the book of rio“One Sunday, while I stared absently out the window, I witnessed how a man wearing a pair of longish swimming trunks was struck by a sniper as he dove into the condominium’s semi-deserted pool.”

Images of Rio always seem to have reached me drenched in sunlight or violence, or some combination of the two; a paradoxical blend of glamour and poverty. The Book of Rio – one of a series of city-focused short story collections published by Comma Press – deals explicitly with this conundrum. “Brazil and especially Rio”, Toni Marques tells us in the introduction, “are all about blending and not blending”. There are stories about samba dancers and bridge builders (my two favourites), housemaids and house-hunters, Exus and reunited exes, all brought together here in a heady mixture, but capable of standing alone. Each one is preceded by a different fragment from a map, distinctive in its orderly grid lines or meandering mountain roads, but difficult to locate in reality (I’ve actually been on Google Maps and tried…). Which is fitting, because the stories offer a window onto the lives lived in Rio without trying to provide undue clarity, leaving the contradictions of the “Marvellous City” unresolved. An excellent read.

Recommended by @lewisalloyd.

Buy the book here.