Lins, Paulo 1958-

views updated

Lins, Paulo 1958-

PERSONAL: Born 1958, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; son of a house painter and a domestic helper.

ADDRESSES: Home— Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

CAREER: Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, professor. University of California, Berkeley, Center for Latin American Studies, Mario de Andrade Chair in Brazilian Culture, 2004; cofounder of Cooperativa de Poetas; member of jury of Premio Casa de las Américas.


Cidade de Deus (novel), Companhia das Letras (São Paulo, Brazil), 1997, translation by Alison Entrekin published as City of God, Black Cat (New York, NY), 2006.

Author of Sob o Sol, a poetry collection. Also author of two screenplays.

ADAPTATIONS: City of God was adapted as a motion picture, 2002.

SIDELIGHTS: Paulo Lins is the author of City of God, “a sprawling epic of gang life in the shantytowns of Rio de Janeiro,” remarked Library Journal critic Jack Shreve. Lins, a native of Rio, grew up in a wretched, crime-plagued housing project known as Ci-dade de Deus (“City of God”), originally created in the 1960s for displaced flood victims. “Everything that happened in that book is drawn from reality,” the author stated on the Latin America News Web site. His novel, first published in 1997, gave many Brazilians their first look at life in a favela, or slum. “These are two different worlds that have no contact with each other,” Lins added. “The elite is ignorant of the favela because it doesn’t want to see, and the favela doesn’t know the rest of Brazil because it is deprived of the means and the opportunity.”

Covering three decades, City of God chronicles the lives of the myriad gangsters who inhabit the projects, including Hellraiser, Sparrow, and Tiny, who vie for control of the city’s drug dens. “A multiethnic horde of minor characters flit in and out of the gangsters’ truncated lives as they plot and execute holdups, whack friends, relatives and rivals, obsessively pursue women, drugs, samba prowess, revenge and loot,” noted a contributor in Kirkus Reviews. According to a Publishers Weekly reviewer, Lins “serves up a Scarface-like urban epic, bursting with encyclopedic, graphic descriptions of violence, punctuated with lyricism and longing.”

Despite the success of his novel, Lins remains humble. “Just in the City of God alone there are hundreds of people exactly like me, with the same aspirations and even the same abilities,” he remarked on the Latin America News Web site. “The favela has left its mark on me as much as them, but the difference is that I managed to find a way to circumvent the social structure and conditions that hold back the resident of the favela, and was able to get out.”



Booklist, September 1, 2006, Keir Graff, review of City of God, p. 55.

Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2006, review of City of God, p. 693.

Library Journal, November 1, 2006, Jack Shreve, review of City of God, p. 69.

Publishers Weekly, August 7, 2006, review of City of God, p. 29.


Latin America News Web site, (April 27, 2004), “Out of the Slums of Rio, an Author Finds Fame.”*