Scliar, Moacyr

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SCLIAR, MOACYR (1937– ), Brazilian author and physician. The city of his birth, Porto Alegre, is often the setting of his books. He established a career as one of Brazil's most important contemporary writers and as a successful medical doctor working in public health. Scliar is often compared to North American Jewish authors such as Philip Roth and Mordecai Richler. His novels and short stories are commonly characterized as a unique blend of Jewish humor, Yiddishkeit, and Latin American magical realism. He received some of the most prestigious literary awards of Brazil and Latin America, including the Casa de las Américas prize (1988). Most of his major works have been translated into English and many other languages. As a whole, Scliar's approximately 30 books provide a unique lens through which to view both Brazilian and Jewish culture.

The novel The Centaur in the Garden (1980) is one of his most representative and well known. It is the fantastic story of a centaur born to Russian parents who is raised as a Jew in rural Brazil. Guedali, the main character, serves as a metaphor for those who exist at the margins of dominant culture and as a symbol of the cultural hybridism of which he is a product. His life story is an allegory of the search for identity, self-discovery, and ultimately the multiplicity of human existence. The novel The Strange Nation of Rafael Mendes (1983) is a mix of fantasy and history; the story is revealed through a Brazilian businessman who discovers his Jewish roots as a descendant of Maimonides. The novel traces the history of the Jewish presence in Brazil and the title character learns he belongs to the "strange nation" of the Jewish people in addition to being Brazilian. In O ciclo das águas (1976) Scliar narrates the story of the Jewish white slave trade in Brazil through the voice of a prostitute who was deceived into emigrating from Poland to Brazil in the 1930s. In the novel A mulher que escreveu a Bíblia (1999) Scliar utilizes Harold Bloom's The Book of J as a point of departure to invent the story of a woman who lived in King Solomon's time and was responsible for writing the Bible. His complete short stories have been published in English as The Collected Stories of Moacyr Scliar (1999). Scliar is no doubt one of the most influential of Jewish writers from Latin America.

[Darrell B. Lockhart (2nd ed.)]