cover image City of God

City of God

Paulo Lins, , trans. from the Portuguese by Alison Entrekin. . Black Cat, $14 (448pp) ISBN 978-0-8021-7010-1

Lins's 1997 fiction debut—the source of the 2002 film published in English for the first time—chronicles two generations over three decades in the infamous Rio de Janeiro City of God, "a neo-slum of concrete, brimming dealer-doorways, sinister-silences and cries of despair." From the slum's creation in the early 1960s for flood victims, through the rise of disco and cocaine in the 1970s, to the horrific gang wars of the 1980s, Lins traces the rise and fall of myriad, often teenaged gangsters for whom guns, girls and drugs are the tools of power. While the film traces the divergent paths of two childhood friends, the novel rushes from vignette to vignette, with an ever-changing cast of characters with names like "Good Life," "Beelzebub" and "Hellraiser." Years, and pages, pass in a haze of smoking, drinking, snorting lines of cocaine, dancing sambas, swearing and planning the next big score. Guns dispense justice; the price for disrespect, whether to a spouse, a friend or the favela, is torture or death. Lins, who grew up in the City, lets the horror speak for itself. He serves up a Scarface -like urban epic, bursting with encyclopedic, graphic descriptions of violence, punctuated with lyricism and longing. (Oct.)