Paulo Scott

Phenotypes

A smart and stylish account of the bigotry lurking in hearts and institutions alike.

Federico and Lourenço are brothers. Their father is black, a famed forensic pathologist for the police; their mother is white. Federico – distant, angry, analytical – has light skin, which means he’s always been able to avoid the worst of the racism that Brazilian culture has to offer. He can ‘pass’ as white, and yet, because of this, he has devoted his life to racial justice. Lourenço, on the other hand, is dark-skinned, easy-going, and well-liked in the brothers’ hometown of Porto Alegre – and has become a father himself.

As Federico’s fiftieth birthday looms, he joins a governmental committee in the capital. It is tasked with quelling the increasingly violent student protests rocking Brazil by overseeing the design of a software program that will adjudicate the degree to which each university applicant is sufficiently black to warrant admittance under new affirmative-action quotas. Before he can come to grips with his feelings about this initiative, not to mention a budding romance with one of his committee colleagues, Federico is called home: his niece has just been arrested at a protest carrying a concealed gun. And not just any gun. A stolen police service revolver that Federico and Lourenço hid for a friend decades before. A gun used in a killing.

Paulo Scott here probes the old wounds of race in Brazil, and in particular the loss of a black identity independent from the history of slavery. Exploratory rather than didactic, a story of crime, street-life and regret as much as a satirical novel of ideas, Phenotypes is a seething masterpiece of rage and reconciliation.

 

Longlisted for the International Booker Prize

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Paperback: £10.00
EBook: £6.99

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If you subscribed to And Other Stories by Sunday 1st August 2021, you will receive your copy of Phenotypes – in which all subscribers are thanked by name – in November 2021, before its official publication, as well as up to five other specially selected And Other Stories titles per year. Find out more about our subscriptions.

  • Find out more about Paulo Scott’s Nowhere People, published by And Other Stories in 2014, and read an extract from the book, here
  • Listen to Paulo Scott and Daniel Hahn in conversation with Lori Feathers of Interabang Books here.
  • If you missed it, you can watch the recorded version of the UCL virtual launch for the book.
Print status: Available
Author: Paulo Scott
Translator: Daniel Hahn
Original language: Portuguese
Format: B-format paperback
Publication date: 4 January 2022
ISBN: 9781913505189
Ebook ISBN: 9781913505196
Availability: World English
Number of pages: 240

Reviews

Rachel Farmer
Asymptote

Phenotypes is innovative, deftly precise in its form, and utterly profound in its content. Scott’s work in bringing contemporary urgencies into fiction is uncomfortable and often unsettling, but necessary—and, ultimately, unforgettable.’

Joshua Rees
Buzz

‘[Phenotypes’] deftly engaging plot . . . twists and turns while exploring race, brotherhood, privilege, and the lasting impact of guilt. Hahn’s translation is exemplary, and although this is not an easy read, it is a journey worth taking.’


Southwest Review

‘Phenotypes demonstrates how the traumas of growing up in a racist society can propel a person of color forward while never letting them escape their past.’

Lucy Popescu
The Observer

‘An artfully plotted tale about race, privilege and guilt . . . careful reading proves richly rewarding.’  


New York Times Book Review

‘Phenotypes underscores how difficult antiracist projects can be at any scale…Scott’s characters quickly abandon the possibility of a comprehensive solution in favor of stopgap measures that may or may not work. Such are the inadequacies, the novel asserts, of treating entrenched and systemic issues as if they are only skin-deep.’


The Guardian

‘This is an artfully plotted tale about race, privilege and guilt…Phenotypes educates and entertains in equal measure.’

Lucy Popescu
The Observer

‘An artfully plotted tale about race, privilege and guilt . . . careful reading proves richly rewarding.’

Katie Goh
i-D (Books to Read 2022)

‘A blistering examination of Brazil's fraught racial history told through two brothers, one light-skinned and one dark-skinned.’  


Star Tribune

‘Phenotypes is…brilliant and emotionally resonant. I put it down days ago, and I'm still walking around with it.’  


Foreword Reviews

‘Phenotypes is a complex, stream-of-consciousness novel about race, culture, and deciding for oneself where one belongs.’


Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

‘[A] profound story of colorism and familial loyalty set in Brazil…The multiple layers combine for a mesmerizing and mature story.’


Kirkus Reviews

‘Scott pours out his indictment of Brazil in long, overflowing sentences that are equal parts outrage and cutting humor. Originally titled Brown and Yellow when it was published in Portuguese…it is not easy to shake off.’


Kirkus Reviews

‘Equal parts outrage and cutting humour . . . A blast of righteous (and spot-on) indignation by a formidable Brazilian author.’

John Keene

‘Federico, the white-passing mixed-race narrator of Paulo Scott’s stirring new novel Phenotypes, grips you from his opening words, and what a story he has to tell. Ostensibly sending up a Brazilian governmental bureaucracy’s attempts to address problems with the racial quota system in its higher education, Scott quickly shows that he has penned a profound, coruscating exploration of race, racism, colorism, family dynamics, class, culture, regionalism, politics, radicalism, and so much more. Scott’s intricate, ironic, entrancing narration, skillfully rendered into English by Daniel Hahn, confirms Scott as one of Brazil’s finest contemporary writers.’


Folha de São Paulo

‘Scott seems to have managed to produce a novel that will survive the test of time, a profound interpretation of our time and our country.’

Praise for Paulo Scott and Nowhere People

‘A powerful, complex and very ambitious voice. In the contemporary Latin American literature scene, Paulo Scott is a must-read.’ Juan Pablo Villalobos

‘Paulo Scott is one of the best novelists of his generation and is going to surprise us in the future.’João Gilberto Noll, interviewed by Posfácio magazine

‘One of Scott’s many merits is the audacity he shows, on many levels. Scott dares to create one of the most interesting voices in recent fiction.’ O Globo

Praise for Nowhere People

‘Immensely powerful. [...] This novel tackles post-dictatorship Brazilian ideologies better than anything else in fiction.’ O Estado de São Paulo

‘A lush postmodern spin on the intergenerational state-of-the-nation saga . . . Daniel Hahn’s translation of this somersaulting, playful, emotionally pummelling and occasionally oblique novel is, one assumes, a feat of ventriloquism and linguistic plate-spinning.’ Booktrust

‘Nowhere People is an inexhaustible font of surprises that the author’s firm hand manages to harmonise.’  Rascunho

‘Nowhere People is not your average book.’ Folha de São Paulo

Books by Paulo Scott