An hour after hearing Ferréz read at the final Flipside roundtable, copies of Capão Pecado and Deus foi almoçar were already downloading to my Kindle onthe train ride back to London. He was one of the writers I was most looking forward to hearing during the festival, and he proved to be funny and down-to-earth, as well as a very talented writer.
Capão Pecado was Ferréz's first novel. Though the book never explicitly states its location, it's not hard to figure out that Capão Pecado is really Capão Redondo, one of São Paulo's most (if not the most) dangerous favelas. Though I haven't seen the original edition of the book from 1999, I have heard that it differed quite a bit from its current format, including photos, a different layout, etc., and as such the ties to the real-life neighborhood were more obvious.
The book's protagonist is a teenager named Rael, a smart, sweet kid growing up in difficult conditions: his father is an alcoholic and the family can barely make ends meet. Rael reads a lot, he loves his mother, and he works hard, getting up early every morning to work at a bakery. We also meet several of his friends and peers, some more involved than others in the violence and drug trade that appears on nearly every page. According to the preface, most of these characters are real to some extent (not even changing their names), and I wonder if some parts of Rael are loosely based on Ferréz's younger self. Rael's dream was to be a writer, and for awhile you think he just might make it out, but his fate is sealed when he makes the fatal mistake of falling in love with his best friend's girlfriend.
Lately whenever people talk about the past, present and future of Brazilian literature, the conversation inevitably turns to a discussion of expected cultural markers and stereotypes, and how to move away from all the Copacabana, futebol, and samba. Following the international success of movies like City of God (Cidade de Deus) and Elite Squad (Tropa de Elite), favelas also increasingly enter into that list of stereotypes. But all those cultural markers are real and based on the reality of life for many Brazilians (favelas more than any).
Ferréz is often categorized as writing "marginal literature". He writes raw stories of life in the areas of urban São Paulo that are often overshadowed by their more famous counterparts in Rio. The feeling I had reading Capão Pecado was something akin to what I felt when I saw Walter Salles's film Linha de passe, which also takes place in the poverty-stricken outskirts of São Paulo – a bleak, but very real picture of life in São Paulo that made me immediately want to share it with friends and family who perhaps never get a glimpse of that side of Brazil.
More about the author: Ferréz was born Reginaldo Ferreira da Silva on the outskirts of São Paulo in 1975. In addition to Capão Pecado, his has written two other novels (Deus Foi Almoçar and Manual Prático doÓdio), a collection of poems (Fortaleza da Desilusão), as well as short stories, screenplays, and children's literature. He also runs a hip hop clothing line and works as a singer and songwriter. His writing has been translated and published in Italy, Germany, Portugal and Spain. You can read more about him on his blog, from the Mertin literary agency, or on Frankfurt Book Fair website.