After Life

An Ethnographic Novel

After Life

Book Pages: 192 Illustrations: 17 b&w photos Published: April 2006

Author: Tobias Hecht

Subjects
Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Latin American Studies, Literature and Literary Studies > Fiction

Bruna Veríssimo, a youth from the hardscrabble streets of Recife, in Northeast Brazil, spoke with Tobias Hecht over the course of many years, reliving her early childhood in a raging and destitute home, her initiation into the world of prostitution at a time when her contemporaries had scarcely started school, and her coming of age against all odds.

Hecht had originally intended to write a biography of Veríssimo. But with interviews ultimately spanning a decade, he couldn't ignore that much of what he had been told wasn’t, strictly speaking, true. In Veríssimo’s recounting of her life, a sister who had never been born died tragically, while the very same rape that shattered the body and mind of an acquaintance occurred a second time, only with a different victim and several years later. At night, with the anthropologist’s tape recorder in hand, she became her own ethnographer, inventing informants, interviewing herself, and answering in distinct voices.

With truth impossible to disentangle from invention, Hecht followed the lead of Veríssimo, his would-be informant, creating characters, rendering a tale that didn’t happen but that might have, probing at what it means to translate a life into words.

A call and response of truth and invention, mental illness and yearning, After Life is a tribute to and reinterpretation of the Latin American testimonio genre. Desire, melancholy, longing, regret, and the hunger to live beyond the confines of past and future meet in this debut novel by Tobias Hecht.

Praise

After Life: An Ethnographic Novel presents a section of society in such a way as to be of use and interest not only to anthropologists, but also to anyone who is interested in culture and society in Brazil and Latin America. . . . Hecht clearly demonstrates his knowledge with regard to the debate on the portrayal of the marginal in literature and elsewhere, and his text contributes to it in meaningful ways.” — Nathanial Eli Gardner, The Latin Americanist

After Life engages a startling mix of ethnography and fiction to illuminate both the world of Recife’s homeless and the peculiar ennui that often befalls the anthropologist during extended fieldwork. . . . [R]emarkable. . . . After Life urges us to consider, more deeply than we have before, alternative modes of representation.” — Robin E. Sheriff, Journal of Latin American and Carribean Anthropology

After Life is a curious book in the way it makes no attempt to conceal its sources. What gives it such a strong foundation sometimes stifles it, but just as often gives it depth, clarity, and purpose.” — Bondo Wyszpolski, Easy Reader

“[A] nuanced and compelling portrait of both the life of poor, semi-homeless, transvestite prostitutes in Recife and of the process and experience of urban ethnography in Brazil. . . . [A] unique and fascinating book that has new insights into Brazil and that is highly readable.” — Enrique Desmond Arias, Luso Brazilian Review,

“[A]n illuminating example of the beauty and usefulness of ‘ethnographic fiction.’ . . .” — Tamara J. White, Journal of Children and Poverty

“A call and response of truth and invention, mental illness and yearning, After Life is a tribute to and reinterpretation of the Latin American testimonio genre. Desire, melancholy, longing, regret, and the hunger to live beyond the confines of past and future meet in this debut novel by Tobias Hecht.” — Adolescence,

“Both in content and form, Hecht's work challenges historians of children and youth to think deeply about the limits and possibilities of making things up. . . . After Life generates conversations and questions that are critical for historians of children and youth.” — Mona Gleason H-Childhood, H-Net Reviews

“This remarkable history . . . consists not just of events and actions, but also conveys the inner world, of thoughts, at the centre of all lives and the key role it can play in our survival.” — Georgina Jiménez, Latin American Review of Books

"[Hecht's] evocation of the horrors and beauties of contemporary Brazil is skillful, and his portraits of a Northern woman adrift and paralyzed in a fecund tropical local is incisive." — Publishers Weekly,

After Life is not only deeply moving, but written with profound integrity. It is saturated with compassion and in this lies its intense moral power.” — Anne Michaels, author of Fugitive Pieces

“A disturbingly powerful journey into the violence of everyday life and the inner world of literature. The enigmatic and courageous characters of After Life jump off the page and change the ways we think about human agency today.” — João Biehl, author of Vita: Life in a Zone of Social Abandonment

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Price: $24.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Tobias Hecht is a writer living in Claremont, California. His first book, At Home in the Street: Street Children of Northeast Brazil, won the 2002 Margaret Mead Award. Hecht is the editor of Minor Omissions: Children in Latin American History and Society and the translator of The Museum of Useless Efforts, by Cristina Peri Rossi. He received his Ph.D. in Social Anthropology from Cambridge University.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Introduction 1

Notes 12

Part 1 17

Part 2 77

Part 3 121

Acknowledgments 181
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3788-1 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3750-8
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