Monday, April 6, 2009

A Samba for Sherlock concluded

Last week I wrote a post about Jô Soares' funny novel A Samba for Sherlock, which takes place in Rio de Janeiro in 1886, the year before Villa-Lobos was born.

I finally got a chance to finish this very entertaining work, full of farce and vivid details about life in the capital of the Brazilian empire. I was disappointed that Soares didn't mention Villa's father, Raul Villa-Lobos, especially since there was a perfect opportunity. Sherlock Holmes chases the unknown villain through the National Library, but loses him due to some digestive problems. It would have been neat to have the librarian Raul poking his head out of an office to see what the commotion was. [The picture below of the National Library, built in 1876, is from the Wikimedia Commons; it's by Jeff Belmonte, and falls under a Creative Commons license.]

In any case, Soares is very much aware of the musical life of the time. Ernesto Nazareth (who Villa-Lobos called "Alma Brasileira", the Soul of Brazil) makes an appearance in the novel, as do the Cuban violinist & composer José Silvestre White Lafitte, and the Brazilian composer & publisher Arthur Napoleão dos Santos. As well, it turns out that Sherlock Holmes' very first visit to the opera was the premiere of Carlos Gomes' Il Guarany, at La Scala, on May 1870).

This is highly recommended for Sherlock Holmes fans (if you don't take offence at the good humoured ribbing of the great detective and his Doctor friend), and especially for its fanciful depiction of the final days of the empire. Just don't believe everything you read!

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