I just finished the 1994 novel, Brazil by John Updike this afternoon. It was one of those books where if the story seemed impractical and hard to identify with, the language was enough to keep me reading.
In Updike’s Brazil the love story of Tristan and Isabel trapses through class, race, lust, tragedy and the jungles and mountains of an entire country.
For weeks I’ve waded through the turmoils and tribulations of it’s two fated lovers. I’ve tolerated the choppy waves and spindrifts of Updike’s attempt at magical realism… I’ve remained patient during the two characters’ moody selfish seasons and progression towards their fated selves… and endured their impractical and winding hardships across the Brazilian landscape….
All to understand what happens in the end… and what happened infuriated me to the point of shouting. I yelled “DAMMIT” and slammed the book down. This isn’t the first time I’ve been upset with the fate of a main character. It’s just that this fate, the fate of a consistently bold, strong, modest and proud man seems cold and uncaring and undignified. Boy, did I slap that book down. I even tried flouncing off the bed in anger where I’d been anchored for over an hour with pillows and a heating pad, just to finish the book. Unfortunately through my haste and hot tears, I caught myself on the heating pad’s cord and made my own undignified crash across the bed….
Anyway…. So the more I mull things over, the more I come to terms with what Updike allowed to happen to his two lovers…. Tristan and Isabel’s fate is both tender and tragic, pathetic and endearing, ordinary and gnomic all at the same time….
And, as angry and sad as the ending left me feeling, I’ll continue to delve and meander through Updike’s vast body of work… belatedly catching myself up to a lifetime of tellings….
Other works of John Updike’s I can suggest:
(2000) Gertrude and Claudius
(2003) The Early Stories: 1953-1975