Books: An Immortal's Parting Reverie

THE THIRD BANK OF THE RIVER AND OTHER STORIES by Joāo Guimarāes Rosa. 238 pages. Knopf. $5.95.

In 1967, four years after he was judged an "immortal" worthy of being seated by the Brazilian Academy of Letters, Joāo Guimarāes Rosa donned the official gold-braided uniform and formally took his chair. Publicly, he explained the delay by saying he had been too busy to write his acceptance speech. Privately, he feared that becoming an "immortal" was an unnecessary challenge to his own mortality. Seventy-two hours after the ceremony, his seven-year-old niece went into his...

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