Guimarães Rosa – Grande Sertão: Veredas

Guimarães Rosa (27th June 1908 – 19th November 1967) is regarded as one of the greatest Brazilian writers. The eldest of six children, he was born in the small, remote town of Cordisburgo in Minas Gerais, but later moved to Belo Horizonte, the state capital, where he studied medicine at university and then worked as a doctor before changing careers to become a diplomat.


He had demonstrated a precocious talent for foreign languages by teaching himself French at the age of seven using only a grammar book and a dictionary. He later learned to speak German, English, Spanish, Italian, Esperanto and a little Russian, and became a proficient reader in many other languages. His keen interest in the structure of language (particularly the Brazilian indigenous language Tupi), combined with his sharp observations of local linguistic variations, enabled him to experiment with Portuguese in a unique way. His novel Grande Sertão: Veredas and his many short stories are imbued with the voices and colours of the semi-arid scrubland and wilderness of inland Brazil, with its cattle-raising communities and multitude of local characters. Guimarães Rosa was unanimously elected to the Brazilian Academy of Letters in 1963.

In English, Grande Sertão was translated as The Devil To Pay in the Backlands (the translation will cost you around $100, as its only available in hardcover). Click on the image to enlarge it.


4 thoughts on “Guimarães Rosa – Grande Sertão: Veredas

  1. FWIW, the translation in English was considered so inadequate by the great Brazilian critic Harold de Campos that he called it a “Spaghetti Western.”

    It is really too bad that no translation is available today.

  2. Thanks Kent, I hadn’t heard that term used for the translation but I did briefly come across something that spoke to the effect, due to the original being written in somewhat archaic, not to mention, very well-written Portuguese.

  3. I am the founder of AMISSINGBOOK.COM which is a literary site dedicated to the study of João Guimarães Rosa and his nearly fifty-year absence from the English-speaking world. If you’re interested to learn about developments in the study and translation of JGR, please visit!

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