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Rowan Ireland

Australian writer Peter Robb has once again written a whole, complex, foreign society into our comprehension. This time it is Brazil, its myriad worlds of experience, its cruelly stolid immobility and exhilarating changefulness, its very incoherence, somehow made accessible to our understanding. In 1996 Robb’s Midnight in Sicily was published to international acclaim. He had set himself the task like the one the mythical, doomed Cola Pesce had been commanded to achieve: to dive into the sea of the past; ‘to explore things once half glimpsed and half imagined’; and to discover ‘what was holding up Sicily’. And he succeeded magnificently.

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Kingdoms and kingdoms go, but great books last forever. Rowan Ireland’s is a great book. It catches the otherness of a Brazilian religious/political experience tenderly, humbly. It is masterfully academic and lovingly humane at the same time.

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