This obituary is part of a series about people who died from the coronavirus pandemic. Read about others Here.
In one of In Sérgio Sant’Anna’s recent stories, a goal post tells an imaginary soccer game. The main character in his most famous novel is tortured by the government to reveal the answers to questions about a primary school test.
Such experiments, combined with the talent to find philosophical dilemmas in everyday situations, made Mr. Sant’Anna one of the most popular and influential authors in Brazil.
He died on May 10 at a Rio de Janeiro hospital in Covid-19, his sister Sonia said. He was 78 years old.
Mr. Sant’Anna wrote novels and poems, but was best known for his short stories, which impaled the breaks within Brazilian society with sardonic humor. His deceptively simple writings and allusions mostly went beyond the heads of government censors during the country’s military dictatorship from 1964 to 1986, even if he was not always so lucky personally.
He was put through a military investigation and fired from his administration at Petrobras State Oil Company for union activity when the military took power.
He also worked as a typist and editor at a labor court and later as a professor at Rio de Janeiro’s Federal University until he retired in 1990.
Sergio Andrade Sant’Anna e Silva was born on October 30, 1941 in Rio de Janeiro, the son of economics professor Sebastiao de Sant’Anna e Silva and housewife Maria Jose Andrade de Sant’Anna e Silva. His family moved to Belo Horizonte, the state capital of Minas Gerais, in 1959, where he graduated from federal university in 1966.
From 1967 to 1968 he worked as a doctoral student at the Paris Institute for Political Studies, commonly known as Sciences Po, and in 1970 attended the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa as a fellow.
In 1969 he published his first book of short stories, “Survivor” himself. His best known books include “Confessions of Ralfo: An Imaginary Autobiography” (1975), which contains the absurd torture scenes, and “The Monster”. (1994), a collection of stories. His last book “Nocturnal Angel” was published in 2017.
Little of Sant’Anna ‘s work has been translated into English, but his short story “Miss Simpson” became the basis for that Bossa Nova film, a romantic farce with Amy Irving and directed by Bruno Barreto.
The experimental nature of Mr. Sant’Anna’s work inspired the next generation of Brazilian writers to explore different forms and narrative techniques.
He is also a two-time winner of the Jabuti Prize, Brazil’s most important literary award.
He is survived by his siblings Ivan and Sonia; his wife Mariza Werneck-Muniz; his children Andre and Paula; and a grandchild.
Nelson Vieira, emeritus professor of Portuguese and Brazilian at Brown University and friend of Sant’Anna, said his writing was characterized by the constant search for new ways to tell a story.
“He didn’t try style for the sake of style, but he always took a very unconventional approach,” said Professor Vieira in a phone interview. “He wasn’t a cookie cutter.”