By: José de Alencar (1829-1877)
Iracema (translated as Iracema, the Honey Lips: a legend of Brazil) is considered one of the most important books of Brazilian romanticism, but also of Brazilian literature as a whole. It's been called a poem in prose, a poetic novel, a fictional-historical novel, an indianist novel, an epic-lyric narrative, a mythic poem. The obvious difficulty in defining this work shows its many facets: legendary, narrative, poetic, lyric, mythic. The story revolves around the unexpected appearance of a Portuguese warrior in the lands of the Tabajara indians, on the shores of Ceará, Brazil, in the early years of the 16th century. The Portuguese Martim meets the beautiful and young Iracema (whose name means "honey-lips") while wandering lost in the forest, and an unexpected and forbidden love is born. The story has been read as a representation of the process of colonization of the Americas as a clash and mixture of two different races in the process of creation of a new race, the name Iracema itself being an anagram of America. This is also one of the first, if not the first Brazilian novel to be translated into English. Lady Isabel Burton lived in Brazil between 1865 and 1869, having personally met the author José de Alencar, requesting his authorization and assistance for the translation, as she herself describes in the Preface.