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Novella set in RIO de JANEIRO

12th April 2023

The Love of Singular Men by Victor Heringer, translated by James Young, novella set in Rio de Janeiro.

Novella set in RIO de JANEIRO

Camilo, an older man is reflecting on his life, looking back to the 1970s. This is a coming-of-age novella that is immersed in the culture and times of the period, in Queím, a fictional suburb of Rio de Janeiro.

Camilo has a disability and struggles to engage in mobile activities because his leg is not fully functional. The placenta was wrapped around his neck at birth. Thus, his middle class life proves relatively sheltered, given there is a military dictatorship making the lives of many in Brazil an utter misery. His father, a doctor, arrives home one day with a boy in tow, Cosme, an orphan, and intends to assimilate him into the family structure. At first Camilo is antipathetic to this new order, but after a skirmish, the lads form a bond, an intimate one at that, that summarily and brutally comes to an end.

This is a poignantly and well told novel, with occasional humour; it is excellently translated, with a real focus on conveying the inventive syntax of the original (as the translator stresses in the Translator’s Note at the end). The first third hooked me in with its lyrical storytelling, and then perhaps, as the style changed, as it became more fractured, relying on a stream of consciousness to flesh out the detail, I found my interest waning a little. There are unusual devices that are playful, a list of class mates and their idiosyncrasies, identifiable only by their initials; Camilo’s love for Cosme is compared to the love felt by other couples, and then he goes on over 4 pages to illustrate the love between people by citing names loving names (I love my Cosme. Like Márcio loved Gustavo I loved my Cosme). Do readers read such exercises in detail or does a reader, like me, gloss over the detail? Whatever, this is a quirky and capricious read, that has a strong narrrative. The storytelling is interspersed with a child’s pencil drawings, together with black and white photos, that make it feel like a memoir.

This is a novel that, in the author’s own words “moves with the violence of an eternal Friday-afternoon rush hour”

Tina for the TripFiction Team

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