The Sun on My Head by Geovani Martins

Geovani Martins' debut collection of short stories paints a vivid portrait of life on the fringes of Rio de Janeiro

Book Review by Emily Hay | 20 Jun 2019
  • The Sun on My Head by Geovani Martins
Book title: The Sun on My Head
Author: Geovani Martins (translated by Julia Sanches)

From Brazilian author Geovani Martins comes his debut The Sun on My Head, a short story collection exploring the realities of life in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. The stories work together to paint an overall image of life on the fringes of the city, showcasing the poverty, toxic masculinity, corruption, but above all the resilience which underlies the lives of the young men growing up in the city’s underbelly.

Despite the common circumstances these men face, Martins highlights their individuality: the draw Paulo feels towards his father’s gun, young Breno’s wonderment at a butterfly, the sense of togetherness drug use brings to Felipe and his friends. Together, they may weave one tapestry, but Martins shines a light on the wealth of individual experience within Rio’s underclasses.

With the subject matter at hand the outcome could seem so bleak, yet Martins’ writing injects the vibrant colours of Rio into these poverty-infused narratives. Part of this comes down to the way he uses language to evoke the natural slang of the favelas in certain stories. His writing is almost reminiscent of Scottish authors like James Kelman and Irvine Welsh, representing their lives in the language they themselves speak. Rio may be a long way from Edinburgh and Glasgow, but suddenly it doesn’t seem quite so far. [Emily Hay]

Faber, 20 Jun, £10.99