Edgard Telles Ribeiro translated from the Portuguese by Kim M. Hastings

His Own Man

Publication Date: Sep 23, 2014

352 pp

Trade Paperback

List Price US $17.95
Trim Size (H x W): 5.5 x 8.25
ISBN: 9781590516980


List Price US $17.95
ISBN: 9781590516997

From one of Brazil’s eminent authors comes a Machiavellian tale, set during South America’s dirty wars, where the machinations of a consummate diplomat and deceiver ring dangerously true.  

A charismatic young diplomat in Brazil’s Foreign Ministry, Marcílio Andrade Xavier (Max to his friends and colleagues), renounces his past ideals and becomes an informer for the military regime after their coup in 1964. Max navigates a shadowy world of betrayal, torture, and assassination without blinking an eye and advances swiftly up the diplomatic ladder. Ironically, once democracy is restored after more than two decades, the enigmatic Max will still manage to thrive.

Set against the backdrop of ruthless political maneuvering and dubious business deals with dire consequences, His Own Man offers a chilling anatomy of ambition and power.


Excerpt from His Own Man

Writing a country’s history may be difficult, but tracing a man’s story presents its own challenges. For a country, there is a vast array of information in the form of books and treaties, maps and images, leaders, legends, and archives. But a man? What kind of history does he have? Where would his secret maps be found? Or his boundaries? What might be hidden beneath his façade or detected in his gaze should he give in to temptation and study himself in the mirror one night?

My first memory of Max dates back to 1968 in Rio de Janeiro and was to some extent foreboding: his shadow cast over my desk at the ministry. Without my hearing his footsteps or picking up on his presence in some way, he had appeared behind my high-backed wooden chair and casually leaned over the document I was working on. I was writing by hand, as was customary at the time, on loose sheets of paper that would later be typed up by my secretary. At the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (which I had joined slightly less than a year earlier), such familiarity—appearing out of nowhere and peering at what a colleague was drafting—was a privilege reserved for senior personnel.

The shadow hadn’t set off any alarms for one prosaic reason: right then, my eyes were staring off into the distance, searching for the word that would best complete the sentence I was struggling with. Although the text, on the whole, was decidedly bland, that particular line wasn’t. Given how dear symmetry is to the young, the irrelevance of the whole demanded a term that would glint like a blade in the sun. “Fortuitous,” the shadow murmured.

As I turned toward the voice, the stranger cocked his head and smiled, repeating as if in encouragement: “Fortuitous. That’s the word you need there. From the Latin.”

By then I was standing. I knew him only by sight; he worked at the secretary-general’s office. Extending a hand, he introduced himself. “Marcílio Andrade Xavier. You can call me Max.”

“This tale of international intrigue (Graham Greene might provide the best comparison) shows how malleable concepts of left and right, and right and wrong, can be during extended periods of political unrest and military repression. [Ribeiro’s] nuanced and psychologically incisive rendering of survival strategies and personal costs rings true.” —Kirkus (starred review)

“[His Own Man] offers a fascinating look at South American politics and revolution while simultaneously anatomizing a man without a soul.” —Publishers Weekly

“A historically grounded and fascinating follow-up to Ribeiro’s first novel…this is yet another successful coup for this journalist and diplomat turned novelist.” —Booklist

“Those seeking to understand Brazil’s past and present should look…to Telles Ribeiro.” —The Monthly

“Ribeiro’s political commentary is of global import, a caution against too readily forgetting and too quickly adapting.” —Words Without Borders

His Own Man is an elegant, absorbingly knowing, chilling, dryly humorous and often moving portrait of political cynicism and ambition and its human toll—the banality of evil with a Brazilian diplomat’s face. Illuminating one of our hemisphere’s darkest periods, that of South America’s military dictatorships, in a surprisingly intimate way, its tragedy feels universal.” —Francisco Goldman, author of The Art of Political Murder and Interior Circuit.

“Max savors like no one else the sinister mechanisms of power and becomes a master at manipulating them to his own advantage. In the process, Telles Ribeiro’s protagonist also joins the roster of the most unforgettable characters in modern fiction.” —Laura Restrepo, author of Delirium 

“Recalling some of the finest works of recent political fiction to come from Latin America, such as Bolaño’s By Night in Chile, Telles Ribeiro’s His Own Man illuminates the sinister foundations upon which Brazil’s modern ‘economic miracle’ was actually built following the military coup d’état of fifty years ago. Yet this novel is not simply the haunting evocation of a bygone era in one nation’s history: it’s a reminder of the fragility of our own time, just about everywhere in the world—and we would do well to take note.” —Jaime Manrique, International Latino Book Award–winning author of Our Lives Are the Rivers and Cervantes Street

“A penetrating exploration of the [political] stage wings, where government, the military, and business leaders play their hands—with the press and the opposition silenced—and not merely in Brazil.” —O Globo (Brazil)

“Assures the author’s definitive place among the major novelists of the Portuguese language.” —O Estado de São Paulo (Brazil)

“Perhaps the most masterfully conceived portrait of a diplomat in our literature since…Machado de Assis.” —O Valor Econômico (Brazil)