- Paperback: 160 pages
- Publisher: Europa Editions (May 3, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1609453271
- ISBN-13: 978-1609453275
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,166,603 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Sergio Y. Paperback – May 3, 2016
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Praise for Sergio Y.
"A beautiful, moving, profound book...Sergio Y. is wonderfully accomplished and subtle and I am so glad to have read it."
—Andrew Solomon, author of Far from the Tree
“Porto’s captivating, impeccably structured novel is a detective story wrapped around a deeper exploration of identity.”
—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
"One of Armando’s main aims as a narrator is to complicate the narrative of gender transition, to embrace a certain measure of existential mystery that ties it to other journeys of transformation...he accomplishes this with a sensitivity to nuance and a supple, philosophical expansiveness."
—World Literature Today
"Beautifully told and translated, it explores the limitations of truly knowing another person..."
"Sergio Y. is one of the best books I've read in a long time...I gush about it to everyone I meet."
—Zoë Perry, translator of Paulo Coelho
"With Sergio Y., Alexandre Vidal Porto makes clear why he is one of the essential writers in Brazilian contemporary literature."
"Readers will find it impossible to put this book down."
About the Author
Alexandre Vidal Porto was born in São Paulo. A career diplomat, a Harvard-trained lawyer, and a human rights activist, he writes a regular column for Folha de S. Paulo. His fiction has appeared in some of the most respected literary publications in Brazil and also abroad. Sergio Y. was the winner of the Parana Literary Prize for best novel.
Alex Ladd's translations include The Mystery of Rio, by Alberto Mussa (Europa Editions), Life As It Is by Nelson Rodrigues (Host Publications, 2009), The Asphalt Kiss by Nelson Rodrigues (Nova Fronteira, 2007), and Nestor Campoeira's The Little Capoeira Book (North Atlantic Books). He lives in New York.
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Top customer reviews
Review of Sergio Y. by Alexandre Vidal Porto and Alexandra Naughton’s poem: “put my little party dress on.”
While I was at once afraid of my illustration given that it may reflect my relationship with the author, keeping in mind Picasso’s statement that every painting he made was a painting about himself, I came upon the book Sergio Y. by Alexandre Vidal Porto at approximately the same time I was about to draw it and luckily the book by Porto relates to Alexandra Naughton’s poem. (Alexandre and Alexandra) They both, the poem by Naughton and the tale by Porto, relate to happiness.
Whereas the main character of Porto’s book Sergio realizes to be happy he must become the woman who lurks inside him, so too Naughton’s main character talks about having to alter herself to fit in, where there is this blasé attitude on the outside, but obviously internal turmoil. This is likened to the character known as Sergio becoming Sandra, where there is a cool, calm, and collected person with seeming no external evidence to the big change she eventually endures to become happy. Both characters seem to be externally subjected to a patriarchal system, where Sergio’s father had a hard time accepting him like the victimizer of the party dress wearer, who seemed to have demoralized her. The image of a shark comes to mind with its eyes closed, where the innocent victim is simply swimming. There is a sense that the water could be dangerous, but why is one gender more likely to be victimized by this beast? I think as the murderer (Laurie Clay) admits, there was a moment of madness, where she remembers her father’s not liking Sandra and telling Clay that Sandra’s transsexuality was “the devil’s work... And that must have stayed in my subconscious,” as she “pushed Sandra with all my might...[and] I can still hear the curtain tearing.”
The story does not have a happy ending and perhaps that is the point; there are so many unrealized and damaged people, that to live happily is to forget about the zombies. One person’s finding happiness forgets that there are others, who because of distorted perspectives and self-projected revenge act out their anger against those they feel threatened by.
The indictment that Sergio makes is about society, its professionals, even psychiatrists, aren’t trained or haven’t the sensitivity to see that one might be suffering from the desire to be a woman, where in this case, she is trapped in a man’s body.
What is great about Sergio Y. is, as with most Latin-American literature, is that there is the element of surrealism. What begins with simple sentences, where the “I” does this and that, the story seems to become a pattern of lines for something much more complex and yet becomes a parable that reveals an easy solution.
While Porto deals with the timely issue of transexuals and the simple joy in finally manifesting their internal desire, I hope to explore the unseemly craving of pedophiles, for example, as a future project, where both, I would think, are victims of as well as victimizers. In a society such as ours, where government is obligated to ensure the happiness of its people, how can one group’s desire involve the suppression of another’s rights?
And now a look at the poem by Alexandra Naughton:
put my little party dress on
put my little party face on
put my little perfume on
put my little record on
put my little body on
put my little lie on
put my little on
put my like
put it on
Alexandra Naughton's poem "put my little party dress on" (above) moves architecturally from bigger to smaller, a building that might fall to the right. After reading the poem six times, I see the thoughtfulness in the equality of each line lessening as the poem descends by one less letter. There is something luscious in that. Put… Put… Put… She is putting things on, a dress, a face, a perfume, a record, her body even, to lie, to little, to like, to put it all on.
There is a lot of "little" too and everything is hers. Then toward the bottom, she says she has to put her "like" on. This implies that the persona is not happy, that she cannot find things likable in her world?
I know that we project our capacities to either respond to the world positively or negatively.
I imagine the persona: She is petite. She has a little party dress. She must be going to a party or out. She has a party face, a false exterior to something that is going on inside, something keeps her from enjoying life. She has to falsify.
She'll don perfume to attract, to cover up? She'll put a record on, I don't know why since she is leaving; unless of course she is still in the process of dressing. She'll put a lie on, which, I assume, relates to faking happiness/interest in someone else, to pay attention. But, what is it to put a "little" on. I assume it relates to a little effort, then she'll put that like on.
I can't imagine putting on a face, a falsification of my feelings. I am my feelings. I do have a public job and it's true throughout the day, I am gearing up to perform. I tend to be quiet when I can't be positive. I quietly articulate, am careful not to offend. When I do get to work, its atmosphere helps me to adapt. I tell myself it is only going to be for a while and that it is necessary for me to survive. So, I guess I do put a party face on.
I need to also mention that the book from which the poem comes, My Posey Tastes Like, has as a reference: ‘choose your last words this is the last time cuz you and I we will be born to die' - Lana Del Rey. So, one may assume that the poem takes the perspective of Lana Del Rey, her winsome, lazy, restrained participation in a world of parties, perfumed ladies, records playing, bodies not really interested in being viewed, penetrated, or having to be positive.
I feel the poem, as I have garnered from her work and has been suggested by Marta Pombo (See: ), that Lana Del Rey and the persona may have been sexually abused or as Pombo suggested, her mother might have been: "A woman whose mother has been sexually abused by her partner will very likely produce the same in her love relationship(s) with men." She seems to remain distanced and a victim of objectivization.
The poem too may be an indictment of a culture, where women dress up, fake smiles, don perfume, and put lies on. What is underneath this falsification? What has happened? Why is one forced to like the world? Isn't the world a lovely place?
This is a story about the lengths you might have to go to to be true to yourself and find a measure of happiness.
I found the writing simple yet powerful. But the whole is marred by the narrator, a neurotic (no surprises there) psychiatrist, vain, full of self-belief almost to the point of having a God-complex. The review of Sergio's life and death revolves more around the narrator than it does Sergio. I would have much preferred to know more about Sergio's life than we were given and way less about the psychiatrist and his issues.
In my opinion, there is the kernel of a good story here, marred by the focus being on the wrong character. Ultimately, an unsatisfying read.
I read this book after reading an interesting review that described the book as "both a gripping detective story and an exploration of happiness". I'd have to say wrong on the first count and yes, but it needs fleshing out on the second.