Gustavo, a recently retired professor, prepares to sell his family home and move away from São Paulo. The process triggers a flood of reminiscences about his parents; his career; his wife, Eliana; and his involvement with the resistance to the military regime that seized Brazil in the 1960s. Gustavo relates how his arrest and torture by the authorities precipitated the killing of Eliana’s brother, Armando, even as he insists, I didn’t talk. Nevertheless, Gustavo reflects that the experience turned him into a 'sad and troublesome monster.' ... Bracher is a force to be reckoned with and has crafted a haunting, powerful novel.
...Bracher turns out a somber slice-of-life narrative centering on a professor who, after a long career in education, is preparing to leave the academy, sell his house, and move to the countryside ... but he faces incapacitating guilt over the death of his late wife’s brother, arrested with him as student activists in 1970. 'Look, I was tortured,' he protests, 'and they say I snitched on a comrade who was later killed by soldiers’ bullets.' Protest as he might that he didn’t do it, that he didn’t talk, Gustavo worries endlessly at his responsibility for Armando’s death ... A slender but memorable contribution to the literature of crime and (sometimes self-inflicted) punishment.