Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

Spilt Milk

by Chico Buarque Translated from Portuguese by Alison Entrekin

From one of Brazil’s most beloved figures and the prize-winning author of the acclaimed novel Budapest, Spilt Milk is an arresting story of love lost, fortunes squandered, and a family in decline, seamlessly interwoven with several generations of Brazilian history.

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 192
  • Publication Date December 10, 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2200-1
  • Dimensions 5" x 7.25"
  • US List Price $15.00

About The Book

From world-renowned Brazilian writer Chico Buarque comes a stylish, imaginative tale of love, loss, and longing, played out across multiple generations of one Brazilian family. At once jubilant and painfully nostalgic, playful and devastatingly urgent, Spilt Milk cements Buarque’s reputation as a masterful storyteller.

As Eulálio Assumpção lies dying in a Brazilian public hospital, his daughter and the attending nurses are treated—whether they like it or not—to his last, rambling monologue. Ribald, hectoring, and occasionally delusional, Eulálio reflects on his past, present, and future—on his privileged, plantation-owning family, his father’s philandering with beautiful French whores, his own half-hearted career as a weapons dealer, the eventual decline of the family fortune; and his passionate courtship of the wife who would later abandon him. As Eulálio wanders the sinuous twists and turns of his own fragmented memories, Buarque conjures up a brilliantly evocative portrait of a man’s life and love, set in the broad sweep of vivid Brazilian history.

Tags Literary


“Chico Buarque is at the forefront of a new wave of writing that should make you rethink everything you thought you knew about South American literature. Buarque may be a popular singer, but he’s also the real deal, a genuine novelist. When I finished reading his last novel, Budapest, my face ached from smiling at its ingenuity, its audacity, its freshness, its line-by-line effulgence, its irresistible narrative momentum.” —Jonathan Franzen

“Buarque, a pillar of the Latin American New Song movement, gives us a fractured, refractive vision from a character seemingly in the foothills of dementia. . . . We find we are in the hands of a master storyteller. It becomes clear why this novel won major literary prizes when first published in Brazil.” —Cleveland Plain Dealer

“Lovely details and a fine sense of place . . . . Echoing Sebald’s Rings of Saturn . . . . [When] Eulálio talks of meeting his wife . . . his desire for her is instant and extraordinary. . . . There’s plenty to like.” —Publishers Weekly

“In Spilt Milk [Buarque] confronts the themes that make Brazil squirm, from the stain of slavery to the inferiority complex the country has historically felt when it compares itself to Europe.” —Larry Rohter, New York Times

“Deft and moving. . . . At its heart is the idea that everything, our very lives, is an illusion, in which we cling most desperately to that which matters least. Class, status, breeding fade away, and we are left with what we least expect. . . . What’s most remarkable about the book, though, is not that it somehow manages to internalize more than 100 years of Brazilian history but, rather, the way it also exists almost outside of history, outside of time.” —David L. Ulin, Los Angeles Times

“This is somewhat an aspiration toward an aesthetic essence, distilling fiction to what is irreducible. . . . That slip from unreliable recollection to flat-out fantasy showcases Buarque’s effortless rhythm—no surprise, as Buarque is an elder statesman of bossa nova, and a legend for his subversive opposition to Brazil’s brutal military dictatorship. . . . we can think of Spilt Milk as a prose equivalent of a Barnett Newman painting—the irritating outbursts and hallucinations about his crazy daughter end up being the strips that measures, divides, and shapes the sweep of colorful narratives that pours out of Eulálio. . . . Eulálio ends up being an idol, a wraith who, at 150, is not quite dead and not quite living.” —Jimmy So, The Daily Beast

“Buarque is regarded in Brazil as a vital cultural stalwart, an artist who, since the early ’60s, continues to examine his country and instill large social change . . . In the protagonist of Eulálio Assumpção, the 100-year-old descendant of Portuguese invaders and the beneficiary of colonialism’s vast harvest, Buarque fashions a grudgingly likeable narrator . . . Buarque’s resultant story is intricate, and cloudily encased by Eulálio’s fragile state. . . . Buarque takes his time with Spilt Milk, a book whose real story sits beautifully obscured by Eulálio’s skipping incoherence. . . . Eulálio provides a lens through which to see Brazil’s turbulent and complicated history. . . . Spilt Milk is a necessary, often painful examination of not just a man’s wounds but also of a country’s complicated past.” —Lucy Schiller, ZYZZYVA

“A brilliant comic monologue by a Brazilian novelist, in which a hospitalized centenarian curmudgeon on morphine becomes entangled in his own deception-filled life story.” —Shelf Awareness

“Musical, charged with sensuality and sparkling with surrealist humor, irresistibly seductive.” —La Vanguardia

“A Balzacian saga arranged in best Rio style. In less than 200 pages, it covers more than two hundred years of the history of the Assumpção family, and, through this dynasty of rulers, the history of Brazil.” —Livres Hebdo

Budapest was one of my favorite novels of 2004, and since then I’ve been waiting, with increasing impatience, for another book by Chico Buarque. I read Spilt Milk in a single night, awed and deeply moved. How did he do it? Buarque has breathed the story of a whole country into a single, unforgettable man with a soul as big as Brazil. But he’s also written one of the saddest love stories, and one of the truest.” —Nicole Krauss

“If Buarque’s new book were a football match, it would be one of those games full of memorable passes, dazzling dribbles, and touches of genius.” —Folha de São Paulo


An Amazon Best Book of the Month December 2012
Winner of the Portugal Telecom Award for Literature and the
Winner of the Premio Jabuti for Best Fiction Work