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The Accidental President of Brazil: A Memoir

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  409 ratings  ·  42 reviews
Fernando Henrique Cardoso received a phone call in the middle of the night asking him to be the new Finance Minister of Brazil. As he put the phone down and stared into the darkness of his hotel room, he feared he'd been handed a political death sentence. The year was 1993, and he would be responsible for an economy that had had seven different currencies in the previous e ...more
Paperback, 291 pages
Published March 13th 2006 by PublicAffairs
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Jun 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
President Fernando Henrique Cardoso wrote a delightful book filled with history, politics and hints of sociology. All this in a light-hearted humor, charm and intelligence.
I am a huge FHC admirer; his life story and legacy are incomparable!
As a Brazilian, I am proud to say we had such a diplomatic, brilliant President who has a deep love for Brazil.
Jul 28, 2009 rated it really liked it
Hard to be objective when you're a former politician painting the story of your legacy. But Cardoso did some pretty dope stuff. He was a sociologist by training and approached the presidency from a sociological point of view. Stabilized the currency. He was in favor of legalizing drugs. Interesting guy. Would love to hear the other side of this story too. ...more
Jan 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biographies_read
This book was originally written in English and it has been recently translated into Portuguese. Every Brazilian citizen should read this book in order to better know the best president Brazil has ever had.
Menjol Almeida
More than Accidental. It was tragical. A huge disaster.
Frank Stein
Jul 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a wonderful history of Brazil as seen through the eyes of one sociology professor who happened to become President. Or, rather, the country is seen through the eyes of Fernando Cardoso's family, whose history has been so intertwined with their country they're hard to disentangle. His great-grandfather fell in and out of power during the reign of the reformist Portuguese Emperor Dom Pedro II, until he ended as the governor of a major western province. His grandfather was one of the three ...more
Anson Cassel Mills
May 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Cardoso rightly calls this book a memoir rather than an autobiography because it emphasizes only the author's political career. But Cardoso's political remembrance also serves as a fine introduction to the history of Brazil, stretching back through his privileged family to the nineteenth century. Although obviously intended for the educated North American reader, the work wisely assumes little specific knowledge of a country as large as the United States but one still struggling to outgrow its t ...more
Apr 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a truly excellent book. Extremely informative and readable. Indeed much of it reads like a cliffhanger as we follow Cardoso into exile, through his opposition to the military regime, into the finance ministry during the hyperinflation, and into the presidency during the cascading Emerging market crises that led to the eventual devaluation of the Real he worked to hard to establish (though this did not lead to a default as it did in neighboring Argentina.) Additionally, the reader will co ...more
Oswaldo De Freitas
President, intellectual, entertaining writer

Many people consider FHC the best president Brazil ever had. I agree.
He is a respected intellectual, author of numerous publications, and this book shows that he is also and entertaining writer.
With the power of his intellect, he predicted in this 2006 book that: "The foundation for a richer, more prosperous country - and perhaps, one day, a world power - seems to be firmly in place ". With our naked eyes at the present, we have reason to be less opti
Brian Pate
Feb 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, brazil
Fantastic book (co)written by Brian Winter. This was exactly the book I was looking for. An interesting introduction to the history, politics, and culture of Brazil through the lens of Cardoso's family and political life. Regardless of whether one agrees with Cardoso's political philosophy or policies, I highly recommend this book to learn more about Brazil. ...more
Emi Kottasz
May 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
A very good history lesson and insight into Brasilian politics. It made me understand the culture of corruption and racial division.
Tales Chaves
May 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Very interesting perspective on the history of politics in Brazil.
Jonathan Madison
Nov 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The amazing inside story of a defender of democracy in the world created by the Cold War.
Marcos Novoa
Mar 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
Delicious and light reading, very well written book with stories that speak a lot about Brazil and the author, with very precise observations and insights. Worth it.
Robert W
Oct 04, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
This breezy political autobiography is a nice introduction to recent Brazilian history, if you can stomach FHC’s false humility. It forms a nice addition to A Death in Brazil by Peter Robb, which examines closely the corruption of the Collor presidency.

Cardoso gives a useful view of modern Brazil. The Prestes Column and the revolt of São Paulo in 1932 are given as examples of how tenuous the rule of the federal government of Brazil was. And the inability of Brazil to effect normal changes of gov
As a brazilian middle-class child born in 1988, most of Brazil's history i didn't know. All I knew was what i learned in history classes in school (which i never payed much attention) and what my parents told me. They lived at the bad times in Brazil, such as military regime, so everything i basicly knew was what i learned from them.

There was much I knew it happened, but didn't really understand why or how, or the issues the country had and why it got at that point, how it was a problem to the c
Max Lybbert
Feb 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Before reading this book, my knowledge of Cardoso was limited to (1) he had written Dependency and Development in Latin America, probably the most boring book I'd ever read (not really his fault, the book was written in academic Spanish, and the translator used cognates as much as possible, meaning that obscure Latin words show up instead of more common words); (2) he had become the Brazilian President largely because as Finance Minister he had brought Brazil's runaway inflation under control; a ...more
May Ling
Jun 13, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: brazil
Cardosa's book provides a straight forward account of the events leading to his presidency as well as a history of the socio-economic development he inherited during his presidency. It is unfortunate that more men of learning do not reach office.

I was particularly interested in his account of inflation as relates to the difficulty in implementing effective policy. While it seems obvious that inflation causes difficulty in paying back dollar denominated debt, I had not considered that it also mo
Thomas Qais Osso-Faqiri
Apr 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is a light read about a country and a topic of immense importance in our global village. Brazil is a place of colors, happy face, easygoing people, delicious foods, music and dance. But as happy and as full spirit the people, the nation's politics suffers from chronic corruption, inefficiencies and shortcomings. Cordoso speaks to the spirit of Brazil as well as to the hopes, dreams, disappointments and struggles of a nation that rightfully deserve a place among the major powers. It is a gre ...more
Apr 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
Seeing how the Cardoso administration is likely responsible for the phenomenal economic growth in Brazil, I was eager to read his memoir. I liked his perspective on the history of the country, and the intimacy of his relations with other world leaders. In particular, his friendship with the Clintons is heartwarming. Of Mr. Clinton he writes: He has a way of making whomever he speaks with feel like he or she is the only person in the entire universe. Cardoso's comparison of China to Brazil is poi ...more
Oct 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
I started this memoir with a lot of misconceptions about former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso. I primarily knew that his successor, Lula, was often portrayed as a radical Leftist by American media, and assumed that Cardoso probably right wing. However, I fond tat the memoir portrayed an intellectual, who had studied sociology his entire life, and cared as much about the poor and suffering as Lula did. I was particularly struck by his views on race. I find that when I talk to Brazilians, or ...more
Jan 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
This was an excellent introduction to a country, Brazil, that I only know through fiction, particularly Jorge Amado's fiction (if you've never read any of his books, please do - they are wonderful!). This, of course, is non-fiction and it covers the political history of Brazil really up to the election of Lula, the current president of Brazil. It's a history of military rule, demagogues and the attempts over the years to move the country toward democracy. It is particularly, of course, about Car ...more
Jan 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
This autobiography of past president Fernando Henrique Cardoso tells about Brazil's struggle for a democratic government. The beginning accounts of past leaders of Brazil are cumbersome, but the contemporary discussions of Brazil's original land ownership structure, African population, AIDS problem and economic structures make Brazil come more to life. Cardoso writes an engaging account of his relationship with Luis Inacio Lula da Silva and Lula's evolution as a politician. For anyone interested ...more
Oct 27, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-on-brazil
I really enjoyed this memoir - it gave me such a good glimpse into Brazilian history, and as I am currently living in Brazil, it really opened my eyes to a lot of issues that I would have otherwise been ignorant of. Far from being dry, the narrative feels like a wonderful fiction story, with colourful and larger than life characters - needless to say it is not fiction, which makes the history of Brazil so intriguing.

Anyone who is planning on living or who is currently living in Brazil - this is
Feb 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I was assigned this book for one of my classes. I love memoirs, but was hesitant to read it at first because how exciting can a book written by a former President of Brazil be? I figured it would be boring and contain overwhelming politcal jargon that I would not understand. Cardoso surprised me with his easy to understand sarcasm, wit, and genuine personality.His tale of how he "accidentally" fell into the role of Brazil's president for two terms is very fascinating. His changes to Brazil's str ...more
Miguel Fernandez
This is a great book, very enjoyable and fun to read. As a foreigner in Brazil, this book opens a light and informative narrative of the contemporary history of Brazil, as narrated by one of its best presidents to date. FHC combines funny anecdotes with his own opinions and experience to show the main political events of the country. As said in the prologue it's a book mainly for non-brazilians as he goes sometimes into some issues or episodes that might seem too familiar to Brazilians. ...more
Sherry da Silva
Jul 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I really liked reading more of Brazil's history through the eyes of one of its recent presidents. My husband is from Brazil and I can now understand better what it was like for him growing up in the 70's and 80's and what led up to those times. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book and I may have to try reading more memoirs/histories. ...more
Rob Lever
May 13, 2013 rated it liked it
Decent and interesting journey through Brazilian history, politics, and economic philosophy. Cardoso comes across, at times, as your garden variety narcissist (I.e politician). He rarely provides commentary on failed polices or personal failings. One would believe Cardoso was the most perfect president ever. Maybe he was...

Dec 17, 2009 added it
A good book for anyone who wants to understand a little bit about Brazil. Cardoso, despite being a former president gives a very interesting unbiased overview about history and also how he became president without really making it a goal on his career as a sociologist.
Mar 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
Interesting book which provides an insight into the politics and economy of Brazil of the last 100 years. Wish I had read this prior to my recent trip to Sao Paolo, gave me a new appreciation for the Brazilians and where they have been.
Luisa Ferreira
Jul 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Excellent!!! I almost didn't buy it cause I thought it was a boring book about politics, but I was totally wrong. it's an exciting and stimulating book about the history of Brazil and its presidents. ...more
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Fernando Henrique Cardoso, (born June 18, 1931) - also known by his initials FHC - was the 34th President of the Federative Republic of Brazil for two terms from January 1, 1995 to January 1, 2003. He is an accomplished sociologist, professor and politician.[1] He was awarded in 2000 with the prestigious Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation.[2]

Born in Rio de Janeiro, he has lived

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