Appian way

Ivor Abrahams, Paths V, 1975


Commentary on the recently published novel by Geovani Martins



With the recent publication of the novel Appian way (2022), Geovani Martins gives continuity and development to a stylistic project that was already announced in the previous volume, the sun in the head (2018)[I] In the short stories in the debut book, there was a search for technical elaboration capable of amalgamating a certain social experience of the peripheral youth and the linguistic expression proper to the particularities of the matter. Hence the different modes of stylistic realization that, at times, incorporates more fully the typical language of the social group and, at others, approaches the standard language, accentuating the picturesque traits that the taste for the anecdotal[ii] tends to stand out in the limited clipping of the short narrative.

The skill in stylizing the language of young people from the hills of Rio de Janeiro is noticeable in the first-person stories in which the lines are marked by the lexicon, syntax and rhythm of the orality of a social, geographic and age group.[iii] In the third-person stories, the narrator uses standard language, distinguishing himself from the characters he presents, even when he approaches them translating his thoughts or when he tends to judge.[iv]

In the novel, the stylistic realization solves the split that was verified in the stories, even if between the narrator and the characters there remains, from the language point of view, a difference regarding the domain of the standard norm. In the characters, slang predominates, linguistically figurative orality, the rhythm of speech with which young people from the hill identify[v]. The narrator, in third person, although he acts very closely to his characters and sometimes even incorporates their lexicon, adopts a language closer to cultured orality, without ceasing to be who he is, a since, for him, the transit between languages ​​does not distance him from the culture of the favela with which he identifies and allows him to have a two-way dialogue.

When the narrator breaks the distance between himself and the characters through the discreet use of free indirect speech, the linguistic barrier between narrator and characters tends to be overcome. Thus, the narrator, who shares the culture of young residents of Rocinha, is able to present their ways of life to those who do not know it, or know it only through the classist bias of stereotyped images. His function is that of mediator: inside what he knows to be common life in Rocinha, showing it to outsiders, who discriminate against it without knowing it, and thus contribute to the destigmatization of the favela.[vi]

Rocinha is, simultaneously, the ambience, a physical, social and symbolic environment, linked to a way of life. But it is about Rocinha apprehended from the perspective of a certain youth who occupies the leading role in the novel.[vii] Not being associated with banditry and trafficking,[viii] the central characters move between addictions, recreational use of marijuana, risk of addiction to cocaine, yearning to enjoy life at dances funk, games, football matches on television, meetings with the “new girls”. And frustrations.

The counterpoint to this picture appears in some secondary figures: the young woman who opts for university education to work from favela and denounce the shortages and violence that remain there, and older characters who represent other ways of experiencing the contemporary situation in the communities, whether in proximity to militias (Vanderléa), in resignation with poorly paid menial work (D. Marli) , or the downfall due to drugs (the Professor).

It is in this favela – the largest in Latin America, as stated three times in the novel – that the story of the protagonists is told, five young people aged around 20, over the course of 2011 to 2013: the brothers Washington and Wesley, and their friends Douglas, Murilo and Biel. Although the action focuses on the trajectory of these young people, it all depends on and is explained by the environment. The situation of life in the favela – resulting from specific historical conditions – appears as if naturalized in the novel, without any evidence being presented that would allow for the reconstitution of the social determinations that, since the 1940s, have launched portions of the population to occupy the territory and to settle in it. reproduce, with a horizon of minimal expectations.

The history of Rocinha is known by young residents in aspects that could provide them with elements for understanding the phenomenon of population expansion in the favela, but which are apprehended by them as picturesque, like the origin of the toponym (p. 296). The “submerged economy”, complementary to the official economy, which meets the needs of residents and has its own production, circulation and consumption circuits marked by informality[ix], is perceived by them as a positive fact and, thus, what is a consequence of social precariousness is not seen as a problem, but as a popular “solution”.

The framework that organizes the novel is the presence of the security forces that prepare the ground for the installation of the Pacifying Police Unit,[X] in Rocinha. From the preparatory police operations, the community realizes that the UPP is about to invade the favela and this changes their rhythm of life: civil police officers prowl (p. 56); it is said that the police map alleys and alleys, that informants (P2) settle in and the security forces catalog snares (X9s) (p. 122. Nem, the drug lord, is arrested (p. 139) and spreads out the news of the Choque de Paz operation (p. 139) The siege that begins to take effect causes changes in the economic dynamics of the favela: the price of shacks to buy or rent increases, markets fill up because the local population wants to stock up on supplies for fear of running out of food (p. 135), the marijuana sold is harder to find and of poorer quality. stopped, always as if it were a bomb ready to explode” (p. 2011).

However, as this is not central to the plot, the author's choice to focus on a type of resident – ​​still young and not integrated into the responsibilities of adult life – who is neither a drug dealer nor a criminal is evident, and what the invasion of the UPP causes in his daily life: the fear of walking through the streets of the favela for fear of being stopped by the police, the need to smoke marijuana indoors or in hidden alleys, the longing for the dances funk now prohibited by the police, the change in relations between residents, who start to walk fearful and suspicious. In the plot that frames the events during the occupation of the favela, the central interest of the narrative is fixed on the experience of young people living in the favela, based on their racial and social situation, with the intensification of police repression.

The Rocinha invaded by the UPP, although viewed by the main characters and also by the narrator who follows them closely, is the prism through which decisive aspects of contemporaneity are presented, in a context in which, after the failure of promises of national integration, the State is limited to the containment or extermination of the expendable population. Focusing mainly on poor black youth, the novel denounces racial prejudice and social injustice, as well as police violence against favela residents. However, the desires of the young characters to enter the labor market (formal, informal or illegal) and to have access to better living conditions are also narrated, which includes possibilities for the consumption of goods.

The novel ends up repressing the most problematic aspects of living conditions in the favela, such as sanitation, even if it refers to them in passing (cf. p. 145-146). In the plot, nothing is expected from the State but the end of the war on the communities, which reaffirms the collapse of any national project and struggle for rights, now also in the populations of Rocinha.[xi] In the figuration of modes of survival and in what is revealed about the aspirations of the characters, something is revealed that seems to be beyond their understanding and that of the narrator. The point of view that presents them and that organizes the plot confines what is most interesting about the subject.



The novel is divided into three parts, organized by dates that temporally mark out life in Rocinha before and after the military police invasion. In Part I, from July to November 2011, the actions that prepare the entry of the UPP begin. In Part II, from November 2011 to June 2012, the security forces (military police and BOPE) dictate the rhythm of community life. In Part III, from July to October 2012, police actions intensify; in the final chapter, on october 26, 2013, a little over a year later, the military stopped acting so repressively against ordinary residents after the disclosure of Amarildo's murder.[xii]

Against this background of a documental nature, the daily life of five young people is focused. In Part I, brothers Washington and Wesley and their mother, Marli, live in Cachopa, a region of Rocinha far from Via Ápia. The two young black men work in an upscale neighborhood of the city at a buffet for rich children, where payment is made per event, without any social security. When Washington is scolded by the manager for eating the guests' snacks, he confronts her because he doesn't accept that she plays a position of command and superiority after moving up in position (“You were a monitor until yesterday, a waitress just like us. a lot at a time, now you want to put that one on me? Don't fuck with it!”, p. 17). The consequence of this confrontation is that he will no longer be called upon to work at the buffet (“the Washington attack had closed a door. The door to a shitty job, nobody doubted that, but a door nonetheless”, p. 40) . Wesley stays on the sidelines, and from a waiter he becomes an entertainer or companion at the children's games, putting up with their lack of education and the families' contempt for the employees.

Murilo, Douglas and Biel constitute, in this Part I, another nucleus. They live together in Kátia, on Via Ápia – the commercial center of Rocinha. Murilo, with no interest in studying, joins the Army as a soldier, earning little more than the minimum wage. Douglas is a pharmacy delivery man and spends hours cycling through the upscale neighborhoods of Rio de Janeiro. Biel – the only white man among them – pretends to be playboy and sells drugs in Ipanema. He is the one who manages to have enough money to spend in bars and clubs frequented by the rich young people to whom he supplies marijuana.

They all work at Viração and, although they manage to support themselves despite the low wages, they have dreams of a better life: Douglas plans to save money to obtain the necessary equipment to become a tattoo artist; Wesley thinks about buying a motorcycle to work without a boss, as a motorcycle taxi driver in the favela; Washington wants to help his mother own her own home and get out of rent; Biel wants to earn more money from drug trafficking to rent an apartment on the runway and buy what she wants; At first, Murilo imagines making a career in the Army.

While dreams, or illusions, do not come true, life goes on with its annoyances as well as its joys: meetings with friends, beers, joints, girls. However, the threat of the security forces entering Rocinha already haunts the residents – and it is Murilo who will experience this most acutely, as he has nightmares that, with the invasion, he will be among those who will be forced to chase and kill his family. equals.

In Part II, Murilo, Douglas and Biel have to leave the rented apartment on Trave Kátia and move to Cachopa, where they become friends with Washington and Wesley. The atmosphere on the hill is already different: smoking a good joint has become more difficult, because the drug trade doesn't work so well and the police arrest anyone, chasing and butchering young black men in particular. The security forces prohibit the dances Wireless. Commerce, which used to stay open even at dawn, closes its doors at every threat of police entry into different locations in Rocinha. Even so, and now always afraid, the friends continue to try to have fun, which especially includes marijuana – which in this universe serves as a time for rest and daydreaming.

Concomitantly with the changes in Rocinha's daily life, given the presence and ostensive actions of the military police, the paths of the central characters change. Washington gets a formal job as a dishwasher in a restaurant in an upscale neighborhood; Wesley, for fear of spreading the word about what happened in a sexual encounter, quits his job at the buffet and, without money, becomes addicted to cocaine; After quitting his job at the pharmacy, Douglas starts to survive on small jobs, and, having given Biel the devices to make tattoos, he begins to practice the trade. Biel realizes that he will not be able to rent an apartment in a middle-class neighborhood in the South Zone and that the lives of the boys it's not as good as life in Rocinha, deciding to do his little business right there in the favela. The news is Gleyce, who intends to go to college as a means for her to be able to act from favela, hence the initial choice for cinema, “because there is a lot of good history on the hill… you can make some clever films” (p. 206).

In Part III, Murilo tells that he had left the barracks after witnessing an approach on the hill where his nightmares came true: he pointed the rifle at the face of the boy who had challenged him and another policeman and, out of anger and for being invested in the power of the uniform, almost shot. He realizes that this isn't just a job and he doesn't want to be one of his killers. Without other possibilities, he accepts the services that appear, always in menial jobs, as long as he is in the favela.

Police violence, with arbitrary and truculent approaches, as well as the equally violent reaction of those linked to drug trafficking, threaten everyone. In one of these confrontations, Washington is hit by a police bullet directed at an armed street urchin. His death causes an upheaval in the lives of his friends: Douglas goes to a family farm in São João del Rei, where he stays for over a year; Wesley rehabilitates himself from cocaine addiction and goes to work as a cleaner at the Parque Biblioteca[xiii], in Rocinha; Biel moves from Rocinha to Vidigal and starts selling imported clothes smuggled by a friend; Murilo works at a beach shack in Ipanema, with plans to buy surfboards for rent.

Washington's burial ceremony brings together friends and a large part of the community, increasingly revolted by the presence of security forces that are not limited to the UPPs. The mention of the disappearance and murder of Amarildo and the demonstrations of 2013 is the motto for the need for organization in the favela. Gleyce – now a journalism student at PUC on a scholarship – fights for the favela and writes in the Speak Roça, Rocinha newspaper, in the desire for residents to be informed  by the residents themselves and that the city of Rio de Janeiro recognizes the arbitrariness of the police against those who have nothing to do with drug trafficking: “Douglas remembered the article about Amarildo that Gleyce wrote on Fala Roça, a news portal on the hill, where she spoke that, if society organized itself to charge for murders in the favelas as they did because of an increase in bus fares, perhaps the police would start to think twice before taking someone's life” (p. 335).

As can be seen, the fight of the future journalist is not exactly against the policy of extermination of drug dealers, just as, for her, the June 2013 demonstrations in Rio de Janeiro, which obtained the repeal of the increase in bus fares, would be a example of civil society organization, probably because of its non-partisan character and because they are carried out by ordinary citizens. She wants this kind of grassroots organization to curb police violence in the favelas.

With the wide repercussion of the Amarildo case in the media, the more violent and repressive actions of the security forces diminish, giving some of the residents represented in the novel the comforting feeling that the favela was returning to its rhythm before the ostensive presence of the military police. The time jump in the last chapter of Appian way presents Rocinha as it used to be: friends reuniting, dances funk, based and joy. “Neither better nor worse”, the song that packs the party, by MC Marcinho, reaffirms the union of the “brothers”, humility and wisdom. In the last sentence of the novel, the party and the joy of the community that comes together again are celebrated: “it was life – always life and never death – which made that ground tremble” (p. 337). Life will go on as before.

The precariousness of living conditions remains unchanged. The “pacifying police” had intensified the war against drug dealers and ordinary residents; it had destroyed the sociability rhythm of the residents. According to what is presented to us by the characters who fulfill the role of presenting perspectives, the separated territory – and which wants “a city within the city” – needs to defend its modes of socialization. He needs to fight to overcome collective needs with figures that belong to him and that make the dialogue with the community and the rest of society. What matters is the recognition by society as a whole that the favela is not just a crime and that it has its own legitimate dynamics.

From the perspective of the novel, even though the popular manifestations have given public reach to the tragedy in the Amarildo case, denunciations against the murders are not enough: it is necessary that they no longer occur. The struggle is to ensure that violence against ordinary citizens does not happen in communities and that human rights prevail in them. For this, it would be urgent to give visibility to the favela so that there are transformations that, according to the novel, recognize the legitimacy of the ways of life of this territory, without discriminating it as a place of crime and banditry, nor devaluing the black population that mostly lives there. .

Gleyce and the narrator himself are the fictional representatives of this function. The political struggle seems reduced to this: action in the sphere of culture, in which it is important to transform the image of the favela for the community itself and for public opinion: “She [Gleyce] spoke about the importance of having people from the inside telling those stories, with the resident's point of view for what was happening” (p. 239).

In this way, and as insisted in the novel, the valorization of sociability, ways of life and organization of the favela – of “its” culture – seems to be in line (deliberately or not) with the reorientation in dealing with urban issues and social issues arising from the Washington Consensus (1989). Governance, participation, community empowerment, poverty alleviation, decentralization – these are the words of the new neoliberal order. It is a question of valuing the community space, strengthening social ties developed in poverty, enabling “creative solutions”, converting into “models of popular initiative” the ways in which precarious or underpaid workers resolve difficulties in accessing public services in the country. urban space, and to promote the aesthetics of the favela as a promise in the merchandise circuit.[xiv]



The novel's plot also features many contingent episodes whose function is not limited to the anecdotal or the picturesque. His subjects are the most diverse: meetings in bars, sex, longing for love, memories and reunions with family members, fortuitous encounters with other drug users, stories of drug trafficking, situations with police officers who are arbitrarily framed, etc. Sometimes they are tasty[xv] by others, they reaffirm violence, and seem to be a way of showing that the life of the favelados, seen from the inside, with its arrangements and breakdowns, with solidarity and conflict, is indeed a common life, even with problems rooted in inequality and racism .

But the rhythm of this common life is erratic, like the wind itself, the general dynamics of life for huge portions of the population. In this sense, the air of chance in the succession of episodes indicates that the narrative rhythm gives literary form to a broader social process. The lack of stable material conditions makes it impossible for the characters to project their aspirations into the future horizon, subjecting them to unpredictability in terms of obtaining the means to carry them out, just as the pace of the wind is unstable, which atrophies the rational planning of one's own life. .

Informality dominates in Appian way in such a way that little formal work is represented in Rocinha, except in the allusion to workers returning from their duties. It is what sustains the lives of part of the residents, as the narrator reveals: motorcycle taxis pick up residents who get off the buses on the avenue and take them to the alleys where they live; the owners of old trucks make changes in the favela; the peãozada erects walls, houses, or demolishes them. There is also work in drug trafficking, such as that of a small plane or firecracker by kids, armed or not.[xvi]

For the characters, the ideology of work no longer makes sense. For them, the assumption that work guarantees the future is contradicted in their own experiences. In this sense, the representation of modes of survival in the novel has the scope to express the contemporary social situation of the poor with regard to the meaning and work relations, as well as the way in which they understand them, adhered – more or less – to the neoliberal logic.

As a dishwasher with a formal contract, Washington realizes that formalization brings him little advantage. In addition to earning little and agreeing to cover the absences of other employees, imagining that this would allow him to be promoted to waiter (even if there are no black people in the salon), the service robs him of energy to be able to enjoy his youth: “He felt that, at few, work was consuming his whole life, even when he was off duty, because all he thought about was resting for the next day”. For him, what prevents him from quitting his job is that “the formal job guarantees some security. Every time he is stopped by the canes, Washington feels that they are calmer when they see the document” (p.175).

For the other main characters, a formal job is not even an aspiration. At first, it may seem that the disbelief in integration through work refers to a generational issue, not least because the perspective throughout the novel is youthful. However, what appears as a generation gap has a historical basis.

In the years focused on the novel, the deepening of the neoliberal turn that brought, among other consequences, the precariousness of work relations[xvii], has already produced ideological effects, also in the poorest strata, who refuse the submission at work observed by them in those close to them. If D. Marli, always precarious, does not question the exploitation situation to which she is subjected (signed work permit always postponed, non-payment of overtime, paid vacations from time to time and, as a pleasure, half a dozen clothes given as gifts, cf. p. 118), the children no longer want this for themselves.

If for the popular strata the link between formal work and citizenship never became generalized in Brazil, what is new in this context is that portions of the poor population already see in precariousness an advantage that brings them the feeling of freedom, of not having to obey the boss , or being the object of social and racial discrimination. For those who refuse to accept the ideology of work, in “shitty jobs”, viração is perceived as an answer – certainly precarious, since autonomy can operate as a central piece of submission to the contemporary regime of accumulation.[xviii]

In the novel, in order to avoid servility or co-option (in the buffet, in the pharmacy, in the Army), Wesley, Douglas and Murilo prefer the viação that, if it doesn't give them enough money, frees them from rigid schedules, subservience and humiliations. Some let themselves be seduced by the siren song of entrepreneurship, even if on a small scale and informally. This is the case of Douglas who, after quitting his job as a delivery boy, has the project of improving his drawings and mastering the craft of tattooing in order to own his own studio on the hill.

Precarious work at the pharmacy brought him the experience of seeing what life for the rich is like. He hates to see pictures, mirrors, good wooden doors, impeccable corridors, lavender-scented garbage cans in vases, the ostentation of wealth and has an acute perception of social inequality (cf. p. 36). Douglas is not aware of the relationship between the accumulation of wealth, at one pole of society, and the perpetuation of misery, at another. He just feels hate and reaffirms his identity as a resident of the favela, where he wants to stay without having to serve the rich. He quits his job, starts doing odd jobs in the favela in an attempt to guarantee the minimum for survival. The project to set up the studio continues, but, as an apprentice, he earns nothing for tattooing; when he announces that he will start charging for materials, the customers disappear.

Biel's path is similar, although his initial plans are different and also prove to be illusory. He believes he can get ahead in life by selling drugs, negotiating with playboys and subboss de boca, also because, perceiving himself as “different”, that is, white among the blacks of the favela, he can pass by the police (p. 280). But, throughout the novel, he realizes the risks he takes to earn just a little money: “Biel began to wonder where all the money that drug trafficking earns goes. One thing was certain, those who deal in the street don't see any of that” (p. 278).

After calculating the earnings of those who make a living from drug trafficking (kids who announce the arrival of the police, “soldiers” who serve to protect an important group) and logistical costs, expenses with bribing police officers who work to repress drugs, agreements with the military and politicians on the borders, assessing the mass of money involved in the different stages of production and distribution, Biel understands “that there was nothing in the middle of this gear. Nor who sells, who changes shots, who weighs and rolls, who transports in trucks, who presses or mixes on farms in Paraguay and Colombia” (p. 279) – that is, the workers. Also in trafficking, the overexploitation of labor is the rule. At the end of the novel, he prefers to move to Vidigal, where he starts to resell smuggled imported clothes (p. 332), obtained by a friend, when, then, there is less mediation between the one who sells and the one who supplies the merchandise.

Unlike the previous generation of those who serve rich whites without rebellion, like D. Marli, this new generation refuses to be subservient, realizing the brutal inequality that gives the wealthy the arrogance of command[xx]. When Wesley works the caterer, he begins to pay attention to “the guests [at the parties]: their designer clothes, their always straight hair and that natural way of bossing anyone in uniform. He hit the biggest ball. His mother works for people like them. Their uncles, grandparents, they all worked for them. They cleaned their houses, changed the wires, took care of their children [...]. Now he looks at the guests and feels the biggest rage, because he knows that the money he sweated so much to earn doesn't mean anything there. Those people could wipe their asses with that amount of money that wasn't going to make the slightest difference in any of their lives. And the worst part is that they know it. That's why they always look down on others and manage to command with that soft voice, without making much effort. They know and take advantage of it” (p. 159-160). By refusing subalternity, he wants to be a self-employed worker in the favela, shutting himself up among his peers. However, when he becomes addicted to cocaine, he abandons the project of becoming a motorcycle taxi driver.

Murilo, who had resigned from the Army, starts to work odd jobs, in whatever job he appears, always manual. Asked by his family if he wasn’t looking for a formal job that would give him security, he even says he agrees, but, in fact, “despite the physical effort, he liked not having a specific time or day for work, not having a boss to obey every day […]” (p. 291).

In the struggle against adversity, there is no resilience at work on the part of the characters – that typical word of the neoliberal era. They can't stand the suffering produced by working with bosses, except for Washington, for whom a signed workbook brings him more security when the police stop him for investigations.

In addition, the main characters do not seem to suffer from the adversities that the lack of money brings them, not least because the problem of subsistence does not present itself to them: there is always some noodles or mortadella to eat and, if they cannot find housing in a more center of the favela, they think it's good to pay cheaper for the house in Cachopa.

The logic of these characters thus includes the continuity of a tradition that goes back centuries for the poor who have always known the breeze and use cunning to escape repression or humiliation.[xx], as well as refusing the complete submission of life to work. Although this tradition gains new meaning in the contemporary context, when the contingents of “unemployables” go to the mainstream, there is in the attitude adopted by most of the central characters the intuition of the absurdity of living to work, in the complete subsumption of life to work.

However, the neoliberal logic is there too. By refusing subalternity, the protagonists adhere to the “freedom” of the viração and the appreciation of the possibility of becoming entrepreneurs. Leaving one trap, they fall into another. The novel ends on a positive note in relation to these dreams, without anything indicating whether they will come true or not, and whether they will bring these young people a guarantee of survival.



The focus of the novel does not seem to be so much on the demand for changes in the conditions of survival[xxx] or much less sociability in the favela. In With Apia, the improvement of life in the favela implies the recognition of its legitimacy, which could be achieved by organizing residents in the fight against prejudice and discrimination, which, in the characters' view, support the extermination policy. Police mismanagement generates hatred and, for some, impulses of revenge that need to be repressed.[xxiii].

In this context, professional training, through schooling, appears as a way out imagined by the characters, who regret not having followed the family's advice. Washington feels “remorseful of having dropped out of school with only two years left to finish high school, of not having completed the technical education that his uncle arranged for him downtown, just because he found it too far to go and come back every day” (p. 30). ). Murilo's sister Monique, opposed to his joining the army, insisted “that he was always good at sports; in surfing, in soccer, he could try a physical education college. With the diploma, he could work in a school, in an academy, have a job where he wouldn't be a sergeant's doormat, nor need to handle a gun” (p. 191-192).

For her, university education is the condition for not repeating the history of her own, subordinated and without prospects, taking pride in being the first in her family to enter a university, breaking the historical cycle of exclusion. At the same time, the individual ascension is perceived by her brother as a betrayal of hers, who looks at her with distrust: “perhaps living with these college people, with so many people on the track, had affected Monique” (p. 261).[xxiii] However, after leaving the barracks, Murilo does not rule out the need to study, he thinks about doing high school but not to escape the favela, but imagining that he would have chances of employment not limited to non-specialized jobs. He thinks, but does not.

Access to standard culture can also be an element for the character's internal transformation. When Wesley, after overcoming his addiction to cocaine, works as a janitor at the Biblioteca Parque, he starts to read in his spare time, taking advantage of them to “pick up [r] a book to read, which has several cool books” (p. 333 ).

According to the plot of the novel, access to education and the University can produce actions that seek to put an end to discrimination against the favela and affirm the legitimacy of their ways of life; for this, however, it is necessary not to distance oneself from the community,[xxv] fight for it by enlightening the population and informing society. The character Gleyce and the author himself are the full representation of the implicit proposition in Appian way. Gleyce doesn't want to choose courses that don't interest her (p. 203), not least because she doesn't have to fight for survival, as she lives with her mother in her own house. At first, he thinks about cinema and then chooses to study journalism to do militant work. na e about to Rocinha. When he has access to old photographs of the favela, he forwards them to the management of the Parque Library, which organizes an exhibition with images from the late 1950s to 2002 and texts that explain the origins and growth of Rocinha (p. 334), enabling that the community knows its own history.

In the elaboration of his novel, the author himself carries out the project that he enunciates in the plot: he is inside the community and writes to the outside and to the inside of it. He is sympathetic to some causes, such as the decriminalization of marijuana (as he claims in interviews) and creates characters who use it for leisure. But, above all, it seems to appear, through the plot and the focus on young characters, that the social issue of the favela is the police violence that murders ordinary residents. It is not by chance that Washington is the victim of the “stray bullet”: the one that takes the path most accepted by society in general, in accordance with submission to work. Instead of revealing that necropolitics, the elimination of disposables, is the rule of management and extermination, the novel ends up reaffirming that the problem lies in the murder of respectable citizens.

In the final turn of the plot – precipitated in an unhappy way – the change in the actions of the police forces brings back the parties and a less guarded life. For the protagonists, the return to “normality” is the permanence of what was before, with the perspective of reactivating the sociability of the community. The misery that surrounds the whole environment does not disturb them, although they perceive it.

It is not up to literature to propose solutions, certainly. But, by remaining glued to the logic of the characters, the novel does not manage to present structural relations between wealth and poverty, between the wealthy life and the life of the viração. The narrator, who is very attached to the logic of his characters – and when he detaches himself from them, judges in favor of it – lets it be seen that the isolated territory, lacking modern conditions of urbanity, wants nothing more than recognition. There will not be the limit of Appian way?

*Edu Teruki Otsuka He is a professor at the Department of Literary Theory and Comparative Literature at USP. Author of Marks of the catastrophe: urban experience and cultural industry in Rubem Fonseca, João Gilberto Noll and Chico Buarque (Studio).

*Ivone Daré Rabello is a senior professor at the Department of Literary Theory and Comparative Literature at USP. Author, among other books, of A song on the sidelines: a reading of the poetry of Cruz e Sousa (nankim).


Geovani Martins. Appian way. São Paulo. Companhia das Letras, 2022, 344 pages.


[I] São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 2018.

[ii] “The Story of the Parakeet and the Monkey” heralds a narrative in which the presence of the UPP on the hill would seem to be the keynote (even in the opening words: “When the UPP invaded the hill, it was cool to buy stuff”, p. 37), but the plot ends up focusing on Periquito's personal revenge against Lieutenant Cara de Macaco. Although the story presents the arbitrary acts committed by the members of the UPP, the narrative veers towards the anecdotal of the drug dealer's cleverness.

[iii] The exception to this procedure appears in “Espiral”, a short story that is not set in the favela and whose narrative situation is racial prejudice against the narrator, who sets up his revenge; and in “A Viagem”, set in Arraial do Cabo, in which the narrator, a young university student, and his friends find themselves involved in an attempted robbery.

[iv] See, for example, in “O rabisco”, the narrator's assessments of the crowd's interest (the sun in the head, P. 54).

[v] The language of the hill, clothing and body posture constitute, for the characters in the novel, a pattern of identity. This is evident when Washington, when applying for a job at a restaurant in the upscale area of ​​Rio de Janeiro, knows that “to have any chance there, in a place like that, you would have to play their game. Choose only the right words, no slang or profanity, keep your spine straight, remember plurals. For real, be who you are not” (p. 79, emphasis added).

[vi] On the relationship between violence and the favela, cf.: “the immediate correlation between urban violence in Rio de Janeiro and the favela continues to be promoted by the State, heralded by the mainstream media (together with other segments of the entertainment industry) and reverberated by 'society civil'. The favela is treated as the loci of evil, and the favelado is identified as a potential, imminent or even postponed enemy.” (BRITO, Felipe. “Considerations on the armed regulation of Rio territories”. In: BRITO, F., and OLIVEIRA, Pedro Rocha (eds.). Until the last man. Carioca visions of the armed administration of social life. São Paulo: Boitempo, 2013, p. 87.)

[vii] For comparison, remember that back alleys of memory (2006), by Conceição Evaristo, makes the favela the collective character that unifies the various stories of the community. The narrator, formed there, reactivates through memory the multiplicity of perspectives and the conflicts, tensions, dissonances and consonances that make the favela the central character of the plot. In the Brazilian tradition, the collective personage, so to speak, had found significant fulfillment in the tenement (1890) by Aluísio Azevedo, in a historical moment when the imaginary of national integration still dominated. In contemporary peripheral literature, when such an imaginary has already dissolved, the community environment reappears to, intentionally or not, reveal territorial segregation.

[viii] Traffickers are mentioned in the novel, and the arrest of Nem, head of trafficking in Rocinha, in 2011 (a given objective incorporated and stylized in the novel), when trying to escape, becomes a relevant fact in the plot of Appian way, as it disorganizes life in the favela (cf. 136), which, under Nem, brought a climate of peace to Rocinha, with no exchange of fire for years (p. 50). This operation is one of the first indications of the police forces' preparations for the installation of the Pacifying Police Unit in Rocinha.

[ix] On the subject, see: BOTELHO, Maurilio Lima, “Urban crisis in Rio de Janeiro: slums and entrepreneurship of the poor”. In: BRITO, F., and OLIVEIRA, Pedro Rocha (eds.), on. cit., especially p. 177.

[X] As is known, the UPP is a project of the State Security Secretariat of Rio de Janeiro, inspired by the experiences of Medellín, Colombia. The units were installed under the pretext of dismantling gangs that controlled the territories, offering community policies in return. The first of them was installed on Morro do Dona Marta, in Botafogo (South Zone of Rio de Janeiro); in Rocinha, located between the upscale neighborhoods of Gávea and S. Conrado, it was implemented on September 20, 2012. The “pacification map” was also planned due to the fact that the city would host the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympic Games Olympic Games, in 2016, and it would be necessary not only to prevent the circulation of unwanted populations but also to eliminate “human barriers”. As Mike Davis states, “urban segregation” is “an incessant social war in which the State regularly intervenes in the name of 'progress', 'beautification', and even 'social justice for the poor', to redraw spatial boundaries on behalf of landowners, foreign investors, the home-owning elite, and middle-class workers” (slum planet. Trans.: Beatriz Medina. São Paulo: Boitempo, 2006, p. 105.

[xi] During the 1970s, Rocinha organized itself to claim improvements such as the construction of schools and day care centers, the installation of a post office, and the channeling of ditches.

[xii] Bricklayer helper Amarildo Dias de Sousa was kidnapped, tortured and murdered by military police from the Rocinha UPP on July 14, 2013. After the disappearance was reported, the campaign “Where is Amarildo?” started on social media. with the support of movements such as Rio de Paz, Mães de Maio, Network of Communities and Movements against violence. Residents of Rocinha organized demonstrations, which included the participation of civil society, denouncing the violence of the military. The disappearance was also publicized internationally. To date, the body has not been found. Compensation to the family only occurred in 2022.

[xiii] The Parque libraries in Rio de Janeiro were installed in regions with a high level of poverty, such as Rocinha, with the official objective of promoting the cultural development of residents, and whose function comprises the set of public policies for the management of these populations through of cultural activities. See: MARANHÃO, Tatiana de Amorim. Governance and Compliance Poverty: From the Washington Consensus to the Opportunity Consensus. Thesis in Sociology. FFLCH/USP, 2009.

[xiv] On the question of the “culturalist turn”, cf. BOTELHO, ML “Urban crisis…”, cit. In.: op. cit., pp. 169-213. See also Maricato, E. “Afterword”. In: DAVIS, M. op. cit., p. 209-224.

[xv] See Washington's episode at the Gávea police station (pp. 103-105).

[xvi] Traffic bosses are only mentioned and seem to be, from the point of view of Rocinha residents, the commanders of a peaceful order for favela residents, in addition to supplying good quality drugs, which is undone with the arrival of police forces. .

[xvii] Cf. Harvey, David. Neoliberalism, history and implications. São Paulo: Loyola Editions, 2008.

[xviii] In this sense, cf. “Masterclass of the end of the world”. In: A group of militants in the fog. Fire. Work and revolt at the Brazilian end of the line. São Paulo: Contrabando Editorial, 2022, pp. 30-95, especially p. 45 and beyond.

[xx] The attitude of refusing subservience was effectively portrayed in Jessica, the daughter of maid Val, from what time does she come back (2015), by Anna Muylaert. The young woman who claims to be equal to Val's bosses leads her mother to quit her job to become a small entrepreneur in her community. In this way, the film captures a significant feature of the mental life of subordinates in contemporary times.

[xx] The tradition of cunning and finding a way to get what you need was analyzed by Antonio Candido in “Dialética da malandragem”, which focuses on the lives of poor white men (from Discourse and the city. São Paulo: Duas Cidades, 1993): “There is no work there, there is no need, everything is remedied” (p. 53). Although the context here is different, and the life focused on is that of young black men who carry the yoke of menial or menial work, the option for the “freedom” of viração updates that tradition, certainly with a different meaning.

[xxx] It can be seen that Biel, who previously lamented the open ditches, the accumulated rubbish, the lack of water, now values ​​life on the hill, in the house in Vidigal, “which was just a room with a bathroom but which had a nice slab for have a barbecue, better view facing the sea” (p. 332). Rocinha is “a city within a city”, with autonomy and a life of its own, which never stopped (cf. p. 123), as Washington thinks when observing the rhythm of the community before the invasion of the security forces.

[xxiii] Note that Douglas, after the assassination of Washington, says to Gleyce, already at the moment of embarking for São João del Rei: “Straight talk, every time I see a police car, or else those motherfuckers stopped, or walking down an alley, I swear to you, the urge I have is to kill everyone. Don't leave any there to tell the story. […] It's a lot of hate, Gleyce, and I realized that if I didn't do something to get away from it, that's where it was going to be fucked up, I was going to suffocate. Or else go inside and do some shit. I can't, straight talk, I can't imagine that I'm going to have to look at these guys every day without being able to do anything. And still on, if it goes soft, it can run just the same” (p. 320).

[xxiii] There are constant mentions of the characters being “creatures” of the favela, in an ambiguous reference to a sense of identity pride, as if the favela were thought of as an “original population” of that locality – and were not the historical result of the segregation of black populations. and poor by the State and the dominant strata of society. For this reason, moving away from her is perceived by Murilo as distrust because it indicates treason.

[xxv] Monique's story represents this escape from life in the favela through access to the University: she intends to get accommodation at the public college and, if that doesn't happen, live in a nearby republic.

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