João Almino’s “Free City” reviewed at Words Without Borders

While Brasilia, the only city built in the twentieth century to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is undoubtedly designed to captivate the eye of the viewer, João Almino’s novel Free City, about the building of the Brazilian capital, is masterfully written to capture something more—the “I” of the reader, let’s say.

This richly symbolic narrative tells the story of one of the workers who comes to the site in order to help erect the city of the future, but is murdered the day after its official inauguration. The tale is set in a vivid historical context. Meandering through the narrative are names such as the country’s president Juscelino Kubitschek who envisioned the capital in the geographic center of the country and ordered its construction; Bernardo Sayão, an engineer who oversaw the construction of the city; the vice-governor of the state and also the first person to be buried at the Brasilia’s cemetery, thus marking it in the map of dead; world-renowned writers such as Aldous Huxley and Elizabeth Bishop, who at one point visited this city in the making.

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