Milton Hatoum was born in the Brazilian city of Manaus in 1952, the son of a Lebanese immigrant married to a Brazilian. He first studied architecture in São Paulo, where he worked as a journalist. He then travelled on a scholarship to Madrid, Barcelona and Paris, where he studied comparative literature. He later graduated from the Sorbonne. Upon returning to his home city in 1984 he taught French literature at the Universidade Federal do Amazonas. He was also a guest lecturer of Latin American literature at the University of California, Berkeley.
In 1989 Hatoum received the prestigious Jabuti Literature Award for his first novel, »Relato de um certo Oriente« (Eng. »The Tree of the Seventh Heaven«, 1994; »Tale of a Certain Orient«, 2004). Hatoum employs melodious, fluid language and vivid metaphors to tell the story of an immigrant family, and to represent the tension between Orient and Occident as well as their coming together in the Amazon region. The death of the family matriarch wakes polyphonic memories of those who stayed behind and reveals the complex inner life of a family standing between two religions and cultures.
The clash of different cultural influences is one of Hatoum’s central motifs. His books are usually set in his home city, where he illustrates the »traumatic asynchronicity« of globalisation. A masterful architect of emotional entanglements, on occasion Hatoum reveals the different layers of his protagonists’ identities within the framework of a few sentences. The novel »Dois irmãos« (2000; Eng. »The Brothers«, 2002) portrays the hate between two siblings that dominates an entire family. The biographies of the opposing twins also reflect an intricate historical portrait of Manaus, into which progress encroaches.
Hatoum’s third novel, »Cinzas do Norte« (2005; t: Ashes of the Amazon), portrays the lives of two friends, as well as Brazilian history, across decades and condemns the dictatorship and the forced modernisation. Raimundo, the artistically inclined son of an entrepreneur, rebels against the military regime and his hated father, while the orphan boy Olavo pursues the path to becoming a lawyer for the common people.
Hatoum’s latest book, »Orfãos do Eldorado« (2008; t: The orphans of Eldorado) once again connects the old myths of the Amazon with the chronicle of a family, a region and an era. Alongside novels – which were translated into several languages and published in twelve countries – the author has also written essays, short-stories and chronicles. He translated works of Edward Said and Gustave Flaubert. Hatoum was a Writer in Residence at Yale, Stanford and Berkeley Universities, and at the International Writing Program in Iowa. He has received numerous awards, including the Jabuti Literature Prize (twice) and the Prêmio Portugal Telecom de Literatura. He works and lives in São Paulo and regularly writes columns for literary magazines and newspapers in Brazil and abroad.
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