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The Brazilians [Paperback]

Joseph A. Page
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 6 1996
A country warmly hospitable and surprisingly violent, physically beautiful, yet appallingly poor-these are the contrasts Joseph Page explores in The Brazilians, a monumental book on one of the most colorful and paradoxical places on earth.Once one of the strongest market economies in the world, Brazil now struggles to emerge from a deep economic and social crisis, the latest and deepest nose-dive in a giddy roller-coaster ride that Brazilians have experienced over the past three decades. Page examines Brazil in the context of this current crisis and the events leading up to it. In so doing, he reveals the unique character of the Brazilian people and how this national character has brought the country to where it is today-teetering on the verge of joining the First World, or plunging into unprecedented environmental calamity and social upheaval. Not since Luigi Barzini's The Italians has a society been so deeply and accurately portrayed.

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From Publishers Weekly

Vast in area, rich in resources and uniquely integrated in racial composition, here is Brazil in all its beauty, contradictions, promises and disappointments. Page (Peron), whose love affair with the country spans 30 years, probes deep into the layers of Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, African and Indian heritage that make Brazil so alluring and paradoxical. Idealistic and pragmatic, exuberant and passive, its people have survived colonialism, slavery, dictatorships and populism and now struggle toward a viable capitalism in a society characterized by extremes of wealth and poverty. The successful synergism of many races-"miscegenation has been a common and accepted practice"-exists side by side with real discrimination. In this magnetizing study, Page also explores the meld of Catholicism and Pentecostalism, of native Indian healers and modern medicine, of African rhythms and Western music. He discusses the environmental and investment scenes as well as the addiction to soccer and to the telenovelas of the powerful Globus media empire, which so engross the population that the realities of life often seem to merge with their plots and characters. In its depth, scope and accessibility, this is an important work.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

It's not surprising that it would take 500-plus pages to define the Brazilians, and Page's definition is as remarkably cogent--given its length--as it is complete, compelling, and insightful. The spotlight in his "search for Brazilianness" illuminates all corners of this vast hemispheric neighbor of ours, achieving a many-angled perspective by drawing from events and traits in Brazilian history, politics, economics, natural history, and culture. His workable, wonderfully presented description of the Brazilian national character incorporates the impact of Portuguese, African, and indigenous Indian influences, the disproportion of wealth in the modern Brazilian state, the abundance of natural resources being squandered by ecological mindlessness, the easy coexistence of Roman Catholicism and African-based religions, and the peculiar personal psychology that leaves Brazilians at once charming and violent. No book substitutes for real experience, but this book runs a close second in terms of affording an understanding of Brazil. Brad Hooper --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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4.0 out of 5 stars Great research but a little outdated April 15 2003
This is a great book if you are interest in the history and culture of Brazil. It's obvious that the author did extensive research on the subject and he does a very good job explaining how some of the cultural traits developed. However, the country has gone under a great deal of changes recently and so I though it was a little outdated. Also, the reading can get boring, as the chapters are long and too detailed sometimes. I gave it four starts because it definitely a good book, if this is the kind of reading you are looking for.
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By A Customer
This book effectively captures the spirit of "brazilianess" and presents it to the reader in an easy to understand format. Page openly admits that the analysis presented in the book is through his eyes, which is an honest admission that this is not necessarily a scholarly study of Brazilian culture. That said, the book does not lack for adequate research and Page obviously knows his Brazilian history and culture and spent years putting this book together. The fact that it is not a "scholarly study" is probably what makes it an interesting read.
This is a great book to get a basic understanding of Brazil, its culture and its wonderful people. If you are traveling to Brazil I highly recommend reading this before you go or while you are there. It will help you understand a lot of what you encounter.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Informative-- yet readable! Oct. 24 2002
By A Customer
I wish my college textbooks had been written this well! Page's book is chock full of information about Brazil's history, politics, economy, culture, environmental issues, geography, and and and! I learned so much. And yet I found I could not put the book down. It is so readable, never dry. I'm becoming a frequent traveler to Brazil and this book really enriches my travels. I only wish I had an update! This book takes you up to about 1995 ... I'm busily researching now to see what happened in areas concerning the environment, the government, the economy, etc. that Page so successfully introduced. It's as if Page wrote the beginning of a great story...now I want to continue reading about Brazil, to see what's happened since then.
I can't finish this review without saying how sad much of Brazil's history is, and how much I admire the people's spirit.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The book on Brazil for the rest of us! March 22 2002
I have visited Brazil on two occasions and this book brought much of what I sensed into focus. It helped clear up some of the mysteries and left the rest intact. I especially loved the history and characterization.
It's the author's personal account which makes it conversational, funny and very perceptive.
The author doesn't hide the warts, but his love for Brazil is evident on every page - even when he's dissing. Great book. Read it!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Married to a Brazilian Dec 5 2001
My wife and I met in Seminary. She is from Brazil and we plan on moving there when I graduate. I have been to Brazil several times over the past few years and have fallen in love with their culture. But until I read this book, I did not know much of the history of South America's largest country. Page's book is an easy read, entertaining, and very factual. I found my self turning to my wife on a regular basis to discuss what I had just read. He was always right on! If you are planning a mission, vacation, or know a bunch of Brazilians, you have got to read this book. Call it Brazilian History 101. A great intro into Brazil's culture and history
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5.0 out of 5 stars A superb portrait of contemporary Brazil June 12 2001
By A Customer
Joseph Page's "The Brazilians" is a very enjoyable portrait of modern-day Brazil, quite possibly the best book on the country in English. Anyone traveling to Brazil for business or pleasure should read it. The book's jacket describes Page as a law professor at Georgetown, and with a lawyer's thoroughness and balance, Page explores the characteristics that make Brazil special -- the warmth, spontaneity and sensuality of the people, their unique blend of African, European and indigenous heritage, the music, soccer, Carnival, telenovelas -- without overlooking the country's often overwhelming problems, such as crushing poverty, environmental degradation, a boom-and-bust economy, violence and corruption.
Although Page presents a comprehensive view of Brazil, he unfortunately neglects two topics that should be part of any portrait of the country. The first is its much-maligned capital, Brasília, which gets hardly a mention in this book. Brasília's founding in the late 1950's, its rapid growth and its decline into a moth-eaten, sun-baked museum of outmoded architectural ideas could have filled an entire chapter. For an engaging and upbeat view of Brasília -- more positive than anything I've ever heard from the Brazilians themselves, all of whom seem to loathe their capital -- check out Alex Shoumatoff's "The Capital of Hope."
Page also doesn't say much about Brazilian food and drink, which is too bad, because from the moquecas of Pernambuco to the huge steaks of the South to the fish of the Amazon, Brazilian cuisine is a delight. A cup of Brazil's strong coffee accompanied by pão de queijo, a kind of popover laced with cheese, makes a breakfast fit for an emperor.
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By A Customer
I bought this book because I was planning a trip to Brazil and I wanted something that would provide me with a good frame of reference for my trip. In this capacity I was VERY satisfied. I particularly enjoyed the anecdotal style which made this a very easy read - It took me two evenings, and I was never tempted to skim / skip.
The book is colorful, and I am particularly grateful to the author for not neglecting popular culture in favor of socio-economic data. The chapters on telenovelas, the Carnival, and Soccer were particularly interesting and enlightening. I think it is great that he refers to book and movie portrayals of various events in his discussion of certain events - it helps bring everything together when he mentions, that scene in "The Mission..." A flood of images returns and suddenly everything is in a larger context. I thought it was superb that he spend careful attention discussing the history and character of various states. All too often, life outside the 'captial' cities of a country are neglected. Who would characterize the US by New York City or Russia by Moscow, or Japan by Tokyo?
The only downside is the portrayal of poverty and violence. While important topics, I came away with the impression that the author was arguing that Brazil was especially violent, poverty-stricken and unjust... I doubt that it is much more so than other lesser-developed countries, and probably some US inner-cities. Some un-baised comparative data would have been appropriate here to put it all in context.
For anyone planning to travel to Brazil that wants to get beyond the basic tourist-guide understanding of the country, I highly recommend the book.
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