In eighteen stories, Caio Fernando Abreu navigates a Brazil transformed by the AIDS epidemic and stifling military dictatorship of the 80s. Suspended between fear and longing, Abreu's characters grasp for connection.
With attention to the social and political weight of the everyday, Abreu’s disillusioned bohemians pepper Moldy Strawberries with existential questions about the meaning of friendship and the contradictory nature of love ... a polyvocal, cultural, and literary hybridity that speaks to its national and global context as it does to the author’s intimate feelings ... Abreu attends to those gestures of loving amid a sinister world, how they gleam among the detritus of, as Wojnarowicz put it, the pre-invented world ... Weighing down humor and the surreal with the concrete realities of living with illness, Moldy Strawberries forces the tradition of social satire to bulge at the seams. It’s a collection that is as hilarious as it is heartbreaking, vaulting existential questions across the page while poking fun at the urge to ask them in the first place, both yearning for and laughing at utopian visions of the past. The strawberry fields of the 1960s and ’70s have grown moldy, but, in Abreu’s writing, within the mulch lies the promise of the new, a chance to start again.
... exuberant ... These eighteen stories are intimate, focusing on internal examinations of personal sacrifices and desires, desperate struggles to connect and survive, and honest moments between two people. They distill flashes of joy, despair, and lust into crystalline moments of flickering emotion. Long, vibrant sentences and powerful imagery ground their feelings ... This collection amplifies the lives of people who were often disregarded or dismissed by a Brazilian society in flux. Its stories vibrate with emotion and honesty, conveyed through distinct voices and strong imagery by a confident and deft writer.
... tenderly translated ... a collection of short prose pieces and stories that brims with life even as its flesh bruises ... Published in 1982, its vivid depictions of queer communities amidst the perils of the military dictatorship, rising homophobia, and the looming AIDS crisis serve to affirm life even when the threat of death feels ever-present. In eighteen prose pieces, which range from dialogues and vignettes to fully developed stories, Abreu’s writing bears witness to humanity in all its fragile glory. His prose affirms the possibility of love, desire, and connection—or at least indulges that dream ... Abreu’s style is reason enough to pick up the collection. Tales are often told in a breathless manner, but the narrative will at times pause abruptly, as if the narrator needs to catch their breath after this dizzying display of emotion. Dantas Lobato matches Abreu’s pace with care, infusing the stories with an incredible affective power that lingers long after the book ends ... Abreu collages together an abundance of references, which has the effect of immersing the reader in the text. It is as if we ourselves are tangled in this messy relationship between two lovers who have lost the spark of eroticism while they go on a whistle-stop tour of the world, until Abreu brings us to a screeching halt in an unidentified city ... Even when employing a third-person narrator, the stories feel intimate and personal ... Some of the most poignant moments in the collection come from tales where our protagonists are lonely, perhaps even vulnerable, but where human connection allows genuine love and tenderness to bloom ... without a doubt a sensory experience, with rich descriptions and references throughout the text. As well as the recommendations for music to accompany the reader’s experience, the narratives often hinge upon songs, lyrical motifs, or refrains that enrich the meaning of the text. Abreu mentions songs in English, Spanish, and Portuguese to create a multilingual soundscape, which understandably poses challenges for the translation. Dantas Lobato’s response is to create a multilingualism of her own, where the English text is peppered with words or phrases that maintain the cosmopolitan world that Abreu conjures up ... Reading Moldy Strawberries feels like immersing yourself underwater, in a beautiful world full of vivid colors and unfamiliar textures. While the current could drag you under–for danger and sadness are ever-present, the foil to vibrant love and desire–you surface feeling profoundly changed by your experiences. Abreu’s work bears witness to the beauty and cruelty of humanity, and in Dantas Lobato’s translation, they offer access to a dazzling literary experience that should not be missed.