|Author||Rachel de Queiroz|
This book tells the story of a horrible draught occurred in the sertão, a region of Brazil known for its hot weather and its short rainy season. One of these draughts (seca) happened, as the title suggests, in 1915 (“The Fifteen”). During this cruel year, the seca is so long that some fazendeiros (the land owners) decide to let their cattle roam away and die, with the consequence of forcing some of the cowboys into unemployment and to the subsequent struggle for survival.
Three are the main characters around which the plot revolves. Vicente is a fazendeiro that decides to keep tending to his family’s cattle during the draught. He embodies the spirit of the person that scorns culture and higher education (to which he has the privilege of having access) because he thinks that his land and his labor offer a more tangible and practical truth than any book. Chico Bento is a cowboy who travels toward the Amazonas state and, later, to São Paulo in order to feed his family, and descends into the abyss of degradation before the disinterested love of his benefactors offers him a chance of redemption. Conceição is an emancipated woman, who doesn’t care about what the society thinks of her and the woman’s role in it.
The plot is interesting although simple, and for this reason it delivers a very powerful message. The book sheds light on a part of the world that I thought I knew, but whose tragic story I ignored completely. Recommended.