The crime memorialist

Historian and novelist Boris Fausto

Historian and novelist Boris Fausto

How historian Boris Fausto began a second career as a crime book author and founded a new literary genre: 'nostalgic suspense', set in early 20th-century São Paulo.

When historians dig the archives, they realize that certain facts, such as famous crimes, have a life of their own. Much of the posthumous vitality of this kind of occurrence is due to crime chronicles, which eternalize it. Reporters first recount the fact, converting it into news and into a running story. Then it becomes a famous case, sometimes attaining literature status. Paradoxically, the crime brings life to a historical moment. Despite this, it seems to be a province of journalism and memoirs, rather than of historiography. Memory is vague for grasping the details, and history despises secondary facts. "Few historians care about crime," São Paulo historian, jurist and social scientist Boris Fausto tells ISTOÉ. "I'm probably the exception."

Fausto, 88, has written exemplary history books that help us understand the origins of Brazil. These include 'The 1930 Revolution: Historiography and History' (1970), 'Crime and Daily Life: Criminality in São Paulo (1880-1924)' (1970), and 'Building America: Mass Immigration into America' (1999). But in other works he has reflected on the role of memory in historiography.

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