Ouch! That stung…

If you don’t want to get hurt, don’t read Edyr Augusto’s Hornets’ Nest. It’s small, but its deadly…


Hornets’ Nest
Edyr Augusto
2007, Aflame Books
85 pages

Reviewed by Georgina Jiménez

THE RAW power bursting to get out of Edyr Augusto’s Hornets’ Nest is so tangible that, by the end of this snub-nosed shotgun of a book, the reader is left nervous and in a sweat.

This Brazilian writer from Belém do Pará – the Cidade das mangueiras (City of the mango trees) – pistol-whips his reader into becoming part of the bloody drama that unfolds in the pages of this book.

He does so by using his consummate skill as a storyteller to deliver each blow with script-like ease through a concise narrative that weaves together an ingenious plot.

Set in Belém, this novel about vengeance at any price slashes a stinging new course through the Amazon’s criminal jungle. As fireworks explode over Our Lady of Nazareth church in the northern Brazilian city, a family gathered for a local festival is gunned down in cold blood. In New York, the boyfriend of an international pop star disappears after receiving a disturbing message. A football referee stumbles upon some politically devastating documents. A woman whose life has been destroyed by an ambitious and corrupt politician turns to Brazil’s ruthless underbelly for revenge.

The punch of a knuckleduster

Thus is woven a plot that, at one level, is a straightforward thriller. But Augusto’s uncompromising power to distill the energy in any situation turns this into a masterpiece of suspense with the punch of a knuckleduster. There are clear echoes of US hard-boiled crime writing here, but these are given a local flavour that transforms this into a very Brazilian tale.

Richard Bartlett’s translation from the Portuguese-language original (Casa de caba) is a tour de force that brings Brazil’s rotting interior to life in a Tarantino-esque departure for Brazilian fiction.

Augusto paints a portrait of a Brazil far from the glitz of the big cities in which corrupt politicians dependent on exploitation of the Amazon’s riches and the violence endorsed by the powerful hold sway.

In Edyr Augusto’s work – sure to be a mini-modern classic – there are neither heroes nor villains there are only, as Augusto says, “normal people… and their abnormal emotions.”

Georgina Jiménez is a freelance Mexican writer