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The Penguin Press



Blood-Drenched Beard: A Novel

Edited by Scott Moyers

From Brazil’s most acclaimed young novelist, the mesmerizing story of how a troubled young man’s restorative journey to the seaside becomes a violent struggle with his family’s past.

—So why did they kill him?

—I’m getting there. Patience, tchê. I wanted to give you the context. Because it’s a good story, isn’t it?

A young man’s father, close to death, reveals to his son the true story of his grandfather’s death, or at least the truth as he knows it. The mean old gaucho was murdered by some fellow villagers in Garopaba, a sleepy town on the Atlantic now famous for its surfing and fishing. It was almost an execution, vigilante style. Or so the story goes.

It is almost as if his father has given the young man a deathbed challenge. He has no strong ties to home, he is ready for a change, and he loves the seaside and is a great ocean swimmer, so he strikes out for Garopaba, without even being quite sure why. He finds an apartment by the water and builds a simple new life, taking his father’s old dog as a companion. He swims in the sea every day, makes a few friends, enters into a relationship, begins to make inquiries.

But information doesn’t come easily. A rare neurological condition means that he doesn’t recognize the faces of people he’s met, leading frequently to awkwardness and occasionally to hostility. And the people who know about his grandfather seem fearful, even haunted. Life becomes complicated in Garopaba until it becomes downright dangerous.

Steeped in a very special atmosphere, both languid and tense, and soaked in the sultry allure of south Brazil, Daniel Galera’s masterfully spare and powerful prose unfolds a story of discovery that feels almost archetypal—a display of storytelling sorcery that builds with oceanic force and announces one of Brazil’s greatest young writers to the English-speaking world.



“Mr. Galera has a lovely sense of the rhythms of beach town life in the off season, the salty air and the diesel fishing boat motors and sun that burns off the morning chill… Like his narrator, he’s a lover as much as a fighter, and his novel is seductive. It’s got a tidal pull. Blood-Drenched Beard also has a terrific ending. It’s one that suggests, sometimes at least, that peace, love and understanding are vastly overrated.”—Dwight Garner, The New York Times

“Blood-Drenched Beard,” Daniel Galera’s exploration of family, is part mystery, part travelogue and part sociology steeped in magical realism. No matter which part this gifted Brazilian stresses, his work feels tidal, like the ocean it features so heavily.”Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“Spooky, superbly executed….[B]e patient with this book. Its subtle accretion of secrets…produces a magnetic aura of imminence and menace. Superstition, rumor and illusion filter into reality in a way reminiscent of Gabriel García Márquez…The exciting, action-packed culmination to this impressive novel manages to reveal what happened to Gaudério without answering away the eerie mysteries that surround his story.” —Wall Street Journal

Don’t let this intense title scare you away: This is an engaging read from the get-go. It’s a big, mysterious story about a man, his father and his grandfather.” —The Booksmith

“Blood-Drenched Beard has at its center a fascinatingly headstrong character, one who swims perfectly but flounders on land, who strives for connection with his grandfather while cutting himself off from family — and one we root for despite not knowing his name. If Galera’s other three novels are this potent and absorbing, and if his able-bodied translator Alison Entrekin can be persuaded to return to the helm, then readers are in for a treat.” –The Millions

“Daniel Galera offers a clever twist on the naive-sleuth trope, and one that leads to a number of strange and often funny confrontations.”Grantland

“Brilliant prose from a big-deal translator.”—Outside Magazine

“Both languid and tense.” —DuJour

“Atmospheric, multi-layered and poetic, Galera certainly makes a splash with Blood-Drenched Beard, and the ripples will surely affect all they touch.” Shelf Awareness

“Altogether impressive novel by a young writer ….Galera writes lyrically of a land of jungle and beach, even when the mood turns Hitchcock-ian….An elegant, literate and literary mystery of appearances and disappearances.”Kirkus Reviews

“Galera’s keen sense of characters and unflinching depictions of the sometimes awkward desperation of coastal life ground the story and give it a gritty feel that is consistently satisfying.” —Publishers Weekly

“The talented Galera, evidently highly regarded in his native Brazil, invests the mystery/quest structure of this novel with abundant colorful and lively details.”Library Journal

Author Q&A


The sun strikes the gray stairs up the hill to the parish church face on. A salty northeasterly rustles the trees and waves. The street continues toward Vigia Point, passing summer homes perched on the hill. He walks slowly so Beta can keep up. When she decides to stop once and for all, he fastens the leash to her collar and urges her on with little tugs. He walks along, jumping over rocks, until he comes to a series of corroded metal girders sticking out of a concrete base. From here he can see all of Garopaba Beach head on. Beta watches water bugs darting through the rocks at the tide line.

He is almost back at the church when he notices a small handwritten rental sign on the wall of one of the old blocks of apartments built by the fishermen on the slope between the street and the sea. On the other side of the gate all he sees is a long, narrow staircase following the wall and ending at a footpath around the rocks, some ten or so feet from the waves. He dials the number on his cell phone and asks the man who answers if the apartment is for rent. In an instant the man appears out of one of the nearby houses. He is short and tanned and looks as if he is amused by something. The apartment is the ground-floor one, right in front of the rocks. The man takes a padlock off the gate, and they head down to the bottom of the stairs, passing the entrance to the upstairs apartment. Under the stairs, in the moist space between two neighboring buildings, is a brown door. They enter a small living room with an adjoining open kitchen. It is much colder inside than outside. There is a predictable smell of mildew. The short guy tinkers with the latch on the living room window and opens the shutters after a few jolts, revealing a view of the entire bay of Garopaba, the fishing sheds and the old whaling boats anchored offshore. Right in front of the window is a flight of cement steps from the footpath down to a large, smooth rock that the bigger waves are covering with spray but that is probably dry when the sea is calm. The guy shows him the bedroom, the bathroom, and the kitchen, but he doesn’t really care. He’d decided he wanted to live there when he saw the shutters opening.

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