cover image The Sun on My Head

The Sun on My Head

Geovani Martins, trans. from the Portuguese by Julia Sanches. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $22 (128p) ISBN 978-0-374-22377-9

Young men contend with the violence and corruption of Rio de Janerio in this tantalizing debut from Brazilian Martins. The characters in these stories represent a full spectrum of favela life, from the aspiring graffiti artist, Fernando, who longs to give his son a better childhood than his father offered him (“The Tag”) to the drug pusher forced to dispose of the body of a customer he kills in a fit of pique (“The Crossing”). In “Spiral,” a student who commutes to a tony neighborhood becomes obsessed with its residents, “who inhabited a world unknown to me”; he stalks one for months before he sees in his subject’s “eyes the horror of realization.” Martins’s characters and the situations they navigate grab the reader’s attention, but he often shies away from offering a resolution. “TGIF” defies this tendency, accompanying its protagonist on a harrowing subway ride to score drugs in a distant favela and ending in a confrontation with a crooked cop. In Martins’s Rio, every interaction is a negotiation, and everyone is “in the same boat: hard up, dopeless, wanting to chill beachside.” This is a promising work from an intriguing new voice. (June)