Northeast Brazil, like the Deep South of the United States, at one time depended on slaves to work its plantations. Born at Pilar, Paraíba, on June 3, 1901, José Lins do Rego (leenz doh reh-GEW) Cavalcanti was brought up in this region at a time when the plantation system was declining before the disrupting forces of modern society. When his mother died shortly after his birth, his father left him in the care of aunts and an old grandfather who owned a string of sugar plantations extending from the ocean to the sertão, a region plagued by alternating drought and floods.
Educated for the legal profession in Paraíba and Pernambuco, Lins do Rego became a professor of law, the prosecuting attorney in the small town of Minas Gerais in 1925, and a bank inspector. In 1932 he undertook to portray in his “sugar cane cycle” the economic and social conflicts of his native region; these five novels were built around Carlos de Mello, who embodied autobiographical details drawn from Lins do Rego’s memory. The series follows Carlos as he grows up, goes to school, circulates among his friends of color in the city, and witnesses the decline of the plantation aristocracy. Plantation Boy, Doidinho, and Bangüê are the best known of the sugar cane novels. Lins do Rego was already well known when he moved to Rio de Janeiro to enter the newspaper world. He married Filomena Massa, and they had three daughters.
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