São Paulo Noir, edited by Tony Bellotto
The Akashic Noir series is a brilliant idea (I have SYDNEY NOIR on the piles at present). The whole thing is a series of Noir styled short story collections from all around the world, launched originally in 2004 with BROOKLYN NOIR.
This collection of stories from Brazil is a fascinating combination of darkest noir stylings, some humorous in delivery, many of which come from an unexpected viewpoint / starting position.
As is always the way, some of the stories here will work for some readers and others not. In particular, the humour is a tricky undertaking with one of the stories, My Name is Nicky Nicola, starting out quite amusing, but rapidly becoming a bit too overdone for this reader's overall amusement. Having said that, it's definitely readable. I was also very taken with Cross Contamination, set in the world of a hotel cleaner, who prides herself on her ability to get into the heads of her guests, by digging about in their rooms, following their in-hotel lives. It also takes pride in your work just a little further than you'd kind of expect.
Overall I'd say that whilst this is an interesting way of getting a look at another culture, there are some stories that dance a little close to some sensitive edges (misogny, homophobia and transphobia came to mind). A few too many times, these issues were so open to interpretation - was the author highlighting or glorifying - that it could get a bit messy unless readers were open and/or very careful in their analysis. But then that's part of the power of reading across different cultures, getting a handle on approaches, sensibilities, issues that matter, ways of seeing the world.
This volume was a gift from my partner, which I really appreciated receiving. So far down my darkened, twisted, noir alleyway, you'd think he knew me. The rest of the series is on the list, I will get to it:
On the heels of Rio Noir, beloved Brazilian rock star and best-selling novelist Tony Bellotto ushers another world-class city into the Akashic Noir Series.
Akashic Books continues its groundbreaking series of original noir anthologies, launched in 2004 with Brooklyn Noir. Each story is set in a distinct neighborhood or location within the city of the book.
Featuring brand-new stories by: Tony Bellotto, Olivia Maia, Marcelino Freire, Beatriz Bracher, Maria S. Carvalhosa, Fernando Bonassi, Marcelo Rubens Paiva, Marçal Aquino, Jô Soares, Mario Prata, Ferréz, Vanessa Barbara, Ilana Casoy, and Drauzio Varella.
From the introduction by Tony Bellotto:
Encyclopedias will say that São Paulo is the main financial, corporative, and commercial center of South America. The census will show that São Paulo is the most populous city in Brazil, the Americas, the Portuguese-speaking world, and the entire Southern Hemisphere. Scholars will inform us that São Paulo is the most multicultural city in Brazil, having received, since 1870, millions of immigrants from every part of the planet, and that it is the city with the largest populations of people of Italian, Portuguese, Japanese, Spanish, and Lebanese/Arab origin outside their respective countries. Experts will assure us that São Paulo has a high crime rate. Sociologists will confirm that the city has an area known as Cracolândia (Crackland) and that among the violent and neglected communities spread along its periphery one bears the ironic name Paraisópolis. Politicians will roar that São Paulo is the engine that drives Brazil . . .
More than historians and sociologists, writers have always been able to transform cities into great characters. This is the way we decipher devouring sphinxes.
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