Ye die o’ the heat, ye drown in the muck, and if by some marvel ye manage to get around all o’ that, it’s diarrhea and malaria alinin’ up te kick ye in yer arse.

That about sums of life in the Amazon, according to one character in the 1980 novel “Mad Maria” by the Brazilian author Márcio Souza. I interviewed Souza and read several of his books while writing a review of “Mad Maria” for the most recent issue of Americas Quarterly.

Souza seemed like a cool guy. He’s one of Brazil’s most successful novelists — “Mad Maria” was turned into a TV mini-series in Brazil, and Hollywood purchased its film rights years ago, though the book never made it to the big screen — yet he quickly answered me by email when I asked him for an interview, and he was generous in speaking with me by phone for more than an hour.

What stuck out to me most about Souza and his books was that he does not romanticize the Amazon or feel the need to embellish it (unlike novels such as Ann Patchett’s “State of Wonder”). As I wrote in my review: “Unlike many books that portray the Amazon as a kind of magical rainforest akin to Disney’s 1992 animated film FernGully, Mad Maria does not idealize the jungle, which for Souza is a place where morality takes a backseat to survival.”

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