Whoa! Initially published in 2015, when Operation Car Wash was blowing its gaskets. Half memoir & all observatory, Extreme City throws wide the unique abhorrence & awesomeness of the beleaguered & siege-stricken prodigy that is Rio, & the greater country of Brazil. This is one of the best & most personal scribes I have streaked on the region (Soares is a carioca – “Rio born & bred”), reclining amongst the likes of Peter Robb’s A Death in Brazil & Misha Glenny’s excellent Nemesis.
Luiz resides within the journalist, activist, intellectual & part-time civil servant (or some such political posting) rubric, a dexterous stretch of positions that yield a highly informed vantage. He moved with family to Rio from a remote mountainous section when he was five years old in the year of 1959. Five years later, in March 1964, the CIA backed military coup was successfully enacted, ushering in Brazil’s infamous rightwing military dictatorship & all the torture, murder, terror & tyranny that accompanied this appalling transition to free-market expansion & despotism via totalitarian brutality. His reflections of life during the dictatorship are an illuminating account of this ghastly downgrading & expansion of exploitative abuses. By 1972, he is active in subversive pursuits, a position that required little effort – “the military regime was jabbing its bloody talons into any nook or cranny where some semblance of independent, intelligent life, some measure of indignation, still lingered.” A young woman & friend who was a student leader at the authors then university abruptly ‘disappears’. She was one of the many thousands kidnapped by the state into the warrens of torture facilities, of which many would never emerge alive. She manages to survive months of incarceration & horrific torture, providing the details of her ordeal to Luiz & thus the reader. It was under the umbrage of this callous summary violence & murder that Henry Kissinger, the sick & bestial US Secretary of State would advise the dictatorship that – “whatever you have to do, do it fast, so you can get back to normal as quickly as possible.”
“Kissinger’s warning sounded more like a carte blanche. Or even an order. He was eager to wrap things up before his incumbent Jimmy Carter took office on 20 January 1977 and to forestall the impact of a new law passed through the US congress that would suspend all aid to nations guilty of human rights abuses. Quick action had to be taken before the new legislation came into effect. The ‘action’ was the extermination of a generation, dumped into the ocean from airplanes with rocks to weigh the bodies down; it was a ruthless extirpation of every last trace of opposition to a despotic regime.”
Kissinger’s new postulant is Jared Kushner, who is doing well emulating the mentors scum & blood drenched history of subhuman vileness, shadow-slither & supremely surreptitious subterfuge.
The book goes on to traverse Brazils more recent mass street protests, Operation Car Wash & the coat of corruption that covers almost every mechanic of Brazilian political infrastructure, & of course the detested, routinely corrupt, oppressive & murderous police factions that terrorize the Favelas whilst playing a central role in the drug trade they supposedly vie to relinquish.
Throughout this extremely informative book, the blooms of Brazils eccentricity, good & bad, beautiful & ugly, are constantly coaxed, uncovered & relayed. This is a fantastic piece of work that exposes many crux internalities through the lens of an integrated master of attentive observation.
I can’t wait to hear his translated writings on the shit-geezer of transgressive, rapid-degradation, death-worshipping relapsarian reprobation – Jair Bolsonaro.
Luiz Eduardo Soares, Penguin/Allen Lane, 2016