There's a story - which is probably apocryphal - that President de Gaulle, returning from an official visit to Brazil in the early 60s, was asked what he made of it. His reply is reputed to have been "(Brazil is the country of the future...and it always will be)".
Brazil is currently being heralded around the world by politicians and commentators as an emerging global power alongside China and India - it's the B in BRIC (with Russia being the R). It's prominent in the G20 and played a leading role trying to salvage something from the ill-fated Copenhagen climate summit.
The Economist summed this view up last November with a very witty cover picture of the famous Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro blasting off.
But Brazil - the fifth largest country in the world with a population of more than 190 million - has promised in the past to achieve sustained economic take-off, most recently in the 1950s and the 1970s, never to maintain it, undermined by an economy prone to indebtedness and hyper-inflation - hence de Gaulle's legendary cynicism.
This week on The World Tonight, we are looking in-depth at Brazil.
Presenter Robin Lustig is there - he'll be blogging on his trip. And we'll be attempting to report the real Brazil, rather than the traditional picture presented in the Western media dominated as it has been by soccer, samba and sun or failure to cope with violent crime or deforestation of the Amazon.
We'll be asking if the success President Lula's government has had lifting Brazilians out of poverty and reducing the country's huge gap between rich and poor can be sustained and what that means for sustainable growth.
Robin will also report on the Rio de Janeiro police's innovative attempt to end the domination of its slums by drugs gangs ahead of the World Cup in 2014 and Olympic Games two years later.
We'll look at Brazil's emergence on the global political stage as it seeks a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. President Lula has been widely praised for his ability to get on with leaders from Barack Obama to Mahmoud Ahmedinejad via Nicholas Sarkozy and Hu Jintao. Some see Brazil as an exponent of Joseph Nye's soft power but little reported is the country's embarkation on military modernisation to back up its diplomacy.
We'll also be asking why Brazil, a country of immigrants and great racial diversity like its northern counterpart, the US, appears to have achieved much more effective cultural assimilation, with everyone speaking Portuguese and regarding themselves as Brazilians, rather than Italian-Brazilians or African-Brazilians.
Robin will also be reporting for the BBC News website and Newshour on BBC World Service radio.
BBC.uk via Jornal.us