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Os Sertões

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  702 ratings  ·  75 reviews
Euclides da Cunha's classic account of the brutal campaigns against religious mystic Antonio Conselheiro has been called the Bible of Brazilian nationality.

"Euclides da Cunha went on the campaigns [against Conselheiro] as a journalist and what he returned with and published in 1902 is still unsurpassed in Latin American literature. Cunha is a talent as grand, spacious, en
Published by Ediouro (first published 1902)
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Jun 07, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 19th-century-lit
For the last week, I have been immersed in this unexpectedly great history. For some strange reason, I have confused this book with Guimaraes's The Devil to Pay in the Backlands; and I have always assumed that the Brazilian film O Cangaceiro by Lima Barreto was based on Rebellion in the Backlands. I was wrong on both counts, but it doesn't matter. That's because, in the end, I regard da Cunha's book on the level of Herodotus, Thucydides and Gibbon as one of the greatest of all works of history.

Geoffrey Fox
Aug 01, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: revolution
A couple of weeks ago, I re-read Euclides da Cunha, Backlands: the Canudos Campaign, trad. Elizabeth Lowe (New York: Penguin Books, 2010), better to understand its relation to Mario Vargas Llosa's 900-page novel, La guerra del fin del mundo, about the same bloody episode in Brazil's northeastern backwoods in the 1890s. For some of the background on these two books, please see my earlier weblog entry History, fiction and historical fiction which is the first part of this essay.

Da Cunha's book is
FE Beyer
In Canudos, a backlands town in the Northeastern State of Bahia, Antônio Conselheiro (Anthony the Counselor) preached against the republic. His followers, leather-clad ruffians or 'jagungos', terrorised the countryside. In the 1890s the Republic of Brazil was in its infancy and insecure, rumours of monarchist plots abounded, troublemakers like the Counselor needed to be dealt with. He had gathered a large following, apparently for his indifference to suffering rather than his skill as a preacher ...more
Adam Frederik
Sep 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book should be standard reading for any soldier, any politician and any voter. I read it during a time where people I know had sons serving in Afghanistan. This brutal narrative read like a humanistic and precise commentary to the tragic divide between the political idea of war and the reality of war, a reality that da Cunha insisted on facing and fathoming in his life and language.
Sep 04, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Da Cunha was a nineteenth century writer, the kind obsessed with facts; he can't begin this history of crazed faith confronted by a blundering military without spending a hundred pages on the natural history of the place. Antonio the Counselor was someone we would recognize today as a cult leader, with all the charismatic madness we have seen in subsequent cults. He began wandering a particularly inhospitable back land of Northeast Brazil, encouraging people to rebuild churches, and drew a movem ...more
Jul 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the first tests of Brazil's New Republic was how do deal with the 5500 followers of Antonio Conselheiro, a religious leader who had established a village of Canudos in the blasted and inhospitable highlands of northeast Brazil. The government led three assaults on Canudos, leading to three resounding defeats. Finally, under a new military commander, a fourth expedition was led into the backlands; the commander was determined to but an end to the rebellion. Euclides Da Cunha was a reporter ...more
Richard Freeman
Jan 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was Robert Lowell's favorite book. It is a dense account of the land and people and events that took place in the northeastern corner of Brazil in 1890 or so. A subculture of rubber farmers developed their own religion-based society around a charismatic crazyman name "Anthony the Counselor"and confronted the authorities of the new Brazilian republic (they had just deposed their emperor and were suspicious of governments that formed around a single leader). Like Mark Twain in "Life on the Mi ...more
Flávio Barros
Nov 03, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's simply one of the best Brazilian master pieces. This book cover a wide range of subjects, from geology (describing the Brazilian geography from south to North), anthropology (giving live to a historically neglected race: the "sertanejo"), and a bellic epic of Brazil's army major warfares (despite being a domestic conflict, it involved over 6/7 thousand soldiers against over 20 thousand civilians), all those aspects being described in a superb poetic narrative. A "Must read" book to get a gl ...more
David C.
Jul 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Circa 1890, a religious community arose in the unbelievably harsh section of Brazil they call the Northeast; more accurately, in the easternmost area where the shoreline juts into the Atlantic. The author, an army engineer, details the "...War and Peace of Brazil...". Tellingly, this book has never been out of print after 125 years.
It is a massive book, and except for the overlong description of the horrible terrain(suffice to say fierce heat, equatorial sun, desperate drought)it never drags.
Jan 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have given this book five stars because it is a fascinating read. It can be, I think, considered under that opaque category of "The Latin American" essay, along with Sarmiento's Facundo, Rodó's Ariel, etc. Da Cunha's book is riveting, it is racist in its antiquated science, but it is also humanistic in its attempt to demonstrate to Brazil in 1902 the "borrowed culture" of its coastal cities. It is a jeremiad of the senseless violence that occurs between fear and misled nationalism in the buddi ...more
Glenn Cheney
I'm lucky enough to have editions in Portuguese and English. It's interesting to read both at the same time. I don't think I could understand the Portuguese very well if that's all I had. But once I've read the English, the Portuguese is readily understandable.

I've skipped the tedious and, to me, not-understandable section on the land. I want to get into the sections on man and the Conflict.

The introduction by translator Samuel Putnam is very good. If you have his edition, don't skip that part
Gustavo Euclides
the brazilian iliad.

a historical, sociological, geographical and cultural view of Brazilian land and people, but most of all, an epic telling of the bloodiest conflict in our history, the Guerra dos Canudos.
Nov 24, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
"We must insist upon this point: the war in Canudos marked an ebb, a backward flow, in our history. What we had to face here was the unlooked-for resurrection, under arms, of an old society, a dead society, galvanized into life by a madman. We were not acquainted with this society; it was not possible for us to have been acquainted with it. The adventurers of the seventeenth century, it is true, would encounter in it conditions with which they were familiar, just as the visionaries of the Middle ...more
Danny Rego
Apr 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
One of the most iconic literature pieces of the Portuguese language, by far one of the best novels I have read in my life. This at first is a book hard to crack into, with its exquisite language and complicated descriptions of the Brazilian geography and geology, but as soon as the actions gets on, a roller coaster of intense emotion begins and only ends when the author writes the books final line. What I loved most about this book is that it describes with such vivid details the Brazilian serta ...more
May 07, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of Brazil´s literary and historical classics, which I read in Portuguese (Os Sertões), this book was written in the beginning of the twentieth century and describes the republican government´s campaign to destroy the city of Canudos in the very harsh environment in the interior of the Northeastern backlands. The first part of the book is difficult to get through: a very detailed account of the geography of the region. The second half, however, describing the campaign itself, is gripping and ...more
Oct 13, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a journalists account of the many attempts to quash the Canudos rebellions in the backlands of Brazil. Rebellion in the Backlands is written in the fashion of a scientist - a geographer, to be exact - to the point where I would flip past multiple pages that described this one bush at the swell of this hill and blah whatnot. That said, da Cunha's account of the Canudos expedition has a very readable quality; it verges on the feel of a novel. Rebellion in the Backlands is known for be ...more
Aug 16, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an interesting account of the battle of Canudos. A few years ago I read Mario Vargas "The War of the end of the World" which is a fictional telling of the story from the perspective of the fanatics.

This is the same story more or less, told from accounts of the Republic Army. It is basically a review of the mistakes and oversights by the Republic that led to one of the worlds worst massacre.

Light on emotion it read like a War Journal. I was intrigued. Sometimes it went a little to text b
Jun 21, 2008 marked it as half-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: brazilian, history
Reason to pick it up again:

Euclides describes the effect of the dry air at Canudos in very graphic terms, setting a scene where the sun is setting on a group of plants and a soldier sitting under the tallest tree, resting...for three months! He's dead but not decomposing. He had been missed when they gathered the dead to put in a grave three palms deep. At least he was spared that, Euclides says, able to sit under the hot sun, blue skies, in the frigid nights a while longer.
Jul 18, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2012
A bizarre mixture of natural history, muddled evolutionary theory, and brilliant military reporting. Essential because of being probably the first blow by blow description of an army campaign against a guerrilla insurgency, confirming all that we now about how bloody and protracted those are by the nature of such warfare, and how questionable the idea of any gain can be that requires so much bloodshed.
Carol Nassif
Aug 13, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Tarek
Brazilian Culture

This book tells about things that happens in Brazil, in a way that the Millitar President's and their soldiers would never find out.
Peter Last Name
Apr 15, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So much has happened in our world.
Sep 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The author is a huge white supremacist, which is pretty cool.

The descriptions of guerrilla war are probably the best I have ever read, even better than practitioners/theorists of said technique.
Zachary Rudolph
Nov 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“The campaign looked at here was a regression to the past.
And, in the most basic meaning of the word, it was a crime.”

Joaquin A.
Sep 06, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Northeastern Sertão is an unknown to many Americans. Yet this dry and barren land of cracked red sand is home to one of the most exciting conflicts in Brazilian history— The War of Canudos. In "Rebellion in the Backlands" Euclides da Cunha, a Brazilian journalist and well-known author, writes about his experiences in the sertão during the war. Mario Vargas Llosa writes about the same conflict in his 1981 book, "The War of the End of the World."
The book begins rather slowly with a dull desc
Julio Issao
Jan 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant and Magic! The Brazilian Iliad: Epic storytelling of a war clashed between the newly created republic against a poor village. It still defines Brazil as it is, the big urban centres and governments do not understand the underdeveloped countryside Brazil.
It is the second time I have read it, and I don't regret rereading the arid and inhospitable first chapter! After you're done with it the story really begins, but it is important to go through it, becasuse the setting and environment pl
Seth Augenstein
Jul 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A feast of a book, Brazil’s greatest work! But an acquired taste, considering the first third is a impenetrable thicket of descriptions of bushes, hills, and native skin complexions.
Matthew Thomas
Oct 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The GOAT relating to peasant uprisings. Anyone interested in Insurgency/guerrilla war, READ THIS NOW!
Nov 04, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
vom inducingly racist but important I guess
Andre Piucci

#-#-# TO READ #-#-#

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Euclides (archaic spelling Euclydes) da Cunha (January 20, 1866 – August 15, 1909) was a Brazilian writer, sociologist and engineer. His most important work is Os Sertões (Rebellion in the backlands), a non-fictional account of the military expeditions promoted by the Brazilian government against the rebellious village of Canudos, known as the War of Canudos. This book was a favorite of Robert Low ...more

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