“This review discusses the book ‘Verdant Inferno/A Scabby Black Brazilian’ by Alberto Rangel and Jean-Christophe Goddard, which explores the beauty of the Amazonian landscape.”
This book… After only three words into my review, this most direct way of starting feels incorrect and clumsy. Is it really a book? The title is Verdant Inferno/A Scabby Black Brazilian, published by Urbanomic. Their stated goal is “to promote philosophical thinking as a creative practice”. It is part of the new K-Pulp Switch series, which mimics the style and appearance of the popular Ace Doubles books that were first released in 1952. These books featured two works published together, with the pages arranged in a way that allowed the reader to hold the volume in either direction. These two titles are also published in this format, with an eye-catching cover design that pays homage to the bold frontispieces of the science fiction and western novels that were part of the original series, written by authors such as Philip K Dick and Ursula K Le Guin.
However, the contents of this new volume differ greatly from the traditional works of genre fiction. Verdant Inferno is a compilation of short works by Brazilian author Alberto Rangel, originally published in 1908 and now translated into English for the first time. It features a preface from renowned journalist Euclides da Cunha and offers a series of incredibly powerful, enthralling, and at times disturbing glimpses into life in the Amazon, both human and non-human. A Scabby Black Brazilian is a more complex piece to classify. Written in 2017 by French philosopher Jean-Christophe Goddard, it deftly blends elements of fiction, alternate history, and high literary theory. Goddard draws from a dizzying array of time periods, locations, and names, including Brazilian novelists, anthropologists, shamans, and European philosophers who have either visited or written about Brazil. Real and imaginary characters coexist; languages and worlds intertwine and transform one another, resulting in what Goddard refers to as “a swarm of polyglot…words, names, and phrases.”
This book is full of intricate details and themes, making it a dense read. Rangel’s section is more accessible, capturing the raw beauty and brutal violence of the Amazon. His vivid imagery, such as the apuizeiro tree, paints a haunting picture of a plant that consumes others for survival. On the other hand, Goddard’s section may be more challenging for those unfamiliar with the concepts he explores. It requires at least a basic understanding of the terms and ideas he presents. However, this book aims to challenge its readers and delve into the complexity of Brazilian Amazonia. The apuizeiro tree serves as a perfect metaphor for this ever-changing and resilient region. Just like the tree, every part of Amazonia is interconnected and cannot be reduced to an individual entity. The book defies categorization and challenges our preconceived notions, even questioning the definition of a book itself.